What makes you a Freemason?


To answer the question, “What makes you a Freemason?” I conducted desk research online to determine what Freemasons think about their duties, obligations, and responsibilities. I have based my examination on two basic themes: I compared the ritual books and rituals of the different Masonic Orders, and I examined the international norms of Duty, Obligation, and Responsibility from a Masonic perspective.

Clarification of the concepts under consideration

The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the greatest representatives of German idealism, is credited with saying that “if you argue with someone, first clarify the phrases, then you may not argue at all.” First, Let’s examine the interpretation of the most essential principles and terms relevant to the subject.

Basics of Freemasonry

According to a definition appearing on the Internet: (https://www.freemason.com/what-is-freemasonry/)

“Freemasonry is one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world. It unites men of good character who, though of different religious, ethnic, or social backgrounds, share a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind. 

Freemasonry offers a system or blueprint for the good man to further improve his character and actions through its system of degrees, symbols, and fellowship opportunities.”

It should be seen that Freemasonry has two central systems:

  1. It is customary to call “English System Freemasonry.” Here, among other things, faith in God is a fundamental requirement. This Freemasonry does not question the manifestation of this faith. The discussion of religious and political matters in regular lodges is forbidden. The concept of the Great Architect of the Universe serves as a neutral designation for the deity within Freemasonry, allowing members to represent the divine in whatever form or by whatever name they individually believe in.
  1. In the so-called Latin or French Freemasonry, which calls itself adogmatic, belief in God is not a requirement.

The regular and irregular Masonic systems have in common that their work is carried out between rites.

The most well-known rites are:

York Rite, also known as the American Rite, is composed of three cooperative groups:

  • Royal Arch Masonry focuses on recovering lost knowledge.
  • Cryptic Masonry (Council of Royal & Select Masters): concentrates on hidden knowledge and symbolism.
  • Knights Templar: emphasizing chivalry and Christian themes.

Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite

Its degrees cover the fields of morality, philosophy, and esoteric knowledge.

The basic degrees (1-3) are the same in both systems: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. The higher degrees are added to this.

We generally hear that the York Rite is more theological and that the Scottish Rite is more philosophical. This means that, in general, the York Rite focuses more on the religious aspects, while Scottish Rite masonry is more of a thinking process about what we can learn.

In addition to these, plenty of other rites are used around the world.

Some of the better-known rites, without being exhaustive:

  • Adonhiramita rite (practiced in Brazil, Portugal, Uruguay, and France),
  • Portuguese rite,
  • Brazilian rite,
  • Irish rite,
  • French Rite and French Philosophical Rite,
  • Moorish Rite,
  • National Mexican Rite,
  • Corrected Scottish Rite,
  • Swedish Rite,
  • Martinist Rite,
  • Pennsylvania Rite (only in Pennsylvania, USA),
  • Philosophical Scottish Rite (still practiced in Belgium),
  • Eclectic Rite (in Germany and Switzerland),
  • Schroder rite (in Brazil, Germany, and Hungary)
  • St. John rite – – Rito São João (in Brazil)
  • Hungarian rite,
  • Draskovits rite,
  • Emulation rite
  • In addition to these, older rites were no longer used.


Most lodges on the American continent follow the York Rite or the “Preston-Webb” version. This is a combination of the English and American systems.

Preston fixed the system used in England, and Thomas Smith Webb revised the Lodge, Chapter, and Commandery ritual. Most United States Grand Lodges confer a derivative of the Preston-Webb ritual for the three symbolic degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason).

There are variations within most of the rituals adopted by United States Grand Lodges, usually associated with rhetoric and sequence of events.

Masons work in lodges. It should be clarified that a Masonic lodge.

  • It is not a friendly society; although its members regard each other as brothers,
  • It is not a table society; although its members like to be together and talk freely,
  • It is not a religion, although meetings are ceremonial, and it is customary to call a lodge a temple.
  • Not a political party. Members have complete freedom of opinion and thought. Members may individually make political commitments, but they cannot discuss them with each other in the lodge.
  • It is not a self-education group, although members are responsible for constantly polishing themselves. Members give lectures to educate themselves on issues affecting our society, culture, and economics.
  • It is not a job center or a stepping stone to success, although solidarity is one of the Masonic principles. Members can rely on each other when needed.

The rituals of Freemasonry are a vital part of the organization, providing moral guidance to lodge members. Given that lodges live and work within the challenges of modern society, the rituals used by lodges bear witness to the values and principles that define Masonry’s identity.


The rights, obligations, duties, and responsibilities

Duty and obligation

The concepts and the terms of duty, obligation, and responsibility are part of our everyday lives and shape our behavior toward society and others.

According to a definition found on the Internet: “A duty is a commitment or expectation to perform some action in general or if certain circumstances arise.”

“An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral.”

For ease of understanding, the duty is to obey the law, an obligation assumed or imposed by law to conduct oneself in conformance with a certain standard or to act in a particular way.

In other words, duty is a responsibility required as part of a job or position, and the obligation is a moral or legal responsibility to do something.

Moral obligations involve choices about what is right or wrong, regardless of legal requirements. Obligations (Obligation, a social theory by Ross and Ralph Gilbert) are present in all areas of life, most notably in social norms and religion. Different individuals have different obligations based on factors such as age, role, and social status.

“Duties are tasks or actions that an individual is expected to perform as part of their job or role, enforceable by law or rules. Obligations, however, refer to a moral or ethical responsibility to fulfill or complete specific tasks or promises, not legally enforceable but tied to personal honor or societal norms”.

Cicero, a Roman orator, writer, jurist, and philosopher, describes the sources of duties in his work “On Duties,”

“The duty

  1. as a result of being a human

  2. as a result of one’s particular place in life (one’s family, one’s country, one’s job)

  3. as a result of one’s character

  4. as a result of one’s own moral expectations for oneself”


According to Webster’s dictionary, “responsible” means quality and condition. However, responsibility is also a moral, mental, or legal category based on accountability, reliability, and trustworthiness.

I would like to put the question of responsibility in a slightly more straightforward way:

A responsible person does not pass on to others who consciously assume the consequences of his or her decisions, judgments, actions, deeds, conduct, or behavior arising from his or her principles and moral outlook.

According to a definition found on the internet: “Responsibility is the ability to measure and identify the consequences of an entire action, in full consciousness and freedom. That is, responsibility is the ability to determine what the effect of an action will be.”

Responsibility involves several aspects: understanding the consequences of our actions and making decisions based on ethical principles and laws.

Amongst others:

  1. Legal and moral liability:

o Legal responsibility means fulfilling obligations and compliance with the law. For example, everyone is legally responsible for traffic violations.

o Responsibility for the care of assets and resources: e.g., the proper use and maintenance of machinery and equipment in the workplace.

  1. Social responsibility: participation in society and acceptance of one’s role in the community.
  2. Personal responsibility: facing the consequences of one’s actions and choices.

Overall, responsibility allows us to assess and identify the consequences of our actions with full awareness and freedom. Taking responsibility means responding consciously to facts and circumstances.


The Declarations

The UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, but the UN still awaits any declaration of human obligations and responsibilities.

The Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities (DHDR), proposed in 1979, outlines the duties and responsibilities inherent in our human rights systems. It is based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



As its title suggests, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regulates the rights of humanity and people living in societies. For our discussion, we should highlight the important statement of the UDHR contained in Article 19.

It states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Article 29 of the UDHR Declaration talks about obligations, but only in general terms.

UDHR stated: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.”



The Declaration of Human Duties and Responsibilities aims to reconcile once antagonistic ideologies, beliefs, and political views.

The DHDR stated that when rights and responsibilities are balanced, freedom is enhanced, and a better world can be created.

The DHDR was adopted by the InterAction Council in 1997. It recognizes all people’s dignity, equality, and inalienable rights and the foundations of freedom, justice, and peace.

According to the DHDR, all human beings have duties and responsibilities.

Some highlights from the Declaration of Duties:

  • Duties for the dignity of every human being
  • Solidarity and human treatment: All human beings must treat all human beings humanely, and all people must treat each other in solidarity.
  • No one is above right and wrong; all are subject to moral standards.
  • Responsibility for a better society: All people should promote the good and avoid the bad.


The DHDR highlighted that because the UDHR recognizes all people’s equal and inalienable rights, the DHDR emphasizes that these rights should be balanced with responsibilities. A better social order, both nationally and internationally, cannot be achieved by laws alone; it requires a global ethic.

In DHDR Article 1, “duty” and “responsibility” are defined for the declaration: “duty” means an ethical or moral obligation, and “responsibility” is an obligation that is legally binding under existing international law.


The rights, obligations, duties, and responsibilities of Freemasons

The above definitions clarify and analyze Freemasons’ rights, obligations, duties, and responsibilities.

Are you a Freemason?

In Masonic rituals, a question is asked: Are you a Freemason? The answer to this question varies from one rite to another and from one degree to another within each rite.

Let’s look at some examples:

We can find in the Entered Apprentice level (the First Degree) at the Duncan’s Ritual Monitor Index:

  • Are you an Entered Apprentice Mason?
  • I am so taken and accepted among all brothers and fellows.
  • What makes you an Entered Apprentice Mason?
  • My obligation.


In the York Rite in I. Degree:

  • You are a Mason, I presume.
  • I am so taken and accepted among Brethren and fellows. 
    • What makes you made a Mason?
    • My obligation. 

In the Scottish Rite – one of the irregular lodges – it goes like this:

  • Are you a Mason?
  • I am recognized as such by my brothers.
  • In this rite, the question of duty is not mentioned in the text of the rite, but in the First Degree, the Master of the Lodge states at the time of the oath that “it is not contrary to any other human or civic obligation.”

The examples above show whether “Are you a Mason?” is answered in the affirmative in the rites studied. It is perhaps not a mistake to assume that the non-examined rites may be no different.

As to the question, “What makes you made a Mason? We also see the same answers in the different rites and degrees. Nor does it seem wrong to say that obligation is the expression common to the various Masonic systems and other rites.

This is why it is worth examining the relationship of Masonic obligations to its rights, duties, and responsibilities.


Masonic Rights, Obligations, and Duties

Masonic Rights

Many researchers and theorists consider Freemasonry’s role necessary in developing and maintaining democratic societies. I consider myself one of them.

Democratic rights require that the free flow of information and the protection of resources contribute to social development and the protection of individual rights.

Freemasons consider it a fundamental right to know what is happening in society. The US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are excellent examples of the development of a framework of democratic law.

In the internal forums of the Masonic Orders, there is much talk about the rights of the Masons as individuals and of the lodges and grand lodges, but less about the obligations.

It is regularly said in Masonic forums that this also applies to Freemasons, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So, every Mason has the right to access all information sources and be freely informed. However, more information is needed on the obligations.

Previous research among Freemasons has shown that many believe it is their duty and responsibility to seek the truth and analyze events and issues. According to the research participants, this research also revealed that a responsible Mason is one who consciously accepts the consequences of his decisions, judgments, actions, deeds, conduct, and behavior based on his principles and moral outlook.


Duty and Obligation

Based on the various rituals examined, we can conclude that Freemasonry also makes a fundamental distinction between obligation and duty. Although they are related terms, they have different meanings.

The term obligation, although not always in the form of a question and answer, is used in all the rites examined. The issue of obligation is of equal importance in the different rites.

The Masonic duty is something a Mason “must do,” which cannot be legally enforced but must be done by the Mason because it is bound up with his personal honor and integrity, such as regular lodge meeting attendance and support for fellow Masons in need.

The term duty means that a freemason must fulfill according to his ethical, moral, and legal principles of Freemasonry. (For ease of understanding: for example, a doctor’s duty under the Hippocratic Oath is to provide medical care, not to harm patients.)

The exact meaning of the obligation may vary depending on the Masonic rite, jurisdiction, and degree. However, the various rites are identical in that the term obligation in Freemasonry refers to a solemn promise or commitment made by a Mason during the initiation ceremony. The essence of this commitment is common to the various rites, i.e., the binding promises made by the candidate to uphold the principles, values, and secrets of the fraternity. The candidate takes an oath to keep all aspects of Masonic doctrine secret.

So, the obligation is a declaration of adherence to Masonic principles, secrets, and duties.

The obligation is the basis of their Mason’s fraternity. It represents the candidate’s commitment to personal growth, moral development, and adherence to Masonic ideals.

A fundamental obligation – the commitment – of Freemasons, for example,

  • To live by the principles of Freemasonry.
  • To observe the fundamental principles of the Masonic Charter.
  • To uphold the secrecy of the Masonic Fraternity.
  • Regular payment of Lodge dues.

Personal commitment reflects Mason’s character, honesty, and integrity. Breach of commitment is considered a serious offense within the fraternity, as it is a principal issue in the initiation process. It emphasizes honor, loyalty, and mutual respect among lodge members who are considered brothers.

Perhaps it is not a mistake to say that while duty implies broader responsibilities within and outside the lodge, obligation refers to promises made during initiation.

While duties refer to specific tasks related to a job or role, obligations involve broader moral or ethical responsibilities related to personal integrity and social norms.

Among the obligations highlighted is “To live by the principles of Freemasonry.” This includes the obligation of Masons to accept, voluntarily and by inner compulsion, the fundamental values of Freemasonry.

One Masonic website stated: “The core values of Freemasonry revolve around the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Acting as a guiding beacon for members, these values encourage fraternal harmony and moral discipline within the brotherhood.”

Scottish Rite Freemasonry is guided by six Core Values:

  • Reverence for God
  • Integrity
  • Justice
  • Tolerance
  • Service to Humanity
  • Devotion to Country

Masonry is like the work of journalists in terms of rights, duties, and obligations since the work of media professionals is also governed by a set of rights, duties, obligations, and responsibilities that apply to Freemasons.

Journalists are responsible for upholding the standards of accuracy and fairness that apply to Freemasons. Masons are also like journalists in that they are responsible for respecting confidentiality and responsible sourcing.

The responsibility of Freemasons

Freemasons have a multi-directional responsibility. The most important (not all) are:

  • Moral discipline and personal development: Masons are committed to self-improvement, moral development, and adherence to Masonic principles.
    • Because they are obligated to examine and study themselves constantly, they are responsible for striving to become better people.
    • Charitable work and mutual aid: to help their fellow Masons and their families in times of difficulty. Charitable work philanthropy is a part of the Masons’ sense of responsibility.
  • Community and brotherhood: Freemasons build strong bonds with other members, creating a support network. Lodge meetings and other Masonic social events promote brotherhood and camaraderie.
  • Preserving traditions: Freemasons are the keepers of tradition. They preserve ancient rituals, symbols, and teachings, passing them down through generations and contributing to the continuity of Masonic wisdom.
  • Social and community involvement:
    • o Masons are actively involved in community, civic activities, volunteer work, and public service,
    • o Masons aim to make a positive impact outside the lodge.
  • Freemasons have an outstanding responsibility to promote the ideas of the Enlightenment in society:
    • Masons promoted Enlightenment ideals such as individual liberty, dignity, and democratic government.
    • Freemasons promote intellectual development and critical thinking.
    • Masons have a personal respect for history. Masons respect history and tradition.


In relation to Masonic responsibility, one of the lodge rituals stated: ‘The primary purpose of our lodge is to study and analyze the society, the political, economic, and cultural processes. We consider it our duty to express ourselves in the interests of progress. Masonic principles forbid comments on ordinary party politics, but we have the opportunity to comment on general or specific issues of interest to society and to present our views to the public.”


Freemasons seek to contribute to the development of societies by fulfilling the duties, obligations, and responsibilities listed above, embodying their responsibilities, striving to be good people, improving themselves, and striving for a positive future.

Thomas Barat


About the author:

Thomas Barat, a retired professor. Founding Editor-in-Chief of CCO MAGAZINE, a magazine for communication leaders, and GORATOR.INFO – Masonic media portal.

He previously served as Director of Education at the European Institute for Media and Communication and has written seventeen books on applied communication.

He has chaired the Ethics Committee of the Association of Hungarian Journalists and was President of the Hungarian Media Self-Regulatory Board.

Thomas Barat is a member of various professional organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists (USA), the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the USA (AFPC-USA), the Association of Hungarian Journalists, the Hungarian Public Relations Association, and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations UK.

Thomas Barat started his Masonic career in one of the oldest lodges in Hungary, the Martinovics Lodge. During his Masonic career, he held various lodge offices. He has been secretary, orator, Master of a Scottish Rite Lodge, and Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Grand Orient of Hungary.

Later he was the Master of the Pillars of Light Lodge, one of the lodges of the Hungarian Symbolic Grand Lodge.

Thomas Barat has masonic activity outside Hungary. In New York, he has held the offices of Marshal, Master of Ceremonies, and Librarian and is currently the Orator of Abravanel Lodge.

He is a Masonic researcher and member of the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle (QC), London, the American Lodge of Research, and the QC Budapest Research Circle.


Literature and Internet resources used for research

Masonic custom is not to give the names of authors whose works are used as sources. The reason for this is that Freemasons can only claim to be members of the fraternity. No other outside stranger may do so. Therefore, the bibliography of the research should not include the exact names of the sources. Thus, this research report can only mention the most important sources, which cannot be linked to an individual name.

The English version of the research report is available on ResearchGate and Academia.edu.





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