The Ashlar Company
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Most Frequently Asked Questions About The Freemasons
The Fraternity of Freemason is one of the largest philanthropic organizations on the face of the planet. It is estimated that as a whole, the fraternity donates over one million dollars a day. However it is not a charity organiation by charter. The Fraternity of Freemasons at it's core is just that, a fraternity.
Short Answer: There are no real secrets anymore...
Many masons will tell you that the real secret of the freemasonry is that there is no secret, but that was not always the case. Hundreds of years ago stone masons could build magnificent cathedrals and castles using techniques and skills that were closely guarded. Passwords and grips were used in liu of id cards to prove to other craftsmen that they were qualified to work alongside them and produce sound, stable and safe buildings. Although no longer relevant outside the scope of the fraternity, speculative masons continue to hand down these traditions.
The fraternity of Freemasons developed in a very interesting decentralized fashion. Lodges formed independently of one another and gave rise to Grand Lodges to govern them but no authority would ever govern them all. In the first century of the modern Grand Lodges there were often many grand lodges competing for control of a jurisdiction. Most often however there was a dominant grand lodge that would be undisputed by the vast majority of local members. One of the largest schisms was the fifty year rivalry between the Antients and the Moderns in 18th century England.
Since the fraternities inception there has been a very simple mechanism to separate out authorized and unauthorized lodges. It was called "recognition" and it simply meant that one grand lodge would officially recognize another and visa versa. This status of mutual recognition is what makes it allowable for members of those jurisdictions to visit and interact with one another in an official masonic capacity.
To this day there continues to be no shortage of unrecognized lodges and grand lodges all around the world. As a general rule, if a grand lodge of recognized by The United Grand Lodge of England then it is considered to be within the sphere of "mainstream masonry". From time to time individual grand lodges may extend or revoke recognition of other grand lodges for a number of reasons. A high profile modern example of this is that of the UGLE discontinuing recognition of most of the lodges in France.
If you are not a mason and desire to become one, it is well worth your time to investigate the proper Grand Lodge in your area and make sure it is part of mainstream masonry and not an unrecognized imitator.
It is likely that at some point in your masonic career you will encounter someone who says they are a mason but not a member of a recognized jurisdiction. Many times an individual will not even realize that their grand lodge is not legitimate. These individuals are no different than anyone else you meet in the world and should be treated with the same respect and courtesies you afford to every man. Not being a member of a recognized grand lodge simply means they cannot attend your tiled meetings nor you theirs..
Frequently Asked Questions by Masons
Is it "Square and Compass" or "Square and Compasses"?
This gets argued about all day long on masonic forums all around the world. In fact, every once in a while we even get an email trying to "correct" us. Instead of give you our opinion on the matter, we will give you some hard facts and all you brothers out there can keep the argument going.
1) The dictionary definition of "Compass" is "an instrument for drawing circles and arcs and measuring distances between points, consisting of two arms linked by a movable joint, one arm ending in a point and the other usually carrying a pencil or pen.". Some argue that the compass in the square and compass is two compasses joined together at the top. If you want to get really into the weeds with it, you could argue that the depiction of the compass portrays two pointed ends, the points of which are commonly referred to and have meaning known to brethren. However, a compass as defined by the dictionary does have two points. One is a sharp piece of hard metal to stay in place and one is a sharp piece of soft metal (lead) to create a marking as it is used to circumscribe a point on a surface.
2) Theoretically it is possible that the compass used in the square and compass is actually two compasses ripped apart and reconstructed to have two points of hard metal thus making it for all intensive purposes a perfectly symmetric device. While logic and intuition may lead one to believe that ripping apart two compasses to make one may indeed be strange, we won't rule it out because again, we are not giving a formal opinion on the matter.
3) If you look back at mainstream masonic authors of the 18th century you will actually find that they refer to the square and compass as "Square and Compass" as well as "Square and Compasses" for the most part an equal number of times. The ratio of which shifts slightly from author to author. The reasoning behind this is unclear to us.
4) Some dictionaries will define "Compasses" as middle english for "Compass" (among other things).
So that is about all there is to say definitively, we have no doubt the argument will continue on for centuries to come. For the purposes of this website, being that we speak modern english and not middle english, despite what your particular jurisdiction's ritual may be written in, we refer to it as the "Square and Compass" when there is one occurrence of such and "Square and Compasses" when there is multiple occurrences of such. For example, a neck tie with one SQC may be referred to as a "Square and Compass Tie" while a neck tie with multiple SQCs appearing on it may be referred to as a "Square and Compasses Tie". We hope this helps you understand our labeling scheme and perhaps cuts back on the number of blank emails we get with a subject line written in all caps telling us that it is one way or another.
Do I wear my ring with the emblem pointed in or out?
OK, so this one we are going to take a stance on simply because we are the original MasonicRings.com, the largest manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer of masonic rings on the planet and most importantly, we boil it down to very simple logic. We do feel the need however to point out that at least one (Florida if we are not mistaken) has actually dictated to it's members how to wear their ring, so if your Grand Master tells you to wear it a certain way, then you should by all means (because you have to) follow his edict.
People talk to us about it on the phone sometimes about how they wear their ring, some wear it inwards to remind themselves of -insert reason here- and some wear it outwards to remind themselves of -insert reason here-. There is nothing wrong with that, some people wear their baseball cap on forwards and some wear it backwards. It's personal preference. However, from a strictly logical standpoint. If you were to simply stand up straight with your arms at your sides (like you would when addressing someone of importance) and then pose the question in that context, logic should lead you to a singular conclusion. With the emblem pointed in, it would be the only item on your body that appears upside down. You don't wear your hat upside down, or your belt buckle, or your necklace, or your shirt or your name tag, or your lapel pins, or pretty much anything else. If you were go to get a tattoo on your chest, it is unlikely you would be pleased if the tattoo artist drew it upside down. Based on this logic, our answer to this question is simple, you wear your ring however you want... It's a free country and your ring means more to you than it does to anyone else so if you want to wear it up, you want to wear it down, you want to wear it on a chain, you want to keep it in your pocket, go for it.
I'm not a master mason yet, can I wear a ring?
I'm not a master mason yet, can I buy a ring?
Yes. But don't wear it until you understand what you are wearing and why.
Where can I buy a entered apprentice ring or fellowcraft ring?
You can't. They don't exist. It's for a reason. If you see a ring on our website that has the SQC layed out in such a way that might lead you to believe it is meant for fellowcrafts or entered apprentices, it is not. It is a master mason ring only where the artist has taken artistic liberties for one reason or another. Often to remind themselves of their initiation or a lesson they learned in their second degree.
If I want to buy a custom ring from you, can you make it an entered apprentice ring or fellowcraft ring?
No. We are masons too and we don't do that.
Can I wear anything?
We usually give forget-me-not pins to new entered apprentices, we suggest that.
Frequently Asked Questions by Non-Masons
I inherited grandpa's old masonic ring but I'm not a mason, can I wear it?
Our opinion - No. State law in some states - No. Maybe you should consider why he gave it to you and maybe he was trying to tell you something. A non-mason wearing a masonic ring will get into situations that make you uncomfortable, it may get you yelled at (unjustly), it's going get people making comments to you and asking you questions that seem really weird to you and you have no idea how to answer. It is generally considered to be in poor taste and we can assure you grandpa would not want you wearing it unless you became a master mason. In some states it illegal to represent yourself as a member of an organization to which you do not belong. These laws are very old and go back to the early 20th century when insurance benefits were often associated with membership in certain organizations. These laws are also virtually never enforced and generally laughed at unless you are actually committing some sort of criminal fraud.
What's up with the skull and cross bones?
The emblem of mortality means various things in various masonic jurisdictions throughout the world. It is one of mankind's oldest symbols and for many masons it is a reminder that our time here is short and we must make the most of it. Some jurisdictions, particularly in the United States find it offensive and ban the use of it because they are concerned about optics of it. Use of the emblem is prolific throughout most of the world's masonic jurisdictions.
Why are there rumors of devil worship and freemasonry?
Near the end of the 19th century a famous hoaxster named Leo Taxil wrote fictitious books about the Catholic Church, the Freemasons, and a variety of other topics. The books sold well and even though Taxil was exposed as a fraud, some of the rumors he started live on to this day. For more information on this, search for Leo Taxil. That is where the rumors came from. In reality, Freemasonry has absolutely nothing even remotely to do with devil worship and could not be further from it.
How do I join the freemasons? How do I become a mason?
In some places, it's very hard. In others it's very easy. You get out of it what you put into it. If you just walk into an "easy-to-join" lodge then yeah you'll probably end up a mason but you won't necessarily end up a better person. If you take the time to get to know the members of the lodge and truly see if you are a good fit, you will find it a much more rewarding experience.
Where is the headquarters for the organization?
There is none. It's a decentralized mesh network for lack of a better term. That is why it has persisted for over three centuries.
What's the big secret???
Geometry. But Gutenberg kind of spilled the beans on that one so.... Secret's out I guess. Has been for several centuries.
Where did the freemasons come from?
The fraternity of freemasons evolved out of the original stone mason guilds of the 2nd millenium. If you want to really get into the weeds you get into the only two confraternities that survived the Roman era (Stone Masons & Glass Makers) but people back then were not so good at recording history (and subsequently not losing what they recorded) so it's a little murky.
Why are there still secrets then?
Remember, the original stone masons used to build massive structures using geometry and the ability to do so was highly respected. This ability was what we would today call a trade secret and stone masons where sworn to secrecy. Today companies like GE and Northrop Grumman call it a non-disclosure agreement. Secret handshakes and passwords where the equivalent of security clearances and resumes before we had convient ID cards and contractor licensing. When anyone who could read a book and do a little math was able to acquire the ability to build a castle, the masons gradually shifted into more of a fraternity than a just prestigious workers union. Today it is more of a testimony one's fidelity than anything else. However it does still have practical applications when you run into another mason in an area you are not familiar with. The "secrets" alone however will never allow you to pass yourself off as mason, it's just too easy to tell through a multitude of other means.
How did the term "Freemasons" originate?
Good question. Not sure. No one is. Anyone that gives you an answer to that one is just speculating or regurgitating one of several theories that commonly circulate.
Why can't women join?
Because it's a fraternity and not a sorority. But at it's core, it's an organization to promote fellowship and brotherhood among men. Do we REALLY need to explain how that system breaks down when you introduce the opposite sex and the most basic human desires?
There is a single documented case of a woman being made a freemason by a regularly recognized lodge and it the story/legend of it can be found at the Grand Lodge of Ireland. It is an interesting and amusing tale tastefully presented in their museum. What they don't mention however is the important detail that it having occurred before modern communication existed, if the Grand Lodge had found out about it at the time, the lodge would have almost certainly have had it charter revoked and every member of it expelled from the fraternity. Today, any regularly recognized lodge that initiates a non-male is immediately excommunicated from the fraternity and all members in attendance at the initiation expelled.
What if I was born a woman but got an operation and now I am a man?
We're not even going there. Lodges do get asked this question though. How they answer it individually we cannot say. The United Grand Lodge of England has recently made a decision regarding this strictly do to laws that regard memberships in private organizations and we would refer you to them for any commentary. Their policy, while dictated by law is causing chaos and mass rejection in UGLE chartered lodges around the world.
Why are you only rated 9.5 out of 10 and not 10 out of 10 on a lot of social media voting polls?
Because we get people who aren't even customers and hate masons who come along and give us 1 star along with the phrase "you are all sinners". Fortunately tens of thousands of masons who are happy with the services we provide balance the scales.
Remember, if you don't see the Ashlar "A", it's not authentic.
By Brothers, For Brothers & always For the good of the craft...
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