How to select a lodge

Masonry 101 encourages any interested potential member to visit as many lodges as is reasonable. Even though all lodges belonging to the Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM are based on the same basic principles, each individual lodge has its own character. Some focus more on a relaxed atmosphere and fraternal fellowship, some are all about charity and community involvement, while others focus on philosophy, education and spiritual development. All lodges will include all of these aspects to some degree, but each lodge has a different focus.

Other issues to consider are the frequency of meetings: some lodges meet twice a week, with monthly stated meetings. While others only meet once every three months. Dress code can also vary greatly. There are some lodges that are very casual and known as t-shirt and blue jeans lodges, while others suggest coat and tie, or suits. Some even suggest black tie, or tux.

It is recommended to meet different lodges to see which one might be the best fit for an individual candidate. Additionally, since being a freemason involves frequent visits to the lodge, it is highly advised to consider lodges that are conveniently located within a reasonable driving distance from either home, work or in between. If it is a hassle to fight traffic to attend, then it is highly likely that it will prevent the member to become more active.

To find a lodge within the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F.&A.M.:

https://tx.grandview.systems/public_lodges

To find lodges in other states:
https://beafreemason.org

Masonic US Presidents

Out of the 46 presidents of the USA, 14 were Master Masons. One more (LBJ) had been initiated as a 1° Entered Apprentice, but he never completed his masonic journey. That is over 30% of all the presidents in the history of the USA. Considering that the average masonic membership of the USA male population has been between 1.25 and 3%, that demonstrates a significant influence on the highest levels of political power.

The following presidents were freemasons:

George Washington (1789 – 1797)
James Monroe (1758 – 1831)
Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)
James K Polk (1795-1849)
James Buchanan (1791 – 1868)
Andrew Johnson (1808 – 1875)
James A Garfield (1831 – 1881)
William McKinley (1843 – 1901)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909)
William H Taft (1857 – 1930)
Warren G Harding (1865 – 1923)
Franklin D Roosevelt (1933 – 1945)
Harry S Truman (1945 – 1953)
Gerald Ford (1974 – 1977)

Other presidents with masonic ties are:

Thomas Jefferson – there is no written records of his lodge membership, even if he is often considered to be a Mason by both historians and Freemasons.
Lyndon B. Johnson – he was initiated as a 1° Entered Apprentice Mason at Johnson City Lodge 561, but he never became a 3° Master Mason.
Ronald Reagan – on February 11, 1988, he was made an honorary member on sight of the Scottish Rite – SJ and the Shrine.
Bill Clinton – he was a member of the masonic youth organization – DeMolay.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_presidents_of_the_United_States_who_were_Freemasons

https://www.businessinsider.com/us-presidents-who-were-masons-2017-3#george-washington-1

York Rite

The York Rite is one of the appendant bodies of Freemasonry that a Master Mason may join to further his knowledge of Freemasonry. But the York Rite is not found as a single system worldwide, and outside of the United States there are often significant differences in ritual, as well as organization. However, in most cases, provided that the Grand Body in question regards the parent “Craft” jurisdiction as regular, each distinct Order has recognised fraternal inter-relations with the respective Grand Body within the York system.

The York Rite (sometimes referred to as the American Rite, since it is unknown in York, England) is one of several Rites of Freemasonry. A Rite is a series of progressive degrees that are conferred by various Masonic organizations or bodies, each of which operates under the control of its own central authority. The York Rite specifically is a collection of separate Masonic Bodies and associated Degrees that would otherwise operate independently. The three primary bodies in the York Rite are the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Council of Royal & Select Masters or Council of Cryptic Masons, and the Commandery of Knights Templar, each of which are governed independently but are all considered to be a part of the York Rite. There are also other organizations that are considered to be directly associated with the York Rite, or require York Rite membership to join such as the York Rite Sovereign College but in general the York Rite is considered to be made up of the aforementioned three. The Rite’s name is derived from the city of York, where, according to one Masonic legend, the first meetings of Masons in England took place.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_Rite

Atheism

Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. (1)

Based on the Ancient Landmarks that all regular masonic lodges agree upon, all members must profess a belief in deity. This means that atheists are not permitted to become members. However, this does not mean that one must belong to a specific religion or church. One can believe in a deity and not belong to a man-made church. As long as the person believes in deity, that is sufficient to become a mason.

Freemasonry is not a religion per se, but atheists cannot belong, said Brent Morris, a Masonic historian, editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, and a 33rd degree Freemason.

“This is an organization of believers,” he said. “When it was started on a formal basis in 1717, many historians believe that it was trying to bridge the gap between the religious civil wars that had been going on in England at the time. The Catholics would get in power and beat up on the Protestants; the Protestants would get in power and beat up on the Catholics; and everyone was beating up on the Jews.

“So when the Freemasons were formed, [they] said, ‘Here’s a group of men that agree that God is central in their lives, they can even agree that God compels them to do good in the community, then they can shut up after that.” That was a radical concept — that men could get together and agree on that fundamental level, and then get on with their lives.” (2)

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
(2) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-freemasonry/

 

Red vs Blue lodges


Regular Masonic lodges work the first three Masonic degrees, rather than the appendant Masonic orders such as York Rite and Scottish Rite. They are also called craft lodges. All lodges belong to a Grand Lodge and are members of their system (AF&AM, or F&AM). The system that the particular Grand Lodge belongs to will dictate the ritual used in the standard lodge operations.

However, there is another distinction between lodges. This is based on the ritual used in the degrees themselves. Blue Lodges are based on the rituals as created by the York Rite body of Freemasonry. The other style is called Red Lodges. This is based on the rituals of the Scottish Rite. The actual ritual used, and the philosophical and esoteric foundation is explained in more depth in Albert Pike’s tome: “Morals & Dogma”.

Most Masonic lodges in the USA are Blue Lodges. There are thousands of Blue Lodges in the USA that are home to over 2,000,000 Masons.

However, there are a select few lodges left that are using the Red Lodge degrees. These degrees are based on the Scottish Rite, aka AASR, rituals. The Scottish Rite itself is based on a degree system that originated in France. This system then migrated through French colonies in the caribbean to the Southern part of the USA.

In New Orleans, Louisiana there are ten lodges remaining that practice the Red Lodge, aka Scottish Rite or French degrees. These can be performed in a variety of languages, as historically preferred by each lodge. They have special dispensation by their Grand Lodge to continue these traditions that are so different from the rest of the lodges in its jurisdiction. All ten of these lodges are located in the 16th Masonic District.

Etoile Polaire No. 1 .(1794) (French)
Perserverance No. 4 (1810) (English, formerly French)
Cervantes No. 5 (1842) (Spanish)
Germania No. 46 (1844) (English, formerly German)
Kosmos No. 171 .(1864) (English, formerly German)
Union No. 172 (1865) (English)
Dante No. 174 (1866) (Italian)
Galileo Mazzini No. 368 (1917) (English, formerly Italian)
Albert Pike No. 376 .(1919) (English)
Paul M. Schneidau No. 391 (1921) (English)

AF&AM vs F&AM Lodges

A.F. & A.M. stands for Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
F. & A.M. stands for Free and Accepted Masons.

In the USA each state has one Grand Lodge for all regular, main-stream masonic lodges. Depending on historical connections these Grand Lodges can be either AF&AM or F&AM. It is not possible to have both in the same Grand Lodge jurisdiction. In Texas the Grand Lodge is AF&AM, and therefore all of its constituent lodges are therefore also AF&AM lodges.

In reality the differences are minimal. Since Grand Lodges of both types share mutual recognition and all are based on the foundational landmarks, either type is considered mainstream, regular freemasonry. The only minor differences are in the officer titles and the ritual performed within the lodge functions themselves, and are an interesting curiosity to the traveling mason. These differences can be compared to regional dialects or customs for the average citizen. They are what makes traveling interesting.

The historical origin for these two types of lodges stems back to the schism in England between the Antients and the Moderns. Between 1751 and 1813 there were two Grand Lodges in England that competed for primacy. The Moderns were the first Grand Lodge that was established in 1717. The Ancients were formed in 1751 due to a disagreement about ritual. Eventually these two competing Grand Lodges were joined back together into one single body. However, meanwhile two different forms of masonry were started. The Moderns became F&AM, and the Ancients became AF&AM.

Beehive


The beehive is one of the lesser known masonic symbols. It reminds us of a group of individuals that work diligently and industriously together for a common purpose. To our ancient operative brothers who came from the stonemason guilds of the middle ages, industry was the principle that showed them how best to accomplish a given task. Individuals were assigned a specific task based on their skill level. Others were assigned to planning on how these different tasks would then fit together to produce the desired outcome. No single individual was superior, it took the hard work and dedication of all parts to join together as a whole to achieve a successful outcome.

In a speculative masonic lodge the workers are replaced with the members. But the same principles are still followed. The success of each single member is vital to make the whole lodge succeed.

The idea for the hive is to assemble those who can best work together and best agree on the common goal of the hive.

In addition to industriousness, the beehive also reminds us of the support and protection that the hive offers its members. The drones at the entrance resemble the tyler who diligently guards the door of the lodge with a sword to protect it from unauthorized non-masons while the lodge is in session.

Five Foundational Principles of a Lodge

Each lodge is based around five foundational principles. The lodges might differ in their approach and the extent to which they value each one. Nonetheless, each one will be present in every lodge.

Charity
Freemasonry encourages charitable behavior. Lodges can offer scholarships, organize fundraisers for worthy causes, or do cleanups in local parks. Some focus on needs of the local area, others on helping their membership and families such as widows and orphans, and others support regional or national causes. The actual charitable action might differ for each lodge, but the idea remains. 

Philosophy
Freemasonry is based on ancient philosophies and encourages their membership to study and gain a deeper understanding of it. These philosophies draw in from ancient religious texts such as the old testament, greek philosophers, and enlightenment ideas. Through a true understanding of philosophy freemasonry encourages members to strive for continual improvement.

Esotericism
This is one of the more misunderstood ideas in freemasonry. The simplest definition of esotericism is “internal knowledge”. This is information that can be easily misunderstood if taken outside of its context. Examples include the ancient titles and language that freemasonry uses. This is also displayed in the symbols that are so frequently utilized. Many people confuse esoteric with occult. However, occult has an additional layer of meaning, that of being about supernatural forces or powers.

Fellowship
Freemasonry is the world’s oldest fraternity. It encourages members to become brothers not only in name, but also in deed. Members enjoy each others company outside of lodge meetings and become close friends. Many adult men find it difficult to gain new friends, or open up and show vulnerability around other people. Masonry gives them the opportunity to do so in a supportive environment.

Ritual
Each lodge practices ritual whenever they engage in meetings, funerals, officer installations, or candidate initiations. These rituals are standardized throughout the entire jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge that a particular lodge belongs to. It is considered of great importance to practice the rituals as precisely as possible, and is oftentimes a source of great pride when a lodge performs a degree exceptionally well.

Illuminati

The Illuminati (plural of Latin illuminatus, ‘enlightened’) is a name given to several groups, both real and fictitious. Historically, the name usually refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on 1 May 1776 in Bavaria, today part of Germany, by Adam Weishaupt. The society’s goals were to oppose superstition, obscurantism, religious influence over public life, and abuses of state power. “The order of the day,” they wrote in their general statutes, “is to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them.”The Illuminati—along with Freemasonry and other secret societies—were outlawed through edict by Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria, with the encouragement of the Catholic Church, in 1784, 1785, 1787, and 1790. During subsequent years, the group was generally vilified by conservative and religious critics who claimed that the Illuminati continued underground and were responsible for the French Revolution.

In subsequent use, “Illuminati” has referred to various organisations which have claimed, or have been claimed to be, connected to the original Bavarian Illuminati or similar secret societies, though these links have been unsubstantiated. These organisations have often been alleged to conspire to control world affairs, by masterminding events and planting agents in government and corporations, in order to gain political power and influence and to establish a New World Order. Central to some of the more widely known and elaborate conspiracy theories, the Illuminati have been depicted as lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings and levers of power in dozens of novels, films, television shows, comics, video games, and music videos.

There is no evidence that any present-day groups have any real connection to the historic order. They have not amassed significant political power or influence, and most, rather than trying to remain secret, promote unsubstantiated links to the Bavarian Illuminati as a means of attracting membership. In the end the historical Illuminati were a short-lived fraternity that had very little actual influence but has grown much more substantial in the imagination of the public over the years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati

Scottish Rite

The Scottish Rite is one of the appendant bodies of Freemasonry that a Master Mason may join for further exposure to the principles of Freemasonry. A Rite is a series of progressive degrees that are conferred by various Masonic organizations or bodies, each of which operates under the control of its own central authority. This appendant body of Freemasonry allows Master Masons to expand their masonic knowledge through the performance of additional degrees at annual reunions. These degrees allow masons to become 32 degree masons. The 33 degree is purely ceremonial and is conferred by the Supreme Council upon members of the Rite in recognition of outstanding service to the Rite, or in public life, to the principles taught in the Degrees.

In England and some other countries, while the Scottish Rite is not accorded official recognition by the Grand Lodge, only a recognised Freemason may join and there is no prohibition against his doing so. In the United States, however, the Scottish Rite is officially recognized by Grand Lodges as an extension of the degrees of Freemasonry. The Scottish Rite builds upon the ethical teachings and philosophy offered in the Craft (or Blue) Lodge, through dramatic presentation of the individual degrees. (1)

In the USA it is broken up into two organizations, the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and the Southern Jurisdiction.

The NMJ was founded in 1813, 48 years before the US Civil War. It includes 15 states and was created simply for logistical reasons to administer the rite more efficiently over such a large geographic area at a time before automobiles.

The SJ was founded in 1801 and includes all other states and territories on the USA not covered by the NMJ. Its headquarter is at the House of the Temple located in Washington DC.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Rite