What is modern Freemasonry?
Freemasonry has many aspects and facets and to a large extent Masonry is whatever you put into it. At its very simplest, it is a fraternity of Brothers who meet to forge and share a common bond. This social aspect of Freemasonry is practiced through our regular Lodge meetings (called 'Communications') and other events such as formal dinners and charity work.
Of course, a city like New York affords many opportunities for socializing, so what makes Freemasonry different from the Rotary Club or other similar organizations?
The difference is that Freemasonry has other higher purposes in addition to simple socializing. Freemasonry is a moral and ethical system of education which aims to take good men and make them better. Most men who become interested in Freemasonry do so because they sense that there ought to be more to life than simply earning a wage and pursuing material gain. They feel that modern life lacks a certain spiritual satisfaction and wish to improve themselves and the world around them. Freemasonry is one of the few remaining institutions that can help one achieve that goal, based on time-honored principles which have been handed down from one generation of Freemasons to the next.
The rituals and Degrees of Freemasonry are a step-by-step instructional course in the principles of living life with integrity, purpose and wisdom. Each of the three degrees of Freemasonry demonstrates these principles through allegory and symbolism. The goal is to internalize these principles so that they become the bedrock upon which a better life is built.
Of course, undertaking such a journey can be a challenging proposition. The Masonic educational experience requires dedication, hard work and significant commitment of time and energy. It certainly is not for everybody. But those who know in their hearts that there is a better life to be lived, and are prepared to work to achieve it, will find Freemasonry to be an incredibly rich and rewarding experience.
Common questions about Freemasonry
Q: Aren't you a secret society?
A: No. The existence of Freemasonry is hardly a secret. Take a stroll down West 23rd Street in Manhattan and you will pass the giant flag proclaiming the location of the Grand Lodge building. We make no attempt to keep our existence a secret. However, even though we are not a secret society, we are a society with secrets.
Q: What are those secrets?
A: That would be telling.
Q: Do you rule the world behind the scenes?
A: No. A common misconception about Freemasonry is that we're just a 'good old boys' club out to further our own interests. Certainly there are politicians who are Freemasons, but there are also lawyers, artists, computer programmers, construction workers, military personnel, businessmen, musicians, etc. Our Brothers come from every walk of life. We don't spend our time sitting in smoky rooms pulling the strings of power. We're out there in the world living our lives like everybody else, and doing our best to help others do the same.
Q: But you do favors for one another, right?
A: Sure, so long as it isn't illegal. Since we know and trust one another, we're likely to turn to one another for help in the same way that most people turn to their friends and family for help before anyone else. But under no circumstances can that help involve breaking any laws. In fact to do so would violate our most solemn Masonic obligations.
Q: Right - you swear blood oaths, don't you?
A: No. We do undertake Masonic obligations, but those obligations specifically state that they are subservient to the laws of the land. We are not above the law. Breaking the law in any way would be considered un-Masonic and could in fact lead to a Mason being expelled from the Fraternity.
Q: Can anybody join?
A: No. We screen prospective applicants very carefully. Becoming a Mason is a significant undertaking and not to be taken lightly. Anybody who wants to join purely for social networking or because they think it will lead to material gain need not apply. To call another man 'Brother' is a significant sign of trust and we want to be sure that aspiring Masons are going to live up to our principles of integrity and dedication.
Q: Is Freemasonry a religion?
A: No. We welcome men from all religious denominations and backgrounds. Our only requirement is that you have a belief in a Supreme Being, but what name you call that Supreme Being and how you choose to worship him/her/it is entirely your business.
Q: How long does it take to become a Mason?
A: The process depends entirely upon how much work and dedication one is prepared to put into it. Make no mistake, a significant amount of time and energy is required to progress through the degrees. Freemasonry is a lifelong pursuit and a constant learning experience. Nothing will be handed to you, it has to be earned. The more one puts in, the more one gets out of it.
Q: How do I apply?
A: The simplest way is to ask another Mason. If you don't know any Masons but are a sincere aspirant, contact a local Lodge and ask for more information. A full list of New York Lodges can be found here.