The Knights Templar connection to Freemasonry would have this Fraternity be deemed a Christian orginization. However, the Fraternity of Freemasonry started out as a Non-Denominational organization. Officially this was done so that the Fraternity could be truly universal, one which lived up to its fundamental teachings. These are: Brotherly Love; Charity; Truth; the belief that all men are created equal; and that God is the Father of all man-kind.
There has been speculation, by several of the Anti-Masonic factions, that this Fraternity was set-up to protect the lives and assets of the affluent members of these Lodges. Due to the ever expanding trade routes of some of the, (Masonic), English traders it was in their best interest to have their contacts in foreign countries become members in an organization which would, in effect, "cover their assets". After all, what better way to protect your Life, to gain lodging and meals, to retain low prices and high quality on the goods you purchased, as well as gaining other necessities while you traveled in foreign lands, than to invite this man to become a member in "your" exclusive Fraternity. There is absolutely no information which would support this charge. But, if there is any truth to this accusation, then it certainly served to benefit the Non-Christian members as equally as the Christian members. As such, there does not seem to be anything intrinsically wrong with this possible explanation for the membership pre-requisites. However, I feel there is absolutly no validity to this accusation.
The Freemasons of 1717 and today are separated by more than the two centuries of time on our calendars. For example, there were only two levels, or degrees, in the original structure of Fraternal Freemasonry. There was the Apprentice Mason and the Fellow. The Fellow was the highest "rank" a member could attain. However, some time in the late 1720's, the Master Mason Degree was added to the line-up. Early references seem to show that the Master Mason Degree was an expansion of the material covered in the previous two Degrees, along with some added material to make it a bit more ritualistic, if not flamboyant.
When one compares most labor trades to the Masonic Fraternity one finds that the labor trades have an Apprentice, a Journeyman, and a Master. The "Master" craftsman is the highest "rank" the craftsman can attain. The Freemasons, staying true to their "symbolic" origin of a labor guild, follow this same pattern. There are 3 Degrees to the basic structure of the Masonic Fraternity, referred to as "The Blue Lodge". There is the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason. The latter being the highest "rank" a member can attain. If the Master Mason wishes to learn more about the Fraternity, he is encouraged to join the York Rite or the Scottish Rite. I must point out, that these degrees and groups are not "higher" in rank, only a off-shoot of the first three degrees.
While one of the differences between York and Scottish Rite Masonry is that the York Rite Masons prefer to let the name of each Degree hold its significance, and Scottish Rite Masons are more readily known by a numerical system, the really major significance is that in order for a Mason to become a Knight Templar, of the York Rite, he must be a Christian. If the man is not a member of a Christian Religion, then he may pursue the Scottish Rite.
The York Rite of Freemasonry is divided into 3 groups. The a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Royal and Select Masters, which, prior to 1870 was part of the Scottish Rite, and the Commandery of Knights Templar. The York Rite, covers the Degrees of Masonry from the Mark Master, (4th Degree), to the Knight of the Temple, (12th Degree), also known as the Knights Templar. There is a "Degree" in the York Rite of Masonry that is the equivalent to the Honorary 33rd Degree of the Scottish Rite, called the KYCH. Meaning, Knight of York~Cross of Honor. Now, in order for a York Rite Mason to receive the KYCH, above and beyond outstanding service to Freemasonry and to society, he must have served as the Elected Presiding Officer of all three bodies of the York Rite, and as Master of his Masonic Lodge. Plus, the man must be nominated and elected to receive this Honor, by members of the governing body of the KYCH. This is a truly rare, and very privileged honor very few Masons can lay claim to holding.
The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry is divided into 4 groups. There is a Lodge of Perfection, a Chapter of Rose Croix, a Council of Princes of Jerusalem, and the Consistory. The Scottish Rite, covers the Degrees of Masonry from the 4th thru the 32nd, which nearly every Scottish Rite Mason attains. There is a 33rd Degree, this is an Honorary Degree, that cannot be applied for. It is usually given to a Scottish Rite Mason who has shown himself to be an outstanding asset not only to the Fraternity, but to society as well. The man must be nominated by a member of the Scottish Rite Supreme Council, and a unanimous vote must be had in order for him to receive this Honor. As with the KYCH of the York Rite, this is also a rare and very distinguished accomplishment.
When a Master Mason has completed either the York or Scottish Rites, he is eligible to join the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, also known as the Shriners. When you take the first letter of each word which make up the full name of the Shrine, "A. A. O. N. M. S.", and re-arrange the letters it spells; "A MASON", Pretty neat, huh !
There are other groups that a Master Mason is eligible to join, he can become a member of the Tall Cedars of Lebanon, or he can join the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm--the Grotto. If he is a member of the Royal Arch Masons, of the York Rite, he is eligible to join the Knight Masons. If he is a Knight Templar, he is then eligible to join the York Rite College. After a Master Mason has gone through the Scottish Rite, he is then eligible for the Royal Order of Scotland.
It is interesting to note that Blue Lodge Masonry has its highest governing body at the state level, this is called the Grand Lodge. There is no national office to which these Grand Lodges must answer to. Most of the Masonically affiliated groups have a national headquarters. The Shrine has its Florida, the Grotto is in Ohio and the Eastern Star is in Washington D.C. While the Scottish Rite in America is divided into two groups, the Northern Jurisdiction and the Southern Jurisdiction. The headquarters for the Northern Jurisdiction is located in Massachusetts and the Southern Jurisdiction is in Washington D.C. The point made is, that if a Mason drops out of the Blue Lodge, then his membership in any branch of Freemasonry is terminated. Everything is hinged on the Blue Lodge, it serves as a reminder that there is no higher Degree than that of Master Mason.
FYI - The misconception that a man can be made a "Mason at Sight", is one which can be easily corrected. (Provided this procedure is permitted in the particular state in question.) In order for a man to be made a Mason at sight, the Grand Master of Masons, in that State, must issue a dispensation for an event called an "occasional Lodge". Second, another dispensation to omit the required time period between petition and initiation, as well as the statutory time limit between Degrees must be issued. Then the Grand Master must call together enough Officers to perform the necessary Masonic Degree work. In relatively short period of time, usually one day, a man receives all three of his "Blue Lodge" Degrees, ie: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, Master Mason, along with the required examination for each Degree. Once the man has received all three Degrees, and passed a suitable examination in each, only then is he a Master Mason. No man can be made a Mason at Sight in any other manner or form that this prescribed format.
The Masonic Fraternity is really a Family, all its members; men, women and children are all treated with respect and kindness. There are several "branches" in the family tree of Masonry, (hence the Masonic Family Tree graphic at the top of the page). There are the Daughters of the Nile, the Order of the Amaranth, Rainbow for Girls and DeMolay for Boys, the White Shrine of Jerusalem, and several other bodies. Every member of your family, and most every member of society is eligible to join.
So, just how does a man go about becoming a Mason ? This is a very easy question to answer. All that is needed is for the man to find a Mason, or contact the Lodge in his home town, or he can contact any of the Grand Lodges, and ASK. Believe it or not it is that simple, just like the slogan says... “To Be 1 Ask 1”. Once you have received a "Petition for Membership", fill it out and send it in to your local Lodge. In about two to three weeks you will receive a telephone call asking you to meet with some of the members of the Lodge.
During this meeting you will be screened to see if you fit the necessary requirements to become a Mason. Some of these requirements are: do you believe in God, do you support your family, do you attend Church, do you have any criminal convictions, does your wife object to you becoming a Mason, do you or your wife have any Masonic relatives, etc. These questions are not asked to place you in an uncomfortable position. They are asked in order we might retain the highest possible character of this Fraternities members. If you are found unworthy of being admitted into this Fraternity, this is all the further this process will go. It is not fool-proof, and if you are found to be an unsavory character after you become a member, you will be expelled.
The above is reprinted by permission.
© 1995, Conspiracy of Hate: A Christian Perspective on the un-Christian Tactics of the anti-Masons. Anthony Harper - All Rights Reserved.
If you, or your Lodge, would like to post this information on your website, please feel free to contact Mr. Harper via email.
© 1995, Conspiracy of Hate: A Christian Perspective on the un-Christian Tactics of the anti-Masons. Anthony Harper - All Rights Reserved. If you, or your Lodge, would like to post this information on your website, please feel free to contact Mr. Harper via email.