Frequently Asked Questions (con't)
Q: Are there not masonic groups who are involved in politics?
A: There are groups in other countries who call themselves Freemasons and who involve themselves in political matters. They are not recognized or countenanced by regular Grand Lodges who follow the basic principles of Freemasonry and ban the discussion of politics and religion at their meetings.
Q: Is Freemasonry an international order?
A: Only in the sense that Freemasonry exists throughout the free world. Each Grand Lodge is sovereign and independent, and while following the same basic principles, may have differing ways of passing them on. There is no international governing body fo Freemasonry.
Q: What is the relationship between Freemasonry and groups like the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Elks?
A: None. There are numerous fraternal orders and societies whose rituals, regalia and organization are similar in some respects to Freemasonry's. Thay have no formal or informal connections with Freemasonry.
Q: Why don't you have women members?
A: Traditionally, Freemasonry is constituted for men. The early stonemasons were all male, and when Freemasonry was establishing, basing itself upon that predecessor organization, its concern was with the role and responsibility of men in society. There are two separate organizations for women in Freemasonry in New York State: the Order of Eastern Star and the Order of the Amaranth.
Q: How many Freemasons are there?
A: Under the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, there are 50,000 + Freemasons, meeting in more than 500 Lodges. According to figures published by the Masonic Service Association of North America there were 1,569,812 members in the Grand Lodges of the United States in 2005, the most recent date of record. Worldwide, there are over 3 million.
Q: Why do you wear regalia?
A: Wearing regalia is historical and symbolic and, like a uniform, serves to indicate where members rank in terms of responsibility and service within the organization.
Q: How and where did Freemasonry start?
A: It is not know. The earliest recorded "making" of a Freemason in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646. Organized Freemasonry began with the founding of the Grand Lodge of England on June 24, 1725 and Scotland in 1736. All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British Isles.
There are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They has simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no guild certificates, dues cards or ttrade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site. In the 1600s, these operative lodges began to accept non-operatives as "gentlemen masons." Gradually these non-operatives took over the lodges and turned them from operative to "Free and accepted" or "Speculative" Lodges.
The other theory is that late in the 1500s and early 1600s, there was a group which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to civil war. In forming Freemasonry, they were trying to make better men and build a better world. As the means of teaching in those days by allegory and symbolism, they took the idea of building as the central allegory on which to form their system. The main source of allegory was the Bible, the contents of which were known to everyone even if they could not read, and the only building described in detail in the Bible was King Solomon's Temple, which became the basic part of the allegory of the ritual. The old trade guilds provided them with their basic administration of a Master, Wardens, Treasurer and Secretary, andthe operative mason's tools provided them with a wealth of symbols with which to illustrate the moral teachings of Freemasonry.
Q: How many Degrees are there in Freemasonry?
A: Basic Freemasonry consists of hte three "Craft" Degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason). There are many other Masonic Degrees and Orders, which are called "relate" or "concordant." They are not basic to Freemasonry, but add to it by further expounding and illustrating the principles stated in the Craft.
Q: How much does it cost to be a Freemason?
A: It varies from Lodge to Lodge, but anyone wishing to join can find a Lodge to suit his pocket. Upon entry, there is an initiation fee and a member pays annual dues to his Lodge. This covers his membership and the administrative cost of running the Lodge.
It is entirely up to the individual member what he gives to Charity, but it should always be without detriment to his other responsibilities. Similarly, in New York State, he may join as many Lodges as his time and personal finances may allow, as long as it does not adversely affect his family life and responsibilities.