What is Freemasonry? This question has been asked by many people over the years, and there is no one answer that fits everyone. Freemasonry is a fraternity with origins dating back to medieval stone masons guilds. These guilds slowly evolved into the modern day freemasons, and today there are tens of thousands of masons around the world. While there is no one definitive answer to the question of “what is freemasonry,” there are some common themes that run through the fraternity. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of Freemasonry and its connection to stone masons guilds. We will also discuss how lodges work and how they are related to grand lodges.
The Early Years
The stonemasons were a highly skilled and respected group of workers during the Middle Ages. They built some of the most impressive structures of the time, such as castles, cathedrals, and town halls. The stonemasons guilds were very secretive, and only members of the guild were allowed to learn the trade secrets.
The stonemasons guilds slowly transformed into Freemasonry over the years. The first recorded meeting of masons was in 1475, in England. However, it wasn’t until 1717 that four lodges met at the Goose and Gridiron tavern in London to form the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster. This event is considered to be the birth of Freemasonry as we know it today.
In 1751, the United Grand Lodge of England was formed. This organization unified all of the lodges in England under one governing body. Today, there are grand lodges all over the world, each with their own member lodges.
Lodges and Grand Lodges
So what is a lodge? A lodge is a group of masons who meet regularly to discuss Masonry, plan events, and support each other. While all lodges are warranted by a grand lodge, they are still independent bodies. This means that each lodge has its own bylaws, rituals, and governing structure.
Grand lodges are the governing body for masons in a specific geographic area. In England And Wales this Grand Lodge is UGLE (The United Grand Lodge Of England), whereas Scottish lodges fall under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge Of Scotland, Irish lodges are governed by The Grand Lodge of Ireland etc..
Provincial Grand Lodges
As a Grand Lodge usually governs over the lodges within a country, there are also Provincial Grand Lodges which govern lodges within a smaller region within those countries. Derbyshire for example falls under the governance of The Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire masons are under the Provincial Grand Lodge of Nottinghamshire etc…
Within the provinces are the individual lodges, governed by their local Provincial Grand Lodge which in-turn are governed by the country’s Grand Lodge.
The First Recorded Use of the word “Freemason”
The first recorded use of the word “freemason” dates back to 1375, in Regius Poem, a manuscript written by a poet named William Batman. The poem is about a group of stonemasons who build King Solomon’s Temple. It is believed that this group of masons were the first to use the word “freemason” to describe themselves.
The Templar Connection
The Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple of Solomon, was a group of warrior monks who were founded in 1119. They were some of the most skilled fighters of their time and fought in the Crusades. Following the disbandment of the order in 1312 there is a theory that the Templar Knights went underground and over time became the Freemasons.
The Theory of Ancient Mysteries
There is a theory that the Freemasons are descendants of the ancient mystery schools. These mystery schools were groups of philosophers, priests, and thinkers who gathered to discuss things like ethics, morality, and spirituality. Many of the founding fathers of the United States were Freemasons, and there is a theory that they based the structure of the government on the principles of the mystery schools.
While there is no concrete evidence to support this theory, it is an interesting idea to consider.
How Would Members Describe Freemasonry?
To each Freemason, masonry means different things. For some it’s little more than a social club for them to get together and meet like-minded people. For others it is a more spiritual organisation, where members can develop themselves, with masonry professing to make “good men better”.
One of the most common descriptions which can be seen all over the internet is: “Freemasonry is a system of morality, vailed in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, but this is in itself quite an ambiguous explanation of what freemasonry actually is.
What Freemasonry Isn’t
There are many whacky theories that the Freemasons are actually the fabled “Illuminati”, hell bent on governing the world via a “new world order”…. Total “hogwash”.
There was an Illuminati this is true, originally set up by a Bavarian Professor by the name of Adam Weishaupt in 1776. Weishaupt was reportedly a Freemason (although never became a Master Mason) who along with 4 others split away to form his own secret society originally called the “Covenant of Perfectibility” or “Perfectibilists”, later renamed to the Order of Illuminati.
The Illuminati struggled for membership and various internal disagreements and eventually disbanded in 1785, after only 9 years!
Can Women Become Freemasons?
The short answer is Yes, however traditionally Freemasonry is a Fraternity or male orientated organisation.
In the US, women’s Freemasonry is usually in the form of The Order of The Eastern Star or Jobs Daughters which is a youth movement affiliated to Freemasonry in the USA.