What is the purpose of Freemasonry?
One of its most basic purposes is to make good men even better. We try to place an emphasis on the individual man by strengthening his character, improving his moral and spiritual outlook, and broadening his mental horizons. We try to impress upon the minds of our members the principles of personal responsibility and morality, encouraging each member to practice in his daily life the lessons taught through symbolic ceremonies within the lodge.
One of the universal doctrines of Freemasonry is a belief in the “Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God”. The importance of this belief is reinforced by each Freemason as he practices the three principle tenets of this gentle craft: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, while promoting a way of life that binds like-minded men in a worldwide brotherhood transcending all religious, ethnic, cultural, social and educational differences.
In The Farmers Almanac for 1823 published at Andover, Mass., the following was printed under the heading, Definition of a Freemason:
“The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflect they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil, in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessings he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion of others. He restrains his passions, because they cannot be indulged without injuring his neighbor or himself. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge, because he is honest upon principal.”
When & Where Did It Begin?
The Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons is the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternal organization in the world. It has its roots in antiquity, and is directly descended from the Association of Operative Masons, cathedral builders of the Middle Ages who traveled through Europe employing the secrets and skills of their crafts. The organization as we know it today began in 1717 in England when cathedral building was on the decline and Operative or Free Masons as they were known, began to accept individuals who were not members of the craft, calling them Speculative or Accepted Masons.
Early settlers then brought Freemasonry to the United States. Benjamin Franklin, in an early newspaper article published by him, refers to a Lodge of Freemasons being in existence in Philadelphia in 1730.
Wisconsin has 183 Lodges with a membership totaling over 14,000. Worldwide, there are approximately 5 million Freemasons, over 3 million of whom are located in the United States under the jurisdiction of 50 Grand Lodges.
Freemasonry is not contrary to common belief a “secret society,” but rather a “society with secrets.” If it were a secret society, its members would not wear Masonic jewelry or publicly mark their many Halls. However, Freemasonry does have many time honored traditions and customs, which of course are known only to its members.
Freemasonry in Wisconsin
Freemasonry in Wisconsin first took organized form on the night of December 27, 1823 when seven army officers and three civilians met at the home of Brother George Johnston on the west bank of the Fox River in what is now Green Bay. The soldiers were attached to the 3rd Regiment and stationed at Fort Howard under the command of Col. John McNeil, also a Freemason. Wisconsin was then part of the territory of Michigan and very lightly settled. Native Americans still roamed freely and played havoc with traders on the Fox and the soldiers were there to maintain order and protect the settlers in this vast wilderness.
Desiring to form a lodge, the men sent a petition to the Grand Lodge of New York requesting a charter. Dispensation for the formation of a lodge was granted, and on September 2, 1824, the interested brethren met again to organize it. Their charter from the Grand Lodge of New York was dated December 3rd.
During the following year, Menomanie Lodge #374 ceased to be a military lodge and became a public one. An 1854 address given in Green Bay showcased the lodge’s records dating back to 1827 and its cessation as a lodge in 1830. It was, therefore, never chartered as a “Wisconsin” lodge; moreover, its New York charter was destroyed in a fire during 1870 at Washington Lodge #21, Green Bay.
Carved out of the original Michigan Territory in 1836, the rich lead mines of the southwestern Wisconsin territory attracted a large influx of settlers, including influential men from Missouri and Illinois. These men too, looked forward to organizing lodges of Freemasonry.
Melody Lodge No. 49 under the Grand Lodge of Missouri received a dispensation at Mineral Point on October 8, 1840. Organized on July 27, 1841, it was granted a charter in October 1842 and began work on February 15, 1843.
Meanwhile on January 10, 1843, a second dispensation came from Missouri to form Lodge No. 65, about 20 miles from Mineral Point in Platteville. With dispensation granted on June 12, 1843, The Grand Lodge of Illinois, as that area’s Grand jurisdiction, chartered Milwaukee Lodge No. 22.
The Grand Lodge of Wisconsin was formed and charters granted to representatives from Mineral Point # 1, Melody #2 of Platteville and Kilbourn #3 of Milwaukee on January 17, 1844.
How do I Join a Masonic Lodge?
Applying to join a Masonic Lodge is much like applying for membership in nearly any community organization. First, you will be asked to fill out a “petition” or membership application. The petition asks for basic information such as your full name and age, as well as information on where you live and work. This information is kept confidential and will only be shared with the state Masonic organization—the Grand Lodge—should you become a Masonic Lodge Member.
Petition for membership also requires two Masonic Lodge members to sign your petition. When completed, it is then ready to be submitted to the Masonic Lodge in your community. One of the signers of your petition can assist you in submitting the petition.
After your membership application is received and processed, you will be contacted by the Master—the presiding officer of the Lodge—or the Lodge Secretary to discuss a suitable schedule which will allow you to take the three degrees of membership in a Masonic Lodge. These degrees are called the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason Degrees and are modeled on a system of instruction followed for many years in training skilled craftsmen. Each Degree is composed of instructive moral lessons that if taken to heart, will make a good man into an even better family man, employee and member of the community.
Once you have agreed to a time and date for receiving your Entered Apprentice Degree, all you need do is be present at the agreed time at the Masonic Lodge you petitioned to join. A Lodge member—most likely one of the members who signed your petition—will be there to greet and assist you as you await the beginning of the Degree.
It is important to note that every member of a Masonic Lodge has followed these same procedures, and that the presentation of the three degrees is always given in the same manner to every new member. In other words, there is no aspect of becoming a member of a Masonic Lodge that will be different for you than for anyone else who has sought membership. For More information on membership click here.
Qualifications of a Petitioner
The physical, moral and spiritual qualifications necessary to become a Freemason are clear and distinct. In Wisconsin, the petitioner must be a man of at least 18 years of age. He must be free of any previous felonious criminal convictions and be of good moral character. He must also believe in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.
The physical qualifications required are necessary as the petitioner must be capable of making his own life decisions as well as being responsible for his own actions.
The moral qualifications are self-evident, for they maintain the viability of the brotherhood and the lofty ideals of our society as a whole.
The two spiritual qualifications not only assist in shaping the entire structure of Freemasonry but also help align the fraternity with the great Mystery Schools and religions of the world. It is the transition from belief to knowledge that seals the mark of true spiritual initiation.
Spirituality is an important aspect of Freemasonry. To become a Freemason, a man must state that he has a belief in God and the after life. We open and close our meetings in prayer and in the center of the each Lodge is an altar upon which sits the Holy writings. This is to remind us that the Supreme Architect of the Universe (God) is with us in all things and that to be a better man, our faith must be the central part of our life. Freemasonry is not a religion or a denomination, nor is it a replacement for either. Freemasons do not embrace any one faith but encourage all men to live according to their beliefs. We are open to good men of all faiths.
Freemasons take an obligation to help one another as well as those who cannot care for themselves. Wisconsin Freemasons, through the local lodges and their Grand Lodge, have a long and honorable history of supporting community and state based charitable projects.
The Wisconsin Masonic Scholarship Program assists young people in furthering their education. Matching fund grants are given to local lodges to help with community projects through the purchase of defibrillators and other specialized equipment. The Wisconsin Masonic Home and its Three Pillar Campuses provide quality living and health care for mature adults.
Freemasons also have the opportunity to join other Masonic organizations, furthering their understanding and expanding their knowledge of the moral principals of Freemasonry. Organizations based in Freemasonry such as the Scottish Rite, York Rite and the Shrine to name just a few, also have their charitable philanthropies. Some are vast projects, such as the Crippled Children’s Hospitals and Burn Institutes built by the Shriners.
Additionally, Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of over 100 Childhood Language Disorder Clinics, Centers, and programs. Each helps children afflicted with such conditions as aphasia, dyslexia, stuttering, and related learning or speech disorders
American Freemasonry and its related organizations give more than 2 MILLION DOLLARS per day to various charities. Truly an unparalleled example of humanitarian commitment and concern by this band of brothers called Freemasons.
The Wisconsin Masonic Foundation continues its mission of helping our youth realize their potential through educational scholarship funding. Care for the aged is provided through the Wisconsin Masonic Home Endowment Fund, and assistance is given individual donors in leaving lasting legacies through the Special Donor Advised Funds Program.
Everyday, new technologies are introduced to enhance the quality of medical services. The commitment of the Masonic Medical Fund of Wisconsin in seeking new funding to advance these technologies while supporting public health and safety continues to improve the quality of life for residents across the state.
To give of one’s self to help another is certainly one of life’s highest attainments. The Masonic Service and Assistance Fund of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin is the instrument that allows Wisconsin’s Freemasons to apply these concepts to their daily lives in areas such as:
Improving the quality of life for veterans at the four VA hospitals in the state.
Natural disaster relief on a statewide level.
Assistance to Grand Lodges across the country who are organizing relief efforts following natural disasters.
The philosophy of the Wisconsin Masonic Home is based on a commitment to meeting the needs of older adults on a social, physical and spiritual level. Through responsible stewardship of the precious resources available, great pride is taken in the quality of care and attention given to our residents. Click here for additional information on Charity.
Scottish Rite is often the second organization a Freemason may choose to join. The Scottish Rite Bodies in Wisconsin are active and provide additional opportunities for Freemasons in good standing to learn more of the lessons of the Craft while engaging in additional charitable activities.
York Rite may be considered yet another step for a Freemason. As in the Scottish Rite, one must be a Freemason in good standing to join. The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, one of the York Rite family of charities, has an excellent record of accomplishment over the years. These bodies also add to the lessons taught in the Craft lodges.
Shriners are probably the most public of all Masonic organizations and you may be familiar with many of their “units” including clowns, mini-cars, etc. and/or their free Burn And Crippled Children’s Hospitals. All Shriners are Freemasons in good standing.
The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest Masonic fraternal organization for both men and women. To become a member of the Eastern Star you must either be a Freemason or have a Masonic affiliation, and be 18 years of age or over. The moral and social purposes of the order are designed to build character, to promote friendship and harmony among members, and to practice charity
The Order of the Amaranth is a fraternal organization composed of Master Masons and their properly qualified female relatives. In its teachings, members are emphatically reminded of their duties to God, to their country and to their fellow beings. The extent of its charitable work and overall benevolence is limited only by the opportunities that exist and the ability to secure adequate funding. Its philanthropic project is the Amaranth Diabetes Foundation.
The Order of DeMolay is a Masonic-sponsored youth organization for young men ages 12 to 21. Its goal is to teach leadership and the high morals of Freemasonry to today’s youth.
The Order of Rainbow is another Masonic-sponsored youth organization and is designed for young women age 12 to 20. It too teaches high moral lessons and leadership.
Jobs Daughters is an international service organization for girls aged 11-20 who are related to Freemasons. It helps young ladies develop leadership, speaking skills, and confidence, along with building friendships, helping others, and having fun too.
Freemasons who are active or former military officers or senior NCO’s may consider membership in the National Sojourners. It’s a nationwide fraternal organization advancing programs that promote love of country.
Because I am a Freemason ….
… I believe that freedom of religion is an inalienable human right and tolerance an indispensable trait of human character. Therefore, I will stand in my lodge with Brothers of all faiths, and respect their belief, as they respect mine, and I will demonstrate the spirit of Brotherhood in all aspects of my life.
… I know that education and the rational use of the mind are the keys to facing the problems of humanity. Therefore, I will bring my questions and ideas to my lodge, and strive to advance the growth of my mind alongside my Brothers.
… I know that the rich tradition of Freemasonry and its framework of ritual are important platforms for growth and learning. Therefore, I vow to stand upon these platforms to improve myself as a human being, and I vow to help in the mission of the Craft to provide tools, atmosphere, challenges and motivation to help each Brother do the same.
… I know that charity is the distinguishing human virtue, and that personal community service is the best demonstration of one’s commitment to humanity. I acknowledge that words without deeds are meaningless, and I vow to work with my Lodge to provide service to the community, and to promote charity, friendship, morality, harmony, integrity, fidelity and love.
… I know that my obligation to community extends beyond my local sphere and is partially fulfilled in my patriotism- love of my country, obedience to its laws and celebration of the freedoms and opportunities it symbolizes.
… I know that leadership is best demonstrated by commitment to serving others. I will therefore participate in, and help work at improving individual leadership skills, while serving the Brothers of my lodge to the best of my ability.
… I know that friendship, fidelity and family are the foundations of a well-lived life. I therefore vow to be a faithful friend to my Brothers, while expecting my lodge to respect my personal obligations, and to treat family as though my family were their own.
… I know that the last great lesson of Freemasonry – the value of personal integrity and the sanctity of one’s word – is a lesson for all people in all times. I therefore vow to be a man of my word.
… I know that Freemasonry’s power is best exercised when its Light is shared with the world at large. I therefore vow to bring the best of myself to my lodge, in order that my growth might be fostered and nurtured, and to present myself to the world as a working Freemason, on the path to building a more perfect temple.
Because I am a Freemason, these values and aspirations are the guideposts for my progress through life.