I have been a voracious reader my whole life and have crammed a lot of life experience into my short 33 years on this planet. I have worked many trades and made many friends along the way, when I first knocked upon the door of Freemasonry.
My first cognizant recollection of Freemasonry is of a friend of mine in the Navy who planned to join the Fraternity when he got out of the service. His plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail, grow a beard to his chest and be a 32° Mason by the time he finished. We had been discussing the solution to life's questions over way too many Guinnesses and I remember asking him, in ignorance, why he wanted to join an Anti-Catholic organization. I don't remember where or when I gathered that info on Freemasonry, but sometime during my Irish Catholic rearing I must of heard that statement, and at the all knowing age of 19 shot that opinion at my friend. He said that he was pretty sure that that was not true, and as far as I know (because after the service we never kept in touch), went on with his plan. Even after all of my heady pleading that night.
I have always been an avid reader. My love of reading began in Junior High School when I read "The Island" by Gary Paulsen. It was a very introspective book for a teenager and began my lifelong search for the answers to the bigger questions in life and my appetite for reading. In High School I read every Tom Clancy novel which explains my stint in the U.S. Navy but much of my taste in reading revolved around History and Philosophy. I read many books that touched on Freemasonry but I never paid the subject much attention.
It wasn't until a really hard time in my life, while watching one of those wonderful History Channel exposés on The Craft, that something made me run to the computer to do one of my routine Google searches on a subject that had piqued my interest. That something, was one of those great sinister sounding lists of men in history who were Freemasons, including many of the Founding Fathers of the country I love. I wanted to know more about a fraternity whose membership included such a diverse spectrum of men. I didn't know any Freemasons so I turned to the only place in my living room to find out more, the Internet.
Luckily the first thing that comes up on a Google search of "Freemasons" is the Wikipedia article on the subject. It was quite informative and had links to the Grand Lodges of every State. I then went to the Grand Lodge of Connecticut's website and found out there was a lodge right in the city where I lived, in fact there were two! I found an excuse to leave the house and took a ride down to the closest one to where I lived.
It was a dark and stormy night when I drove past the lodge, nothing ominous just a low pressure system passing through. I had to go by twice because the building whose address matched what I was looking for was an old brownstone church, nothing like the Knights of Columbus Hall I spent time in my youth with my father. Yet it had to be the lodge because it had an old, weather beaten Square and Compass hanging on a post in the front yard. I have to admit at that point my curiosity became something much more than passing. I went home and started researching Freemasonry with much more vigor than before.
I read everything I could find on the Internet about it. Everything from the kook anti-mason sites, to Grand Lodges websites from every state in the union and far beyond. I was surprised to find out there was so much stuff to learn about something I had barely heard anything about my entire life. I asked my Father what he knew about Freemasons and he said that he had heard of them but, did not know any, or anything about what they do. I received the same response from most of my friends and family which I thought was quite odd. I found this odd because, according to the conspiracy sites, this secret society actually ruled the world from some underground lair, so someone I knew should have heard something about them. Yet when I asked people about Freemasons I usually received a blank stare and a look of "I understand the words you are saying (Free Mason)but not how, or why they go together". Another response was "yes, I know someone who can rebuild your stone wall, but he works for money". I received my first positive response from my Father in law down South, who said he knew a few Freemasons but did not know much about what they did.
I didn't let any of this deter me because, from what I had read about Freemasonry, it seemed to me to be a reputable organization with many good aspects I could easily see myself adopting. I even learned that the Shriners, an organization I saw every year driving their mini-cars in the St. Patrick's Day Parade were all Masons! Who knew! I always thought they were just a bunch of nice old men in funny hats that gave allot of money to sick kids.
What most intrigued me about Freemasonry was that it was (according to the stuff I read) still practiced the same way as it has been for 300 years, which appealed to my love of history. It was still an initiatory, esoteric society of men seeking to better themselves, which appealed to my philosophic nature. I have to admit that there was not one argument or outrageous statement on any of the "anti" websites that outweighed everything I had read about Freemasonry on the rest of the web. So, after much careful thought and a long conversation with my wife, I decided that I had garnered enough positive information about the fraternity to freely and voluntarily submit myself to the mysteries of Masonry. It was time for me to knock.