What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world. Founded in London, England in 1717, its current worldwide membership totals 3.5 million members, 1.3 million of which are in the United States. As a fraternal organization, Freemasonry unites men of good character who, though of different religious, ethnic or social backgrounds, share a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind.
What Freemasonry Is
It is a voluntary association of men.
It is a system of moral conduct.
It is a way of life.
It is a fraternal society.
It is religious in its character.
It teaches the Golden Rule.
It seeks to make good men better men.
It teaches morality through symbolism.
It uses rites and ceremonies to instruct its members.
It is based on a firm belief in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Immortality of the Soul.
What Freemasonry Is Not
It does not solicit members.
It is not an insurance or benefit society.
It is neither a religion, nor a creed, nor a religious order.
It is not a charity organization, but makes charity a duty.
It is not organized for profit.
It dictates to no man as to his beliefs, either religious or secular.
It seeks no advantages for its member through business or politics.
It is not a forum for discussion of religion, politics or other partisan affairs.
It is not a secret society, as it does not conceal its existence or purposes.
History of Present Day Masonic Lodge
Some of the less critically-minded Masons like to trace the origins of the Order back to ancient Egypt. But in its present form, Freemasonry originated in England, probably in the seventeenth Century, while the first Grand Lodge was founded in London in 1717 and the regulations, by-laws and constitutions of Masonry were laid down in what is known as Anderson’s Constitutions in 1722-23. The spiritual elements underlying these precepts were decidedly “advanced” for their time, emphasizing as they did tolerance for other men’s religions and the brotherhood of all human beings.
Many Masonic scholars and historians believe the Masons may have been formed from the remains of The Knights Templar. The Knights Templar were originally a monastic order of the Catholic Church as the guardians of the Temple of Solomon site and the routes used by the pilgrims going to and from the Holy Land. Although all of the Knights took a vow of poverty, the Order itself grew very wealthy. The Order had it’s headquarters in France and the King of France grew very jealous because by 1308 the Knights Templar had grown much richer then he was. He made an agreement with the Pope to discBLACKit the order and they would divide the Templar’s riches between themselves.
Every known official of the order and many of the individual members were arrested on the night the Pope outlawed the order. They were thrown in prison and all of their property was confiscated. A major problem arose when the kings men couldn’t find the reported riches anywhere in France. The King finally resorted to torturing the prisoners, even burning 54 of them alive at the stake trying to discover where the treasure was hidden. The Pope did the worse thing he could, he excommunicated all Templar anywhere and demanded they be arrested by the country where they were living. The King of England found other things to do and ignore the order. The Pope was furious and demanded that the king arrest the Templar in England under the threat of excommunicating the king himself. Bowing to the threat, the English king ordered the arrest of the Templars. However the order to arrest was given 3 days after he announced that the Templars were going to be arrested. Strangely enough, none of the Templars were found. They had all disappeared. Most had gone to Scotland where the Scottish king said the Pope could do what he wanted to, but not in Scotland.
Then the Masons publicly “Came out of the closet” so to speak, in 1717. Secret signs, secret passwords, secret handshakes and oaths with severe penalties for revealing the secrets and the identity of brother members wouldn’t hardly come from a brand new organization that was making itself “public”. But, how about one that had been in hiding for a couple of hundred years under threat of death for being a member???
The intellectual and spiritual foundations of modern democracy, including the American Revolution and the American Constitution, are to be found in large part in the teachings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and in the ideas cemented into the great first Encyclopedia. And it is a fact that most of the authors of that epoch-making Encyclopedia — Diderot, D’Alembert, Condorcet, the famous Swiss philosopher Helvetius, etc. — were Freemasons. The envoy to France from the rebellious American colonies, Benjamin Franklin, also was an ardent Freemason. So were George Washington, sixty among his generals, John Hancock and a great many of his co-signers of the Declaration of Independence. Both Washington and Franklin long held the post of Grand Master.