The Origin of Freemasonry

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All the regular Grand Lodges in the world trace themselves back to one or more of the Grand Lodges in the British lsles.

What are the origins of freemasonry? - Quora

There are two main theories of origin. According to one, the operative stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles had lodges in which they discussed trade affairs. They had simple initiation ceremonies and, as there were no City and Guilds certificates, dues cards or trade union membership cards, they adopted secret signs and words to demonstrate that they were trained masons when they moved from site to site.

The other theory is that in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, there was a group which was interested in the promotion of religious and political tolerance in an age of great intolerance when differences of opinion on matters of religion and politics were to lead to bloody civil war. The Cooke Manuscript, dating from about , set the pattern for what Anderson called the "Gothic Constitutions", the older histories and regulations of the craft. The regulations or charges follow, usually with instructions as to the manner in which a new mason should swear to them.


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Also around the will of a mason from Beverley gives a tantalising glimpse into the emergence of masonic regalia. An inventory of John Cadeby's possessions mentions several zona s, or girdles. Two were silver mounted, and one of these had the letters B and I in the middle, indicating Boaz and Jachin , the twin pillars of Solomon's Temple. The following century and a half produced few new manuscripts. The Dowland manuscript , whose original is now lost, and Grand Lodge No 1 , for the first time locate Edwin's assembly of Masons at York. The Lansdowne , originally dated to this period, is now thought to date from the 17th century.

It was during this period that the Reformation occurred. It was at one time assumed that the church was the major employer of masons, and with the Dissolution of the Monasteries the lodges disappeared. In , "The bill of conspiracies of victuallers and craftsmen" was passed, revoking their monopolies. In it was repealed, presumably because they were too useful to the government. While this was not chartered until , the state used it in the sixteenth century to procure and indent masons for building projects. In addition, masons were increasingly employed by private individuals.

Where Freemasonry Started

Robert Cooper, the archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, believes that the lost mystery play of the masons may survive in the ritual of contemporary masonic lodges. An early continental history quotes a 16th-century source that by , there were two Scottish masonic lodges recorded in France, one in Paris and the other in Lyon.


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  7. In Scotland, the lodges of masons were brought under the control of two crown appointed officials, the Warden General and the Principal Master of Work to the Crown, the latter being in existence from at the latest. Towards the end of the century, William Schaw held both these posts. These state "They shall be true to one another and live charitably together as becometh sworn brethren and companions of the Craft. Edinburgh became the "first and principal" lodge and Kilwinning the "second and head" lodge of Scotland, attempting to appease all parties.

    It was assumed that the King's warrant for the regulations would be obtained.

    History, Truths and Myths

    Kilwinning is noticeably absent from the list of lodges appending their endorsement. The charter seems to have lapsed when St Clair fled following a scandal, [27] and a second charter was granted to his son, also William St Clair, in The lasting effect of the Schaw Statutes arose from the directive that the lodges should employ a reputable notary as secretary, and that he should record all important transactions. The Scottish lodges began to keep minutes, and therefore the appearance of "accepted" or non-operative masons is better recorded than in England, where there are no known internal records of lodge proceedings.

    Sir Anthony was the King's Principal Master of Work, and the man who had effectively blocked the second St Clair charter, the lodges of Scotland being his own responsibility. The reasons that his brother and their friend were also admitted are unclear. The reasons and mechanisms for the transition of masonic lodges from operative communities to speculative fellowships remain elusive. As the responsibility for design shifted from the Master Mason to the architect in the sixteenth century, it is probable that architects started to join the lodges of the masons they worked with.

    While lodge records show a gradual development of mixed lodges in Scotland, it is evident that the lodge which initiated Elias Ashmole at Warrington on 16 October was mainly or entirely composed of speculative or accepted masons. In , four lodges and "some old Brothers" met at the Apple Tree Tavern in Covent Garden and agreed to meet again the next year to form a "Grand Lodge". The "old Brothers" were probably from the Cheshire Cheese and at least one other lodge. The early history of Grand Lodge is uncertain, since no minutes were taken until They agreed to restore their "Quarterly Communications", four meetings a year for the transaction of masonic business, and an annual assembly to elect the next Grand Master.

    At this meeting, they elected Anthony Sayer , Master of the lodge at the Apple Tree, of whom little else is known, and the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster was born.

    Origin Of Freemasonry In Question

    At this stage, it is unlikely that they saw themselves as anything more than an association of London lodges. This perception was to change very rapidly. The next year, George Payne became Grand Master. He was a career civil servant with the commissioners of taxes. In , they elected John Theophilus Desaguliers , a clergyman, an eminent scientist, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

    Thereafter, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to raise the profile of the organisation, all the Grand Masters have been members of the nobility. Desaguliers is often described as the "father" of modern freemasonry. It was Desaguliers who inscribed the dedication to Anderson's Constitutions, [4] headed the committee which directed and approved them, and supplied the "Gothic Constitutions" from which they were formed. Although he only served one term as Grand Master, he was twice Deputy Grand Master under figurehead Grand Masters, and at other times behaved as if he was Grand Master, forming irregular lodges to conduct initiations.

    It seems to have been Desaguliers who insisted that ritual be remembered rather than written down, leading to a dearth of material on the development of English ritual until after the formation of United Grand Lodge. These considerations cause many masonic historians to see him as the guiding intelligence as the new Grand Lodge embarked on an era of self-publicity, which saw the sudden expansion of speculative masonry, with a corresponding rise in anti-masonic groups and publications. Initiations began to be reported in newspapers.

    The noble grand masters were often fellows of the Royal Society, but the Duke of Wharton —23 had just had his Hell-fire club shut down by the government, and joined, or possibly formed, an anti-masonic group called the Gormagons almost as soon as he left office.

    From the installation of the new Grand Master was the occasion for a parade, originally on foot, later in carriages. This became the subject of some ridicule, until starting in there were also mock processions by anti-masonic groups, leading to the discontinuation of the practice in The rapid expansion of freemasonry also led to many new lodges failing after only a year or two. In addition to attacks from outside the craft, there were now disillusioned ex-masons willing to make money out of "exposures" of freemasonry. It was edited by the presbyterian clergyman, James Anderson , to the order of John Theophilus Desaguliers , and approved by a Grand Lodge committee under his control.

    This work was reprinted in Philadelphia in by Benjamin Franklin , who was that year elected Grand Master of Masons in Pennsylvania. It was also translated into Dutch , German , and French Anderson was minister of the Presbyterian church in Swallow Street , London, which had once been Huguenot church, and one of its four Deacons was Desaguliers' father. His reward for his labours was the copyright on the work.

    In time, and to Anderson's dismay, it was condensed into "pocket" editions over which he had no control and from which he received no income. It was expanded, updated, and re-published in The historical section, which comprises almost half the book, has already been described. This is followed by the "Charges", or general rules for the conduct of Freemasons, and Payne's Regulations, the specific rules by which Grand Lodge and the lodges under its control were to be governed. The ceremony for dedicating a new lodge was briefly outlined, and the work finished with a section of songs.

    Although the historical section was attacked at the time, and ever since, as being a work of obvious fiction, the work remains a milestone in masonic history. In common with other trades or mysteries, medieval masonry recognised three grades of craftsman;— the apprentice, the journeyman, and the master. An apprentice who had learned his craft became a journeyman, qualified to do all manner of masonic work. The master was also qualified as a project manager, often functioning as architect as well. He would sketch the day's work on a tracing board for execution by the journeymen and apprentices.

    An apprentice, after serving his term of seven years, could elect to pay to join a lodge, becoming an "entered apprentice". Alternatively, he could elect to freelance on the lower grades of building work as a "Cowan".

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    The journeymen were referred to as "fellows" or "fellows of the craft", which accords with the Regius poem's injunction line 51 that masons should "calle other felows by cuthe". The members of the lodge were "Brithers" brothers , a Scottish legal term for those bound to each other by oath. The Master was simply the mason in charge of the lodge, or one who had held that distinction. While the swearing of some sort of oath goes back to the earliest records of organised masonry, the first recorded ritual is not until , in the Edinburgh Register House manuscript.

    From this, and from other documents of the same period, such as the Trinity College, Dublin manuscript of , we can form an idea of the ritual of an operative lodge at the end of the 17th century.

    Enter the secret world of the Freemasons

    On taking of the oath of an Entered Apprentice a mason was entrusted with appropriate signs, a "Mason's Word", and a catechism. This was accompanied by much horseplay, which was probably excised as the craft became more gentrified.

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    The fellowcraft was made to take a further oath, and entrusted with two further words and the "five points of fellowship", which in were foot to foot, knee to knee, heart to heart, hand to hand, and ear to ear. The distinction between a fellowcraft and a master is unclear, and in many documents they appear to be synonymous. In Pritchard's Masonry Dissected , an exposure of masonic ritual written in by a disillusioned ex-mason, we see for the first time something recognisable as the three degrees of modern Freemasonry.

    There still remains the rank of Installed Master, which comprises the Master in charge of the lodge and its past masters, and involves its own ritual, words and signs, but entails being elected to take charge of the lodge for a year.

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