Family of Freemasonry

Freemasonry is composed of several layers of membership. At its base are the three degrees of Craft or “Blue Lodge” Freemasonry. The fraternity looks to these three degrees as being the highest attainable, as all of the lessons of the fraternity can be found within them. But that has not precluded the development of the larger body, often referred to as the “family” of Freemasonry.

More on: Masonic Symbols and Freemasonry FAQs

This illustration depicts the entry point and progression of in the family of Freemasonry.

The extended family of Freemasonry and its appendant bodies

To the young mason, and to the non-mason, the various degrees and bodies may seem many and confusing, but upon careful examination and exploration, their roles and function will become clear.

A Brief Compendium of the Family of Freemasonry

Like stepping-stones to the fraternity at the foundational level of Freemasonry there are several Masonic youth groups. These groups also provide a means to enhance the family experience in Freemasonry, as parents are often participants and supporters along with their younger children. The purpose of these groups is to nurture adolescents and their sense of community and involvement.

These youth groups are:

Traditional Freemasonry

The foundation of Freemasonry is one of several branches that include several different types that cover the Symbolic Lodge and include gender-specific denominations, mixed-gender organizations and diversity specific representations.

Each of these diverse branches have evolved out of a particular need or interest in pursuing the study of Freemasonry.

This branch  of craft, or blue lodge, Freemasonry is denominated by three degrees, or steps, which are:

Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason

The Third Degree, that of the Master Mason, is the “highest” degree the can be given in most branches of Freemasonry.

In the United States, each state governs its own recognition, actions and degrees and is composed of its own local individualized “lodges” which are its principal meeting halls. Of important note, Prince Hall Freemasonry is recognized by many states in America, but is still considered by others to be “irregular,” which means they see it as not permissible for involvement in events or meetings with one another. All states in the U.S. see the co-masonic bodies as irregular.

An equal body of Grand Lodge Freemasonry is a feminine branch for women:

Order of the Eastern Star (O.E.S.)

Appendant Bodies of Freemasonry

Following the first three degrees of Freemasonry are additional bodies that provide further knowledge and insight to the tradition, building on the original three. These organizations split into two directions, whose teachings are slightly differently, but inherently teach the same message.

The two bodies are:

The York Rite

The Scottish Rite, which is further sub divided into:

As the Scottish Rite is split into two bodies in the continental United States, again teaching slightly different disciplines, within these systems are a conglomeration of additional degrees that offer further insight and philosophy.

Following this second step is a third, which has a slightly different focus, called:

Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine or A.A.O.N.M.S.
better known as Shriners International

The Shriner’s also have a notable (or notorious) sub organization, known as the:

Royal Order of Jesters


Auxiliary Bodies of Freemasonry

After these main bodies, there are ancillary groups of Freemasons who have come together to form additional clubs. These are on the national level and meet with regularity in a variety of locations.

These additional Bodies in the family of Freemasonry include:




But this is just part of the picture of Freemasonry in America. With so many “regular” organizations, there exist several outside of that sphere of recognition. This lack of recognition does not reflect necessarily on who they are or what they do, rather it is often a matter of procedural or policy. In many ways great strides are being made to establish recognition and build bonds, rather than breaking them down.

Irregular Masonic bodies

Rites of Memphis Misraim


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The Family of Freemasonry

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View Comments (14)

  • I was raised a master mason in lodge St. Andresw 1756, and am a past master of the same, I now live in Miami, Florida and do not attend a lodge. I love masonary and continue to study, I am desperate to find a home. I feel that true masonic practice is the best thing that could happen to this world.

  • Robert,
    If you're a youth, I suggest you join DeMolay, however, you must be between 12 and 21 and of good character and morals to join. That's the first step. Their url is http://www.demolay.org/ . If you're 21 and over , I suggest you contact the Grand Lodge in your area. Or if you in California, go to freemasons.org on your computer .

  • I rise from a long line of Prince Hall freemasonry. My Grandparents were both Prince Hall/Eastern Star in California , but past away before I was old enough to walk thourgh on bloodline:
    I study as much as I can given information may availble please inlighten in my path to walk.

  • My name is antonio, i'm from Brazil, and i going to Bordeaux in march 18, i'd like to visit a lodge in your city, it will be a pleasure for me, i'm brother ijn Oliveira Zaninni lodge, number 45, grand lodge of Paraná, south of Brazil. i'm a doctor and i'm going to bordeaux for a congress. Thanks for atencion.

  • I'm just saying Prince Hall (PHA) is recognized in many many countries. Just in the southern parts of the U.S. some cities in the south do accept African Americans but many don't of bigotry and personal thinking instead of going by the book. We fight these wars around the with brothers of different races standing side by side living and dying with our fellow brothers in the military. I've traveled many places in this world we live in and a lot of outstanding mason gave me brotherly love in different countries and knew I was PHA. Plus Scottish Rite recognized us as well. So to say or list us as irregular is ridiculous. Just my opinion I love this great fraternity and the people in it. If you want positive LIGHT you have to Live it.

  • I agree with the last respondent who says "God Bless our Family of Freemasonry". He is so right.
    I am a Past Worshipful Master and Past 1st Principal. The experience of Freemasonry is so important to those who make the decision to embrace it into their lives. My greatest love of Freemasonry is that is believes in the equality of man. No matter what his religion or race. You are welcome into our fraternity. The greatest fraternity of mankind which has existed over many centuries.
    I have read the responses by the Prince Hall Masons and I have had the honour of meeting with some of their brethren in years gone by. My thoughts are of Nat King Cole, a famous Prince Hall Mason. He is my favourite musician from the 1950' and 1960s and of course there are many others.
    In Australia we do not exclude anyone who has the genuine desire and the proper character and background from joining our Lodges. In fact, some of our most cherished members have been of our indigenous people.
    May that continue. God Bless Freemasonry.
    Colin Irwin.

  • My grandfather and father were Freemasons, and my grandmother Eastern Star. I have vague memories of Christmas Parties and bits and pieces of 'adult' conversations!.
    I am interested in learning more about this part of my heritage. Is this a possibility and if so please point me in the direction!
    Thank you for any help with this!!

  • He leido hace tiempo el libro de oro de los masones: en esa revista vi la figura de JIMMY CARTER, como masón grado 33. Sin embargo, hoy, cuando pregunto por internet.,: ¿fue JIMMY CARTER MASON?, no encuentro respuesta....Alguién puede confirmarlo, y si realmente es en la actualidad? por favor....

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