USENET FAQ

What is USNET? See below for more information.

This is a VERY old-fashioned (circa late 1980s) Frequently asked questions format. You may find it more helpful to head to some other parts of this site which are far more 'full-bodied' with hyperlinks etc. Starting at our Home Page would be a good place to begin. There's another FAQ on this site as well. It's found here.

Summary: This posting describes the newsgroups alt.freemasonry, alt.masonic.demolay, and alt.masonic.members, including where to find more information. It should be read by anyone who wishes to post to alt.freemasonry, alt.masonic.demolay, alt.masonic.youth, or alt.masonic.members 
Expires: Wed, 1 Mar 201008 00:00:00 GMT

Archive-name: freemasonry/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified 2009/07/16
Version 1.5.3
Copyright: (c) 2003-2009 Edward L. King
Maintainer: Ed King <usenetfaq@masonicinfo.com>

The Masonry USENET FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

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Subject: [0] IMPORTANT NOTE, ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, INTRODUCTION, REVISIONS, A NOTE ON WORLD-WIDE MASONRY, AND TABLE OF CONTENTS

Subject: [0-1] Important Note

This FAQ was created and actively maintained during the 1990s for an online communications methodology known as USENET which allowed individuals to send text messages to a network-based 'newsgroup' where they would be stored and available to all who later subscribed to the particular topical newsgroup to which they had been addressed. Newsgroups were infamous for the amount of spam and stupidity which was written there and as a result, community minded individuals would create and regularly distribute an FAQ document which was quasi-official and represented the basic information about the organization which was the subject of the USENET group. With the rapid evolution of the web including graphically rich environments such as Facebook and instant/easy texting via Twitter, the reason for and use of USENET had caused it to become nearly forgotten except for a precious few who might stumble on it via a web search through Google. This document was the 'official' USENET FAQ on Freemasonry and is here as what may be its final resting place. Updating has occurred only marginally and sporadically since approximately 2000 and due to its extremely limited usage, it is highly unlikely that it will see major revisions in the future true to its original purpose. Please contact me if you have anything to add to this.

Edward L. King <usenetfaq@masonicinfo.com>

Andrew Fabbro compiled/authored versions of this FAQ up to version (1.2). Unfortunately, he no longer had the time available to maintain it. Charles Plater carried the torch through version (1.4). Both have served as true and worthy craftsmen! As late as 2009, this document is being regularly distributed to the alt.freemasonry usenet newsgroup by

Subject: [0-2] Acknowledgements.

Honor Roll: Peter T. Arnold, Ron Boutwell, Denis Constales, Steven Cranmer, Earl K. Dille, Bob Dixon, Hans Prag Enator, Ed Greenberg, Bill Hickey, Roger Ingersoll, Joy Leavy, Paul Leger, Steve Lubetkin, Trevor W. McKeown, Bill Menees, Henry Miller, Stephen Morris, Roderick Morrison, Nick Oliver, Tony Olivero, Bruce Perrussel, Charles Plater, Mark Saunders, Tom Schnorrenberg, Michael Shelby, Robert H. Starr, Dave Stites, David R. B. Walker, Don Williams, Catherine Yronwode, Jeffrey Zeth, and a few others whose names couldn't be discerned from their e-mail addresses. 

Special thanks to Roger Ingersoll, whose Masonic FTP archives provided substantial portions of this FAQ. Where possible, we have included specific credits to the authors of those files, though several are anonymous. Note that one of the sources credited here is FMBITS.TXT, which has the following disclaimer as its preface: "With apologies, the original source for the following information has been lost. It probably came from either the Philalethes or the Southern California Research Lodge. The file has been stored in my Computer for a couple of years. Enjoy! William N. Wine (Sysop) #72435,1512  [Masonry Forum Compuserve 07/11/93]". 

Special thanks to Steve Lubetkin, who dug up the list of US Grand Lodges. 

Finally, thanks to the Grand Lodge of Michigan, whose lectures provided the basis of the "Famous Freemasons" list, and to many research lodges, whose work over the years has provided much of the information contained here.

Subject: [0-3] Introduction

Any question you see marked with an asterisk should be considered incomplete.

It should be stated without fail that no Mason, no Master, no Grand Master can speak for all of Masonry. The answers provided herein are not "authoritative" in that they are not universally true for all Masons everywhere and reflect the beliefs of all Masons. There are differences between each jurisdiction, and in general there are differences between US Grand Lodges and Grand Lodges in other countries. Of course, the high ideals and noble principles of Masonry remain the same the world over, but some of the fine points and details may vary.

So remember: nothing here is "gospel". This FAQ is intended to provide a summation of commonly-given answers to commonly asked questions on the net.

Andrew Fabbro (Original FAQ caretaker)
Charles A. Plater (Subsequent FAQ caretaker)
Edward L. King (Current FAQ caretaker)
     usenetfaq@masonicinfo.com

Subject: [0-4] Revision History

Subject: [0-4-1] Changes in version 1.5
* In Version 1.5.3, added comments relative to ongoing life of this FAQ
* In Version 1.5.1, made physical changes to eliminate page breaks and added some hyperlinks to more effectively use the web where this FAQ now resides

* In Version 1.5.0, changed current FAQ caretaker info where appropriate, changed age and other membership requirements for DeMolay, Rainbow, and Job's Daughters as well as membership requirements for the National Sojourners and updated the section regarding CompuServe's Masonry Forum

Subject: [0-5] A Note on Worldwide Masonry

This FAQ was written by an American and the majority of those who contributed material were also Americans. This unfortunately lends a very American flavor to the material. While the tenets and noble principles of Masonry are the same everywhere, there is some difference in organizational structure, ritual work, policies, procedures, etc. in non-US GLs (and even among US GLs). We are always more than happy to include material on Masonry outside of the US and examples of how Masonry differs in non-US jurisdictions. What we receive is included. This is simply a disclaimer that the material herein is derived from primarily American sources and when in doubt, check with the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction. 

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Subject: [1] MASONRY ON USENET AND THE INTERNET

Subject: [1-1] Where is this FAQ available?

This FAQ is available on the Web at
http://www.masonicinfo.com/usenetfaq.htm

It is posted periodically to alt.freemasonry, alt.masonic.members,
alt.masonic.youth, alt.masonic.demolay, news.announce.newsgroups,
news.groups

If all of the above fail, and only as a last resort, send e-mail to
Ed King <usenetfaq@masonicinfo.com>

Subject: [1-2] Is there a mailing list?

Yes, there are dozens but most Masons in 2009 can be found on various open and closed discussion forums relating to Freemasonry. Some of these advocate for unrecognized and/or irregular organizations who want to be known as Masons.

Subject: [1-3] Are there any FTP sites?

None that the FAQ maintainer is aware of.

Subject: [1-4] Are there any Wide World Web Masonic resources?

Yes. There are thousands. Here are a few:

Anti-Masonry: Points of View  (this site!)   http://www.masonicinfo.com

A Page about Freemasonry http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry 

Canonbury Masonic Research Centre http://www.canonbury.ac.uk 

Centre for Research into Freemasonry Within the Humanities Research Institute - University of Sheffield http://www.shef.ac.uk/~crf

FM Hyperlinks http://www.internetloge.de/hotlinks/hyplink.htm 

Freemasonry Today: The magazine for everyone interested in Freemasonry  http://www.freemasonrytoday.co.uk

MasterMason.Com  http://mastermason.com

Paul Bessel's web site  http://bessel.org 

The Philalethes Society   http://www.freemasonry.org/

Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry  http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com 

Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle, The Premier Lodge of Masonic Research http://www.qccc.co.uk

(Thanks to Richard White for updating this list.)

Subject: [1-5] Are there any Masonic Chat Rooms?

Yes. There is an IRC channel on the EFnet servers named #FreeMasons.

Subject: [1-5] What about CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy, GEnie, Delphi, and other commercial services? 

CompuServe and AOL in a reorganization has discontinued their discussion groups. For many years, this was probably the most exciting online Masonic venue. CompuServe was officially closed in 2009 although many thought it had died several years earlier.

Subject: [1-6] What is alt.freemasonry for?

Alt.freemasonry is intended for general discussion of Masonry and related topics. Almost any question regarding Masonry is welcome there. Both Masons and non-Masons are welcome. Like all unmoderated newsgroups, however, the venue is frequently overrun with spammers and irrelevant cross-postings having no connection to Freemasonry and no purpose other than disruption.

Subject: [1-7] What is alt.masonic.members for?

Alt.masonic.members is intended to be a home for USENET Masons to talk about the Craft, though non-Masons are welcome to participate. The focus in a.m.m., however, is on discussion among people already familiar with Masonry or people who are Masons, so questions about becoming a Mason or what the York Rite is would be inappropriate (feel free to post such questions in alt.freemasonry instead).

Of course, neither newsgroup (or the mailing list) is considered Tiled and non-Masons read both regularly, so Brothers should not post anything that they would not normally discuss with non-Masons.

Discussion on Co-Masonry (a form of Masonry which includes both men and women) is welcome in either alt.freemasonry or alt.masonic.members.

Subject: [1-8] What is alt.masonic.demolay for?

alt.masonic.demolay. is for discussion regarding DeMolay (shocker, huh?) See III, 6 if you don't know what DeMolay is.

Subject: [1-9] Hey! Somebody just posted some nonsense about how Masons worship Satan and sell their soul to the Reverend Moon! What should I do about it? 

Regularly, someone will post obvious flame-bait on one or more of the Masonic newsgroups. Masons who read the newsgroup obviously want to post and rebut these false claims. However, keep in mind that a single bit of bait that takes 30 seconds to write ("Masons are all KKK members!") can consume hours of time in rebuttal. Half-a-dozen flame-bait posts can drown the newsgroup in meaningless flame-wars that asphyxiates any serious conversation. On the other hand, if the poster finds that his ramblings are simply being ignored, he will likely become bored and go off to alt.get-a-life and mingle with his own kind. 

Some readers feel that these claims must be addressed, otherwise USENET readers will get the wrong impression about Masonry. There is some truth in this, though to be frank, if someone is willing to get his information from someone who posts unsubstantiated one-line attacks with half-a-dozen misspelled words, there is probably little hope. However, this FAQ has been created to provide an answer to these nonsense posts, so that Masons can simply say "read the FAQ" rather than having to recreate its answers every time.

Still, some people will want to reply. In descending order of desirability, here is a hierarchy of possible responses:

(a) Ignore it. The person involved obviously is trying to stir up a flame-war, or bait Masons into saying something nasty in return so he can point and say "See! Masons are name-callers!"

(b) Respond via e-mail. Point the poster to this FAQ, or write your own response.

(c) Post a follow-up designed to entertain newsgroup readers. For example, if someone posts claiming that Masons are part of a global conspiracy, a gag post about channeling Adam Weishaupt of the Bavarian Illuminati or stating that Masons receive their daily to-do lists from root@universe.org would show the folly of the poster's ideas while still contributing something enjoyable to the newsgroup's readers.

(d) If the poster's flame-bait is something not covered in this FAQ

and if you feel that you just can't hold back from responding, please:

(1) remove any cross-posts (in both the posting and the follow-ups). Some trollers will post a bit of bait in alt.freemasonry and cross-post it to a half-dozen different groups, thus assuring that they receive at least some response somewhere, which will be echoed to all the other groups...can you say snowball?

(2) If it not covered in this FAQ, please send a copy of the original post and your reply to usenetfaq@masonicinfo.com so it may be included future editions. No one has yet claimed that Masonry is really a secret martial art or that Master Masons have a special power to buy real estate no-money-down, but if someone does, a Q&A just for them will be added. 

Finally, remember that there are people who have genuine questions or misconceptions about Masonry and are not trying to flame anyone but rather simply want answers. Just because they have misconceptions does not mean they are trying to provoke anyone. You can usually tell the difference by the tone of the post:

Honest Question: "I read in the Weekly World News that Masons have ties to the KKK and are prejudiced and don't allow blacks to be members. Is this true?"
Flame-Bait: "You Masons are all Klansmen and bigots, aren't you? How do you live with yourselves? Do you enjoy harassing ethnic minorities?" 

Honest Question: "I've heard that Catholics can't be Masons. Is this true? Are there any Catholic Masons? What is the issue here?"
Flame-Bait: "How can you Masons lie about Catholics, saying they can be Masons? Why are you trying to deceive everyone? What is your hidden agenda?"

Honest Question: "I thought Masonry was a fraternity, but I read that you have to profess some kind of faith in God, or that people pray in Lodge. Is Masonry a religion?"
Flame-Bait: "Masonry is a religion, and you have to give up your religion to be a Mason! Don't believe what Masons tell you!"

Etcetera. Those asking honest questions will usually respond with a thanks and consider the information given. Those seeking to sow the seeds of a flame-war will simply switch subjects endlessly and ignore any responses.

For more anti-masonic rebuttal information, visit http://freemasonry.bc.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry_faq.html and
http://www.masonicinfo.com

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Subject: [2] WHO/WHAT ARE MASONS?

Subject: [2-1] What is Freemasonry?

Freemasonry (or simply, Masonry) is a fraternal order whose basic tenets are brotherly love, relief (philanthropy), and truth. We strive to enjoy the company of our brother Masons, assist them in times of personal trouble, and reinforce essential moral values. There is an old adage that Masonry "takes good men and makes them better", which is our goal.

It has often been observed that men are the products of everything they come into contact with during their lifetime. Masonry offers a man an opportunity to come into regular, enjoyable contact with men of good character, thus reinforcing his own personal moral development. Of course, Masonry is also meant to be enjoyed by its membership, so the order should not be viewed simply as a philosophical club, but rather a vibrant fellowship of men who seek to enjoy each other's company, a fraternity.

To maintain this fraternity, discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge is forbidden as these subjects are those that have often divided men in the past. Masons cover the spectrum of both religious and political beliefs. Masonry encourages a man to be religious without advocating a particular religion, and to be active in his community without advocating a particular medium of political expression.

While there are probably some actual stone-workers who are Masons, Masonry does not teach is membership the literal techniques of stonework. Rather, it takes the actual "operative" work of Medieval Masons and uses it as an allegory for moral development. Thus, the symbols of Masonry are the common tools that were used by medieval stonemasons: the gavel, the rule, the compasses, the square, the level, etc. Each of these has a symbolic meaning in Masonry. For example, Masons are said to meet "on the level", meaning that all Masons are brothers, regardless of social status, personal wealth, or office within the Lodge or in the world at large. Similar symbolism exists for other tools.

Masonry is distinguished from other fraternal orders by its emphasis on moral character, its ornate rituals, and its long tradition and history, which dates back to at least the 17th century in modern form, the 14th century (c. 1350-1390) in the written evidence of its precursors, and back to the mists of antiquity in its origin. Since 1598, in Scotland, upon the introduction of the Schaw Statutes which required lodges there to keep records of proceedings. Since 1723, in England, which is the earliest the [now] UGLE records go back to. Written records of the Grand Lodge of England formed in 1717 did not commence straight away. (Thanks to Richard White for these dates.)

There are also a great many things that Masonry is NOT: a religion, a secret society, etc., and these will be covered later in this FAQ.

There are three degrees in Masonry. Other appendant bodies confer additional degrees, up to the 32nd (or the honorary 33rd) of the Scottish Rite, but in symbolic Masonry (or Blue Lodge Masonry) proper, there are only three. At the Blue Lodge, Masons receive the degrees of Entered Apprentice (first degree), Fellowcraft (second degree), and Master Mason (third degree). Advancement generally requires the mastery of a small body of memorized material, the contents of which varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, only the signs, tokens, and grips of each degree must be learned; in others, a longer amount of material.

Of course, no Mason would ever look down upon a Brother simply because he was of a lower degree-- the degrees do not exist to create a pecking order or to confer rank. Rather, they are a system of initiation that allows men to become familiar with the august and ancient history and principles of Masonry at a comfortable pace. Proceeding from Entered Apprentice to Master Mason in the US can take as little as three months, while in England, the degrees are usually spaced farther apart. Additionally, some US Grand Lodges have begun holding 'one day' classes whereby all three degrees are conferred during a single day.

Most Lodges have regular communications (meetings) once a month, that may also be referred to as "business meetings". In the US, these are typically only open to Master Masons. In England, these meetings are opened in the first degree, and EAs may attend with the exception of grand lodge and provincial/district grand lodge. Conferring of degrees is usually done at other meetings during the month. Although degree conferral can take place at a regular communication (as it does in UGLE lodges.)

While conferral of degrees and mundane business do take up a lot of a Lodge's time, there are a host of other activities that Masons engage in within the fraternity. Charitable work is often done, in the form of fundraisers, community volunteer work, etc. And there are also a great many things done for the simple pleasure of company: monthly breakfasts or dinners, picnics, card/chess matches, lecturers on Masonic history, you name it. Masonry is a fraternity, and its membership seeks to have fun.

Local Masonic Lodges are organized under Grand Lodges. In the United States, each state has its own Grand Lodge, which is a peer with every other Grand Lodge. There is no "Grandest Lodge"-- each Grand Lodge is supreme in its jurisdiction (e.g., in the US, in its state) but has no authority elsewhere. Of course, this does not mean that Masonry in New York is radically different than Masonry in Scotland or New Mexico. Masons are very traditional and the differences between Grand Lodges are usually minor.

The head of a Lodge is given the title Worshipful Master. This, of course, does not imply that Masons worship him; it is merely a stylish title. Masonic Lodges can be found in many cities, of all sizes, around the world. There are presently approximately 4 million Masons, about half of whom are in the United States.

Subject: [2-2] What is the Scottish Rite?

The Scottish Rite is an appendant body of Masonry, meaning that it is not part of the Blue Lodge per se, but closely associated with Masonry. It requires that a man be a Master Mason before joining the Scottish Rite. The Scottish Rite confers the 4th through 32nd degrees. The degree work may be, but is not necessarily, completed at one time. Any Master Mason is eligible to join the Scottish Rite. The degrees of the Scottish Rite continue the symbolism of the first three Masonic degrees. For a discussion of the 33rd degree, see question 9 of this section.

In England this order is known as "Rose Croix." While it is slightly different, it still has a 33 degree system. 

The above refers to the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR), not the Rectified Scottish Rite , which exists both in UGLE-recognized and non-recognized Masonic bodies in the Europe. 

Subject: [2-3] What is the York Rite?

The York Rite, like the Scottish Rite, is an appendant body of Masonry, and confers degrees beyond the Blue Lodge's three degrees. It consists of nine additional degrees: Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason; the Cryptic Degrees of the Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master; and the Chivalric Orders of the Order of the Red Cross, Order of the Knights of Malta and the Order of Knights Templar.

The Temple degrees, which comprise the top degrees of the York Rite are specifically Christian. Or at least, it can be stated that the oath is: in some Grand Lodges in the US and abroad, one need not be a Christian, but rather only be willing to take a Christian OATH. The difference here is that there are some who would willingly swear to defend the Christian faith on the grounds that they would defend any man's faith. The Chapter (or Royal Arch) and Council Of Royal And Select Masters (Cryptic Rite), which comprise the first two sections of the York Rite, are not specifically Christian.

As with most things Masonic, discuss any concerns with your local York Rite, who can advise you regarding your eligibility.

The York Rite does not exist as a unified order in England. Each of the orders contained in the US York Rite Bodies is separate and independent in England, and there is no progression from one of the orders to the next.

Subject: [2-4] What is the Shrine?

The Shrine is not an appendant body of Masonry, though the distinction would escape many. The Shrine confers no additional degrees. It was founded in 1872 (the Mecca Temple in New York City) and an Arabic theme was chosen. Hence, the distinctive red fez that Shriners wear at official functions.

Members of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles the Mystic Shrine for North America (AAONMS is an anagram for "A MASON") are required to be Master Masons in good standing with their lodge. The Shrine is most noted for its emphasis on philanthropy and its jolly outlook on life-- it has been called "the playground of Masonry". This is expressed as "Pleasure without intemperance, hospitality without rudeness, and jollity without coarseness."

The Royal Order of Jesters is a group drawn from Shrine membership, by invitation only.

Subject: [2-5] What is the Eastern Star?

The Order of the Eastern Star is an adoptive rite of Freemasonry with teachings based on the Bible and objectives that are charitable and benevolent. The founder of OES was Dr. Robert Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts, who was a Master Mason and Past Grand Master of Kentucky. Dr. Morris intended his creation to become a female branch of Freemasonry, but he failed to overcome the great opposition this idea engendered. After his first published ritual in 1849-50, he became associated with Robert Macoy who wrote and published a ritual based on Morris' in 1867. The first Grand Chapter was organized in Michigan in the same year. (There is evidence for an organization of the same name founded variously in 1788 or 1793, but this group was defunct by 1867.) Subordinate (local) chapters operate under charter from state level grand chapters which are responsible to the General Grand Chapter at the International Eastern Star temple in Washington, D.C.

Members must be eighteen years or older and either Master Masons in good standing or properly related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives; widows; sisters; daughters; mothers; granddaughters; stepmothers; stepdaughters; stepsisters; and half-sisters. In 1994 this was expanded to include nieces, daughters-in- law, and grandmothers.

Each chapter has eighteen officers, some elected and others appointed. Two offices are specifically male (Patron and Associate Patron) while nine offices are specifically female (including Matron and Associate Matron). While the Worthy Matron is considered to be the presiding officer of the chapter, the degrees cannot be conferred without a presiding brother in good standing (hence the Patron and Associate Patron).

Each chapter retains the right to decide who shall be a member of the organization. Election to the degrees must be unanimous, without debate, and secret. The successful candidate must profess a belief in a Supreme Being and is initiated in five degrees, which are conferred in one ceremony. (When Eastern Star was created, it was intended to be the first of a three degree series. The second and third degrees were Queen of the South and the Order of the Amaranth, respectively.)

Interestingly enough, OES requires only the belief in a Supreme Being even though the degrees are based in both the Old and New Testaments. While non-Christians are not specifically barred from membership, it would seem to be difficult to be other than Christian and belong to the Order. (Thanks to Joy Leavy for this section)

Subject: [2-6] What is DeMolay?

The International Order of DeMolay is the world's largest fraternal organization for young men between the ages of 12 and 21. The Order was founded in Kansas City, Missouri on March 24, 1919 by Frank Sherman Land. DeMolay Chapters are sponsored by Masonic Lodges, and some members of the sponsoring body also serve as Advisors on the Chapter's Advisory Council. Structurally, it is similar to Masonry. The officers of a Chapter are the Master Councilor, Senior Councilor, Junior Councilor, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon, Senior Steward, Junior Steward, Orator, Scribe, Marshal, Chaplain, Standard Bearer, Sentinel, Almoner, and seven Preceptors.

DeMolay Chapters hold monthly or bi-weekly meetings with Masonic-like Ritual. Other activities include athletic tournaments and events, social functions (joint activities with Rainbow are encouraged), fund-raising activities, Masonic service activities, and civic and philanthropic activities.

DeMolays are taught the seven cardinal virtues of the Order-- filial love, reverence for sacred things, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness, and patriotism-- and the importance of practicing them in their daily lives.

The Order's namesake is Jacques DeMolay, who was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar and who was executed by Philip IV's soldiers on March 18, 1314. Louis Lower, the first DeMolay, and his group of friends, when asked by Dad Land to choose a name for their group, believed that his heroic fidelity and loyalty to his fellow Templars were qualities with which they wanted their group to be identified. Mind you, Dad Land explained this to them before they chose their name.

A fascinating book about the history of the Order and the life of Frank S. Land (1890-1959), titled "Hi! Dad," is available from the DeMolay and More Store or practically any member of the Order. The phone number of the DeMolay and More Store is 1-800-DEMOLAY. (Thanks to Tom Schnorrenberg) See http://www.demolay.org for additional information.

Subject: [2-7] What is International Order of Rainbow for Girls?

Rainbow is the complement to DeMolay, enrolling girls between the age of 11 and 20. No Masonic relationship is necessary in order to join. It confers two degrees, the Initiatory and the Grand Cross of Color. Rainbow emphasizes effective leadership, Church Membership and active Participation in the church of the member's choice, patriotism, cooperation with equals, love of home, loyalty to family, and service to humanity. The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls helps promote self-esteem and leadership in its members. See http://www.iorg.org for additional information.

Subject: [2-8] What are some other Masonic organizations?

Acacia: A college fraternity for Master Masons, the sons of Masons, and young men recommended by two Masons one of whom is an Acacian himself. The national governing board is composed exclusively of 32nd and 33rd degree Masons.

Order of Amaranth: Open to Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. At least one Master Mason must be present at every initiation. It confers only one degree.

Daughters of Mokanna: An auxiliary organization of the Grotto comprised of the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of the Master Masons in the Grotto.

Daughters of the Nile: An auxiliary organization for the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of members of the Shrine.

Desoms: An organization for deaf Masons.

Grotto: A fun organization open to Master Masons. It imitates the Shrine to a large degree, but requires only that a member be a Master Mason rather than a 32nd degree Mason or Knight Templar. Officially known as The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm (MOVPER).

High Twelve International: An organization of Master Masons that usually meet for lunch, enjoy fellowship, and support Masonic causes, with special emphasis on youth and patriotic endeavors.

Job's Daughters: Enrolls girls between the ages of 11 and 20 that have some Masonic relative. They must profess a belief in God but do not require their members to follow any specific religion. They actively support their charity program which provides assistive hearing devices for children.

Triangles: An organization for young ladies between 10 and 21 in New York State where friends are made and members better themselves.

L.O.S. of N.A.: The Ladies' Oriental Shrine of North America. Another auxiliary for the wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters of Shrine members.

National Sojourners, Inc. This organization, founded to meet the needs of the military Mason in times of war and peace requires its members to be citizens of the US who are Master Masons in good standing in a duly constituted Lodge of Master Masons recognized by and maintaining fraternal relations with a majority of the Regular Grand Lodges in the United States and who are serving or who have served honorably as a Commissioned, Warrant, or Senior Non-Commissioned Officer of the uniformed services of the United States or who have served in time of war as a Commissioned or Warrant Officer or the equivalent in an armed service of a nation allied with the United States or are regularly elected to Honorary Membership. See http://www.nationalsojourners.org for additional information.

Philalethes Society: The oldest and largest Masonic research organization, for Masons interested in Masonic philosophy and history. See http://www.freemasonry.org for additional information.

Royal Order of Scotland: An organization for Christian Masons who have been 32nd degree Masons or Knights Templar for five or more years.

Tall Cedars of Lebanon: A fun organization for Master Masons similar to the Grotto. It confers the two degrees of the Royal Court and the Sidonian.

White Shrine of Jerusalem: For Master Masons and their wives, mothers, daughters, widows, and sisters. Members must profess a belief in the defense of the Christian religion.

(thanks to Bill Menees for providing this section and Ed King for updating it.)

Subject: [2-9] What is Co-Masonry?

Co-Masonry refers to Masonic Lodges that admit both men and women. Co-Masonry traces its heritage back to the 19th century.

There are two Grand Lodges of Co-Masonry with jurisdiction in America: Le Droit Humain, a GL based in Paris, France and the original Co-Masonic organization in the US, and the American Federation of Human Rights (a/k/a American Co-Masonry), which is based in Larkspur, Colorado.

The degree structure differs slightly from standard Blue Lodge structure (i.e., the Scottish Rite in some is worked as part of the regular Lodge, not a separate organization), but in most things Co-Masonic lodges function similar to regular Masonic lodges.

There are a few feminine grand lodges, which are considered by the UGLE to be regular, with the exception of the initiation of women.

You can read more on this topic at www.masonicinfo.com/women.htm

Subject: [2-10] What is Prince Hall Masonry?

NOTE: This section is excerpted from the Grand Lodge of New Brunswick's annual communication. It would be nice if some Prince Hall Masons who could provide better information.

"There are some schools of thought that Prince Hall (his name, not a title) was born in Barbados to a free black woman and a Scottish father. He emigrated to the Colony of Boston, Mass. and acquired real estate, making him eligible to vote. It was also documented that he was a devout Christian and a leather-worker by trade. On March 6, 1775, during the American War of Independence, Prince Hall along with fourteen men of color were made Masons in Army Lodge #441 of the Irish Constitution. When Army Lodge moved on, the aforesaid brethren were issued a permit authorizing them to appear publicly as a Masonic body for the purpose of celebrating the feast of St. John and to bury their dead.

On March 2, 1784, these same brethren applied to the Grand Lodge of England for a charter, which was subsequently issued to them on September 29, 1784. They were warranted under the name of African Lodge, No. 459 on the register of the Grand Lodge of England by authority of then Grand Master, the Duke of Cumberland. Prince Hall was the first Master. That charter, which is authenticated and in safekeeping, is believed to be the only original charter issued from the Grand Lodge of England still in the possession of any Lodge in the United States.

African Lodge allowed itself to slip into arrears in the late 1790's and was stricken from the rolls after the Union of 1813, although it had attempted correspondence in 1802 and 1806. In 1827, after other unreplied-to attempts at communication, it declared its independence of any external authority and began to call itself African Grand Lodge No. 1.

It is interesting to note that when the Massachusetts lodges which were acting as a Provincial Grand Lodge declared themselves an independent Grand Lodge, and even when the present Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was formed by the amalgamation of two separate Grand Lodges, African Lodge was not invited to take part, even though it held a warrant every bit as valid as those others. This may be explained in part by this 1795 quote from John Eliot, who later became Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Mass. He wrote, "White Masons, who are not more skilled in geometry than their black brethren, will not acknowledge them... .the truth is they are ashamed of being on an equality with blacks."

Today there are 45 Grand Lodges (the latest being the just formed "Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Caribbean") that trace their origin back to African Lodge #459. There are more than 5000 Prince Hall Lodges and over 300,000 members. So far as it is known, their ritual, their secrets, their procedures, their requirements, their beliefs, their tenets or fundamental principles, are all either identical with ours, or recognizably similar." (by. W. Bro. Roy Cassidy)

To add to this:

The United Grand Lodge of England has officially recognized a number of Prince Hall Lodges. The majority of US Grand Lodges have recognized PH GLs within their jurisdictions, and it has been or is being discussed in other jurisdictions. Since every Grand Lodge is autonomous and the supreme authority in its jurisdiction, this issue must be approached on a state-by-state basis.

Some have criticized Masonry as "segregated" due to the Prince Hall Lodges, but this is a ridiculous claim, since there are many black Masons in non-PH Lodges and white members in PH Lodges, and displays a fundamental ignorance of Masonic history.

Subject: [2-11] What is a 33rd degree Mason?

The Scottish Rite awards a special honorary degree, the 33rd, to those it feels has made an outstanding contribution to Masonry, the community as a whole, and to mankind. There is no way to "achieve" this degree or "take" it, in the sense that one takes the 4th through 32nd degrees in the Scottish Rite. It is a singular honor, rarely bestowed, and greatly admired. There is a common misconception that 33rd Degree Masons somehow control Freemasonry (and the world!). You can read more about that at http://www.masonicinfo.com/33rdsrule.htm

Subject: [2-12] Are there any Masonic functions that I can attend as a non-Mason?

Yes. Many Lodges open their installation of officers to the public. Once a year, a new Worshipful Master takes office. The ceremony performed during his inauguration is public in most jurisdictions. It is not the same ceremony as would be performed in a regular Masonic ritual or degree, but it does have the flavoring of Masonic symbolism and allows the public to "get a feel for Masonry" without being Masons. NOTE: Not all jurisdictions have public installations. Call or write your local lodge for details.

In addition, many Lodges sponsor public functions throughout the year, such as dinners or charity functions, designed to allow non-Masons who are interested in Masonry the chance to talk with Masons and ask questions. For information, call your local Lodge.

Subject: [2-13] Who is the head of the Masons?

No one. Each Grand Lodge has its own jurisdiction and is the supreme authority within that jurisdiction. Obviously, many Grand Lodges have regular communication with each other, but official policy in one has no effect in another. Many people simply assume that Freemasonry has some sort of international control but this is simply not true. Masons sometimes explain that they are a society of 'who can best work and best agree' and the concept of a single world-wide leader would be an anathema to such a concept.

Subject: [2-14] Are there dues, fees, etc. associated with being a Mason?

Yes. Like all organizations, Lodges must be able to pay their light bills. Typically, there is a one-time fee for the three degrees of Masonry, as well as regular annual dues. But these vary widely depending on the number of members, cost of living (rent in Manhattan is higher than it is in rural Oklahoma), the actual physical facilities of the Lodge, etc. The fees and dues, however, are not prohibitively expensive (the original FAQ author was a college student and had no problem with them). Rather than give a single figure which may be very different than your local Lodge charges, or publishing an extended table of costs, it is easiest to simply refer the interested to their local Lodge.

Incidentally, many Grand Lodge jurisdictions provide for "life membership" after a Mason has paid dues for a long period. For example, in Michigan a Mason is no longer asked to pay dues after he has been a Mason for forty years. Other jurisdictions allow members to pay a lump sum for life membership. As with almost everything in Masonry, check with your local Grand Lodge or Lodge for more information.

Subject: [2-15] I hear Masons refer to an "apron". What is that?

"During the ceremonies of his initiation, each Mason is presented with a white apron. It is, to him, an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. It has, in all ages, been cherished by the rich, the poor, the high and the low. It is his for life. He will never receive another one and has, therefore, been cautioned to take it home and instructed in its care. While perfectly satisfactory for him to do so if he desires, he need not bring it to Lodge, as linen aprons are provided for his use at meetings." (From a pamphlet, "To the Lady and Family of a Mason")

The above applies to the US. In many other countries, the Master Mason owns his regalia and brings it to the Lodge.

Subject: [2-16] What is a "Masonic Funeral"?

"Any member who was in good standing at the time of his death is entitled to a Masonic funeral if he or his family requests it. Such a request should be made to the Master of his Lodge who will make the necessary arrangements with the family, the mortuary, and the minister. A service is authorized by the jurisdiction in which you are located, and consists of participation at the mortuary, the beginning at the mortuary and the closing at the graveside, or graveside only. Pallbearers will be furnished at the request of the family. In general, the Lodge will do as much or as little as the  nearest relative wishes it to do." (From a pamphlet, "To the Lady and Family of a Mason")

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Subject: [3] PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS & MYTHS

Subject: [3-1] Are Masons just a bunch of old men? Isn't Masonry dying out?

As regards the United States:

There is no doubt that the population of Masons is aging. There was a huge increase in membership in almost all fraternal orders after World War II, including Masonry. This peaked at sometime in the late 50s. During the social turbulence and generational strains of the 60s and 70s, new membership fell off, with the result that by the 1980s, total membership was in sharp decline.

However, in the late part of the first decade of 2000, there are signs that membership has leveled out, or is gaining in some areas. In many lodges, there are a great number of 50-and-up members, and a number of 30-and-under members, with a gulf in between, representing where Baby Boomers would have been - and as time moves on, many of them are finding their way to the Lodge. Of course, we are speaking in broad generalities here-- there is no way to know the demographics of your local Lodge without asking one of its members.

The overall point is that Masonic membership, when talking on a national scale, has probably hit a stable membership base, after a huge surge and then fall in membership.

Statistics compiled from many jurisdictions in the English-speaking world by W Bro. John Belton <magellan@dial.pipex.com> for Internet Lodge No. 9659, England, demonstrate that almost universally there were two anomalous initiation spikes preceding the two world wars with an overall membership peak in the late 1950s to mid-1960s. The post-war membership boom is a myth.

The Masonic Service Association of North America maintains membership statistics for the United States and Canada. You can see this information at their website at http://www.msana.com

(Please submit information on other parts of the world)

Subject: [3-2] Aren't Masons racist/elitist?

Regarding racism: Masonry explicitly states the equality of men, regardless of race, creed, or color. But there are some Masons who are prejudiced, and this is unfortunate, saddening, and unMasonic. However, it is not representative of Masonry as a whole, or representative of anything except a tiny minority of Masons. There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds.

"Elitism" is harder to define. If you mean that Masons are highly selective in their membership, then yes, Masons are elitists. But just criteria is used: men of good character, of good report, who believe in God. Does the majority of the population fit that criteria? If you think not, then you could say that Masons are elitists.

The idea that Masonry is only open to the patrician class, the landed gentry, and the wealthy is incorrect. There are Masons of all economic backgrounds. Indeed, there are Lodges which are mostly or wholly made up of blue-collar workers due to local demographics.

Subject: [3-3] Isn't Masonry just a place where businessmen make deals?

No. In fact, most Masons believe that to trade with a Brother Mason only because he is a Mason is unMasonic. Even more importantly, anyone who attempts to join a Lodge solely for business reasons will not be given a petition.

Masons, however, are friends, and it is not surprising that many Masons do trade with Brothers. For one thing, they are dealing with people that are of good character and can be trusted, which is no small statement in the modern marketplace.

But Masonry is not a "place to network". Yes, some men do view one of the benefits of membership as an additional source of customers or partners, but few would say that is the only reason they became Masons. The work involved in the degrees alone would make this a poor investment-- better to join the Rotary Club or other business group.

Subject: [3-4] I see titles like "Worshipful Master" and "Senior Deacon"-- is this some kind of cult?

No. The titles are simply colorful, stylish, and full of ancient symbolism. No Mason worships the Master of the Lodge, nor does a Senior (or Junior) Deacon engage in religious actions, as a Deacon of a church might.

Subject: [3-5] Masonry is a secret society, right?

Wrong. Secret societies are generally defined as organizations which are unknown to the public and whose existence is denied. The Bavarian Illuminati and the Mafia would be examples of secret societies. "The emphasis in Freemasonry is not on secrecy but on discretion and privacy." (Trevor McKeown)

Masonry, on the other hand, is well-known and proudly displays its existence. Masonic Temples are clearly marked as such, and many Lodges are listed in the yellow pages (usually under "Fraternal Orders"). Members often wear rings or tie clips that identify themselves as Masons, and Masons often participate in community charity work. Finally, some Masonic functions are open to the public.

Masonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with a few secrets. These are mainly modes of recognition-- the signals, grips, signs, and phrases by which Masons recognize each other. The actual degree rituals are considered secret as well, not because there is anything that would harm Masonry by their revelation, but rather because they are more meaningful if the candidate does not know what is going to go on during them beforehand (see question 9 of this section if that makes you nervous).

It should be pointed out that many other organizations have a similar class of secrets. College fraternities (a.k.a. "Greek letter organizations") often have small secrets known only to their members, allowing them to travel from house to house and still be known.

Subject: [3-6] Masonry is a religion, right? 

Wrong.

Masonry is not a religion "by the definitions most people use. Religion, as the term is commonly used, implies several things: a plan for salvation or path by which one reaches the after-life; a theology which attempts to describe the nature of God; and the description of ways or practices by which a man or woman may seek to communicate with God. Masonry does none of those things. We offer no plan of salvation. With the exception of saying that He is a loving Father who desires only good for His children, we make no effort to describe the nature of God. And while we open and close our meetings with prayer, and we teach that no man should ever begin any important undertaking without first seeking the guidance of God, we never tell a man how he should pray or for what he should pray. Instead, we tell him that he must find the answers to these great questions in his own faith, in his church or synagogue or other house of worship. We urge men not to neglect their spiritual development and to be faithful in the practice of their religion. As the Grand Lodge of England wrote in 'Freemasonry and Religion', 'Freemasonry is far from indifferent to religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith, and to place above all other duties his duty to God by whatever name He is known.' Masonry itself makes only a simple religious demand on a man--he must believe that he has an immortal soul and he must believe in God. No atheist can be a Mason." (Dr. Jim Tresner, 33rd degree)

"Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It teaches that it is important for every man to have a religion of his choice and to be faithful to it. A good Mason is made even more faithful to the tenets of his faith by membership." (Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who was also a Mason)

Subject: [3-7] Are Masons really controlling the world/meeting with the Bavarian Illuminati/members of the Trilateral Commission/etc?

<SARCASM> Yes, not to mention the International Jewish Conspiracy, the Elders of Zion, Inver Brass, S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and the minions of Cthulhu. </SARCASM>

<ahem> Anyone who believes that Masons are the Master Puppeteers of the globe either is pulling your leg, has read too much Robert Anton Wilson, or is in need of serious psychotherapy.

For more information, please see http://www.masonicinfo.com and/or http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry_faq.html

Subject: [3-8] Masons are anti-Catholic, right?

Wrong. There is nothing anti-Catholic in Masonry, in its traditions, its rituals, or its beliefs. While the Roman Catholic Church has historically taken anti-Masonic positions, Freemasonry welcomes members of all faiths as explained elsewhere in this FAQ.

Subject: [3-9] Masonic rituals are demeaning or embarrassing to the candidate, right?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The rituals (degrees) are designed to reinforce virtues that the Craft finds desirable, such as Justice, Brotherly Love, Truth, and the like. The rituals are actually quite beautiful and filled with ancient language and much symbolism.

At no point, however, is the candidate asked to do anything that would embarrass or demean him, nor anything that would violate his obligations to his faith, country, or the law.

Subject: [3-10] I heard/read a Mason talking about a "Masonic Bible". Do Masons have their own Bible?

"No. The Bibles sometimes called 'Masonic Bibles' are just Bibles to which a concordance, giving the Biblical citations on which the Masonic Ritual is based, has been added. Sometimes reference material on Masonic history is included. Anyone is welcome to read one." (Dr. Jim Tresner, 33rd degree) Masonic Bibles are usually the King James version.

Subject: [3-11] I see that Masonic buildings are called Temples. Does that mean that Masons worship there?

No. "Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary provides a definition for the word 'temple' which is as good an explanation as any: 'a building, usually of imposing size, serving the public or an organization in some special way; as, a temple of art, a Masonic temple'". (Dr. Jim Tresner. 33rd degree)

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Subject: [4] HOW DO I BECOME A MASON?

Subject: [4-1] What are the requirements for becoming a Mason?

The age for joining Freemasonry is being lowered. In the past, candidates had to be male, at least 21 years of age, able to profess a belief in God, and of good character. Now, however, many Grand Lodges have lowered this to 19 or 18. Check the Grand Lodge for your jurisdiction for further clarification on rules as they apply there. For a listing of age requirements, please visit http://www.bessel.org/age.htm

For information on mixed-sex Masonry, see the discussion on Co-Masonry in II, 7.

Some Grand Lodges also have a residency requirement; for example, the Grand Lodge of Michigan requires candidates to have lived in its jurisdiction (Michigan) for a minimum of one year.

Subject: [4-2] Can <fill in an ethnic group>s be Masons?

Any human who meets the requirements listed in question (1) of this section is eligible, regardless of race or color.

Some have speculated that while there is no official prohibition against, say, blacks or Asians from becoming Masons, there is a de facto prohibition because they would never be voted into a lodge. This is false. There are Masons of all ethnic backgrounds.

However, it is fair to state that Masons, as humans, are prone to the kinds of prejudices that all humans may succumb to. Since the vote to admit a candidate is anonymous and must be unanimous, one man's unspoken prejudice is sufficient to deny entry to a man (except, of course, in those jurisdictions which require more than one 'no' vote to deny entrance, but you get the idea). Prejudice is inexcusable and irreconcilable with Masonry, but then, it is also irreconcilable with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and there are certainly Christians, Jews, and Muslims who harbor prejudices.

So it is possible that a Mason, acting unmasonically, could act to keep a member out without due cause. But this is not common, nor is it representative of Masonry in general, nor does it conform to the high ideals of Masonry.

Subject: [4-3] Can homosexuals be Masons?

Yes, and there are homosexual Masons. Everything said in question (2) of this section holds true in this case as well. There is the consideration that some men may view homosexuality as being immoral, i.e., that homosexuals are not men of "good character". This is generally not due to any specific prejudice but rather due to religious belief (depending on how one interprets St. Paul, for example). However, judging by conversation on alt.freemasonry, it is safe to say that Masons generally would not regard homosexuality as a barrier to membership.

Subject: [4-4] I have a physical disability. Can I be a Mason?

The answer is almost certainly yes, provided you can attend Lodge (and meet the non-physical criteria in question (1) of this section). Paraplegics have been made Masons, as have the blind, the deaf, and others with a variety of physical handicaps. Minor modifications may need to be done to the rituals (e.g., employing sign language, modifying points where the candidate stands if the candidate is in a wheelchair, etc.) but most Lodges are willing to accommodate candidates.

In medieval times, the requirement to have a sound body free of physical defect was a serious one, since the work of stonemasonry was physically difficult. Some Grand Lodges did carry this requirement into symbolic (i.e., non-operative) Masonry. However, in recent times this has all but been eliminated. Talk to your local Lodge if you have any questions.

Subject: [4-5] Can <fill in the name of the religion> be a Mason?

The only religious requirement is that candidates believe in the Supreme Being. If you can in you can in good faith profess a belief in the Supreme Being, you are eligible to be a Mason. No atheists will ever knowingly be made a Mason.

There are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Mormon), Jewish, and Muslim Masons. It would be tedious and pointless to go into a religion-by-religion (and then denomination-by-denomination) discussion. The key points to remember are the requirement of belief in the Supreme Being and the fact that Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion.

Subject: [4-6] Do Masons accept Catholics?

Catholicism is only mentioned specifically because it has generated a lot of traffic in the past on the Masonic newsgroups. There is no prohibition in any Grand Lodge jurisdiction against Catholics being made Masons.

Please bear in mind that discussion of this subject on the Masonic newsgroups invariably generates a very high noise-to-signal ratio.

Subject: [4-7] Can Wiccans be Masons?

This religion is specifically mentioned only because it has been often debated on alt.freemasonry. It is possible to get into very involved discussions on the nature of Wiccan beliefs and their compatibility with Masonry, but the only possible arbitrator is your Grand Lodge. To that end, it is suggested that if you have more specific questions, contact your local Lodge.

Again, the same could be said about a number of religions, and Wicca is only mentioned specifically because it has been brought up repeatedly on the Masonic newsgroups. Please bear in mind that discussion of this subject on the USENET Masonic newsgroups invariably generates more heat than light.

Subject: [4-8] What if my religion does not allow the swearing of oaths?

Some Grand Lodges allow affirmations to be used instead of the traditional Masonic oath. This is more common in Europe than in the United States. In all cases, it is best to check with the Grand Lodge in your jurisdiction (or your local Lodge) for more specific information.

Subject: [4-9] Do I have to be invited?

Don't wait to be invited-- you will die waiting. Masons are prohibited from actively recruiting or asking non-Masons to join the fraternity, to insure that candidates come of their own free will.

As with many things Masonic, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some Grand Lodges allow solicitation, provided it is low-key and with the strict provision that no pressure be applied. Still, you don't *need* to be invited in any jurisdiction, and if you're interested, act.

Subject: [4-10] OK, I'm interested-- how do I proceed?

If you know a Mason, ask him about membership. He will be glad to tell you all about the Craft and the local lodge, and give you a petition if you wish to join.

If you do not know a Mason, drop a letter to the local lodge, and one of the officers will call you (or call the lodge, though you may not get an answer unless someone is actually there).

Typically, the process is as follows:

(a) the applicant fills out a petition. The petition asks for two sponsors, though if you meet and talk with the officers, they can usually find sponsors or act as sponsors themselves if you do not know anyone in the lodge.

(b) the petition is read at the lodge during the next business meeting, which for many lodges is during the first week of the month. A committee is formed to investigate the candidate. The petition also asks for two character references.

(c) the committee meets with the candidate to answer questions, ascertain that he meets the criteria for membership, and find out a little about him. This is not a "grilling session", but rather a friendly and casual chat to make certain that the candidate has been properly informed about Masonry and that was not improperly solicited. The committee also contacts the character references listed on the petition (typically asking if they know any reason why the candidate should not be accepted, etc.)

(d) The committee reports back to the lodge during the next business meeting and the candidate is voted on. If accepted, someone from the lodge (often the Secretary) contacts the candidate and informs him that he has been accepted and schedules a date for the Entered Apprentice degree.

NOTE: This is based on the summation of several experiences in the U.S. Your mileage may vary.

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Subject: [5] HISTORY

Subject: [5-1] Where did Masons come from?

A fascinating question! And, alas, impossible to answer within the confines of this FAQ. There are a number of theories, a lot of debate, and a lot of musty history books. Some of the books listed in question 15 of this section should be of help. As a *very* brief overview, here is part of an essay by Henry C. Clausen, a noted Masonic author. This is, of course, just one point of view-- many other theories exist, but Claussen nicely covers the basics:

"Our Masonic antiquity is demonstrated by a so-called Regius Manuscript written around the year 1390, when King Richard II reigned in England, a century before Columbus. It was part of the King's Library that George II presented to the British Museum in 1757. Rediscovered by James O. Halliwell, a non-Mason, and rebound in its present form in 1838, it consists of 794 lines of rhymed English verse and claims there was an introduction of Masonry into England during the reign of Athelstan, who ascended the throne in A.D. 925. It sets forth regulations for the Society, fifteen articles and fifteen points and rules of behavior at church, teaching duties to God and Church and Country, and inculcating brotherhood. While the real roots of Masonry are lost in faraway mists, these items show that our recorded history goes back well over 600 years. Further proof is furnished through English statutes as, for example, one of 1350 (25 Edward III, Cap. III) which regulated wages of a "Master...Mason at 4 pence per day." The Fabric Role of the 12th century Exeter Cathedral referred to "Freemasons."

The historical advance of science also treats of our operative ancient brethren who were architects and stonemasons of geometry. It is apparent from this portrayal that they had a very real and personal identification with the Deity and that this fervent devotion provided energy to build cathedrals. They embraced the teachings of Plato and understood and applied Pythagorean relationships. Just as there is a beauty of harmony credited to mathematical relationships on which music is based, in precisely the same way these master geometricians treated architecture. The architects and stonemasons became the personification of geometry, performing extraordinary feats with squares and compasses. Geometrical proportion, not measurement, was the rule. Their marks as stonemasons were derived from geometric constructions. The mighty works they wrought, cathedrals with Gothic spires pointing toward the heavens, and especially their "association," were not without danger and opposition, bearing in mind the Inquisition established in 1229, the Saint Bartholomew's Eve Massacre of 1572, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. These historical points remind us of the need for our cautions against cowans and eavesdroppers.

Our operative Brethren of the Middle Ages thus were the builders of mighty cathedrals throughout the British Isles and continental Europe, many of which still stand. These skilled craftsmen wrote in enduring stone impressive stories of achievement, frequently chiseled with symbolic markings. With these architectural structures of these master builders there was a companion moral code. These grew up together. Out of this background modern Freemasonry was born.

Although "Lodges" had existed for centuries, four of the "old" Lodges met in London on St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, and formed the first Grand Lodge of England, thereafter known as the Premier Grand Lodge of the world. No longer operative as of old, the Masons carried on the traditions and used the tools of the craft as emblems to symbolize principles of conduct in a continued effort to build a better world.

The American colonial Masonic organizations stemmed from this Grand Lodge of England and were formed soon after 1717. Its then Grand Master appointed Colonel Daniel Coxe as Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania on June 5, 1730, and Henry Price of Boston as Provincial Grand Master of New England in April 1733." -- Henry C. Clausen

Subject: [5-2] What US Presidents have been Masons?

George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, (Lyndon B. Johnson), Gerald R. Ford.

Notes (in chronological order):

William McKinley was raised 4/3/1865, in Hiram Lodge No. 21, Virginia. This information comes from the MSA's Short Talk Bulletin series.

William Howard Taft was made a Mason At Sight by the Grand Master of Ohio and later raised to Grand Master of Ohio in 1909.

Harry S Truman was also Grand Master of his home state, Missouri.

Lyndon Johnson was an Entered Apprentice, but never progressed beyond that degree.

Ronald Reagan is not a craft Mason. He was made an honorary 33rd degree Mason by the Southern Jurisdiction of the AASR and an honorary member of the Imperial Council of the Shrine, but he was never entered, passed, and raised as a Mason, nor was he ever made a Mason at sight. (Source: Robinson's Born in Blood)

Bill Clinton is not a Mason, though he was involved in DeMolay in his youth.

Many other leaders in government have been Masons: "They have included fourteen Presidents and eighteen Vice Presidents of the United States; a majority of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, of the Governors of States, of the members of the Senate, and a large percentage of the Congressmen. Five Chief Justices of the United States were Masons and two were Grand Masters. The five were Oliver Ellsworth, John Marshall (also Grand Master of Masons in Virginia), William Howard Taft, Frederick M. Vinson and Earl Warren (also Grand Master of Masons in California.)" -- Henry C. Clausen

Subject: [5-3] Was Thomas Jefferson a Mason? Patrick Henry? Abraham Lincoln?

No, no, and no. As for the first two, "an exhaustive search of Masonic records in Virginia, and elsewhere, offers no iota of evidence to make them Freemasons. Jefferson participated in the cornerstone laying of his University at Charlottesville, which was done Masonically. He praised Freemasonry and his own words proved he had never been a member of the Craft." (FMBITS.TXT)

There is some evidence that Abraham Lincoln intended to become a Mason when he returned to Springfield after his second term in office, had he not been assassinated in 1865.

Subject: [5-4] What famous people have been Masons?

This is by no means a complete list. This list also includes Prince Hall Masons.

FROM THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (other than Presidents): Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, Lafayette, Rufus King, James Otis, Baron von Steuben, Joseph Warren, Benedict Arnold

POLITICAL LEADERS: Winston Churchill, Simon Bolivar, Edmund Burke, Benito Juarez, Edward VII, George VI, Bernardo O'Higgins, Jose' de San Martin, Francisco de Paula Santander, Jose' Rizal, Jose' Marti, Pandit Nehru, Lajos Kossuth, Jonas Furrer, Guiseppe Mazzini, Eduard Benes, John A. MacDonald, Aaron Burr, George McGovern, Barry Goldwater, Estes Kefauver, Adlai Stevenson (not the governor of Illinois, but his father who was Vice President in 1892), Thomas E. Dewey, Alf Landon, Hubert H. Humphrey, Wendell Wilke, W.E.B. DuBois, William Jennings Bryant. Friedrich der Grosse

MILITARY LEADERS: Omar Bradley, John J. Pershing, Douglas McArthur, General Winfield Scott, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, General Mark Clark, General George C. Marshall

REPUBLIC OF TEXAS: Sam Houston, Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William B. Travis (and, it should be added, General Santa Ana)

FINE ARTS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (and his father, Leopold), Jean Sibelius, Franz Liszt, Josef Haydn, Irving Berlin, Gutzon Borglum, Charles W. Peale, Alfons M. Mucha, John Philip Sousa, both Gilbert & Sullivan, George Gershwin, George M. Cohen, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Signmund Romberg, Friedrich der Grosse

** Note: Ludwig van Beethoven was not a Mason. He wrote music for a lot of Masonic poetry (by Goethe and Schiller, in particular), but he was not himself a member. (Thanks to Roger M. Firestone 32 KCCH)

ACTORS: John Wayne, Red Skelton, Clark Gable, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Burl Ives, Roy Rogers, Danny Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Oliver Hardy, Tom Mix, Audie Murphy, Gene Autry, Wallace Beery, Eddie Cantor

INDUSTRY & LABOR: Henry Ford, Samuel Gompers, Walter P. Chrysler, John Wanamaker, S.S. Kresge, J.C. Penney, John Jacob Astor, John L. Lewis

ADVENTURERS: Lewis & Clark, Charles A. Lindberg, Kit Carson, Roald Amundsen, Adm. Richard Byrd, Commodore Robert Peary

PHILOSOPHERS: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gotthold E. Lessing, Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet)

ATHLETES: Bob Feller, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Paul "Dizzy" Trout, Harry Carey, Dell Rice, Jimmy Fox, Joe Tinker (of "Tinker to Evers to Chance"), Jack Dempsey, Arnold Palmer, Jack Arthur Johnson

ASTRONAUTS: Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., Leroy Gordon Cooper, Donn F. Eisele, Virgil I. Grissom, Edgar D. Mitchell, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Thomas P. Stafford, Paul J. Weitz, James B. Irwin, John Glenn.

WRITERS: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Sir Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Burns, Wassily I. Maikow, Heinrich Heine, Jean P.C. de Florian, Leopoldo Lugoner, Antonio de Castro Alves, James Boswell, Alexander Pushkin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Johnathon Swift, Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Schiller.

LAW: John Marshall, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall

MEDICINE: Drs. Alexander Fleming, Jules Bordet, Antoine DePage, Edward Jenner, Charles and William Mayo, Karl and William Menninger

SCIENCE: Hans C. Orsted, Jons Jakob Frk. von Berzelius, Alfred Edmund Brehm, Luther Burbank, Johan Ernst Gunnerus, Albert Abraham Michelson, Gaspard Monge, C.F.S. Hahnemann, Pedro N. Arata, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, Alexander Fleming

...as well as Harry Houdini, Norman Vincent Peale, David Sarnoff, Thomas J. Watson, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Cecil J. Rhodes, Marvin Zindler, Steve Wozniak (the inventor of the Apple II Computer) and many, many more.

An abbreviated listing of 'Famous Freemasons' can be found at http://www.masonicinfo.com/famous.htm

Subject: [5-5] What famous buildings in the US have been laid Masonically?

The U. S. Capitol, The Smithsonian Institution, Jackson Hall, The National Education Association Building, The Army War College Building, House of Representatives Office Building, The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is in Alexandria, Virginia, and honors our first President and Brother Mason, George Washington. (FMBITS.TXT)

Subject: [5-6] What's the difference between AF&AM and F&AM?

F&AM means "Free & Accepted Masons." AF&AM means "Ancient Free & Accepted Masons". In practical terms, there is no difference, since the jurisdictions that are termed "ancient" F&AM are no different than those that are simply F&AM. The distinction is a historical one, owing to differences in Grand Lodge names. For a good treatment of this subject, have a look at http://freemasonry.bc.ca/Writings/afandam.html 

Subject: [5-7] Was Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, a Mason?

(This section provided by Brother Bob Dixon; the use of the first person is his)

"Joseph Smith was a mason, as were the following four presidents of the LDS church.

From about 1839 to about 1846 most of the members of the church gathered to Nauvoo, Illinois, and there were at least four lodges in operation there. Joseph Smith was a very flamboyant individual and had a disagreement with the Grand Lodge of Illinois over the way the Nauvoo lodges were operated. Accordingly, their charters were revoked by the Grand Lodge.

He was murdered by a mob in 1844, and Brigham Young felt it was as a result of a Masonic conspiracy. He prohibited Mormons from being Masons, which remained in effect until the last ten years or so. The ill feelings went both ways, as the Grand Lodge of Utah refused to accept Mormons as members until about 1984.

There are no particular restrictions on Mormons being Masons. We are continually counseled to put our families and Christ first, which many interpret as counsel to avoid most activities outside family and church. This is a personal choice, though, and not a matter of strict doctrine.

We perform certain ordinances such as baptisms for the dead and eternal marriages in our temples, and minor portions of those ordinances bear very surface similarity to parts of the Masonic degrees. The whole scope and character is much different, though. Where (I feel, anyway) that the Masonic degree work revolves around our place in God's kingdom here on the earth, our temple rituals deal with creation and our place in the eternities."

(A minor historical note: Smith was made a Mason at Sight by the Grand Master of Illinois)

Subject: [5-8] What is the oldest Lodge Room in the world? In the US? 

"St. John's Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland is said to be the oldest Masonic Lodge Room (1736) in the world. The oldest known Lodge Room in the U.S. is situated in Prentiss House, Marblehead, Massachusetts (1760).The oldest Masonic Lodge Building is the Lodge Hall of Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, Halltax, Northings, North Carolina (1771)." (FMBITS.TXT)

Other information disagrees with this, stating that the oldest American Lodge Room is "Masons Hall in Richmond, Virginia, the home of Richmond Randolph Lodge No. 19 and Richmond Royal Arch Chapter No. 3. The building owned by Royal White Hart Lodge wasn't built until 1821. Masons Hall was built in 1785. It was originally the home of Richmond Lodge No. 10, the first wholly new Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia. It was also the first permanent home of the Grand Lodge of Virginia." (from Northern Light)

Subject: [5-9] Is it true that all of George Washington's generals during the Revolutionary War were Masons?

No. 33 of the generals serving under Washington were Masons. A substantial number, but not "all".

Subject: [5-10] Is it true that all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons? The Articles of Confederation? The Constitution?

No. Masons constituted ten of the signers of the Articles, nine signers of the Declaration, and thirteen signers of the Constitution.

Additionally, Edmund Randolph, Grand Master of Virginia, was an active participant at the Constitutional Convention, though he didn't sign the document. It should also be noted that four Presidents of the Continental Congresses were Freemasons: Peyton Randolph of Virginia, John Hancock of Massachusetts, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, and Arthur St. Clair of Pennsylvania. (Northern Light)

Subject: [5-11] George Washington turned down the title of "Grand Master of the United States"-- true?

Yes, sort of. The American Union Lodge proposed that Washington become "General Grand Master of the United States", a title to be held in the "National Grand Lodge". However, there were many others who also disagreed with the idea, so it was never a serious proposal. Washington was Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Virginia, whose Grand Master was then Edmund Randolph. Washington was never Grand Master of Virginia (or any other jurisdiction).

Subject: [5-12] Why do some Lodges meet on a certain day of the week "following the full moon"? Are Masons some kind of moon worshippers?

The reason is actually simple practicality. Masonic Lodges usually meet at night, since their membership typically works during the day (although there are a few 'daylight' lodges). Before street lights were available in the 19th century, men walked to Lodge in the dark of night and it was common to schedule Lodge meetings shortly after a full moon to provide maximum illumination for Brothers' walk to and from Lodge. Obviously, this is no longer an issue, though some Lodges whose history stretches back into the 19th century or earlier still schedule their meetings by the moon's period. These are sometimes referred to as "moon Lodges".

Subject: [5-13] Did Masons suffer at the hands of the Nazis?

Yes. The exact numbers are unknown. Lt. Col. David Boyd wrote that 85,000 German Masons were killed by the Nazis, though other research has found that this number may be off by as much as a third. This figure does not include any of the nations the Nazis occupied.

Regardless of the actual number killed, it is clear that Hitler viewed Masonry, which exalts truth, toleration, brotherly love, and free thought, to be dangerous and a threat to his regime. Ironically, in his last days in his bunker in Berlin, Hitler had a painting of Frederick the Great in his chambers. Frederick the Great was a Mason.

Subject: [5-14] Are Masons connected to Greek-letter fraternities?

Because Freemasonry was the oldest and most popular fraternal organization, many groups imitated them. At various points in history, particularly in the United States where the fraternity system is the strongest, adult male students and faculty became involved in fraternity formation using their knowledge of Freemasonry as a basis for the new organization. Some fraternities were direct about this connection while with others it was more oblique. There has never been, however, a college fraternity 'officially recognized' within the system of Freemasonry even though a couple may have limited their membership to Masons.

Subject: [5-15] I want information on Masonic history. What books would be good introductions?

Virtually anything by Allen Roberts.

Robinson, John J. A Pilgrim's Path and Born in Blood

Stevenson, David, PhD. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century 1590-1710 (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia is an excellent reference (the 1996 version as updated by Allen E. Roberts in particular)

Subject: [5-16] My local Library doesn't have any books on Freemasonry, where can I find them?

Many Lodges maintain their own libraries as do the Grand Lodges. Some larger public Libraries also may have a better collection than a smaller Library. Don't forget to ask your librarian about Inter-Library Loan which, in many places, will get a broad range of books to you at a very small price (less than the postage!). With the spread of the internet/web, there are many books available (legally and illegally) about Masonry including a wide variety through online book sellers. As popular interest is fueled by fiction stories incorporating Freemasonry into its plot, more and more books about the organization are being found. None is complete (Freemasonry has a 300+ year world-wide history) and many are biased toward a particular point of view. None is 'officially approved' by Freemasonry since, as noted elsewhere in this FAQ, Freemasonry is comprised of many sovereign Grand Lodges, none of which are holden to the other.

Subject: [5-17] What movies/books feature Masonry?

Some of the more widely known are:

'The Man Who Would Be King' by Brother Rudyard Kipling. A good story, later made into an excellent film, starring Michael Caine, Sean Connery, and Christopher Plummer. Its portrayal of Masonic history is quite fanciful, of course.

Murder by Decree. A Sherlock Holmes movie, concerning the Master Sleuth's hunt for Jack the Ripper. It does not portray Masonry in an honest, accurate, or favorable light. A good movie, but it is important to remember that no Mason would ever knowingly commit a crime for a Brother. Incidentally, Edward VII was actually a Mason. (The story is not one of Brother Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's).

From Hell. A movie which makes yet another attempt to link Freemasonry to the Jack the Ripper murders.

The Story line of the film
--------------------------
a) HRH Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (grandson and heir apparent to Queen Victoria) married a Roman Catholic shop girl and had a daughter by her.
b) a group of Whitechapel prostitutes found out and were threatening to 'go public.'
c) Queen Victoria, the Prime Minister (Marquess of Salisbury), the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (Sir Charles Warren) and the Queen's Physician (Sir William Gull) hatched a plot to murder the prostitutes.
d) that the Duke of Clarence was a Freemason, as were the Prime Minister, the Commissioner and Sir William Gull and that their Masonic oath bound them to protect at all costs a fellow Freemason and defend the monarchy
e) that Sir William. Gull was the Ripper and the mutilations to the bodies of the murdered prostitutes were in accordance with the physical penalties in the Masonic oaths.

The FACTS
---------
a) the Prime Minister and Sir William Gull were not Freemasons
b) the mutilations to the bodies bore no relation to the former physical penalties

The origin of the story line
----------------------------
The film was based on an 'adult comic', also entitled 'From Hell', which was based on the late Stephen Knight's 1975 book 'Jack the Ripper - the Final Solution'.

Knight was 'sold' the story by one Joseph Sickert who claimed to be the son of the artist Walter Sickert by the 'daughter' of the Duke of Clarence and the shop girl. Within two month's of the publication of Knight's book Joseph Sickert, in an interview in the Times, said that the whole story was a figment of his imagination, that Knight was the most 'gullible' reporter he had met and that he had had great fun in 'gulling' him.

The production company which produced the film "From Hell" approached the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) for assistance in getting the 'Masonic bits' correct. When it was realized what they were filming, it was pointed out to them by UGLE that the film was based on lies. Their response was that it was too good a story not to film it! UGLE refused to give any assistance to a project that was perpetuating known lies and could damage the reputation of Freemasonry.

As for whether Freemasons are bothered by this - the answer is yes and no. Yes, in that a fictional film is yet again being portrayed (to an extent at least) as "faction": i.e. a mix of fiction and fact, but without any indication which parts are fictitious and which are factual. Yes also, in that some people seem to believe the story line, and apply the principles of it to Freemasonry in general today. No, in that it's just another Hollywood film: a distortion of reality into an adventure, which Hollywood has done before in many other cases and will do many times again in the future. No also, because in a few years time the novelty of the film will have worn off, and hardly anybody will remember it. 

(Thanks to Richard White for this information.)

For more Masonic movie information, please visit http:freemasonry.bc.ca/fiction/cinema.html

The "Turmgesellschaft" in Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister" novels is certainly of Masonic origin.

In Tolstoy's "War and Peace", the Masonic initiation ritual of the character Pierre Besouchoff is described in great detail.

There is also a modest body of Masonic poetry: Kipling's "The Palace" and "Mother Lodge," Burns's "Masonic Farewell," Goethe's "Mason Lodge," Leigh Hunt's "Abou Ben Adhem," Carruth's "Each in His Own Tongue," Burns's "On the Apron," Meredith's "Ebony Staff of Solomon," Bowman's "Voice of America," Malloch's "Father's Lodge" and Nesbit's "I Sat in Lodge with You." (Carl H. Claudy)

Trevor McKeown provided the following reading list:

The Freemason at Work by Harry Carr, revised by Frederick Smyth. Ian Allan Lewis Masonic Ltd. Riverdene Business Park, Molesey Road, Hersham Surrey KT12 4RG. ISBN: 0 85318 189 6 hc 404 pp.

Symbolism in Craft Freemasonry by Colin Dyer. Lewis Masonic, Ian Allen Regalia Ltd., Terminal House Shepperton Surrey. ISBN: 0 85318 130 6 pb 1983 [0 85318 102 0 clothbound, 1991]. 184 pp.

Workman Unashamed, The Testimony of a Christian Freemason by Christopher Haffner. Lewis Masonic, Ian Allan Regalia Ltd, Terminal House, Shepperton, Surrey, GB. ISBN: 0 85318 167 5. hc. 271 pp.

Early Masonic Pamphlets Reprinted and edited by Douglas Knoop and G.P. Jones and Douglas Hamer. Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd. 60 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5BA: 1978. ISBN: 0 9502001 3 1. 338 pp. [tel: 0171-405 7340, fax: 0171-404 8131]

Fundamentalism & Freemasonry, The Southern Baptist Investigation of the Fraternal Order by Gary Leazer. M. Evans and Company, Inc. 216 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017. ISBN: 0-87131-775-3 (cloth). 252 pp.

Freemasonry, A Journey through Ritual and Symbol by W. Kirk MacNulty. Thames and Hudson Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10110: Reprinted 1999. ISBN: 0-500-81037-0. pb. 96 pp.

Freemasonry, The Study of a Phenomenon by Alexander Piatigorsky. The Harvill Press, 2 Aztec Row, Berners Road, London N1 0PW: 1997. ISBN: 1 89046 265 0. pb. 398 pp.

The Freemasons by Jasper Ridley. Constable & Robinson Ltd, 3 The Lanchesters, 162 Fulham Palace Road, London W6 9ER: 1999. ISBN: 1-84119-238-4. pb 340 pp.

Born in Blood, The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry by John J. Robinson. M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, New York: 1989. ISBN: 0-87131-602-1

A Pilgrim's Path, Freemasonry and the Religious Right by John J. Robinson. M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, New York: 1993. ISBN: 0-87131-732-X

The Origins of Freemasonry : Scotland's Century, 1590-1710 by David Stevenson. Paperback, Cambridge University Press: 1990

Additional Information not officially part of the USENET FAQ:

From the Usenet FAQ:
Usenet is a world-wide distributed discussion system.  It consists of a 
set of "newsgroups" with names that are classified hierarchically by
subject.  "Articles" or "messages" are "posted" to these newsgroups by
people on computers with the appropriate software -- these articles are
then broadcast to other interconnected computer systems via a wide
variety of networks.  Some newsgroups are "moderated"; in these
newsgroups, the articles are first sent to a moderator for approval
before appearing in the newsgroup.  Usenet is available on a wide variety
of computer systems and networks, but the bulk of modern Usenet traffic
is transported over either the Internet or UUCP.

The balance of the USNET FAQ - dated 1999 - is found here.

 

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