The Fascinating History of Freemasonry

Masons are part of the oldest fraternal organization in the world, a group that began during the Middle Ages in Europe as a guild of skilled builders. As cathedral construction declined, Freemasonry evolved from the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral-builders. To counteract the dwindling number of members, some lodges began to accept honorary members. This led to the development of modern, symbolic or speculative Masonry, which adopted the rites and ornaments of ancient religious orders and chivalric brotherhoods.

In 1717, the first Grand Lodge was founded in England. Part of the mythology surrounding Freemasonry comes from its mysterious origins. One popular theory suggests that after being crushed by King Philip of France in 1307, some Knights Templar fled to Argyll in Scotland and reconstituted themselves as Masons. This theory has been widely debated by Masonic historians. The Constitution and Bill of Rights are believed to have been heavily influenced by the Masonic “civil religion”, which focuses on freedom, free enterprise, and a limited role of the state. The historical record shows two levels of organization in medieval Freemasonry: the lodge and the guild.

The revolutionary and sometimes violent past of the Masons now serves as a kind of historical footnote, since the order has become a peaceful part of American society.

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