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Ask a Freemason

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DrFrylock, Sep 14, 2010.

  1. DrFrylock

    DrFrylock
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    A couple weeks ago, we did a thread on secret societies (or "societies with secrets"). One such prominent society is that of the Freemasons. While the thread was running, one of our board members, Disgustipated, PMed me and informed me that he was himself a Freemason and willing to participate in one of our famous "Ask a (x)" threads. Note that he's in an odd time zone, but he has agreed to do his best to answer questions in a timely manner.

    As such, feel free to ask Disgustipated any questions you have about being a Freemason. I have a couple questions below, but first, some ground rules and a plug:

    RULES: Don't be an ass. Ask legitimate questions. If you happen to also be a Freemason, feel free to chime in with your own experiences if you have something to add, but remember: this is not your thread. Don't just threadjack and answer all of Disgustipated's questions. This is ask a (particular) Freemason, not ask any random Freemason we have on the boards.

    PLUG: I am of the opinion that most people have had jobs, experiences, or lifestyles that would be interesting for other people to find out about. Even mundane stuff can be fascinating: for example, I have no idea what it's like to be a fast food worker. Even though that may seem mundane to some of you, there are half a dozen questions I'd ask someone that has extensive fast food experience. If you would like to volunteer to be the subject of an "Ask a X" thread, and you can be online during a weekday (U.S. time) to answer questions, PM me and we'll set something up.

    Anyway, Disgustipated - please feel free to write a short introductory post if you like. Otherwise, I'll prime the pump with some questions:

    1. What compelled you to become a freemason? Did it fulfill a sense of belonging that you were otherwise missing? Have you been a member of similar organizations (e.g., a fraternity) before becoming a freemason?

    2. A girl I totally, totally wanted to get with for like eight years came from a strongly Masonic family - her dad was a Mason and she was in Job's Daughters or whatever. Despite the fact that she is? was? eminently rational and ended up becoming a scientist, she ended up marrying some dude that was heavily into OTO and Thelemic Magic and stuff. What's up with that?
     
  2. Disgustipated

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    Just a short note to begin with as I have to be out the door in a minute. I will return later and post a more complete intro.

    I'm a 3rd degree Master Mason, Past Master. That means I've attained the third degree and have been a Master of the Lodge. There are going to be questions that I can't or won't answer. If that's the case, I will say why.

    Please also bear in mind that Masonry differs from region to region. It's based on core concepts that can be interpreted differently in each area. To my knowledge, there's no global organisation that sits in the shadows directing everything. Our Lodge reports to the United Grand Lodge of Queensland, Australia. As far as I know, no one oversees them. The way it is all kept in check is that other Grand Lodges will refuse to recognise them if they step out of line and vice versa.

    There are many attendant and related organisations to Masonry. I haven't had a lot to do with them, but will answer what I can.
     
  3. Disgustipated

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    [Sorry to have to spread this across two posts, but I had to run some delivery duties to get a kid to soccer practice.]

    I'll answer DrFrylock's two questions first, then give a bit more background:

    Initially it was that the idea had always interested me. Most people I know have grown up hearing about Freemasons and it's always been a pervasive subtext, except with conspiracy theorists who like to trot it out overtly. But, it had always been a back of mind "that's interesting, I might look into it someday" sort of thing.

    Then my brother joined. He's older than me and had always shared an interest with me. By chance, one of his clients raised the issue of Freemasonry and my brother expressed his interest. As I stated in the related thread, a Freemason won't ask you to join; they wait for you to ask. So, my brother let it be known he had joined and waited for me to ask. He didn't tell me I had to ask, he just waited until I decided to. Since then, my father has joined too.

    I'd never been a member of anything similar, and we don't have fraternities here like there are in the U.S.

    Hard to say, but most likely familial pressure. To be honest, I had to look up OTO and Thelemic Magic as I'd never heard of them, and I've certainly never heard of them as being "recognised" by traditional Freemasonry. Job's Daughters is a recognised organisation, it's for women from the ages of 10 to 20. After that, they may progress to the Order of the Eastern Star.

    From what I can see on OTO and Thelemic Magic, they're based in religion; and that likely has something to do with what happened to you. Freemasonry, while requiring a belief in a higher power, is not of itself religious (for example, it doesn't tell you what god to believe in, just that you believe in the existence of one/many). The closest Masonic order that I know of with religious connotations is Temple, which is the Knights Templar. I haven't had anything to do with them except know of their existence and see the public parts of a grand installation (which was awesome, and they all get their own swords).

    --------------------------

    I've been a Freemason for a number of years now, and have progressed as far as possible in what is called the Blue Lodge (the first three degrees). Although there are many more I could do, these three degrees are considered the most important. I've held all progressive roles in the Lodge (except positions like Secretary, Treasury, Almoner etc). To go further, I would need to join the next order (being the Order of Mark Masons).

    I haven't actively attended Lodge in some time, due to other commitments. Masonry teaches that our first duties are to our families and to our other commitments. So, while it is encouraged to attend there is no pressure if you are bound to something else. My main problem is that while Lodge night is only one night a month, in my position I'll get a lot of work to do. Silly me showed an ability to memorise and deliver long speeches; and this happens a lot in Freemasonry. This would mean numerous practices and much time spent learning every month. My other commitments prevent me from doing that. I should have stuffed up more.

    That being said, I pay my dues, keep up with what's going on and still represent the ideals. I'm interested in going to the other Orders, but they hinge on the Blue Lodge and I can't do one without the other. Also, I don't believe in doing something I can't be committed to - I'm not a tourist, so to speak. So all up, I'll have to wait until I get time.
     
  4. Juice

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    Some questions:

    What is the Scottish Rite?

    To join do you have to know another mason personally or can you walk into a lodge and express interest?

    Whats the deal with Masons and Serbian Orthodox?
     
  5. foredeck

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    I was considering joining, so will follow this conversation closely.

    I don't want to sound selfish, but am curious. What do you get out of the membership? What are some of the benefits? I'm looking for some networking, and to give back to the community mostly.

    This may be different in every region, but what is the average age? Would I be out of place since I'm only 30 years old?
     
  6. Disgustipated

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    At least in terms of Anglo Saxon derived Masonry, which is the root of most accepted modern Masonry (but definitely not all), there exists two rites: York and Scottish.

    The English and Scottish traditionally hate each other, and if there's any chance to disagree over anything; they will. In the early days there were a lot of competing theories on the ways in which things should be done. Under the basic umbrella of the overarching principles of Masonry there exists different ways of interpretation. The York and Scottish rites are just the different ways of interpretation. Both have been acknowledged as what's called "regular" (that is, both valid) and compatible with each other.

    A "United Grand Lodge", such as mine which is the Unite Grand Lodge of Queensland, refers to a Grand Lodge with authority over both the York and Scottish rites.

    So, the Scottish rite is just their particular way of teaching Masonry. A Lodge that shares our meeting hall is a Scottish Lodge. My Lodge is York rite. There are differences right down to the little things, but we're not generally privy to the nuances of each other (since we're not members of the other's rite). I don't know if it's possible to be a member of both, and have never considered the question. I think it would stump most Masons as you tend to pick one and stick to it, and being a member of two Lodges is a hell of a lot of work.

    You don't have to know a Mason personally, but it helps. Becoming a Mason isn't just a matter of filling out a form and submitting it. Applicants are tested to see what sort of person they are before they're allowed to join. It's not a high bar, but they just want to know you're a good person to begin with. That's certainly easier if you have a Mason who knows you and can vouch for you.

    That being said, our Lodge has admitted members who have applied without knowing any Masons. It was just a lengthier process.

    Masonic Lodges are pretty easy to find. A lot of them are now listed on the net or in phone books, and most lodges have prominent markings. Look for a compass and right angle symbol in the shape of a diamond. You'll often find someone around there, like a caretaker, who can get you started off. Most caretakers are Masons who have retired from working.

    Personally, I have no idea. Maybe I can answer this question in terms of "what's the deal with Masonry and [insert organised religion]?".

    I'm more familiar with the attitudes of the Catholic Church and most Protestant churches towards Masonry. And it's usually one of distrust that's slowly coming down over time. Personally, I don't go the church and I'm no fan of organised religion in general. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've been in a church that wasn't for a wedding, a funeral or a christening.

    The Catholic Church hates Freemasonry. As far as I know, it's currently considered to be a grave sin by them to be a Mason and they used to be subject to excommunication. I used to work with a guy who was very staunchly Catholic who would get almost apoplectic if you mentioned Masonry. So, I never told him I was one. As far as I know, the root of their problem was that being a Mason involved keeping secrets from the church, and while you were required to believe in the existence of god, it didn't have to be the Christian God. The Catholic Church does not like competition. Just ask Henry VIII (founder of the Church of England).

    Protestant churches range generally from ambivalence to hatred. Interestingly, that seems to correspond to whether that church is moderate or fundamental. Across the road from our Lodge is an Anglican (Church of England) church. We don't throw rocks at each other. One of their prominent parishioners is a senior member of our Lodge.

    My layman's understanding of the Orthodox Churches (Serbian, Greek, Russian etc) is that they are derived from the Catholic Church like most Christian faiths and may have carried over the preconceptions.
     
  7. Disgustipated

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    Ask away. Most Masons are happy to answer questions.

    The mission statement of most Masonry is to "take a good man and make him better". You get out of it what you put into it in terms of thinking and understanding. Freemasonry tells a story through the use of symbolism based on the story of the construction of King Solomon's temple. If you pay attention to the story, it will give you important life lessons on how to conduct yourself.

    No one should ever become a Mason for selfish reasons; they won't get anything out of it. It's not set up that way. But you will get the chance to meet like minded men who are good natured, honest and trustworthy (and if they're not, they get drummed out pretty quick). You'll also get a lot of opportunity to be charitable and work within the community. Over the years, our Lodge has done a ton of things from volunteering labour for various organisations to bursaries and prizes to local schools and fundraising for major charities. For the most part, we're quiet about it. Masons like to contribute while sidestepping the spotlight. Charity is a massive thing in Masonry, at all levels, inside the Lodge and out.

    The network for Masonry is huge. I can go almost anywhere in the world and be guaranteed of finding someone to help me if I'm in need. Masons will go to great lengths to help people who are in genuine need of assistance, especially another Mason. I could walk into any recognised Freemasons Lodge anywhere in the world and be accepted as a brother once I've proved myself a Mason.

    Age is a big issue. It does differ greatly from area to area and you should check any Lodge you're joining to see for yourself. In many areas, Masonry is dying out because the average age of Lodge members is high and younger members aren't joining because of the age gap. This is greatly contributed to because of the constraints on gaining members (you can't ask someone to join, they have to ask for themselves).

    One of the secrets is finding a Lodge that has a good family feel to it. That way, sons of current Masons tend to join and you get a good mix of ages. One Lodge near us has a huge membership of a variety of ages because they've got a large family at their core who are now spread over three generations.

    My Lodge consisted of mostly older guys when I joined and I never had any issue with that, except that it was sad to watch guys you'd formed a good friendship with disappear over time as they became too sick to attend or died. I never felt out of place or unwelcomed, and they genuinely appreciated having some young blood around. Since then, the average age has come down by way of younger applicants and (sadly) natural attrition.
     
  8. Ogee

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    Whats the deal with the concept of God (god?) in Masonry? Its more a seense of a supreme being than an all knowing, benevolent, anthropomorphised deity, right?
     
  9. fishy

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    How do you go about doing that? Is there a secret handshake or code words or something? Obviously I don't expect you to go into specifics, but I'm curious.
     
  10. rei

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    Expanding on this; what constitutes / doesn't constitute the mandated belief in a higher power?
     
  11. DrFrylock

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    What is the deal with the "good person" requirement? What's the bar there and how do you verify it? How many people that go through the initiation rigmarole are realistically not admitted due to this requirement?
     
  12. Disgustipated

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    Masonry has certain principles, called Landmarks. One of those is the belief in a "Supreme Being". In a Christian based society, at least, this being is nominally referred to as God although Masonry has a number of different reference phrases. It's generally held, and this is quoted from a text given to new applicants in my area, that:

    "As Freemasonry hold the concept of the Brotherhood of Man, under the Fatherhood of God, belief in a Supreme Being is a fundamental requirement of Freemasonry. If this spiritual belief were removed, Freemasonry would degenerate, and cease to exist."

    All that you're asked is whether you believe in such a being. You're not asked to nominate what your particular concept of it is or anything else. If you believe, you can consider that box checked. If not, you don't make the grade.

    From there, any references in the Lodge are taken to be a generic reference and you can attribute that your particular beliefs. Discussion about religion is forbidden from Lodge rooms, on the basis that it is a great cause for dissent and anything that threatens friendship, harmony and goodwill is not tolerated. That's why political discussion is banned also.
     
  13. Disgustipated

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    There's a number of ways and, you're right, I can't give specifics. The whole reason for the secrecy in Freemasonry is to make sure that people who don't belong can't get in. What I can tell you is that there's a range of things to look for. Most of them are cues to prompt further inquiry.

    The first might be something like a tie or lapel pin. A lot of older Masons wear these. Masonic rings are not uncommon. I had a female friend whose father was a Mason and he gave her his ring when she went overseas and told her if she was in trouble to find a Lodge, show them the ring and ask for help.

    There is a secret Masonic handshake. That's not made up. Actually, there's a number of them but there's one very common one.

    Words and phrasing are used a lot in Masonry, and they're not your everyday way of saying things. You give a Mason the handshake and the right phrase and you're 90% of the way there.

    We are also given a certificate by our Grand Lodge upon attaining any degree. I keep mine in my case with my apron and regalia so that I can produce it if I go visiting.

    If you've got enough time, you can get a letter of introduction from your Grand Lodge.

    Probably the best way is to have a local Mason vouch for you if you know them.

    Despite all this, you can be asked to submit to an examination. A senior Mason will then ask you certain questions in private to test your Masonic knowledge. You might even be asked to submit to an examination if you have all of the above anyway. It's a matter of making them comfortable as to who you are. Anyone who tried to bluff their way into a Lodge and did manage to get in wouldn't last more than a few minutes anyway before being found out. And I've never heard of that happening.
     
  14. Ogee

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    So, is there someone at a lodge 24/7? Do you just knock on the front door of a lodge?
     
  15. Disgustipated

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    Above, I talked above a Landmark of Freemasonry (belief in a Supreme Being). The other Landmarks are respect for the civil law (we're forbidden to engage in riots or rebellion - no looting for us), secrecy (in keeping the secrets of Masonry) and sound qualification. Sound qualification means that every candidate for Freemasonry must be well recommended, of good character, and of mature age so that they can be deemed capable of living a Masonic life in all its aspects.

    Then there's the principal tenets of Freemasonry, which are friendship, morality and brotherly love (no homo - impartial friendship, mutual respect and understanding).

    Freemasonry believes that if you're not a good person to begin with, you can't abide by and uphold these requirements. It's a subjective qualification, and one that's constantly monitored in a non-invasive way. Basically, if you present yourself well and there's no apparent bad stuff you're given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. Self responsibility is a big thing, so if you're prepared to get up, hold your hand over your heart and swear that you're a good person then that's accepted unless evidence to the contrary appears.

    Before anyone is accepted for initiation, background checks are done. Interviews are conducted. A formal application is made to Grand Lodge and it is checked (no one can become a Mason without a dispensation from Grand Lodge). Finally, you are put to a ballot in Lodge. Ever heard of being black balled? That's an expression from Masonry and it means you failed the ballot.

    At any stage, if you don't measure up then the whole process stops and you'll likely never hear from the Masons again. You're not given a reason formally (but you could, of course, ask your sponsor). I've never seen anyone unworthy get past the interview stage, and I've never seen a failed ballot.

    That's not to say that sometimes people get in who shouldn't ultimately be there. That's why it's constantly monitored in a non-invasive way. What I mean by that is if you stuff up, your Lodge will find out about it and you'll be booted out. It's rare to "see". A few years back a very junior Mason was caught stealing money out of petty cash at his work. Word got back to his Lodge and he was never seen in that Lodge or any other, to my knowledge, again. No announcement was made in the Lodge, but word got around as word tends to do. And it was swift. I would guess that in his situation he confessed and left of his own accord. If it was disputed, it might be a lengthier process.

    Conviction of any indictable offence pretty much guarantees expulsion, but you might get before what's called the Board of General Purposes to explain yourself. Other infractions can get you all sorts of penalties including having to pay a fine of between "two dollars nor more than ten dollars". I love our Constitution, it's old and outdated in a lot of places.
     
  16. JasonBourne

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    So in short.....he was killed.
     
  17. Disgustipated

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    No insult taken. I know we're a novelty to a lot of people. I was once that way myself.

    Secret hideouts? No. Although, that would be sweet. Most Masonic Lodges are very prominent and some are downright awesome. Our Grand Lodge in Brisbane is breathtaking. Freemasons are based on stonemasons, so their buildings are usually impressive. That being said, in a place where Masonry isn't tolerated (most any totalitarian regime) then we would have secret hideouts. This is to avoid such things as imprisonment, torture and other nasty things.

    Meet once a week? We can if you're friends with a bunch of them, but not generally. Lodge night is once a month. We do dress formally (but no robes in our Lodge). There is singing, and it is generally painful. Charity is a big thing in Masonry and at least part of every meeting is devoted to charity within the Lodge and in the community. We also have a specific officer called an Almoner whose job is to look after and keep tabs on sick and injured Masons and their families. They will visit with them and relay news back and forth. They also visit with Masonic widows. When my mother died, it was the Almoner who got in contact with me. There is also drinking, but that is done in what is called the South, which is a light supper after the meeting has concluded. Getting hammered is very much frowned upon.

    Once you ask, a largely administrative process is started. First, a background check will be done on you. When I joined they knew things about me I wasn't even sure I knew. Then they interview you, and your girlfriend/wife, to see what sort of person you are. If there's any hint that you joining will cause problems within your relationship, it won't happen. Next, a dispensation from Grand Lodge is obtained to allow a ballot to be done. This ballot is done in a Lodge meeting and is a vote for your initiation. If you pass that, you'll get notified of when to be at Lodge for your first meeting, which is an initiation ceremony. I can't give any details of that (obviously) but I can say you never forget it.

    No non-Mason gets to attend meetings per se. A Lodge can be "opened" in private, and once opened members of the public can be admitted for various purposes. They must then leave before any further Masonic work is done. This isn't common, but it's not that unusual. For example, every year our Lodge has an Anzac Day ceremony (military and veterans appreciation day) by conducting what is known as the Vacant Chair ceremony. We'll open the Lodge in private, then admit members of the public to witness the ceremony. They'll then leave, we'll finish our business, and they can come to the South.
     
  18. Disgustipated

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    Not as such. There's usually someone around during daylight hours. Or there's a noticeboard with a contact phone number. A lot of Lodges rent out space to community groups. For example, our Lodge has two storeys. Our meeting room is upstairs and there's an open hall downstairs which is rented to dance classes, discussion groups and so on. If there's someone there, the front door will usually be open. If not, look around for a contact number in a window or somewhere prominent near the door.
     
  19. Disgustipated

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    Yes. But we're incredibly insidious and sinister. We're going to make it look like old age unless someone else gets to him first.
     
  20. scotchcrotch

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    Is hazing a part of the entry process?

    If so, are you just the senior members' bitch? Or do you go as far as an old school flogging?