The concepts of giving someone "the third degree" and "blackballing" have their roots in Masonic rituals that deal with admitting new members or elevating a member's status. So do the phrases "on the level" and "being square," which originated as building terms.
Fourteen U.S. presidents have been Masons, including George Washington, both Roosevelts, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. So have more than 35 Supreme Court justices, including Thurgood Marshall and Earl Warren.
Other famous Masons include Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, Charles Lindbergh, Medgar Evers, Henry Ford, John Glenn, Douglas MacArthur, W.A. Mozart, the Mayo Brothers, Willie Mays, Col. Harlan Sanders, Peter Sellers and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Scottish Rite, York Rite, Knights Templar ... the internecine connections and histories of all the various categories of freemasonry are far too complicated to detail here. Just remember this one: You have to be a Mason to be a Shriner, but not all Masons are Shriners.
There is a "Freemasons for Dummies" book, and it is regarded by many Masons as a great way to explain their fraternity to laypeople, so they don't have to.
The all-seeing eye atop a pyramid that appears on the Great Seal of the United States and the U.S. dollar bill is sometimes used by Freemasons, but it did not originate with them.
Masons do not worship at their meetings. They use prayers in the same way that government bodies such as Congress do, to open and close sessions.
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