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February 7, 2006 10:38 PM   Subscribe

What's the best Masonic Rite/lodge to join?

I live in SE Michigan, and am curious about the Masons. I like their freethinker philosophy, and I'm interested enough to talk to 'em about it (I know that you can't get in unless you ask).
The thing is— there are all sorts of different Rites (Scottish, UGLE, GODf, etc...) and they don't necessarily recognize each other. I guess I'm looking for the type that would be broadest in scope, because I wouldn't want to join, then move somewhere and find out it wasn't supported.
Are any of you masons? Any advice?
posted by klangklangston to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You have to start in what is known as "Blue Lodge," then you may choose either Scottish Rite or York Rite and then go on to the Shriners.

Those are the most common four branches of Masons, I'm not very familiar with the others.

One more thing: you're not an athiest, are you?
posted by keswick at 11:12 PM on February 7, 2006

or a woman?
posted by mimi at 4:37 AM on February 8, 2006

This pamphlet has some really interesting information about the history and formation of the Michigan lodges. My understanding is like Keswicks, you get started in Masonry generally and then you can consider moving around to the more specilized lodges. The Michigan branch has a host of online information including the number to call and the paperwork to fill out if you live in Michigan. I'd contact the Grand Lodge and just ask them. Kesiwck is also correct that atheists need not apply though there is an AA like "higher power" belief required, though no specific religious belief is required. Many of the fraternal organizations do have histories of being more, ah, selective in terms of their membership vis a vis religion and/or race (and of course gender) in the not-too-distant past which is worth knowing, though may not play a role in your future decisions. I used to work at an Oddfellows Lodge, though did not belong to it, and it was strange looking at old membership sign-up forms that asked if you were of "pure white blood" and contrasting that with the pluralistic range of people that were in the lodge nowadays.
posted by jessamyn at 5:05 AM on February 8, 2006

I think you might not have the right idea about the Masons. Masonic lodges are no more philosophical associations than college fraternities -- in fact, they're fraternities grown up.

A place to hang out with your friends, raise some charitable money from time to time, with a ritual overlay taken seriously by very few members. Most lodges are lucky to have more than a few members under the age of 50, so you'd probably be welcomed pretty much anywhere you went.
posted by MattD at 5:32 AM on February 8, 2006

What Keswick said. all Masonry starts with the Blue Lodge, or Craft degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, Master Mason. From there, you can join what are known as appendant or concordant bodies; the York Rite, Scottish Rite, the Shrine, Cedars of Lebanon, etc.

The SR and the YR are the major two bodies. In fact, when you do the Craft degrees, you're doing them in a York Rite lodge in the USA (except for a few lodges in Louisiana); the YR and SR came to that agreement a long time ago. You may scoff, but I'd suggest the Livejournal Masons group for further info: . Lots of very friendly nice people there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:53 AM on February 8, 2006

So, no membership if you're an atheist?
posted by bshort at 5:57 AM on February 8, 2006

Well, if Voltaire could get in, I think I'm theist enough. So there's no more devotion to the advancement of reason, etc.? That was what was interesting about them...
posted by klangklangston at 6:16 AM on February 8, 2006

Um, no. Not that I know of. It's not a bunch of philosophers hanging out and making projects from Make magazine. There's no laboratory space at the lodge...

Note: I'm not a Mason, though I've known a couple (including my grandfather). Those men were, in fact, pretty interested in "the advancement of reason," but I know of nothing that they did in/with/for the Mason's in this regard.
posted by zpousman at 6:27 AM on February 8, 2006

Depends on the individual lodge, klangklang. Some are very into the esoteric symbolism, some are not. There's a research lodge based in California (the name escapes me at the moment), and the BC grand lodge also conducts a lot of research and so forth. Beyond the Craft degrees, the SRIA (Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia), which is a practical occult body (and in many ways the progenitor of the Golden Dawn, if that sort of thing interests you) has spawned the SRIC (Soc. Ros. In Canada), which doesn't practice anything occult, but whose members deliver extremely well-writtenr esearch papers every year.

Some lodges seriously discuss philosophy--which can be difficult, given the strictures against talk of politics or religion--while some are all about doing the ritual work as quickly as possible and getting to dinner. Your best bet, as stated above, is to speak to the Grand Lodge for Michigan. The Secretary there should be able to point you in the direction of a lodge which would meet your interests, or probably more than one. Then talk to members of those lodges. I think that, generally speaking, Past Masters have the duty of speaking to new applicants.

I should add, I'm not a Mason (yet), but am very interested in them, read a lot, etc.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:31 AM on February 8, 2006


York Rite
There are two jurisdictions in the USA for the SR: Scottish Rite (North), Scottish Rite (South).

This page has some information about appendant and concordant bodies, and this bit of the Google Directory is a good jumping-off point. Fair warning, if you start in with those links, you can get lost for hours. Another fair warning: most Masons seem to think that webpages are made better with poor formatting, and 5469364598267957692357 megabytes of badly-rendered animated gifs.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:40 AM on February 8, 2006

Dirtynumb: It was starting with those links that made me AskMe. I just couldn't look at another circa-'96 site!
posted by klangklangston at 7:00 AM on February 8, 2006

Try this, then. It's the BC Grand Lodge. A much nicer website.

This is the Google directory listing for research lodges. I'd recommend Quatuor Coronati; I think they're the oldest. Here's the California site; beautifully done. (List of appendant/concordant bodies, with links, form the Cali website). List of some of the more prominent research lodges; Philatheles is very well-regarded.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:40 AM on February 8, 2006

> So, no membership if you're an atheist?

When I was thinking of joining one of the requirements was belief in a higher power. It's not phrased as "god" but I couldn't join.
posted by anadem at 10:42 AM on February 8, 2006

Yeah, that's standard in most fraternal lodges, at least those which derive (however spuriously) from esoteric origins. In Masonry proper, I believe, the applicant must merely profess faith in something outside oneself. This will, of course, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (Grand Lodges are entirely and completely independent of each other), and occasionally from lodge to lodge.

The York Rite requires the applicant to affirm that they believe in Jesus Christ as the saviour of mankind, but I believe that's only once you reach the Commandery level. AFAIK, Scottish Rite requires only belief in a higher power, though many of the degrees (from what little I know) are explicitly Judeo-Christian in nature. Of course, Craft Masonry is also explicitly Judeo-Christian.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2006

If you join, one benefit could be hanging out at the Zal Gaz Grotto club on Stadium avenue; if masons do anything cool, I would bet that they do it there.
posted by sluggo at 1:54 PM on February 8, 2006

the applicant must merely profess faith in something outside oneself

This is rather different from a "higher power"; a socialist could profess faith in collective action, an atheist in the scientific method. (That last is not really accurate, because there is evidence for belief in the utility of the scientific method, but one could still profess faith beyond such evidence, no?)

Would this be a viable loophole for an atheist? The networking power of the Masons is simply astonishing. (Is it true that of all the US presidents to date, only Clinton was not a Mason?)
posted by sennoma at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2006

As I alluded to before, Voltaire was a Mason and an Atheist. I just don't think he ever articulated what it was exactly that he believed in. (I believe in elephants, and those are larger than myself...)
posted by klangklangston at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

of all the US presidents to date, only Clinton was not a Mason

Sennoma: that is not true.

Furthermore, as a Mason, I find it repugnant that an athiest would seek a loophole as entry into our lodge and that you reduce Masonry to a means-to-an-end (ie networking.)

In the US, athiests are not allowed to be Masons, period. The French may have done it differently, perhaps they still do.
posted by keswick at 1:17 PM on February 9, 2006

as a Mason, I find it repugnant that an athiest (sic) would seek a loophole as entry into our lodge

I'm not seeking anything. Chill, secret-handshake-boy.

A quick google (should have done this before asking a silly question) reveals that the following USPs were masons:

1 George Washington (Pres. 1789-1797)(MM 1753)
2 James Monroe (Pres. 1817-1825)(MM 1776)
3 Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)(MM 1800?)(Fedl #1 1830)
4 James K. Polk (Pres. 1845-1849)(MM 1820)
5 James Buchanan (Pres. 1857-1861)(MM 1817)
6 Andrew Johnson (Pres. 1865-1869)(MM 1851)
7 James A. Garfield (Pres. 1881)(MM 1864)
8 William McKinley (Pres. 1897-1901)(MM 1865)
9 Theodore Roosevelt (Pres. 1901-1909)(MM 1901)
10 William H. Taft (Pres. 1909-1913)(MM 1901)
11 Warren G. Harding (Pres. 1921-1923)(MM 1920)
12 Franklin D. Roosevelt (Pres. 1933-1945)(MM 1911)
13 Harry S. Truman (Pres. 1945-1953)(MM 1909)
14 Gerald R. Ford (Pres. 1974-1977)(MM 1951)
posted by sennoma at 3:08 PM on February 9, 2006

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