FAQ

Here are some common Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I have to be connected/rich, or have a family member to become a Freemason?
Absolutely NOT! The fees are very affordable and should never keep a good man from becoming a mason. More importantly, the candidate does not need to have any connections such as family members who are freemasons. All it takes is for the candidate to provide a petition.

Who can join?
In most jurisdictions such as the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M., the person needs to be male and at least 18 years of age. He should not have any significant criminal record and should have a good moral character. Finally, he needs to declare a belief in a supreme being, however the candidate chooses to define that.

Race, Ethnicity, Nationality, Religion, Sexual Orientation, or Political Ideology are not considered in any way when voting on a candidate. We even have members who are vegans.

Why should I join?
There are as many different reasons as there are masons. Each one of them has a different one. But in general people join Freemasonry for reasons such as:

  • be one part of the long chain of brotherhood that stems back hundreds of years
  • belong to a group of like-minded individuals from many different backgrounds
  • meet people from many different national, educational, religious backgrounds
  • find opportunities for self-development, leadership training, and public speaking
  • be in a supportive environment that fosters free speech and spiritual growth
  • study many different philosophical, religious and historical ideas
  • become a more well rounded individual
  • be surrounded by people you can trust with full confidence

Can Atheists or Agnostics join?
Freemasonry only requires a belief in a supreme being, and NOT in any specific or even any organized form of religion.

Atheists can not join. A candidate has to profess a belief in a supreme being, the exact nature of which is between him and his maker. Since Atheists profess a belief that no supreme being exists, this is incompatible with the basic tenants of Freemasonry.

Agnostics are not as straight-forward. Many self-proclaimed agnostics were formerly involved in organized religion and left their respective organizations when they became disillusioned with their operation. Such a person should reflect sincerely and conscientiously about their faith. If they can separate their belief in deity from whatever structures their former religion held, and still affirm such a belief, then they are welcome to join.

How can I join?
Just ask to join. There is a simple, short petition to complete – here is a link

What is required to become a mason?
A candidate needs to provide the following to the secretary of the lodge: 

  • completed and signed petition
  • 5 signatures of master masons, 2 of which must belong to the lodge you apply to
  • birth certificate
  • payment for application fee (differs by lodge)

Isn’t it terribly expensive to join?
Most masonic lodges that belong to an official Grand Lodges, such as the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. are very affordable and annual membership costs less than what the average person spends on coffee.

What do you do in lodge?
Most of the proceedings in lodge depend on what type of meeting is called. We might vote on candidates, discuss spending proposals, listen to educational presentations, perform candidate degrees, or complete tedious but necessary housekeeping paperwork. But mostly we enjoy each others company and revel in the ancient rituals of Freemasonry.

Why is the head of a masonic lodge called the “Worshipful Master”?
In ancient times, the word “Worshipful” meant “Respected”. Because a single Master Mason is elected by the members to lead them, he is given the title Worshipful Master to indicate that he is a respected Master Mason. He wears a hat to signify his position. No other mason is allowed to wear a hat besides him. This is done out of respect for his position.

What’s up with those funny-looking aprons?
Aprons were worn by ancient operative stone-masons to protect them from rough stones and sharp tools. In Freemasonry it is a badge of fraternal distinction. During his first degree, each Mason is given a plain white apron, it represents the white lambskin, a symbol of purity and innocence.

Why do you call each other brother?
The term “Brother” is viewed as a title by Freemasons. It is also acceptable to use the shortened version: “Bro.” instead. This is not intended as a colloquialism or to sound hip, but instead it is intended for brevity when writing. Only once you have been initiated as an Entered Apprentice (1st degree), do you earn the right to wear the title. It is a sign of respect and recognition to use this title when addressing other masons. Or to indicate that a third person is a fellow mason.

Why can’t women be Freemasons?
While there are female-only Masonic lodges, and even co-ed lodges, the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F & A.M. and its associated lodges do not recognize them. Women can not join any lodges that are recognized by the Grand Lodge of Texas. The reason for that can be traced back to the ancient landmarks. These are foundational principles that all regular masonic lodges must adhere to in order to be recognized by any other masonic lodge or Grand Lodge. These principles were then codified in “Anderson’s Constitutions” in 1723. If any lodge breaks with these landmarks, they will lose their charter and no longer be a Masonic lodge.

Another less legal reason for this gender separation is that a male-only fraternity allows men to focus on self-improvement, spiritual development, and true brotherhood. Introducing females to this equation activates deep-rooted natural tendencies to modify behavior and change the focus of the meetings. It introduces potential distractions to the lodge meetings.

Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Freemasonry unambiguously states that it is not a religion, nor a substitute for religion. There is no separate “Masonic” God, even if Freemasonry refers to the supreme being as the “Great Architect of the Universe”. This different title is used to stress that it is generic, and not about any one religion’s particular identification of God.

Freemasonry is open to all men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.

Is Freemasonry anti-Christian?
Absolutely NOT! All Freemasons around the world begin and end their meetings with a non-denominational prayer. This is done to  be inclusive of all the different beliefs that members might hold. Freemasonry reflects the population that the individual lodge is located in. Since Austin Lodge No. 12 A.F. & A.M. is located in Austin, Texas we have a majority of members who identify as Christians. However, we also have members of most other religions including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and many more. Freemasonry does not discriminate against any single one religion but instead is non-denominational. The character of the individual matters.

In the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M. we use a masonic bible during our meetings and degree rituals. This bible is a King James bible with some additional comments and pictures to emphasize sections that are particularly important to masons. But in other parts of the world where other religions besides Christianity are more dominant, a different book might be used.

Does Freemasonry worship the devil / Satan?
Absolutely NOT! Freemasonry requires a believe in a supreme being. However, there is no religion to sees the Devil, or Satan, as their object of worship. Even the official “Church of Satan” does not prescribe in a believe in Satan. Instead they describe themselves as skeptical atheists. Since satanists are atheists they can not be Freemasons.

Does taking the Masonic obligation contradict Jesus’ command not to swear any oath?
In the Christian Bible in (Matthew 5:33-48) it states: “But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne”. Does this mean that a Christian is not allowed to take the masonic obligation? 

This quote is in response to the habit of the Pharisees, the strict religious elite of Jesus’ day, that made a mockery of oath-taking by finding slight deviations of using God’s name in order to deceive and mislead. Instead Jesus wanted his disciples to speak the truth consistently so that they would be believed without an elaborate oath. He wanted their word to be their bond.

In numerous other locations in the bible such as: (Numbers 30:2) it states: “When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” This clearly shows that the bible in not against oaths, vows or obligations themselves, only the habit of taking them lightly. 

After all, Christians take oaths, vows, pledges and obligations frequently, including marriage vows, political oath of office, military oaths of office, pledge of allegiance, and when giving testimony in court.

Can Catholics become Freemasons?
Absolutely yes. Freemasonry has always been open to  men of all faiths, as long as they can declare a belief in a supreme being. We have members of all faiths. In Austin Lodge No. 12 A.F. & A.M. we have members who are Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Shamanistic, Norse, Deist, or even some don’t belong to any organized religion at all.

This question stems from a long-time discrimination by the Catholic Church against Freemasonry. In 1738 Pope Clement XII published a Bull declaring Freemasonry to be forbidden upon pain of excommunication. The reasons for this is two-pronged. First, allowing people to join with those of other faiths and recognizing their beliefs as equally valid was seen by the Catholic Church as irreconcilable. Secondly, Freemasonry requires their members to keep secrets inviolable that were entrusted to them, and does not make any excuses for confessions to a priest. This bull was reconfirmed in 1983 by then Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI). But in recent years the Catholic Church has become less stringent about this issue and no longer excommunicates members, but might still cast a stern eye on the subject.

Are Freemasons a cabal of demonic lizard-people out to take over the world?
Absolutely – NOT! If you are seriously believing in such extreme conspiracy theories then you might be better served visiting your local psych ward and laying off whatever hallucinogenic substances you might consume.

These ideas were pushed by conspiracy theorists such as Leo Taxill, who later admitted to the fraud. He perpetrated this hoax in 1885 to expose the fanaticism of the  Catholic Church and for financial gain. Later on in 1903 the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were published in Russia. This fabricated document included a report on plans for world domination by a group of Jews and Freemasons. The “Protocols” were purported to be factual but have since been proven to be fraudulent. It has been widely used by many extremists groups including the German Nazi party to justify their hate filled actions and beliefs.

Aren’t Freemanson’s just a bunch of crusty old white guys?
Contrary to public opinion crusty old white dudes were born neither crusty nor old. Most of the masons you might be familiar with joined when they were young and stayed with it because they received so much enjoyment and fulfillment from their continued membership.

The millennial generation is searching for deeper meaning and traditions, and are finding their way to Freemasonry. Austin Lodge No. 12 A.F. & A.M. is seeing a large influx of candidates who are 35 years and younger. The racial or ethnic backgrounds of the membership reflect the general population of the location of the individual lodge. Since our lodge is located in vibrant Austin, Texas we have members from over 20 different nations, and all types of races and ethnicities.

What’s up with the goats?
The jokes and references about goats seem to stem from a misreading of the abbreviation of “Great Architect of the Universe” – G.A.O.T.U.. It might also be based on the prejudices by the Catholic Church that assigned a goat-headed demon named Baphomet to Freemasonry (see Taxill hoax). Eventually masons made light of the misunderstandings and prejudices and embraced the idea of the goat as a light-hearted way of ribbing the candidates in a friendly manner. 

Are you a secret organization and behind….
Freemasonry is an organization with secrets, not a secret organization. If we were truly secret, then Freemasonry would have done the worst job ever and completely failed ever since its founding in 1717. How secret can an organization truly be if we have bumper stickers, big blinking neon signs on our buildings, parades, golf tournaments and hospitals, college football bowls, websites and invite members of the public in to join us in discussion groups such as Masonry 101?

What is Freemasonry hiding?
There are very few things that freemasons are not allowed to discuss with anyone outside of their fraternity. We took an obligation when we joined Freemasonry to keep some things secret, never to be shared with anyone who was not a mason themselves. These things include: 

  • handshakes and passwords
  • rituals and degree work
  • discussions and votes within a “tiled lodge”
  • catechism memory work

If Freemasonry has good intentions, why is it secret?
Freemasonry is an initiatic order. We believe in the importance of ritual and teaching our members over time. Once a candidate is deemed ready he will experience the next degree. After which the candidate will then spend months to digest the information contained therein before he will progress to the next degree. By keeping the information contained in the degrees secret we can craft a personalized approach to each candidate, focusing on the interests and deficits of each person, to ultimately become a full Master Mason.

The actual information itself, as well as any of the degrees and rituals are easily available and can be found in any bookshop or within a few clicks on any online search engine. However, we took an obligation as masons never to reveal them to anyone who is not a mason themselves. It is upon our honor as a mason and a man, to keep these secrets.

Once I join, can I ever leave again?
Absolutely, YES! A mason can leave the fraternity at any time for any reason. If the candidate has not been initiated (1st degree – Entered Apprentice) he can simply withdraw the application. If he has only been initiated but not yet raised (3rd degree – Master Mason) then it is as simple as informing the secretary or the worshipful master of the lodge of his decision. Alternatively, the candidate could also just refuse to attend and would therefore be dropped from the roster once his maximum allowable time-period to move to the next degree has been passed. 

After becoming a full master mason, and a member of the lodge, then the mason could demit from the lodge by providing a simple letter to the secretary. Alternatively, he could simply stop paying his dues and would then become inactive due to non-payment of dues.