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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Almost all of us will have been told that we shouldn’t just remain static, but always be moving, changing, learning and growing. This is good advice, but it can create daunting challenges for us. Let’s look at the instructions given in the simple teaching, each of which creates questions. We are told we should always be
- To where should we move,
- and from where?
- Doesn’t this require that we have an understanding of where we are relative to everything else?
- What should we be changing?
- How should we change it?
- What does “change” mean?
- What should we be learning?
- Don’t different kinds of learning require different skills?
- Where do we go to learn these things?
- From whom do we learn them?
- Doesn’t growth eventually end when people reach a stasis?
- Growing in what direction?
- Growing in what ways?
- How does growth relate to change?
- Does growth happen through “learning”, “moving”, “changing” or some combination of these things?
Suddenly, the simple advice becomes very difficult to put into practice, almost as difficult as advice to “show someone you love him”.
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.
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.
While regular Grand Lodges do not allow women to become members, there are masonic organizations for women.
In regular freemasonry such as the Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM there are associated organization such as the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Nile, Job’s Daughters or Rainbow Girls. But there is no option for women to become full Master Masons and be recognized by this Grand Lodge.
However, there are other options available to women who want to become Master Masons.
In the United States there are two main variants known as “Universal Co-Masonry” and “Order of Women Freemasons”.
Co-masonry was originally founded in France in the 1890’s and was known as “Le Droit Humain”. They allow for men and women to join together in the same organization as equal members. Because this violates one of the main principals laid out in the historic landmarks that all regular masonic lodges agreed to uphold, they are therefore considered to be irregular and clandestine by any regular Grand Lodge in the World.
The Order of Women Freemasons is the world’s largest women-only organization of freemasonry. They broke off the co-masonry organization in 1908. It is an exclusively female organization that follows the same structure, believes and traditions as the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). UGLE was the first Grand Lodge to be formed in 1717 and all regular Grand Lodges across the world follow their lineage back to it. UGLE has cordial relations with OWF, but is not able to proclaim official recognition since it violates one of the historical landmarks.
The Order of the Eastern Star is a Masonic-related fraternity of women and men dedicated to charity, truth and loving kindness. Although not a part of the Masonic fraternity, membership is based on a Masonic affiliation or relationship, a belief in God, and a desire to acquire additional knowledge and for self improvement. The order was established in 1850 and has approximately 10,000 chapters in twenty countries and approximately 500,000 members under its General Grand Chapter. Members of the Order of the Eastern Star are aged 18 and older; men must be Master Masons and women must have specific relationships with Masons.
The degrees of the Order of the Eastern Star teach lessons of fidelity, constancy, loyalty, faith and love. These degrees are presented in a beautiful ritualistic ceremony designed to not only teach the lessons, but also to provide insight for future study and understanding.
Each group is lead by a Worthy Matron and a Worthy Patron. The Matron is the presiding officer, and the Patron provides general support and masonic authority to the chapter.
Masonic organisations can be divided into appendant vs concordant bodies.
Additionally they can be divided into petitionable vs invitational organizations.
These are groups that Master Masons and their families can join. They offer additional degrees to increase their knowledge of Freemasonry and its principles, or simply offer opportunities for fellowship.
These are groups that offer Master Masons an opportunity to become more involved in Blue Lodge Masonry, without joining additional bodies. These organizations are considered Lodges, but are not able to initiate new Entered Appreciate Masons. For example Texas Lodge of Research, Tranquility Lodge 2000, and others.
These are bodies or organizations that a Master Mason can apply to for membership. Examples include the Scottish Rite, Shriners, Grotto, York Rite.
When a Brother has served the Craft above and beyond what is accepted as usual, or has shown an interest or disposition on what the group does, he may be solicited to join one of these groups. Each has its own purposes and traditions, rules and regulations, and requirements in order to invite someone. E.g. Societas Rosicruciana, Allied Masonic Degrees, or Grand College of Rites.