Should I Ask?

  This  is  from  a  booklet  called  "Should  I Ask?", published by Supreme
  Council  Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite,  Northern  Masonic  Jurisdiction.

  Many years ago,  the famous Dr.  Albert Schweitzer wrote these magnificent
        It is not enough merely to exist....  Every man has to seek in
        his own way to make his own self more noble and to realize his
        own true worth.
  Those words capture the meaning of Freemasonry.  As the world's oldest and
  largest  fraternity,  our  goal  is  to  build  a  man's    most  valuable
  possession--his character.
  We believe that the strength of the family, the church,  the community and
  our  country  rests with men of strong conviction, firm ethical and  moral
  values and a devotion to our democratic system of government.  As  Masons,
  we help each other intensify our devotion to these enduring values.
  In a day when it seems  that  few  people  really care about rising to the
  highest and best in life, it is good to know that there is a group where a
  man can work to really improve himself.
  In lodge meetings,  there  is  no  talk  of  politics,  no  discussion  of
  religious issues, even though  every Mason must affirm a belief--according
  to his own understanding--in deity and devotion to his country.
  Masons are concerned with developing their minds and enlarging their scope
  of knowledge.  In a word, Masons are dedicated to becoming better men.
  Because a man's personal desire to build his own character is at the heart
  of being a Mason, you must ask to join. You must make the request.
  Men of every walk of life belong  to  Masonic  Lodges.   They are proud of
  their centuries of tradition, their belief in brotherhood, country and the
  many Masonic acts of charity and compassion.
                          THE FOUNDING OF FREEMASONRY
  The  origins  of  Masonry  reach  back to Medieval times  when  the  great
  cathedrals  of  Europe  were  built.    The stonemasons who created  these
  awe-inspiring Gothic structures formed craft guilds to protect the secrets
  of their trade and to pass on their knowledge to worthy apprentices.
  In 17th  century  England,  these guilds began accepting honorary members,
  men of learning  and  position.    These  new  members  were  not  working
  stonemasons or even associated  with  the  building  trades.  As "accepted
  Masons,"  they  eventually  grew  into   a  separate  organization  called
  Freemasonry, a moral and ethical society  that  taught  the  18th  century
  ideals of equality and the importance of education in freeing mankind from
  prejudice, superstition and social injustice.
                                 MASONRY TODAY
  Masons continue to use the simple tools of  the  ancient  stonemasons--the
  square  and  compasses, the trowel, plumb and level--as symbols  to  teach
  their ideals.  A Mason is oath-bound to build his  life and character with
  the  same  care  and  precision  that  stonemasons  used  to construct the
  cathedrals and temples centuries ago.
  Today,  there are almost five-million Masons in the world, with the United
  States claiming about three and one half million of the total membership.
                           MASONIC CONCERN FOR OTHERS
  Freemasonry has an  outstanding  record  for  helping  others.  Along with
  scholarships and loan funds  to  assist  young  people in furthering their
  education.  Masons support important  research  projects  aimed at finding
  answers to many devastating diseases.   Retirement homes and hospitals for
  the elderly provide care for those who can no longer care for themselves.
  One  of  Masonry's  associated groups operates institutes for the severely
  burned,  along  with  the  famous  hospitals  for crippled children, while
  another sponsers an eye foundation responsible for restoring sight to many
  youngsters and adults.
  One of the  nation's  most  prestigious schizophrenia research programs is
  sponsered by Scottish Rite Masons.  Nearly $8,000,000 has been contributed
  since 1934 to finding the  causes  of this widespread and devastating form
  of mental illness.
  Scottish Rite Masons also sponsor extensive programs to understand and aid
  children suffering from aphasia.  These youngsters have serious difficulty
  in learning to speak.  Other aphasic children  have  an inability to read,
  write and communicate in other ways.
  The  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage  in  Lexington,
  Massachusetts, expresses the strong Masonic committment to our country, as
  this  vigorous  institution  tells  the  story  of America to thousands of
  visitors.    It  fosters  a  feeling  of  patriotism  and  a dedication to
  principles which have made this country great.
                            THE IMPROVEMENT OF LIFE
  Yes, Masons are members of a fraternity that has its secrets, but the many
  charitable and character-building  activities of Freemasonry indicate that
  it is far from  a  secret  organization.    Masons  are  active  in  their
  dedication to improve life.  Always ready to undertake a difficult task in
  a quiet, dignified way, today's Masons  go  about the job of extending the
  hand of brotherhood.
  It should not be surprising that so  many famous men have been proud to be
  called Masons.  George Washington and thirteen other  Presidents have been
  Masons.  Other countries honor such names as Simon Bolivar, Benito Juarez,
  Bernardo  O'Higgins,  Jose'  de  San Martin, Francisco de Paula Santander,
  Jose'  Rizal,  Jose'  Marti,  Pandit  Nehru,  Lajos Kossuth, Jonas Furrer,
  Guiseppe  Mazzini,  Eduard  Benes, John A.  MacDonald,  Edmund  Burke  and
  Winston Churchill. 
  But is is perhaps not as well known  that many leaders in the professions,
  arts and sciences and other human endeavors benefiting the  world at large
  have been members of the Masonic Fraternity.  A few  names  that  come  to
  mind  are such writers as Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Rudyard Kipling  and
  Mark Twain;  poets-playwrights--Wassily  I.   Maikow, Heinrich Heine, Jean
  P.C.  de  Florian,  Leopoldo    Lugoner   and  Antonio  de  Castro  Alves;
  musicians--Wolfgang Mozart, Jean Sibelius,  Franz von Liszt, Josef Hayden;
  philosophers--Johann  Wolfgang  Goethe, Gottholf E. Lessing  and  Francois
  Voltaire; medicine--Drs. Alexander Fleming, Jules Bordet, Antoine  DePage,
  Edward Jenner, Charles and William Mayo and Karl  and  William  Menninger;
  sculptor--Gutzon Borglum; artists--Charles W. Peale and  Alfons  M. Mucha;
  scientists--Hans C. Orsted, Jons Jakob Frk. von  Berzelius,  Alfred Edmund
  Brehm,  Luther  Burbank,  Johan Ernst Gunnerus, Albert Abraham  Michelson,
  Gaspard  Monge, C.F.S.  Hahnemann  and  Pedro  N.  Arata;    labor--Samuel
  Gompers;   industrialists and  commerce  leaders--Henry  Ford,  Walter  P.
  Chrysler, John Wanamaker, S.S. Kresge and J.C. Penney.
  Many others prominent yesterday and  today in these and other fields, such
  as  the  law,  religion,  space  exploration,    news  media,  sports  and
  entertainment, have a common bond to Freemasonry.
                                 THE FIRST STEP
  For the man who is  looking for deeper meaning in life and who wants to be
  part of a fraternity committed to  his  growth and improvement, Masonry is
  filled with marvelous opportunities and limitless possibilities.
  The first step in Masonry is one a man must take for himself.  He must say
  "I want to become a Mason." What follows will be a thrilling, exciting and
  extremely worthwhile.
  "Should I ask?"  That  is the one important question.  The answer is up to