Freemasonry is a fraternal organization with a long and complex history. It is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt, with Thomas Paine and Caglistro tracing its roots back to this time. In the Middle Ages, it evolved from the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral-builders. As cathedral construction declined, some lodges of operational masons began to accept honorary members in order to reinforce their dwindling numbers.
This gave rise to 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. Evidence of associations or lodges in Scotland dates back to the end of the 16th century, with at least 13 lodges established throughout the country. By the beginning of the 16th century, these medieval guilds had acquired an institutional structure, which is considered to be the birth of modern Freemasonry.
The origins of Freemasonry are believed to date back to the construction of King Solomon's temple in biblical times. Members are expected to believe in a “Supreme Being”, follow specific religious rites, and maintain the secrecy of the order's ceremonies. The Dowland Manuscript and Grand Lodge No. 1 place Edwin's assembly of Masons in York for the first time.
The facts and origins of Freemasonry before the Grand Lodge existed are not fully known and are still the subject of intense speculation. Freemasonry is still more popular in the British Isles and in countries that were originally part of the British Empire. The schism between French and English Freemasonry is supposed to have originated at a general assembly of the Grand Orient of France in September 1877. Propagated by the advance of the British Empire, Freemasonry is still very popular in the British Isles and other native countries of the empire. A more credible story is that its early origins come from medieval merchant associations, similar to guilds.