(1) What are the requirements for becoming a Mason?
Candidates must be male, at least 18 years of age, able to profess a belief in God, and of good character.
In Maine, no lodge, without the permission of the Grand Master, shall receive a petition of a candidate for the degrees until he has resided in this state one year, nor (excepting seafaring men absent only on a voyage to sea) unless he has had his domicile within the jurisdiction of the lodge during the last preceding six months.
(2) Can minorities be Masons?
Any person who meets the requirements listed in question (1) of this section is eligible, regardless of race or color.
(3) I have a physical disability. Can I be a Mason?
The answer is almost certainly yes, provided you can attend Lodge and meet the nonphysical 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 able 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.
(4) Can atheists be a Mason?
The only religious requirement is that candidates believe in a Supreme Being. If you can in good faith profess such a belief, you are eligible to be a Mason. No atheists will ever knowingly be made a Mason. There are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Mormon), Jewish, Buddhist, 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 a Supreme Being and the fact that Masonry is a fraternity, not a religion.
(5) 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.
(6) Do I have to be invited?
Don't wait to be invited-- you'll grow old 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!
(7) 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.
(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.
If you do not know a Mason, then please contact either the District Deputy or the District Educational Representative in the District nearest to your residence.
See the list of lodges in Maine to locate a Lodge near you or for the name of the District Deputy responsible for Freemasonry in your area.