"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. The Earth was without form, and void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved across the waters, and God said: 'Let There Be Light', and there was Light". This quote from Genesis 1: 1-3 is powerful, and it is also ironic that it is also read, to every Masonic candidate, during the very first Masonic Degree. It is suiting to a Fraternity, like Freemasonry, to have the new member start his path of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, with the word of God.
The exact beginning of the society of Freemasons is not known, but many historians, Masonic and Non-Masonic, have many theories. Some place the origins to the days of Noah's Ark, others may believe it began with the building of King Soloman's Temple, while some feel it originated with the building of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and others trace it to King Athelston, of England in 930 ad. These are highly unlikely, but I will admit, they do make for a very colorful history. However, the most widely supported, and accepted, theory places the origin of the Fraternity to the building trade guilds of the Middle Ages.
The possibility for this theory is because these skilled craftsmen were allowed to travel from city to city, to build the huge Cathedrals and beautiful Castles, which now dot the European landscape. Because of their incredible skills, these workmen; painters, carpenters, stonemasons, etc., were given the freedom to travel from job site to job site, they were not owned like the serfs and other residents of the kingdoms. It is believed this is where the term free-mason comes from.
The humble stone mason, with his common tools: the chisel, the hammer, the square, the plumb-line, and the compasses, were all he needed to create and build the magnificent edifices which have stood for centuries, and are admired by people to this day.
The place where these operative craftsmen ate, slept and drew up the plans for their construction projects, was called a "lodge". And, each town, or village, that had construction crews, had these lodges of masons, carpenters, painters, etc. This term has stayed in our vocabulary to this day, what was once called a lodge of Free-Masons, is now called a Masonic Lodge.
The friendship and brotherly love these men, and their families developed was an incredibly strong bond. One which was evident by the support of their fellow masons in distress, their widows and orphans. But, as the saying goes... all good things must come to an end, and there began an eventual "phasing out" of these massive construction projects. As this downsizing progressed, all the labor guilds began to lose members, and eventually discontinue all operations. However, these lodges of free masons, which had insisted on the high moral and ethical standards of its members, continued to survive.
The most accepted theory, for the continuation of these groups of "Operative" Masons and their Lodges is that they started to admit new members, men who were not operative stone masons. Doctors, Farmers, Sailors, Merchants and other men, from all walks of life were allowed to join. These men, who did not really work with stones and bricks, were called "Speculative" Masons. When these Speculative members joined the Masonic Lodges, Freemasonry became more of a club or Fraternity, than a labor guild. These new members, the Speculative Masons, became accepted as equals with the Operative Masons, in a spirit of Fraternal Brotherhood, hence the "Accepted" in Free and Accepted Masons. Although, this colorful beginning of Freemasonry in not necessarily factual, nor is it provable, it only serves to lend an "air" of antiquity to the origins of this Fraternity, as there were several hundred years between the operative and speculative lodges. For instance, there are no records of operative masonic lodges in England, after 1560, nor are there any records of operative lodges in Scotland, after 1580. So for any person to say there is an actual documented connecting lineage between the two has yet to be proven to any History Scholar, Masonic or Non-Masonic.
While this is the most "popular" theory, there is also some profound research which would trace the origins of Freemasonry to the original Knights Templar, who were founded in 1117. The original name of what we know as the Knights Templar was "The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Soloman in Jerusalem". This is obviously a long name to be called when people are referring to this group, over time the name was modified to "The Knights of the Temple", later it was modified even more, to the "Knights Templar". The name with which we are so familiar with today.
The Knights Templar, like the Freemasons, also had three "classes" of membership in its structure. The lowest being that of Sergeant-Foot Soldier, then the highest was that of a full Brother-Knight, the third classification was that of a Cleric-Chaplain-Secretary. The job assigned to each on was well known, and the orders were given by one Grand Master of the Knights Templar who answered directly to the Pope.
According to this theory, Pope Clement V, supported by Philip IV, King of France, issued an order to arrest and execute all of these Knights Templar. The date of this order is possibly significant in more than one way. Friday October 13th, 1307, was the date the Pope chose to start the systematic arrest and execution of these Christian Knights. This action by the Pope caused the Knights themselves to go "underground". These Knights were suddenly despised by the very people who had instituted their foundation. Which was a very confusing situation for these men to be in, the painful question of "WHY" would be one which became all too clear as time went on. All the wealth that the Knights accumulated became the object of desire in the eyes of the King. France was financially strapped, and the only way King Philip IV apparently felt he could continue the war against England was to convince the Pope to turn over much of the accumulated wealth these Knights possessed.
Where could these Knights flee to that would give them safe harbor ? The most reliable sources trace the travels of these Knights Templar to Scotland. Apparently Robert Bruce, the King of Scotland, in his desire to keep his country free from outside rule, decided he did not need to read the Papal Bull ordering the arrest and execution of the Knights. Besides, if the Knights Templar wished to relocate to Scotland, they might prove useful in the battles with England, either way both groups win. The Knights Templar find safe refuge and the Scots gained a new ally.
Of course in order to further conceal their identity from spys who worked for the Pope and the King of France the Knights would need to come up with new identities. The Knights Templar apparently devised a "cover-name", that of free mason, to use as the new name under which they would know themselves. Keep in mind that not all of the Knights Templar made it to Scotland, many were hiding out in other countries, and needed to find a way to regroup and to communicate with the other members. The Knights used these allegorical stories as not only to prevent their identity from being found out, but it also served as lessons in morality. The humbleness of the name of free-masons served as kind of a Knights Templar "witness relocation program", and helped to spare the lives of these humble Soldiers of Christ, the Knights of the Temple. If this theory is accurate, then it would most certainly explain the occasional references made, prior to 1717, of the Society of Freemasons.
Some of the earliest writings, which allude specifically to Masonry, are the Regis Manuscript, dated in 1390, and the Cooke Manuscript, written in 1400. According to the research Lodge, Quatuor Coronati, of England, the earliest records of non-operative Masons being admitted to the Masonic Lodges took place in June of 1600. The Laird of Auchinleck, John Boswell is registered to the Lodge in Edinburgh. In 1643, there were other names added to this list. They include Lord Alexander, Sir Anthony Alexander and Sir Alexander Strachan. In 1640, General Robert Moray is entered on the roster and in 1641 General Alexander Hamilton is added. Elias Ashmole and Randle Holme were both added in 1646 and the Earl of Cassillis was registered in 1672. According to the Phililethes Society, the first native born American to be made a Mason was Jonathan Belcher, in 1704, who was then the governor of Massachusetts.
Whether or not these records are proof of an earlier beginning of Fraternal Freemasonry has yet to be documented, but their being admitted to the "Society of Freemasons" sounds a lot like a Lodge of Freemasons. However, the date of June, 24th, 1717 is given as the "historically official" beginning of the Masonic Fraternity, as we know it today. This is when the United Grand Lodge ofEngland was formed, and from which all regular Masonic Lodges, in every country, can be traced to.
It wasn't until 1731 the first American Grand Lodge received its Constitution. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was Constituted in 1731, making it the first Grand Lodge in America. The first duly Constituted Lodge in America was Chartered July 30th, 1733, in Boston, Massachusetts. Additionally, as European trade routes expanded, these Lodges of Freemasons also spread. Eventually Lodges were set up in India, China, Africa, and many other Countries. For a complete listing of the U.S. and Internatinoal Grand Lodges, and contact information, please visit the webpage listing same.
As yu will see from the listing, the universal Brotherhood of Freemasonry truly extends into every farflung corner of the world. Yes, even into some of the communist and other less democratically run countries. Unfortunately, Freemasonry and membership in this Fraternity is "secret" in these places. Only because the governments are run with an iron fist. The leaders of these countries do no believe in having a country run by its citizens, like we are fortunate enough to have here in America.
One of the reasons that Freemasonry is such an important organization is because it promotes a Government of the people, with the elected citizens serving as their own leaders and lawmakers. Without the freedom to accomplish this, the citizens are the ones who suffer at the hands of the tyrannical leaders.
For an example, the former Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, a Mason, stated that he regretted allowing the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to return to Iran. The Ayatollah, who is not a Mason, upon seizing power, systematically destroyed Masonic Lodges, arrested, interrogated and imprisoned Masons, and even executed those who did not turn over the names of other Masons. This kind of brutal action leads me to ask... what was the Ayatollah afraid of anyway ? Could it be Democracy, and a peace filled country.
The above is reprinted by permission.
© 1995, Conspiracy of Hate: A Christian Perspective on the un-Christian Tactics of the anti-Masons. Anthony Harper - All Rights Reserved.
If you, or your Lodge, would like to post this information on your website, please feel free to contact Mr. Harper via email.
© 1995, Conspiracy of Hate: A Christian Perspective on the un-Christian Tactics of the anti-Masons. Anthony Harper - All Rights Reserved. If you, or your Lodge, would like to post this information on your website, please feel free to contact Mr. Harper via email.