HOW DO I BECOME A MASON?
The most common questions seem to be: (1) What are the requirements for becoming a Mason? (2) Can <fill in any ethnic group>s be Masons? (3) Can homosexuals be Masons? (4) I have a physical disability. Can I be a Mason? (5) Can <fill in the name of any religion> be a Mason? (6) Do Masons accept Catholics? (7) What if my religion does not allow the swearing of oaths? (8) Do I have to be invited? (9) OK, I'm interested--how do I proceed? Now, the answers: (1) What are the requirements for becoming a Mason? In Illinois - Be 18, male, able to read English, have lived in Illinois 6 months, and believe in God. Most other jurisdictions require candidates to be 21. As regards women, there are numerous women's organizations associated with Masonry, most notably the Order of the Eastern Star, Rainbow Girls and Jobs Daughters. (2) Can <fill in an ethnic group>s be Masons? Any human who meets the requirements listed in question (1) of this section is eligible, regardless of race or color. Some have speculated that while there is no official prohibition against, say, blacks or Asians from becoming Masons, there is a de facto prohibition because they would never be voted into a lodge. This is false. There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds. However, it is fair to state that Masons, as humans, are prone to the kinds of prejudices that all humans may succumb to. Since the vote to admit a candidate is anonymous and must be unanimous, one man's unspoken prejudice is sufficient to deny entry to a man (except, of course, in those jurisdictions which require more than one 'no' vote to deny entrance, but you get the idea). Prejudice is inexcusable and irreconcilable with Masonry, but then, it is also irreconcilable with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and there are certainly Christians, Jews, and Muslims who harbor prejudices. So it is possible that a Mason, acting unMasonically, could act to keep a member out without due cause. But this is not common, nor is it representative of Masonry in general, nor does it conform to the high ideals of Masonry. (3) Can homosexuals be Masons? Yes, and there are homosexual Masons. Everything said in question (2) of this section holds true in this case as well. There is the consideration that some men may view homosexuality as being immoral, i.e., that homosexuals are not men of "good character". This is generally not due to any specific prejudice but rather due to religious belief (depending on how one interprets St. Paul, for example). However, it is safe to say that Masons generally would not regard homosexuality as a barrier to membership. (4) I have a physical disability. Can I be a Mason? The answer is almost certainly yes, provided you can attend Lodge (and meet the non-physical criteria in question (1) of this section). Paraplegics have been made Masons, as have the blind, the deaf, and others with a variety of physical handicaps. Minor modifications may need to be done to the rituals (e.g., employing sign language, modifying points where the candidate stands if the candidate is in a wheelchair, etc.) but most Lodges are willing to accommodate candidates. In medieval times, the requirement to have a sound body free of physical defect was a serious one, since the work of stonemasonry was physically difficult. Some Grand Lodges did carry this requirement into symbolic (i.e., non-operative) Masonry. However, in recent times this has all but been eliminated. Talk to your local Lodge if you have any questions. (5) Can <fill in the name of the religion> be a Mason? The only religious requirement is that candidates trust in the Supreme Being. If you can in you can in good faith profess a belief in the Supreme Being, you are eligible to be a Mason. No atheists will ever knowingly be made a Mason. There are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Mormon), Jewish, and Muslim Masons. It would be tedious and pointless to go into a religion-by-religion (and then denomination-by-denomination) discussion. The key points to remember are the requirement of belief in the supreme being and the fact that Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion. (6) Do Masons accept Catholics? Catholicism is only mentioned specifically because it has generated a lot of discussion in the past on the Masonic newsgroups. There is no prohibition in any Grand Lodge jurisdiction against Catholics being made Masons. Indeed there are many Catholic Masons. Please bear in mind that discussion of this subject on the Masonic newsgroups invariably generates a very high noise-to-signal ratio. (7) What if my religion does not allow the swearing of oaths? Some Grand Lodges allow affirmations to be used instead of the traditional Masonic oath. This is more common in Europe than in the United States. In all cases, it is best to check with the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction (or your local Lodge) for more specific information. (8) Do I have to be invited? No, YOU must ask. Don't wait to be asked-- you will die waiting. In fact, Masons are not permitted to "ask" non-Masons to join the fraternity, to insure that candidates come of their own free will. As with many things Masonic, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some Grand Lodges allow solicitation, provided it is low-key and with the strict provision that no pressure be applied. Still, you don't NEED to be invited in any jurisdiction. Hence the slogan, 2B1ASK1. (9) OK, I'm interested-- how do I proceed? If you know a Mason, ask him about membership. He will be glad to tell you all about the Craft and the local lodge, and give you a petition if you wish to join. If you do not know a Mason, drop a letter to the local lodge, and one of the officers will call you (or call the lodge, though you may not get an answer unless someone is in the Lodge building at the time). Typically, the process is as follows: (a) the applicant fills out a petition. The petition asks for two sponsors, though if you meet and talk with the officers, they can usually find sponsors or act as sponsors themselves. (b) the petition is read at the lodge during the next business meeting, which for many lodges is during the first week of the month, and at that meeting, a committee is formed to investigate the candidate. The petition also asks for two character references. (c) the committee meets with the candidate to answer questions, ascertain that he meets the criteria for membership, and find out a little about him. This is not a "grilling session", but rather a friendly and casual chat to make certain that the candidate has been properly informed about Masonry and was not improperly solicited. The committee also contacts the character references listed on the petition (typically asking if they know any reason why the candidate should not be accepted, etc.) (d) The committee reports back to the lodge within in certain time (within 4 weeks of the petition being read, in Illinois) and the candidate is voted on (no sooner than 4 weeks after petition is read.) (e) If accepted, someone from the lodge (often the Secretary) contacts the candidate and informs him that he has been accepted and schedules a date for the first ("Entered Apprentice") of the three degrees. (f) Following the first degree, the candidate studies for and takes the second degree (Fellowcraft) and then studies for and takes the third degree (Master Mason.) Once he has become a Master Mason, he is a full, regular member with all rights. OK, I THINK I WANT TO CONSIDER ITů.WHO DO I CONTACT? I WANT INFORMATION ON ANOTHER ILLINOIS MASONIC LODGE LOCATION