Freemasons operate many of the world's greatest charitable organizations. The best known is the Shriners with their circuses, their colorful parades and their work on behalf of physically challenged children and the 22 Shriners Childrens Hospitals. Less known is that each Shriner must be a Freemason before being becoming a Shriner.
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Once accepted as an Apprentice Mason of the Craft Lodge, each member works his way up through three degrees. To earn each degree, a Mason must learn certain lessons and participate in a ceremony that illustrates them. At the third degree, he reaches Master Mason after which he may then petition to become a Noble of the Shrine.
Members of the Imperial Shriners International adhere to the principles of Freemasonry — brotherly love, relief and truth. In contrast to the more conservative work of Freemasonry, Shriners are distinguished by an enjoyment of life in the interest of philanthropy. Their buoyant philosophy has been described as "pleasure without intemperance, hospitality without rudeness and jollity without coarseness."