To be eligible for membership in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of British Columbia and Yukon an applicant must satisfy the following qualifications:
- Being a man, freeborn, of good repute and well-recommended;
- A belief in a Supreme Being;
- Ability to support one’s self and family;
- Of lawful age;
- Come to Freemasonry of their “own free will and accord”; and
- The Ability to read and write English.
Let’s examine the requirements for becoming a Mason individually:
Being a man,
Freemasonry began as a male organization. There are women’s groups and groups of mixed male-female membership who use rituals similar to that of the major body of Freemasons throughout the world. Some of these groups receive acknowledgement (but not ‘recognition’) due to their adherence to high moral principles etc. while others are frowned upon. It is, after all, quite easy for anyone to claim that they are the head of a Masonic group and begin to obtain members.
The requirement of being “freeborn” harkens back to the earliest days of Freemasonry. It became a requirement since only those free from indentured service as an apprentice or bondsman (as many were in 17th century England, for example), could truly make decisions for themselves.
of good repute,
Being of good repute is another essential requirement. Masons do not wish to encourage membership by those whose actions would stain the reputation of the fraternity. In some jurisdictions this is specifically stated but in all, it is practiced!
A well-recommended person is one for whom another is willing to vouch. Those who become Freemasons have been recommended by a proposer and then examined by lodge members to ensure that the candidate will benefit from his membership.
Belief in a Supreme Being
The major ‘bone of contention’ for some detractors, Freemasonry does not attempt to define or delineate how a person should pray or to whom worship should be addressed.
The term “Great Architect of the Universe” (or “Grand Architect of the Universe”) is used to permit offerings of prayer in a non-offensive manner regardless of the varied religious beliefs of those present. All Masons understand this concept and when a prayer is said in lodge (a blessing before a meal, a word of prayer for the sick, for example), they understand that regardless of the person speaking the words or the usual form of prayer of others present, the prayer is addressed to their Supreme Being.
Once a candidate professes such belief, no further investigation or interrogation is made. This fact stymies Freemasonry’s detractors who seem to be constantly engaged in wars of ‘religious correctness’ and who consequently wind up in contradiction with each other as a result.
Ability to support one’s self and family
Although not specifically stated by all jurisdictions, this ‘requirement’ comes from a time when many would join fraternal organizations in the hope there would be financial and other benefits available for them in their old age. Freemasonry did not want to become a benevolent association and thus the requirement appeared. Now, this is important to ensure that those who seek membership understand the priority of Freemasonry is secondary to religious and family obligations!
Of Lawful Age
It’s a simply understood concept: if you are not old enough to make legal commitments, then the concepts and precepts of Freemasonry might be a bit too much for you to comprehend. Although this isn’t always true, there is a conceptual basis for separating ‘adults’ from ‘children’.
“Own Free Will and Accord”
You won’t find recruiting posters or ‘membership bars’ on a medal although one jurisdiction has put ‘advertisements’ on various web locations including search engines like Google. Masons simply don’t get awards for bringing in new members. It’s a voluntary organization, sought out by those with a positive impression of the organization.
Masonic membership has always been an intensely personal experience and in times when “feelings” weren’t discussed publicly by men, the need for a person to ask for membership was often not communicated to those who might otherwise be interested in the fraternity. Accordingly, there are many who became Masons much later in life than necessary: they had thought the proper thing to do was to wait to be asked to join!
Some grand jurisdictions, recognizing the problem arising from false perceptions (“I must be asked to join such a good organization.”), have begun to loosen prior strict prohibitions. They may now have a provision for Masons to let those who they may feel would be appropriate candidates know that they are ‘welcomed’ to join. This does not, however, in any way mitigate or diminish the requirement that a man make the choice to join under his ‘own free will and accord’ not actuated by unworthy motives!
These basic principles have been the means of attracting the most highly respected persons to Freemasonry for over three centuries. Their simplicity confounds and confuses those who see a conspiracy lurking behind every bush; those who want ‘religious purity’ and those whose own motives are constantly self-oriented. As a result, this quiet fraternity continues – as do its detractors.
PUT ANOTHER WAY
Having expressed a desire to become a Freemason, we presume you are willing to consider thoroughly the step you propose to take. The exact nature of our Institution being unknown to you, we deem it advisable that you should be informed on certain points, the knowledge of which may affect your decision to apply for membership.
Freemasonry interferes neither with religion nor politics, but has for its foundation the great basic principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. No Atheist can be a Freemason.
Freemasonry strives to teach a man the duty he owes to God, his neighbor, and himself. It inculcates the practice of virtue, and makes an extensive use of symbolism in its teachings.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that Freemasonry is not to be entered in the hope of personal gain or advancement. Admission must not be sought from mercenary or other unworthy motives. Any one so actuated will be bitterly disappointed. The aim of the true Freemason is to cultivate a brotherly feeling among men, and to help whomsoever he can.
Freemasonry is not a Benefit Society. This fact cannot be too strongly emphasized. We do not subscribe so much a year to entitle us to draw sick pay or other benefits, or to make provision for those who survive us. There are other excellent Societies founded for this purpose. No man should enter the ranks of Freemasonry in hope or expectation that he will derive any financial benefit from it. Masonic Charity is directed towards those who, from unforeseen circumstances and through no fault of their own, have met with misfortune.
Loyalty to one’s country is an essential qualification in Freemasonry, and only those are acceptable who cheerfully render obedience to every lawful authority. Disloyalty in any form is abhorrent to a Freemason, and is regarded as a serious Masonic offense.
Freemasonry has in all ages insisted that men should come to its doors entirely of their own free will, and not as a result of solicitations, or from feelings of curiosity, but simply from a favorable opinion of the Institution, and a desire to be ranked among its members.
We have no authority at the present time to give you further information regarding the Brotherhood you propose to join, but we have imparted sufficient to enable you to conclude that Freemasonry is not contrary to the principles which mark a man of upright heart and mind, and has in it nothing inconsistent with one’s civil, moral or religious duties.
We think it advisable to inform you that your admission to our Craft will entail certain financial obligations which you should be able to discharge without detriment to yourself or those dependent on you. In addition to the fees and contributions payable on your entrance, there will be an annual subscription for the support of your Lodge, and from time to time you may be called upon to contribute for the relief work connected with the Craft.
Members are expected to pay annual dues and be actively involved in the working of their lodge. This requires a commitment of eight evenings a year and the effort to study and understand Freemasonry’s philosophy, history, ritual and practices.
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