What is Freemasonry?

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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 our Masonic principles and tradition.

Freemasonry is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of all mankind; we teach our members that unselfishness and charity is a blessing and its own reward.

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, and our constitutions and rules are available to the public.  Our 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.

The Three Fundamental Principles of Freemasons

Our Masonic 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.

All Masons are expected to live by these principles.  Furthermore, in order to promote harmony within our craft, all Masons promise never to bring anything offensive or defensive into the lodge with them —  neither weapons nor words.  We intend that every Masonic lodge should be a place where those worldly divisions are left outside, so we can engage in activities that unite us rather than those which separate and divide us.  For example, one of the basic rules of Freemasonry forbids the discussion of religious and political matters during Masonic meetings and functions — topics that are likely to cause personal arguments.

A Moral Code and Social Responsibility

Freemasons believe in honor and that a man has a responsibility to behave honorably in everything he does.  Freemasonry teaches its members the principles of personal decency and personal responsibility.  It hopes to inspire them to have charity and good will toward all mankind, and to translate principles and convictions into action.  While Freemasonry charges each member to be loyal to the government of the country to which he owes allegiance and to be obedient to the laws of any state in which he may reside, we also philosophically oppose tyranny, dictatorship, and the destruction of human dignity.

Religion and Freemasonry

Freemasonry, contrary to what you may have read “on the Internet,” is not a religion.  We believe in the brotherhood of man, under the fatherhood of God.  Freemasonry requires every member to have faith in a Supreme Being, according to each individual Mason’s belief.  We do not promote one faith or religion over another.  Masonic ceremonies and ritual utilize and refer to a moral code, using basic principles are common across many religions.

Equality Among Members

Freemasonry regards no man for his worldly wealth, social status, or outward appearance. Kings, princes, sultans, and potentates have been Masons. So have paperboys, garbage men, factory workers, and fast-food fry cooks.

About our Members

With more than 60,000 members, Masonry in California represents the entire spectrum of diversity.  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 Beginnings
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 anywhere in the world.


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