Ritual & Secrets
Is Freemasonry a secret society? No. It is sometimes said that Freemasonry is a “Society with secrets, not a secret society.” In point of fact, however, any purported Masonic “secrets” were made public several centuries ago in London newspapers, and today can be found in the Library of Congress, on the Internet, and in many books on the subject. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “The great secret of Freemasonry is that there is no secret at all.”
What about secret handshakes and passwords?
Freemasonry, often called the “Craft” by its members, is founded on metaphors of architecture. Following the practice of the ancient stonemason guilds, Freemasons use special handshakes, words, and symbols to not only to identify each other, but to help, as William Preston said in 1772, “imprint upon the memory wise and serious truths.”
Although every new Freemason takes an oath – and vows to keep secret the metaphors of Masonry – the metaphors are only used to help Masons become better men; and there’s certainly no secret surrounding what it takes to be good and true.
What is Masonic "ritual"?
The nature of Masonic ritual is both complex and beautiful. “Ritual” is a formal ceremony of initiation which recites certain tenets and truths that have been passed down for generations – mostly from mouth to ear. This “Ritual” takes the form of lectures and theater in the Lodge, and is used to teach new Masons the value of true friendship, the benefits of knowledge, and the necessity of helping those in need.
It speaks to the power and impact our ritual has on men's hearts and minds because it has stood the test of time for more than 300 years. Although our world has changed dramatically during that time, our ritual is virtually the same. Not everyone will want to learn the ancient ritual – as it takes great time and study – but those Masons who chose to learn it are rewarded with the satisfaction of upholding a powerful tradition and helping their fellow brothers further their Masonic understanding.
Waltham Triad Lodge A.F. & A.M
FREEMASONRY is the world’s largest fraternal organization. It seeks to bring together men of every country, religion, race, background and opinion; and develops the bond of friendship among them. Join the likes of many great Americans like Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, George Washington, Thurgood Marshall (U.S. Supreme Court Justice), John Glenn (Marine Corps Aviator, Astronaut, U.S. Senator), Steven Wozniak (Co-founder Apple Computer), John Elway (Denver Broncos Quarterback and General Manager), Samuel Clemens (“Mark Twain”), Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (Engineer, Air Force Command Pilot, Astronaut), William Clark (Explorer with Meriwether Lewis), Daniel Boone (Frontiersman), Irving Berlin (Composer, Lyricist) and countless others. Masonry helps to build character and serve humanity. Masons donate three million dollars to charity daily in support of institutions such as the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Knights Templar Eye Research Institute and Scottish Rite Learning Centers. And Massachusetts Masons are the largest group donor of blood to the American Red Cross in Massachusetts.
Qualities of a Masonic Man
The essential qualities Masons share in their diverse lives are a belief in a Supreme Being and a desire to strive for:
fellowship with other Masons
high moral standards
kindness in the home
courtesy in society
honesty in business
fairness in all dealings
Being a Mason:
Being a Mason is about: a father helping his son make better decisions; a business leader striving to bring morality to the workplace; a thoughtful man learning to work through tough issues in his life.
Fellowship, Friendship and Community Service:
Throughout a Mason’s life, fellowship and friendship are key components, as well as community service. The typical Mason wants to continue to grow as a man and to benefit society.
Freemasonry in Massachusetts is governed by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts with headquarters in Boston. Their website is www.massfreemasonry.org.
Frequently asked questions:
1. What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest Fraternity. It aims to promote Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love among its members. Men from every country, religion, race, age, income, education, and opinion are brought together as Brothers to develop and strengthen the bonds of friendship. There are more than 3 million members meeting in nearly every free country in the world. Freemasonry proposes to “make good men better” by teaching (using metaphors from geometry and architecture) about building values based on great universal truths. Finally, charity and community service are fundamental to Freemasonry and something we actively take part in.
2. How can I get more information about the Freemasons?
The best way to learn more is to talk to a Mason in person or even by e-mail. The Contact Us page will allow you to send a message to our Lodge Ambassador, Kenneth Brown, and he will answer your questions and provide you with additional information. If you would like, he’ll find a convenient time to meet, introduce you to some other members, and tour the lodge building. You may have some of the same questions as those below, so take a look at them.
3. What are the requirements to become a Mason?
Anyone meeting the following primary requirements may petition a Massachusetts lodge for membership:
You are an adult male (18 or older) of good character and recommended by a Massachusetts Mason.
You believe in a Supreme Being – no atheist or agnostic can become a Mason. But we are not concerned with theological distinctions or your particular religious beliefs.
You are interested in becoming a Mason because you hold a favorable opinion of our institution; and, your decision to apply is based on “your own free will and accord” (no one has compelled you to join).Not all men can become Masons, however. Masonry does not purport to make “bad men good,” only “good men better.” This distinction is critical in that from its early days the Fraternity took itself out of the “rehabilitation” game, which is the purview of religion and the criminal justice system. Only men of good character are accepted into the Fraternity. Masonic lodges review every applicant’s character, and the centuries-old “blackball” system is still in place – candidates for membership must be voted by a unanimous vote of the lodge members present.
4. How do I become a Freemason? Ask!
Because Masons have not traditionally recruited members, and do not hold public meetings, there has long been confusion about how to join the fraternity. Does someone invite you? Do you ask? For a man who meets the requirements listed above, it is really quite simple:
Most men can become a Mason by simply asking – like Washington, Franklin, and most every Mason did from the past to the present day. Each lodge manages the membership process for its candidates. In general, men seek out a Lodge near their home or work. Or men will ask a Mason to recommend a lodge to them. Once you’ve found a lodge you would like to join, let them know of your interest and they will provide you with further information and an application form.If you are unanimously elected by the members of a lodge, joining the Fraternity involves going through three “degrees”: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. Every man accepted into the Fraternity goes through these three degrees, thereby making each an equal to the others in the lodge. Typically they are conferred during a lodge’s monthly meeting over the course of three months.
5. What if I don't know a Mason who can recommend me?
It is quite possible you know a Mason but you just don’t realize it. If your father, uncles, or grandfathers aren’t Masons, they probably know someone who is. You might also want to ask around your workplace, school, church, or gym. Anywhere you find a group of men, you might find a Mason. Although Masons tend to be very proud of their association with the Fraternity, they are often uncomfortable talking about it. It is particularly difficult for them to speak with their friends or family members because they don’t want to push Masonry on them. They might very well be looking forward to the opportunity to speak with you, but more importantly, they would be honored to sponsor you for membership.
If you don’t know anyone who is a Mason and you are a complete stranger to all the members of a lodge, you are going to want to take some time getting to know them. And they are going to want to get to know you, too. Once you are ready to ask, a member of the lodge will sign your petition.
6. What are the time and/or financial commitments of being a Mason?
Becoming a Mason takes several months from the time you begin your petition process until you have finished your degrees. Until you begin taking your degrees though, very little is asked of you. Once the degree work begins you will need to attend your lodge’s monthly meeting. There is also one additional meeting per month called the “Lodge of Instruction” where you will receive further explanation about the degree you just experienced. There is also some side work that you will need to complete that amounts to a little bit of homework. Every member of the Fraternity has gone through this process and your lodge will assign a Brother to help you.
There is a one-time initiation fee set by each lodge which generally runs between $100 and $250 with the average around $150. There are annual dues, which also differ from lodge to lodge, that usually run between $50 and $300 with $175 being the average. Some lodges will charge more than these amounts and some charge less, although they are the exception rather than the rule. Finally, there are Grand Lodge dues, which in 2017 are $65, one dollar of which goes to the support of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.
7. What happens after I join?
Once you have completed your three degrees, you are expected to attend your lodge’s “Stated Communication” or monthly meeting. Sometimes there will be a special meeting on a second night in a month. Beyond that, there are other activities going on: community service, family and social outings, etc., that take place throughout the year. It is hoped that members will participate in the events that their time and interest allows. Like many things, you get out of Freemasonry what you choose to put into it. Freemasonry also recognizes and understands the need for a balance between your family, work, school, and other interests and commitments.
8. How do I find a lodge if I live somewhere else?
If you do not live in Massachusetts, the best resource for the information you need is the Grand Lodge that presides over your jurisdiction (your state in the U.S., your province in Canada, your country most everywhere else in the world). Search the Internet with the search term “Grand Lodge of your jurisdiction” in any search engine and the first entry will likely be your Grand Lodge. Do not hesitate to contact them, they will welcome your inquiry. If you are unable to find the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction, feel free to contact us through our Contact Us page and we will help you.
9. Why is there so much interest in Masonry today?
Over the last four centuries, Freemasonry has become organized, formalized, and seems to have flourished along with times of great enlightenment and change. It is no coincidence that Freemasonry rose to prominence during the Age of Enlightenment in both Europe and America, where a new generation believed it could discover ways to gain personal improvement, bring order to society, and understand the whole universe. Many feel that Freemasonry was a main factor in the Age of Enlightenment as men including Diderot, Voltaire, Mozart, Goethe and Frederick the Great were all Freemasons. This sentiment is perhaps even stronger today than it was in the 18th century.
Today, men seek out Masonry for the same reasons – to better themselves and improve society in the company of like-minded Brothers. As we learn more about how our physical world works, there’s also new interest in those things we don’t understand – especially things bound around tradition or that have a more mystical nature. Also, books like The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol and movies like “National Treasure” have brought up both new interest and renewed speculation about the nature of the Fraternity. Though these books and movies are a product more of a vivid imagination than fact, the real history of Masonry is perhaps the best story of all: one learned only by asking – and becoming – a Freemason.
10. Can Freemasonry actually prepare me for greatness?
No organization can guarantee to make anyone great (in spite of the TV commercials); the capacity and motivation must come from the individual. But the powerful values and important truths that are taught as part of the Masonic tradition have proven to inspire, challenge, and develop leadership in men. Benjamin Franklin may have said it best, describing the Fraternity as a place to “prepare himself.” Today, men are preparing themselves for greatness in lodges the world over. If you think there’s greatness in you, we invite your interest.
11. What are the benefits of becoming a Mason?
There are numerous benefits to becoming a Mason, but they tend to be personal and they are also quite varied. And they can only be truly discovered by becoming a member. But to try and give you an idea…