About Freemasonry

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FREEMASONS IN CALIFORNIA

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FREEMASONS IN US

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FREEMASONS WORLDWIDE

ABOUT FREEMASONRY

About the fraternity

Masonry is the world’s first and largest fraternal organization, and is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to help make the world a better place. Through our culture of philanthropy, we make a profound difference for our brothers, our families, our communities, and our future.

The mission of the Masons of California, to foster personal growth and improve the lives of others, is carried out through Masonic principles and tradition.

Our mission is guided by the enduring and relevant principles of our fraternity:

  • Brotherly love. We value respect, freedom, kindness, tolerance, and our differences – religious, ethnic, cultural, social, generational, and educational – and strive for harmony in our individual lives, in our lodges, and in the global community.
  • Relief. We take responsibility for the well-being of our brothers, our families, and the community as a whole. We provide relief through philanthropy, community involvement, and delivery of excellent care.
  • Truth. We stay true to our personal code of conduct and ethics – honor, integrity, personal responsibility, and the continuous pursuit of knowledge.

About our members

With more than 60,000 members, Masonry in our state represents the entire spectrum of diversity. Masons believe in the importance of religion; men of all faiths are members of the organization.

Membership in California Masonry is growing and getting younger. The fastest growing segment of our membership is 18-30 year olds. About 2,000 men are initiated each year; their average age is 39.

Masonry is a brotherhood of like-minded men who genuinely care about each other. We develop lifelong friendships with fellow Masons and their families, and are welcomed at Masonic lodges throughout the United States and the world.

The satisfaction of being part of a centuries-old fraternity whose traditions and core values are relevant today, and will endure for centuries to come, is important to California Masons. Review our latest Annual Report to Members and the interactive digital version of our award-winning magazine California Freemason to learn more about Masonry in California and around the world. Download a mobile app for the magazine at the iTunes App Store and Android Market. Also visit us on Facebook, YouTube and follow us on Twitter.

HISTORY

The beginning

In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons who were hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those who were killed on the job. Eventually, men who were not skilled stonemasons wanted to join the group for the many advantages it offered. These men were known as accepted masons rather than working masons. This is how the group began to shift from a craft guild to a fraternity.

The first Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was established in 1717 in London. In 1718, English Freemasonry spread to France and Spain, and after 1729, to India, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. Freemasonry spread to other parts of Europe and eventually made its way to the American colonies. In 1733, the first American lodge was established in Boston, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. The United States now has grand lodges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Masonry in California

Masonry has been an integral part of California for more than 150 years. During the Gold Rush of 1849, thousands of settlers came to California in search of fortune. Many of these men were Masons and brought with them Masonic values and traditions. Not surprisingly, some of California’s first Masonic lodges were established in the mining towns of the Gold Country. In 1850 – the same year that California became a state – the Grand Lodge of California was established in Sacramento.

Within 10 years, the number of Masonic lodges in the new state had grown from 11 to 130, while membership soared from 258 to more than 5,000. Over the years, the Masons have played a key role in shaping the history of California. To date, 19 California governors have been Masons, and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today there are more than 60,000 members and about 340 lodges, making the Grand Lodge of California one of the largest in the world.

WHAT WE DO

Together we make a profound difference

The Masons of California are committed to personal growth and making a profound difference in the lives of others.

For members

We are committed to engaging and retaining members and their families through an enhanced, sustaining, and relevant membership experience. Fellowship, family, and lifelong learning are important to us. Leadership development and Masonic education are offered in a variety of formats to assist members in their continuous pursuit of knowledge, helping them excel both inside and outside the fraternity.

For California public education

As a fraternity, we have championed many great causes – but perhaps none so personal, or so affecting, as that of public education. From helping to establish the nation’s first public school systems to helping bring California’s public schools out of crisis in 1920, Masons have been on the forefront.

We continue to be leaders in statewide support of public schools in three critical areas: early literacy skills for kindergarteners at high risk for educational failure; support for advancing instruction in middle school algebra; and scholarships for deserving – but often overlooked – high school seniors who might not otherwise have the ability to obtain a higher education.

The Foundation and California Masons support a number of other important education programs, including advancing nurse education and programs benefiting underserved youth.

For those in need

Relief is one of our enduring and relevant values. We take responsibility for the well-being of our brothers, our families, and our communities. It’s our obligation. Our philanthropic causes are supported entirely by our members’ generous contributions.

Excellent care and critical services are provided for Masons and their wives and widows at our residential communities for seniors and through our statewide outreach programs for members and their families who are struggling with life’s challenges and transitions.

The Masonic Center for Youth and Families answers the need for integrated help for youth who struggle with behavioral or mental health issues. The center is an expansion of the fraternity’s commitment to serve youth and families in a meaningful and innovative way.

Center staff- experts in the field of youth psychology- work as a team to provide testing, assessment, and treatment planning services under one roof. A new approach, this comprehensive, integrated model of care is unavailable anywhere else in the country.

Q&A

Answers to frequently asked questions about Masonry

What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry (also called “Masonry”) is the world’s first and largest fraternity, based on the belief that each man can make a difference in the world. Freemasonry enhances and strengthens the character of the individual man by providing opportunities for fellowship, charity, and education.

Where do the names Freemasonry, Masonry, and Free and Accepted Masons come from?

Masons’ name comes from the occupation of their original members – stonemasons who built castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. The word “free” was added during the Middle Ages. Because stonemasons possessed knowledge and skills not found everywhere, these men had the privilege of traveling between countries.

Over time, many men who were not builders were drawn to the practices of Freemasonry. To encourage intellectual diversity, stonemasons began accepting men from other professions into the fraternity. These men were known as “accepted Masons.” This trend continued, and accepted members eventually outnumbered operative members. Today, the names “Freemasonry,” “Masonry,” and “Free and Accepted Masons” are used interchangeably to refer to the fraternity.

What is a lodge?

Freemasonry began when stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members, as well as the families of those who were killed on the job. The masons also used the lodges as places to meet, receive their pay, plan their work, train new apprentices, and socialize. Today, this term refers both to a unit of Masons and the room or building in which they meet. There are more than 320 lodges in California and approximately 13,000 in the United States.

What is a grand lodge?

A grand lodge is an administrative body that oversees Freemasonry in a specific geographic area, called a jurisdiction. The United States has grand lodges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Is Freemasonry an international organization?

There are about five million Masons worldwide, including almost two million in the U.S. and more than 60,000 in California. All lodges follow the same principles of Freemasonry, but their activities may vary. Each grand lodge is sovereign and independent; there is no U.S. or international governing body for Freemasonry.

Is Masonry a secret organization?

Membership in Masonry is not a secret; all members are free to acknowledge their membership. There is no secret about any of Masonry’s aims or principles. Masonry’s constitutions and rules are available to the public, and meeting locations are clearly identifiable. Like many similar organizations, some of Masonry’s internal affairs, such as ceremonies, grips, and passwords, are regarded as private matters for members only.

What happens at a lodge meeting?

There are two kinds of meetings for members. The most common is a business meeting, called a stated meeting, devoted to administrative procedures: minutes of the last meeting, discussing financial matters, voting on applications, and planning for lodge activities. The second kind of meeting is ceremonial, used for admitting new Masons and conferring degrees.

What are degrees?

There are three stages of Masonic membership: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. These stages are referred to as “degrees,” and correspond with members’ self-development and increased knowledge of Freemasonry. As a man completes each phase of learning, the lodge holds a ceremony to confer his degree.

Degree names are taken from craft guilds: In the Middle Ages, to become a stonemason, a man would first be apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a “fellow of the craft,” and when he gained exceptional ability, he was known as a “master of the craft.”

What is the significance of officers’ titles?

Masonry came to America from England and many of the original English titles are still in use. These titles may sound archaic in today’s society, but their meanings are simple. The master is the leader of the lodge, similar to the term president in other organizations. He is called “master” for the same reason that the leader of first violins in an orchestra is called the concertmaster. It’s simply an older term for leader. The senior and junior wardens represent the first and second vice presidents.

Why does Masonry use symbols?

Symbols allow people to communicate quickly, and to transcend language barriers. When you see a green light or a circle with a line through it, you know what it means. Likewise, Masons use metaphors from geometry and the architecture of stonemasonry to inform their continuing pursuit of knowledge, ethics, and leadership skills.

To reflect their heritage, Masons wear aprons while in lodge, at certain public events, and at funerals to demonstrate their pride in the fraternity, and their lineage from stonemasons, who historically carried their tools in leather aprons. The square and compass is the most widely known symbol of Masonry: When you see the symbol on a building, you know that Masons meet there.

Do Masons engage in politics?

Masonry does not endorse political candidates or legislation, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is not allowed.

Is Masonry a religion?

Masonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. The fraternity requires its members to have a belief in a Supreme Being, but the fraternity itself is not affiliated with any religion, and men of all faiths are represented in the fraternity. Religion is not discussed at lodge meetings.

Why are some Masonic buildings called temples?

We sometimes call a building a “temple” in the same sense that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called the Supreme Court a “Temple of Justice.” Most California lodges now refer to their buildings as Masonic centers.

What are the other Masonic organizations?

A man first becomes a Mason at his local lodge. After he has been awarded the three degrees of Masonry, he may join any of the other allied Masonic organizations, each of which has a special social, educational, or philanthropic focus. The best known in the United States are the Shrine, Scottish Rite, and York Rite.

Why can’t women join Masonry?

Masonry is a fraternity, a brotherhood. The essence of a fraternity is that it is for men, just as the essence of a sorority is that it is for women. There are several affiliated Masonic organizations for women only, as well as organizations for both men and women.

Are there Masonic organizations for youth?

In the years following World War I, Masons in the United States helped establish a trio of youth orders dedicated to teaching young men and women the principles and values of Masonry. Today, DeMolay International, Job’s Daughters International, and the International Order of Rainbow for Girls offer young men and women ages 10 to 21 opportunities for personal growth and community service.

Are there financial commitments for Masons?

There is an application fee for membership, which includes a charitable contribution to help fulfill our philanthropic mission and our obligation to aid brothers and their families in times of need. Continued giving supports important charitable programs, which rely on member contributions. Annual dues begin when the Entered Apprentice degree is received; each lodge determines the dues amount.

Where can I find more information about Freemasonry?

Christopher L. Hodapp’s book, “Freemasons For Dummies”, is the internationally bestselling introduction to the Freemasons, the oldest and largest “secret society” in the world. This balanced, eye-opening guide demystifies Freemasonry, explaining everything from the elaborate rituals and cryptic rites, to the symbols and their meanings.

APPLYING

Applying for membership

One of Masonry’s customs is not to solicit members; men must seek membership on their own through a Mason they know or a local lodge.

California Masonic membership is open to men age 18 or older who meet the qualifications and standards of character and intention, and who believe in a Supreme Being. Men of all ethnic and religious backgrounds are welcome.

A Mason who recommends you for membership will assist with completing and submitting the application. After submitting the application, you will be interviewed by members of the lodge you wish to join so they can learn more about you and you can learn more about Freemasonry. If the interview is favorable, your application is presented to the lodge for a vote. If the vote is affirmative, you receive the Entered Apprentice degree – the first degree of Freemasonry. When you advance through the next two degrees, you are a Master Mason and a full member of the fraternity.

How to apply

If you are interested in submitting an application, and you meet the general requirements for membership (see above), you may contact a lodge near your home or work.

Use the Lodge Locator to find the California lodge nearest you.

If you want to be one, ask one. Check our calendar and visit us on any open event.