Below are some frequently asked questions about New York Masons.


What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry, also called "Masonry," is the world's first and largest fraternity, based on the belief that each man can make a difference in the world. Freemasonry enhances and strengthens the character of the individual man by providing opportunities for fellowship, charity, and education.


Where do the names Freemasonry, Masonry, and Free and Accepted Masons come from?

Masons' name comes from the occupation of their original members – stonemasons who built castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. The word "free" was added during the Middle Ages. Because stonemasons possessed knowledge and skills not found everywhere, these men had the privilege of traveling between countries.

Over time, many men who were not builders were drawn to the practices of Freemasonry. To encourage intellectual diversity, stonemasons began accepting men from other professions into the fraternity. These men were known as "accepted Masons." This trend continued, and accepted members eventually outnumbered operative members. Today, the names "Freemasonry," "Masonry,” and "Free and Accepted Masons" are used interchangeably to refer to the fraternity.


What is a lodge?

Freemasonry began when stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members, as well as the families of those who were killed on the job. The masons also used the lodges as places to meet, receive their pay, plan their work, train new apprentices, and socialize. Today, this term refers both to a unit of Masons and the room or building in which they meet. There are more than 500 lodges in New York and approximately 13,000 in the United States.


Is Masonry a secret organization?

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. Masonry’s constitutions and rules are available to the public, and 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.


What are degrees?

There are three stages of Masonic membership: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. These stages are referred to as "degrees," and correspond with members' self-development and increased knowledge of Freemasonry. As a man completes each phase of learning, the lodge holds a ceremony to confer his degree.

Degree names are taken from craft guilds: In the Middle Ages, to become a stonemason, a man would first be apprenticed. As an apprentice, he learned the tools and skills of the trade. When he had proved his skills, he became a "fellow of the craft," and when he gained exceptional ability, he was known as a "master of the craft."


Do Masons engage in politics? And, is Masonry a religion?

Masonry does not endorse political candidates or legislation, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is not allowed.


Masonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. The fraternity requires its members to have a belief in a Supreme Being, but the fraternity itself is not affiliated with any religion, and men of all faiths are represented in the fraternity. Religion is not discussed at lodge meetings.There are three stages of Masonic membership: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. These stages are referred to as "degrees," and correspond with members' self-development and increased knowledge of Freemasonry. As a man completes each phase of learning, the lodge holds a ceremony to confer his degree.