What is Masonry?
Masonry (also known as Freemasonry) is the world’s first and largest fraternal organization. It is a brotherhood of like-minded men who genuinely care about each other. We develop lifelong friendships with fellow Masons and their families, and are welcomed at Masonic lodges throughout the United States and the world.
Masonry is based on the belief that each man has a responsibility to help make the world a better place. Through our culture of philanthropy, we make a profound difference for our brothers, our families, our communities, and our future. Masons find satisfaction in being part of a centuries-old fraternity whose traditions and core values are relevant today, and will endure for centuries to come.
The mission of the Masons of California is to foster personal growth and improve the lives of others. Our mission is guided by the enduring and relevant principles of our fraternity:
Brotherly love. We value respect, freedom, kindness, tolerance, and our differences – religious, ethnic, cultural, social, generational, and educational – and strive for harmony in our individual lives, in our lodges, and in the global community.
Relief. We take responsibility for the well-being of our brothers, our families, and the community as a whole. We provide relief through philanthropy, community involvement, and delivery of excellent care.
Truth. We stay true to our personal code of conduct and ethics – honor, integrity, personal responsibility, and the continuous pursuit of knowledge.
About Our Members
With more than 40,000 members statewide, our fraternity represents the entire spectrum of Californians. Admission to our lodges is open to men of good character and faith, regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs, political views, sexual orientation, physical ability, citizenship or national origin. Our lodges currently work in English, Spanish, French, and Armenian.
Through this universal brotherhood, Masons learn to be better husbands, better fathers, better brothers, and better citizens. By appreciating our differences, we learn to focus on what unites mankind. Thus, the discussion of religion, politics, and business is not permitted in our lodges. In this way we live up to the centuries-old aim of our fraternity – to unite men of every country, sect, and opinion and cause true friendship among those who otherwise would have remained at a distance.
Membership in California Masonry is growing and getting younger. The fastest growing segment of our membership is 18-30 year olds. About 2,000 men are initiated each year; their average age is 39.
The Origins of Freemasonry
In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons who were hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those who were killed on the job. Eventually, men who were not skilled stonemasons wanted to join the group for the many advantages it offered. These men were known as “accepted masons.” This is how the group began to shift from a craft guild to a fraternity.
The first Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was established in 1717 in London. In 1718, English Freemasonry spread to France and Spain, and after 1729, to India, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. Freemasonry spread to other parts of Europe and eventually made its way to the American colonies. In 1733, the first American lodge was established in Boston, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. The United States now has grand lodges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Masonry in California
Masonry has been an integral part of California for more than 150 years. During the Gold Rush of 1849, thousands of settlers came to California in search of fortune. Many of these men were Masons and brought with them Masonic values and traditions. Not surprisingly, some of California’s first Masonic lodges were established in the mining towns of the Gold Country. In 1850 – the same year that California became a state – the Grand Lodge of California was established in Sacramento.
Within 10 years, the number of Masonic lodges in the new state had grown from 11 to 130, while membership soared from 258 to more than 5,000. Over the years, the Masons have played a key role in shaping the history of California. To date, 19 California governors have been Masons, and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today there are more than 40,000 members and about 330 lodges, making the Grand Lodge of California one of the largest in the world.