What is Free Masonry?
Freemasonry is a fraternity. Its membership is restricted to men, but there is no hazing as is found in
some college fraternities. The Masonic Order is a serious group.   It exists to take good men and help
them to become better men. Thus, it is not a reform society. It does not exist to reform criminals, nor
would such persons benefit from its teachings.

Variously known as Freemasonry, Masonry or The Craft, the beginnings of our fraternity are lost to
history. Although Masonry is believed to be the oldest surviving fraternal organization in the world, the
exact date of its founding is uncertain. Freemasonry can, however, be easily traced to sixteenth century
Scotland although the first Masonic governing body was not founded until 1717 in London. The oldest
Masonic document, the Regius poem, dates to around 1390 A.D.   We know of no Masonry prior to that
date. Somewhere between 1390 and 1717 lodges of operative masons began to accept as members men
who did not work in the building trade. Eventually whole lodges composed of such persons arose,
leading to a transition from lodges being composed of stone masons to lodges being composed of men
from other occupations who gathered and shared a ritual replete with allusions to carpentry,
architecture, and stone masonry.

In 1717, four of these lodges in England met and formed the first Grand Lodge.   A Grand Lodge is a
Masonic body having jurisdiction over the lodges within a certain geographical area.    Each state has
its own Grand Lodge.   Also the District of Columbia has its own Grand Lodge.

Symbolic, Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry has three degrees. The three degrees are, in order: Entered
Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. In early Speculative Masonry there was only one degree.
Later a two-degree system developed and finally the three-degree system of today evolved and was
firmly in place by around 1760 A.D.

A "degree" is a drama in which a newcomer to Masonry, the candidate, is made to play a key part. These
dramas have several characteristics and are progressive in nature, that is, they build on each other.
These dramas are enacted with only Masons being present and are for the purpose of moral instruction.
A unique characteristic of each Masonic degree is an "obligation" taken by the candidate. The
obligation is an oath taken for the purpose of instructing the candidate in his Masonic duty.

The three degrees have a biblical basis. Much biblical imagery is used in the ritual of the degrees. The
central biblical image used in Masonic ritual is that of the building of King Solomon's Temple, as
meticulously described for us in the Old Testament books of I Kings and II Chronicles. Whenever a
Masonic lodge is in session, the Holy Bible is open upon the lodge's altar.

Masonry does require of its adherents a belief in God and in life after death, though it asks no one to
expound upon the particulars of his understanding of those two beliefs. There is some memory work
the candidate must learn after each degree is conferred upon him.   He has a set amount of time to learn
the catechism, that is, a set of questions and answers, and to recite them before the lodge members at
a lodge meeting.

Masonry is not a religion. There is nothing in Freemasonry to interfere with a man's religious life.
Persons of all faiths and Christian denominations are a part of the worldwide Masonic fraternity.
Religion and politics are two subjects not allowed to be discussed when a lodge is in session.

Masonry teaches the importance of helping the less fortunate. It especially stresses care for the
widows and orphans of Masons.   Indeed, most Grand Lodges have within their jurisdiction a home for
aged Masons, their wives and widows, and also a home for Masonic orphans. In the U.S.A. alone, all
branches of Masonry combined provide over of $1.5 million of charitable aid per DAY!

Masonry asks its candidates not to tell the details of its ritual to non-Masons. This is not because
Masonry is ashamed of anything. It is because an element of secrecy serves to heighten interest in
Masonic teaching. It is also because most people would not benefit from being introduced to Masonic
teachings out of the context of the Masonic degree system.

Why do Masons keep their rituals a secret? For the same reason that the ancient stonemasons kept
their trade secrets. Their secrecy helped to maintain a better quality of work. Our secrecy today helps
us to make a good man better. It is difficult to believe that the secrets of Masonry are evil when you
consider the heritage of Masonry that includes a long list of influential leaders such as Paul Revere,
George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Harry Truman, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. It is difficult to believe that the secrets of Masonry
are evil when you see so many Masons working as a vital part of every community to provide better
churches, better schools and better governments. It is difficult to look into the eyes of a little child in a
Shrine Hospital and say the secrets of Masonry are evil. If we really believe the biblical teaching, "by
their fruits ye shall know them" then we must believe that the secrets of Masonry really do help to make
a good man better.

The influence of Masonry is like the influence of the home and the influence of the church. It does not
produce perfect human beings.Despite the best efforts of the home there has never been a perfect
child.   Despite the best efforts of the church there has never been a perfect Christian. Despite the best
efforts of Masonry there has never been a perfect Mason. Nevertheless there is a place for all these in
our society.   Man's basic nature is such that he needs every good influence he can get.  He needs the
powerful influence of a good home.   He needs powerful influence of a dedicated church made up of
dedicated believers. He needs the influence of dedicated teachers in the public schools.   But, when it
is all said and done, it doesn't hurt to have a little extra push that comes from civic organizations, from
professional organizations and from fraternal organizations. Masonry has a proud heritage of 171; years
of service to the State of Texas and we hope this discussion has helped you come to a better
understanding of the purpose of our fraternal organization.   Texas Masonry now looks to the future
with the hope that a better understanding will allow the lodge to take its rightful place in every Texas
community, right alongside of the church, the home, the schools, and the civic organizations as a
positive force for good. With this better understanding there is every reason to believe that we can all
work together to make our government, our schools and our churches even stronger than before. The
strength of Texas has always been built upon the combined efforts of all these groups, and the Grand
Lodge of Texas has contributed valuable service to our churches, our nation, our state and our
community.

In March 1835 the first Masonic meeting was held in Texas for the purpose of establishing a lodge in
Texas. Six Masons met under an oak tree near the town of Brazoria.   They applied to the Grand Lodge
of Louisiana for a dispensation to form and open a Lodge.   A dispensation was issued and later a
charter. This first Texas lodge was called Holland Lodge No. 36.   It was named after then Grand Master
of Masons in Louisiana, John Henry Holland. Anson Jones was the first Worshipful Master of Holland
Lodge No. 36, now Holland Lodge No. 1. The charter was brought by John M. Allen and given to Anson
Jones just prior to the battle of San Jacinto.

Two more Texas lodges were formed, also given dispensation and charter by the Grand Lodge of
Louisiana. They were:   Milam Lodge No. 40 in Nacogdoches, and McFarland Lodge No. 41 in San
Augustine.   Both were formed in 1837. These two lodges, together with Holland Lodge No. 36, sent
representatives to meet in Houston and established the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas.   The
convention elected Anson Jones the first Grand Master of Masons in Texas. It should be noted that
Anson Jones was the fourth and final President of the Republic of Texas, prior to becoming a state.

There are now over 122,000 Masons in Texas with a total of 914 lodges. How we have grown in those 171
years! We look forward optimistically to the future of Masonry in Texas and trust that its proud heritage
will be built upon in the years to come in ways that will continue to serve and honor the great State of
Texas of which we are a part.

There are nominal one-time fees collected for the conferring of the three degrees.   After that a Mason
pays yearly dues to the lodge of which he has become a member.   No Mason is supposed to ask
another person to become a Mason.   It is up to the individual man who has an interest in becoming a
Mason to ask a Mason he knows for a petition to join the fraternity.