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The history of Freemasonry encompasses the origins, evolution and defining events of the fraternal organisation known as Freemasonry. It covers three phases. Firstly, the emergence of organised lodges of operative masons during the Middle Ages, then the admission of lay members as "accepted" masons (a term reflecting the ceremonial “acception” process that made non stone masons members of an operative lodge) or speculative masons, and finally the evolution of purely speculative lodges, and the emergence of Grand Lodges to govern them. The watershed in this process is generally taken to be the formation of the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717. The two difficulties facing historians are the paucity of written material, even down to the 19th century, and the misinformation generated by masons and non-masons alike from the earliest years.
Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons that from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The degrees of Freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow, and Master Mason. The candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The degrees are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. Three degrees are offered by Craft Freemasonry, and members of any of these degrees are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by their own bodies.
A complete history of Freemasonry is beyond the scope of a single article. This article traces the early development of Freemasonry from organised bodies of operative stonemasons to the modern system of speculative lodges organised around regional or national "Grand Lodges". Notable events and developments of the modern period are also briefly described. The history of specific subjects, rites and jurisdictions within the general heading of Freemasonry is dealt with in detail elsewhere, in their own articles.
The earliest masonic texts each contain some sort of a history of the craft, or mystery, of masonry. The oldest known work of this type, The Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem, dates from between 1390 and 1425. This document has a brief history in its introduction, stating that the "craft of masonry" began with Euclid in Egypt, and came to England in the reign of King Athelstan (born about 894, died 27 October 939).Shortly afterwards, the Cooke Manuscript traces masonry to Jabal son of Lamech (Genesis 4: 20–22), and tells how this knowledge came to Euclid, from him to the Children of Israel (while they were in Egypt), and so on through an elaborate path to Athelstan. This myth formed the basis for subsequent manuscript constitutions, all tracing masonry back to biblical times, and fixing its institutional establishment in England during the reign of Athelstan (927–939).
Euclid, sometimes called Euclid of Alexandria to distinguish him from Euclid of Megara, was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "founder of geometry" or the "father of geometry". He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I. His Elements is one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics, serving as the main textbook for teaching mathematics from the time of its publication until the late 19th or early 20th century. In the Elements, Euclid deduced the theorems of what is now called Euclidean geometry from a small set of axioms. Euclid also wrote works on perspective, conic sections, spherical geometry, number theory, and mathematical rigour.
Jabal or Yabal is an individual mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in Genesis 4:20.
Lamech is a person in Cain's genealogy in the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis. He is a sixth-generation descendant of Cain ; his father was named Methushael, and he was responsible for the "Song of the Sword". He is also noted as the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible, taking two wives, Adah and Zillah (Tselah).
Shortly after the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England, James Anderson was commissioned to digest these "Gothic Constitutions" in a palatable, modern form. The resulting constitutions are prefaced by a history more extensive than any before, again tracing the history of what was now freemasonry back to biblical roots, again forging Euclid into the chain. True to his material, Anderson fixes the first grand assembly of English Masons at York, under Athelstan's son, Edwin, who is otherwise unknown to history.Expanded, revised, and republished, Anderson's 1738 constitutions listed the Grand Masters since Augustine of Canterbury, listed as Austin the Monk. William Preston's Illustrations of Freemasonry enlarged and expanded on this masonic creation myth.
The organisation known as the Premier Grand Lodge of England was founded on 24 June 1717 as the 'Grand Lodge of London and Westminster'. Originally concerned with the practice of Freemasonry in London and Westminster, it soon became known as the Grand Lodge of England. Because it was the first Masonic Grand Lodge to be created, convention calls it the Premier Grand Lodge of England in order to distinguish it from the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Constitutions, more usually referred to as the Ancient Grand Lodge of England, and the Grand Lodge of All England Meeting at York. It existed until 1813, when it united with the Ancient Grand Lodge of England to create the United Grand Lodge of England.
Dr. James Anderson was a Scottish writer and minister born and educated in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was ordained a minister in the Church of Scotland in 1707 and moved to London, where he ministered to the Glass House Street congregation until 1710, to the Presbyterian church in Swallow Street until 1734, and at Lisle Street Chapel until his death. He is reported to have lost a large sum of money in the South Sea Company crash of 1720. Anderson is best known, however, for his association with Freemasonry.
Augustine of Canterbury was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597. He is considered the "Apostle to the English" and a founder of the English Church.
In France, the 1737 lecture of Chevalier Ramsay added the crusaders to the lineage. He maintained that Crusader Masons had revived the craft with secrets recovered in the Holy Land, under the patronage of the Knights Hospitaller. At this point, the "history" of the craft in Continental Freemasonry diverged from that in England.
Andrew Michael Ramsay, commonly called the Chevalier Ramsay, was a Scottish-born writer who lived most of his adult life in France. He was a Baronet in the Jacobite Peerage.
The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller or the Order of Saint John, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, on the island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until 1798 and at Saint Petersburg from 1799 until 1801. Today several organizations continue the Hospitaller tradition, most importantly the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Continental Freemasonry includes the Masonic lodges, mainly on the continent of Europe, that recognise the Grand Orient de France (GOdF) or belong to CLIPSAS. The majority of Freemasons belong to lodges that recognise the United Grand Lodge of England and do not recognise Continental Freemasons, regarding them as "irregular".
Anderson's histories of 1723 and 1738, Ramsay's romanticisation, together with the internal allegory of masonic ritual, centred on King Solomon’s Temple and its architect, Hiram Abiff, have provided ample material for further speculation.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the Holy Temple in ancient Jerusalem before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE and its subsequent replacement with the Second Temple in 516 BCE. The period in which the First Temple presumably, or actually, stood in Jerusalem, is known in academic literature as the First Temple period.
Hiram Abiff is the central character of an allegory presented to all candidates during the third degree in Freemasonry.
The earliest known ritual places the first masonic lodge in the porchway of King Solomon’s Temple.Following Anderson, it has also been possible to trace Freemasonry to Euclid, Pythagoras, Moses, the Essenes, and the Culdees. Preston started his history with the Druids, while Anderson's description of masons as "Noachides", extrapolated by Albert Mackey, put Noah into the equation.
Following Ramsay's introduction of Crusader masons, the Knights Templar became involved in the myth, starting with Karl Gotthelf von Hund's Rite of Strict Observance, which also linked in the exiled House of Stuart.The murder of Hiram Abiff was taken as an allegory for the death of Charles I of England. Oliver Cromwell emerges as the founder of Freemasonry in an anonymous anti-masonic work of 1745, commonly attributed to Abbé Larudan. Mackey states that "The propositions of Larudan are distinguished for their absolute independence of all historical authority and for the bold assumptions which are presented to the reader in the place of facts." The anti-masonic writings of Christoph Friedrich Nicolai implicated Francis Bacon and the Rosicrucians, while Christopher Wren's connection with the craft was omitted from Anderson's first book of constitutions, but appeared in the second when Wren was dead.
Similarly, attempts to root Freemasonry in the French Compagnonnage have produced no concrete links.Connections to the Roman Collegia and Comacine masters are similarly tenuous, although some Freemasons see them as exemplars rather than ancestors. Thomas Paine traced Freemasonry to Ancient Egypt, as did Cagliostro, who went so far as to supply the ritual.
More recently, several authors have attempted to link the Templars to the timeline of Freemasonry through the imagery of the carvings in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, where the Templars are rumoured to have sought refuge after the dissolution of the order.In The Hiram Key , Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight describe a timeline starting in ancient Egypt, and taking in Jesus, the Templars, and Rosslyn before arriving at modern Freemasonry. These claims are challenged by Robert Cooper, the curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland's library and museum, in his book The Rosslyn Hoax.
The first rational study of masonic history was published in Germany, but Georg Kloss's 1847 work, Geschichte der Freimaurerei in England, Irland und Schottland was never translated.When Findel's History of Freemasonry was translated from German to English in 1866, Woodford in England and Murray-Lyon in Scotland were already active writers on the subject. Woodford was Findel's guide when he visited York to inspect manuscripts, and would shortly collaborate with Hughan in collecting, dating and classifying the old manuscript constitutions. Albert Mackey was no less active in America. The list of his published works start in 1844 with "A Lexicon of Freemasonry", and extend to his monumental Encyclopedia of Freemasonry in 1874. Increasing interest, and participation, in masonic studies led, in 1886, to the formation in London of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, the first lodge dedicated to masonic research.
The earliest official English documents to refer to masons are written in Latin or Norman French. Thus we have "sculptores lapidum liberorum" (London 1212), "magister lathomus liberarum petrarum" (Oxford 1391), and "mestre mason de franche peer" (Statute of Labourers 1351). These all signify a worker in freestone, a grainless sandstone or limestone suitable for ornamental masonry. In the 17th century building accounts of Wadham College the terms freemason and freestone mason are used interchangeably. Freemason also contrasts with "Rough Mason" or "Layer", as a more skilled worker who worked or laid dressed stone.
The adjective "free" in this context may also be taken to infer that the mason is not enslaved, indentured or feudally bound. While this is difficult to reconcile with medieval English masons, it apparently became important to Scottish operative lodges.
A medieval Master Mason would be required to undergo what passed for a liberal education in those days. In England, he would leave home at nine or ten years of age already literate in English and French, educated at home or at the petty (junior) school. From then until the age of fourteen, he would attend monastery or grammar school to learn Latin, or as a page in a knightly household would learn deportment in addition to his studies. Between the ages of fourteen and seventeen he would learn the basic skills of choosing, shaping, and combining stone and then between the ages of 17 and 21, be required to learn by rote a large number of formal problems in geometry. Three years as a journeyman would often finish with the submission of a masterwork dealing with a set problem in construction or design. At this point, he was considered qualified, but still had a career ladder to climb before attaining the status of Master Mason on a large project.
In his function as architect, the Master Mason probably made his plans for each successive stage of a build in silverpoint on a prepared parchment or board. These would be realised on the ground by using a larger compass than the one used for drafting. Medieval architects are depicted with much larger compasses and squares where they are shown on a building site. Fine detail was transferred from the drawing board by means of wooden templates supplied to the masons.
The Master Masons who appear in record as presiding over major works, such as York Minster, became wealthy and respected. Visiting Master Masons and Master Carpenters sat at high table of monasteries, dining with the abbott.
The historical record shows two levels of organisation in medieval masonry, the lodge and the "guild". The original use of the word lodge indicates a workshop erected on the site of a major work, the first mention being Vale Royal Abbey in 1278. Later, it gained the secondary meaning of the community of masons in a particular place. The earliest surviving records of these are the laws and ordinances of the lodge at York Minster in 1352. These regulations were imposed by the Dean and Chapter of the Minster.
Nineteenth-century historians imposed the term "Guild" on the "fellowships" of medieval tradesmen as an analogy with the merchant guilds. The masons were late in forming such bodies. The major employer of masons in medieval England was the crown, and the crown frequently employed masons by impressment. In other words, they were forcibly recruited when the need arose.
The Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem is the oldest known document of masonic origin. It was published in 1840 by Shakespearean scholar and collector James Halliwell who dated it to 1390. A. F. A. Woodford, the pioneering Masonic scholar and a founder of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, agreed with this dating.More recently, historian Andrew Prescott has dated the text to the second quarter of the fifteenth century.
The poem may be seen as a response to a stream of legislation dating back to the Black Death, and the Statute of Labourers of 1351, in which Edward III attempted to fix wages at pre-plague levels.The earlier date follows the 1389 ordinance of Richard II requiring the guilds and fellowships to lay before him their Charters and Letters Patent, and the second follows the more serious legislation of 1425 banning the annual assemblies of masons.
In 1356, the preamble to regulations governing the Trade of Masons specifically states that, unlike the other trades, no body existed for the regulation of masonry by masons. Finally, in 1376, four representatives of the "mystery" or trade are elected to the Common Council in London. This also seems to be the first use of the word "freemason" in English. It was immediately struck out, and replaced with the word "mason".
The poem claims that these assemblies were ordained by King Athelstan and that he also linked the wages of a mason to the cost of living.
The Cooke Manuscript, dating from about 1450, set the pattern for what Anderson called the "Gothic Constitutions", the older histories and regulations of the craft.After a brief blessing, these documents describe the seven Liberal Arts, assigning predominance to Geometry, which is equated with Masonry. They then proceed to a history of masonry/geometry, finishing with King Athelstan, or Edwin, his brother or son depending on source, assembling England's masons to give them their charges. The regulations or charges follow, usually with instructions as to the manner in which a new mason should swear to them.
Also around 1450 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 zonas, 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.He also owned a writing table and six English books, making him comfortably well-off and literate.
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.It was also believed that the craft "guilds" were abolished in England in 1547. On the death of Henry VIII, Archbishop Cranmer sought to advance the reformation by the abolition of Guilds and fellowships. In 1548, "The bill of conspiracies of victuallers and craftsmen" was passed, revoking their monopolies. In 1549 it was repealed, presumably because they were too useful to the government. The government continued to be a major employer of masons, who in London had moved from a fellowship to an incorporation. While this was not chartered until 1666, 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. The Saints day parades by the various crafts, enacting plays about their various patron saints, were however suppressed. 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 1535, there were two Scottish masonic lodges recorded in France, one in Paris and the other in Lyon.
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 1539 at the latest. Towards the end of the century, William Schaw held both these posts.In 1598, in conference with the masters of lodges in south east Scotland, he produced a set of regulations for the governance of masons and their lodges now known as the Schaw Statutes. These state "They shall be true to one another and live charitably together as becometh sworn brethren and companions of the Craft." They mention wardens, deacons, entered prentices and cowans. The second Schaw statutes, a year later, included in their negotiations a representative of the Lodge of Kilwinning (now Lodge Mother Kilwinning No 0) in Ayrshire, which was assigned jurisdiction over the west of Scotland. Edinburgh became the "first and principal" lodge and Kilwinning the "second and head" lodge of Scotland, attempting to appease all parties. Since neither the King nor the master of Kilwinning was present, the document was not regarded as final or binding. It was assumed that the King's warrant for the regulations would be obtained. In 1602, Schaw wrote a Charter granting to Sir William St Clair of Rosslyn the right to purchase patronage over the masons of Scotland. 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, and a second charter was granted to his son, also William St Clair, in 1628. This patronage was surrendered by their descendant, another William St Clair, on the formation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736, in spite of the fact that it never won the royal approval that would have made it valid.
The lasting effect of the Schaw Statutes arose from the 1599 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.
The first recorded admission of non-masons was on 3 July 1634 at Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No. 1 , in the persons of Sir Anthony Alexander, his elder brother, Lord Alexander, and Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton. 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.It is also possible that, along with other professional bodies (including the East India Company ), operative masonic lodges began to raise money by charging the gentry for admission to their "mysteries". Another opinion states that masonic lodges deliberately recruited the rich and powerful in an attempt to improve their pay and working conditions.
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 1646 was mainly or entirely composed of speculative or accepted masons.In 1686 Robert Plot's "Natural History of Staffordshire" contains a passage about persons of quality being admitted to the society of free-masons, whose history Plot finds invented and ridiculous. At the start of the Grand Lodge period, there appears to have been a predominance of purely speculative lodges in the south of England, with operative and mixed lodges still in the majority in the north and in Scotland.
In 1716, 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". These were the Goose and Gridiron, the Crown, the Apple Tree, and the Rummer and Grapes. 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 1723. It is known that the four lodges mentioned above held an assembly at the Goose and Gridiron, in St Paul's Churchyard, on, 24 June 1717 (the Feast of St John the Baptist). 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. 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 1719, they elected John Theophilus Desaguliers, a clergyman, an eminent scientist, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. The last commoner to serve as Grand Master was George Payne in his second term of office in 1720/21, when he wrote The General Regulations of a Free Mason[ sic ] which were later incorporated in Anderson's Constitutions. 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,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 (1722–23) 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 1721 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 1740 there were also mock processions by anti-masonic groups, leading to the discontinuation of the practice in 1747. 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.
The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, "For the Use of the Lodges" in London and Westminster, was published in 1723. 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 1734 by Benjamin Franklin, who was that year elected Grand Master of Masons in Pennsylvania. It was also translated into Dutch (1736), German (1741), and French (1745).
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.At the time of his meeting with Desaguliers, he seems to have passed himself off as a Talmudic scholar. 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 1738.
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.For the first time, the old hand-written charges and constitutions was replaced by an accessible, printed condensation of all there was to being a Freemason, omitting only the ritual. 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. The "Antient Charges" published in the current Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England have altered little from those originally published by Anderson.
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.The Schaw Statutes of 1598 show how this had evolved in the lodge system of Scottish masonry. 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".) 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 1696, in the Edinburgh Register House manuscript. From this, and from other documents of the same period, such as the Trinity College, Dublin manuscript of 1711, we can form an idea of the ritual of an operative lodge at the end of the 17th century. 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. The fellowcraft was made to take a further oath, and entrusted with two further words and the "five points of fellowship", which in 1696 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. As accepted masons became initiated, where the various words and signs could no longer be regarded as professional qualifications, the entered apprentice ritual and the fellowcraft/master were sometimes condensed into one ceremony.
In Pritchard's Masonry Dissected, an exposure of masonic ritual written in 1730 by a disillusioned ex-mason, we see for the first time something recognisable as the three degrees of modern Freemasonry.On being admitted to a lodge, a new mason naturally progresses through the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. 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. These are the regular degrees and ranks of "craft" masonry, common to all constitutions. Other, "higher" degrees are optional and require a mason to join a side-order, except in lodges constituted under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which are empowered to confer the Mark Master Mason degree on Master Masons, as an extension to the second or Fellowcraft degree. (see main article, Freemasonry)
Anderson's 1723 constitutions seem to recognise only the grades of Entered Apprentice, and the Fellowcraft/Master. Hence the third degree emerged sometime between 1723 and 1730, and took some time to spread within the craft. The fact that it did spread seems to many scholars to indicate that the tri-gradal system was not so much innovation, as the re-organisation of pre-existing material.The Mason word, once given to the Entered Apprentice, was now conferred in the third degree with the five points of fellowship, and the two linked words formerly bestowed on a fellowcraft were split between the first two degrees. The new Master Mason degree was centred on the myth of Hiram Abiff, which itself consists of three parts. The first is the biblical story of the Tyrian artisan with a Northern Israelite mother who became a master craftsman involved in the construction of King Solomon's Temple. The second is the story of his murder by subordinates, which is similar to one of the legends of the French Compagnonnage. Lastly, the story of the finding of his body, and the derivation therefrom of the five points of fellowship, which appears in the Graham Manuscript of 1725, where the body being sought and exhumed is that of Noah. The origin of this re-organisation is unknown. The earliest reference to the conferment of a third degree is from London, from the minutes of "Philo Musicae et Architecturae Societas Apollini", a short-lived musical society composed entirely of Freemasons. These minutes record the initiation and passing to the degree of Fellowcraft of Charles Cotton. Then, on 12 May 1725, the society took it upon itself to "pass" Brother Cotton and Brother Papillion Ball as Master Masons. This would nowadays be regarded as highly irregular. In March 1726 Gabriel Porterfield received the same degree in lodge Dumbarton Kilwinning in Scotland. That he was not the first is attested by the minutes of the lodge's foundation, only two months earlier, where Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and Master Masons are recorded as attending. In December 1728, Greenock Kilwinning recorded separate fees for initiation, passing and raising.
Even in London, there were many lodges that never affiliated with the new Grand Lodge. These unaffiliated Masons and their Lodges were referred to as "Old Masons," or "St John Masons", and "St John Lodges".Nonetheless, the influence of the new central body spread quickly, and the 1725 minutes mention lodges in ten provincial towns as far north as Salford, with Provincial Grand Lodges in South Wales and Cheshire.
In the same year, a second Grand Lodge was founded in Ireland, which took several decades to bring all the Irish lodges under its wing. Rival Grand Lodges quickly appeared in Munster and Cork.It was in Ireland that the practice of recognising the regularity of a lodge by the issue of a warrant began, the first known example dating from 1731. The Grand Lodge of Scotland was not formed until 1736.
Also in 1725 "The Ancient and Honourable Society and Fraternity of Freemasons meeting since time immemorial in the City of York" assumed the title, " The Grand Lodge of All England meeting in the City of York." This should not be interpreted as rivalry, as there was no overlap in the two jurisdictions. Indeed, Anderson's history would have produced the expectation of an older Grand Lodge at York, and the London Lodges were duly furnished with minutes going back some twenty years. Anderson's 1738 Constitutions recognised the independence of "the Old Lodge of York City. and the Lodges of Scotland, Ireland. France, Italy, etc".
However, in 1735, the Master and Wardens of an Irish lodge were refused admission to Grand Lodge because they did not have the written authority of the Grand Master of Ireland. It seems that they hoped to be recognised as a deputation from Lord Kingston, then Grand Master of Ireland, and Past Grand Master of the London Grand Lodge. They were offered, and refused, the English authorisation. This has been interpreted as evidence of a split between the two constitutions.
Responding to the popularity of Pritchard's and other exposures of masonic ritual, Grand Lodge, about this time, made changes to ritual and passwords to make it more difficult for outsiders to pass themselves off as masons. These changes were not universally accepted by affiliated lodges. The Goose and Gridiron (now Lodge of Antiquity No. 2), one of the original and most senior lodges of the constitution, never adopted them. For the unaffiliated, the innovations simply deepened the division. At the time, London was absorbing many economic migrants from Ireland. Those who were already Freemasons felt that they could not work with the new ritual, and the lodges they formed swelled further the numbers of unaffiliated lodges in the capital.
In the same period, Freemasonry as practiced by the English, Irish and Scottish lodges began to spread to Europe. The establishment of the first Grand Lodge in France is particularly problematic. Freemasonry itself appears to have been established in France by exiled Jacobites. The Grand Lodge of France dates its foundation to 1728, when it claims the Grand Master was the Duke of Wharton.Some Grand Orient seals date the first Grand Lodge to 1736 (the split between the Grand Lodge and the Grand Orient occurred in 1773). French histories date the first Grand Lodge to 24 June 1738. The situation seems confused, as other histories state that the first legitimate Grand Lodge was formed on 11 December 1743 as "The English Grand Lodge of France" with the Count of Clermont as grand master. Although the government of the craft was in the hands of a series of deputies, the protection of the count until his death in 1771 afforded French masonry a period of stability and growth. As masonry was persecuted in other catholic states, the moral and egalitarian nature of the French lodges accorded with the spirit of the age.
Although Anderson seems to imply the existence of an Italian Grand Lodge, no such body existed until the creation of the Grand Orient of Italy in 1805.The first lodge was the English Lodge ("La Loggia degli Inglesi") in Florence, founded in 1731, and Freemasonry quickly spread, in spite of a series of Papal bans.
The first appearance of the many German Grand Lodges dates from the 1740s, notably "Of the Three Globes", founded in Berlin in 1744, which became the "Grand National Mother Lodge" in 1772. Frederick the Great became a Freemason while he was still Crown Prince and personally sanctioned the Berlin Lodge.Although a few authors cite the existence of German operative grand lodges as far back as that formed at Cologne Cathedral in 1250, continuity of tradition has been hard to prove, and most sources believe the Eighteenth-century German speculative lodges show descent from the English model.
Freemasonry was brought to the Russian Empire by foreign officers in the Russian service. For instance, James Keith is recorded as being master of a lodge in Saint Petersburg in 1732–34.Several years later his cousin John Keith, 3rd Earl of Kintore was appointed Provincial Grand Master of Russia by the Grand Lodge of England. In the early 1770s, Ivan Yelagin succeeded in reorganizing Russian Freemasonry into a far-reaching system that united some 14 lodges and about 400 government officials. He secured English authorization of the first Russian Grand Lodge and became its Provincial Grand Master. Most Russian lodges were attracted to the Swedish Rite. In 1782, Ivan Schwarz represented Russia at the masonic congress in Wilhelmsbad (a health resort in Hanau), where Russia was recognized as the 8th province of the Rite of Strict Observance. See History of Freemasonry in Russia for further details.
On 17 July 1751, representatives of six Lodges gathered at the Turk's Head Tavern, in Greek Street, Soho, London. Five were unaffiliated lodges of mainly Irish membership, and the sixth appears to have been formed shortly beforehand for the business of the evening. On that night, they established the "Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Constitutions", now commonly known as the Grand Lodge of the Antients. The first Grand Secretary, John Morgan, obtained a position in the Navy, and resigned after seven months. His successor, Laurence Dermott, presided as Grand Secretary for almost twenty years, being deputy Grand Master on three occasions after that, and exercised considerable influence until his death in 1791.
Dermott's immediate impact was in replacing the regulations that Morgan had written with those of his own lodge in Dublin. In 1756 he published the Antient's own book of constitutions, entitled the "Ahiman Rezon", for which no meaning is known. Modeled on Spratt's Irish Constitutions,the regulations are comprehensive and well written, and are followed by an extended section devoted to songs. At the beginning, instead of Anderson's history, is an extended introduction attacking the original Grand Lodge, now calling itself the Grand Lodge of England, but saddled by Dermott with "the Moderns" in contrast to the "Ancient" usages of the new Grand Lodge. This name remains in use to the present day. His main weapon was satire. He started with an account of how he attempted to write a history which would better the others by describing masonry before Adam, but towards the end of the first volume, he fell asleep. He dreamed of a conversation with Ahimon, one of four sojourners from Jerusalem, about the futility of masonic histories, after which an ancient in a shining breastplate perused his first volume and pronounced, "Thou hast div'd deep into the water, and hast brought up a potsherd". He was woken by his neighbour's puppy eating his manuscript. Dermott then proceeded to a reasoned explanation of why a new Mason should not join a "Moderns" lodge, since their amended passwords would not be recognised by any of the other Grand Lodges which at that time existed. There follows a humorous account of their "unconstitutional fopperies", including Dermott's belief that their greatest masonic symbols were the knife and fork.
Under Dermott's influence, penmanship, and oratory, the new Grand Lodge grew to be a serious challenge to the original. The Antient's lodges were warranted from 1752, a practice not taken up by the Moderns for another two decades. As the unaffiliated lodges increasingly saw the sense of belonging to a larger organisation, they usually found that the Antients practice was closer to their own, although it was known for lodges to change allegiance from the Antients to the Moderns. The fact that the practices eventually adopted by the United Grand Lodge largely reflect those of the Antients is attributable to Dermott's industry.
While the emergence of the Antients simply consolidated a division in English Freemasonry, a schism occurred within the Moderns in 1777/78. While this only involved one lodge, it was the oldest and most prestigious in the constitution, and its Master the Moderns' most respected author and historian. William Preston was already in dispute with the Grand Secretary over the royalties to the new Book of Constitutions he had just written. Some members of his Lodge of Antiquity (formerly the Goose and Gridiron, or the Old Lodge of St Paul's), having attended church as masons, walked back to the lodge in their regalia. Three brethren saw fit to report this to the Moderns Grand Lodge as an unauthorised masonic parade. Preston, the Master of Antiquity, sided with the accused, arguing that since the lodge was one of the original four, it had only subscribed to the original constitutions, and did not require any other authority to hold a parade. For this, he was promptly expelled. Antiquity responded by expelling the three who had complained. At least half of the lodge seceded to the Grand Lodge of All England at York, quoting Article 39 of Payne's regulations, that the Landmarks of the order must be preserved in any new regulations of Grand Lodge (alluding to their own rights and privileges). Antiquity became, for the period of separation, "the Grand Lodge of All England South of the River Trent", warranting at least two lodges in its own right. The dispute was not resolved until May 1789, when Preston and his brethren were received back into the Moderns with much feasting and fanfare.
A similar situation arose in Scotland. Seniority was assigned according to the dating of lodge minutes, and due to a fire, Kilwinning records started at 1642, somewhat later than the Lodge of St Mary's Chapel in Edinburgh. Offended by being recognised as only the second lodge in the constitution, Lodge Mother Kilwinning withdrew from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1743, and did not rejoin until 1807. During this period, Kilwinning functioned as yet another Grand Lodge, chartering about 70 lodges in Scotland and abroad. While the two Grand Lodges ignored each other at an official level, there does not appear to have been any real animosity, with no bar on masons visiting lodges in the competing jurisdiction. One Kilwinning member became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.The Lodge at Melrose, claiming an antiquity at least as great as Kilwinning, simply ignored the Grand Lodge of Scotland, again chartering daughter lodges, with the Master being addressed as "Grand Master". They finally joined the national body on 25 February 1891 as The Lodge Of Melrose St John No 1 bis.
In the wake of the French Revolution, the British Government became uneasy about possible revolutionary conspiracies. Amongst other repressive measures, Pitt's government proposed to introduce the Unlawful Societies Act in 1799, which declared that any body which administered a secret oath was illegal. Acting quickly, a delegation representing the Ancients, Moderns and the Grand Lodge of Scotland arranged a meeting with the Prime Minister. The delegation included the Duke of Atholl, Grand Master of the Ancients, and Past Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Earl of Moira, Acting Grand Master of the Moderns (the Grand Master being the Prince of Wales). As a result of this meeting, Freemasons were specifically excluded from the act, although lodges were obliged to return a list of members to the local Clerk of the Peace, a practice which continued until 1967. It also demonstrated that the two rival Grand Lodges could act together.
In 1733, Henry Price, the Provincial Grand Master over all of North America for the Grand Lodge of England, granted a charter to a group of Boston Freemasons. This lodge was later named St. John's Lodge and was the first duly constituted lodge in America.Between 1733 and 1737 the Grand Lodge in England warranted Provincial Grand Lodges in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Benjamin Franklin re-issued Anderson's 1723 constitutions as Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania. Franklin had written in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 8 December 1730 of the several lodges of freemasons already in the "province", joined St. John's Lodge in Philadelphia the following year, and in 1732 was Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Philadelphia. All this before the "first" lodge in North America.
Correspondence from John Moore, the collector for the port of Philadelphia and himself a Mason, indicate that Masonic Lodges were meeting in Philadelphia in 1715. The present Grand Lodge has the Carmick manuscript, a handwritten copy of the ancient charges dating from 1727, and headed "The Constitutions of St. John's Lodge". Colonel Daniel Coxe was made Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania by the Grand Lodge of England in 1730, with effect from 24 June (St. John the Baptist's day) for two years. It is unclear whether he was in America or England at the time, but he was present at Grand Lodge, at the Devil Tavern in London, on 29 January 1731, where he is minuted as Provincial Grand Master of North America. There is no record of his chartering any lodges, but he arranged for St. John's Lodge to double as a Provincial Grand Lodge, and appointed his successor in 1731, a year early. Notwithstanding the acceptance of Coxe as their first Provincial Grand Master, it has been suggested that the formation of the new Grand Lodge by consenting pre-existing lodges makes it a Grand Lodge by "Immemorial right", and a sister lodge to the Grand Lodges of England Scotland and Ireland.
North America would have many independent lodges in the 18th century. Authorisation, which later would become a Warrant, took time and expense, especially in the period when the nearest Grand Lodge was on the other side of the Atlantic. Many lodges became "self starters", and only applied for Grand Lodge authorisation when they were reasonably confident that the lodge would survive for more than a few years. George Washington was initiated into the Lodge of Fredericksburg in 1752.The same lodge was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1758. The first properly chartered "Scottish" lodge was only two years earlier, being the Lodge of St. Andrews in Boston. Members included Paul Revere and Joseph Warren, and (according to some) later lodge outings included the Boston Tea Party.
Many lodges were attached British Army regiments. The Moderns may have been wary of warranting lodges without a permanent address, so there was only one Grand Lodge of England warrant in the continental army from 1775–1777. The Antients and the Grand Lodge of Scotland were slightly better represented, but the overwhelming majority of regimental lodges held warrants from the Grand Lodge of Ireland.Thus it was that a group of African Americans, having been rejected by the lodges in Boston, were initiated into Lodge No 441 on the register of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, which was attached to the 38th Foot (later the 1st Staffordshire). These 15 men formed African Lodge No 1, as the British departed, leaving them a permit to do almost everything but admit new masons. Two of the members were seafarers, and obtained entrance to a lodge in London, being recognised as regularly initiated Masons. This enabled their master, Prince Hall, to apply to the Moderns for a charter, which was duly granted on 29 September 1784, now as African Lodge No. 459. Such was the success of the lodge that it became a Provincial Grand Lodge, and Prince Hall the Provincial Grand Master. After his death, the provincial lodges reconstituted themselves as a grand lodge (African Grand Lodge), becoming Prince Hall Grand Lodge in 1847. Around the same time, the history of Freemasonry in Mexico can be traced to at least 1806 when the first Masonic lodge was formally established in the nation.
The majority of this article deals with craft, or "blue lodge" masonry, the three degrees that are common to all masonic lodges and jurisdictions. Further degrees are usually outside of the jurisdiction of Grand Lodges, involve separate ceremonies, and are regulated by different Masonic bodies. The number and names of the "chivalric" orders and degrees depend on the local tradition of Freemasonry, and have varied greatly over the years.The oldest of these, and the most universal, is the Royal Arch Chapter (the Holy Royal Arch in England).
Although some masonic writers have attempted to see Royal Arch symbolism in material from the 1720s, the earliest definite reference is to a Royal Arch in a procession in Dublin preceding the master and held aloft by two "Excellent Masons". In 1744 it is mentioned as a degree in Dr Dassigny's "Serious and Impartial Inquiry".
Laurence Dermott, the guiding force behind the Ancients Grand Lodge, claimed to have been made a Royal Arch Mason in Dublin in 1746. He referred to it as the fourth degree, and campaigned to have it recognised as such. This happened just after he died, and only twenty years before the union of the Ancients and Moderns. The Moderns, on the other hand, had created a separate Grand Chapter in 1765 to deal with the degree, and wished to keep it separate from pure craft masonry. This would be a point of contention as the two jurisdictions moved towards union. The second of the articles of union stated that there were but three degrees in "pure Ancient Masonry", but included the Royal Arch in the third degree. The degree continues to be administered by a separate Grand Chapter, and until a revision in 2004,English Master Masons were simply told that the degree of the Holy Royal Arch completes their third degree.
The oldest Irish records of the ritual indicate that Royal Arch Chapters originally administered three degrees. The first was based on the refurbishment of the first temple by King Josiah. The second was a short bridge to the third, which was based on the rebuilding of the temple after the exile. Most jurisdictions base the modern Royal Arch ritual on the post-exilic legend. In 1864, the Grand Chapter of Ireland decided to base their ritual on the reign of Josiah, the main practical difference being the names of the officers.
In 1809, the Grand Lodge of England (the Moderns) set up a "Lodge of Promulgation". Its purpose was to "revert to the Ancient Land Marks of the Society" and to promulgate those landmarks amongst the brethren. One of its members was the Duke of Sussex, the Master of the Lodge of Antiquity, No 2, and sixth son of George III.The result of their labours was a reply to the Ancients in 1811 that the Grand Lodge had resolved to "return to the Ancient Landmarks...when it should be ascertained what those ancient landmarks and obligations were." Both Grand Lodges moved visibly towards union, forming committees to negotiate the precise terms. The main sticking point was the inability of the Ancients' committee to decide anything without reporting back to a quarterly meeting of their own Grand Lodge. In October 1812, the Ancients allayed the frustration of the Moderns by granting their commissioners full powers. Shortly after this, the Earl of Moira resigned as acting Grand Master of the Moderns, due to his appointment as Governor General of India. His successor was the Duke of Sussex, who became Grand Master the next January on the resignation of his brother, the Prince of Wales. On 1 December 1813, the Duke of Atholl ceded the leadership of the Ancients to the Duke of Kent, the older brother of Sussex and the father of Queen Victoria. Kent had already presided over the union of the Ancients and Moderns in Canada, accomplished by the brutally simple expedient of merging the lodges of the Moderns with the nearest lodge of the Ancients. The Moderns in Canada had simply ceased to exist. These two men oversaw the union in 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England, with the Duke of Sussex appointed as Grand Master of the new body.
The actual process of unification continued for some years, first with the Lodge of Reconciliation (1813–1816), made up of two lodges, one of each constitution, which ironed out some sort of ritual acceptable to the two parties. The work of this lodge was spread by the Stability Lodge of Instruction (1817) and fleshed out by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement (1823 onwards).The new Grand Lodge essentially ended up with the ritual of the Ancients and the infrastructure of the Moderns. While the "Emulation Ritual" became the standard, many variations still exist which, while mutually recognisable, present many flavours of Masonic ritual within the English Constitution.
In 1826, William Morgan disappeared from Batavia, New York, after threatening to expose Freemasonry's secrets, causing some to claim that he had been murdered by Masons. What exactly occurred has never been conclusively proven. However, Morgan's disappearance – and the minimal punishment received by his kidnappers – sparked a series of protests against Freemasons throughout the United States, especially in New York and neighboring states. The protracted backlash led to many masons leaving the craft. The Grand Lodge of New York controlled 227 lodges in 1827, but only 41 in 1835.
Under the leadership of Thurlow Weed, an anti-Masonic and anti-Andrew Jackson (Jackson was a Mason) movement grew to become the Anti-Masonic Party and made the ballot for the presidency in 1828 while gaining the support of such notable politicians as William H. Seward. Its influence was such that other Jackson rivals, including John Quincy Adams, denounced the Masons. In 1847, Adams wrote a widely distributed book titled Letters on the Masonic Institution that was highly critical of the Masons. In 1832, the party fielded William Wirt as its presidential candidate. This was rather ironic because he was, in fact, a Freemason, and even gave a speech at the Anti-Masonic convention defending the organization. The party only received seven electoral votes. Three years later, the party had disbanded in every state save Pennsylvania, as other issues such as slavery had become the focus of national attention.
The fortunes of American Freemasonry declined sharply following the Morgan Affair, only to rebound as the force of the Anti-Masonic movement sputtered out in the mid-1830s. By the late 1850s, masonry in America was the subject of renewed popular interest and lodge membership, which had bottomed out during the anti-Masonic period began to rise. By the time of the American Civil War, U.S. freemasonry tripled its membership from 66,000 to 200,000 members in over 5000 lodges nationwide. This surge in membership helps explain, at least in part, the many stories of Masonic fraternisation during the American Civil War, which include accounts of Masonic soldiers and sailors rescuing enemy combatants who identified themselves as members of the fraternity. Masonic incidents are also recorded involving Freemasons burying their own with Masonic formalities during battle, as well as aid and special treatment given to Masonic POWs.
After the Civil War, American Freemasonry flourished along with other fraternal organizations during the so-called "Golden Age of Fraternalism" from approximately 1870 to 1920.
In France, the number of Freemasons grew from 10,000 in 1802, when Napoleon gave it semi-official status, to 20,000 in 1889, 32,000 in 1908, 40,000 in 1926, and about 60,000 in 1936. At an early stage, nearly all the lodges were affiliated with the Radical party.Zeldin argues that in 19th century France:
Rumors were rife, especially in conservative circles, that the order secretly ran the government, and was the main source of materialistic and anti-clerical propaganda. Zeldin concludes that was a "vast exaggeration." The details are known because the Vichy regime in 1941 seized the archives, and failed to find significant evidence. While the order did support anti-clerical campaigns, it did not initiate them. Its primary role was to serve as a social club which the members could rise in the world, and get 10% discounts in shops owned by fellow Masons. The chapters provided some charity and life insurance. In 1904 a scandal erupted because the Grand Orient de France lodges were asked by the Radical government to secretly collect information about the religious and political affiliations of army officers, with a view to blocking the promotion of Catholics. When the news leaked out, the government was forced to resign. The concern with Radical politics gradually declined, and it disappeared after 1945.
According to Ernest Belfort Bax, Freemasons were responsible for the last serious attempt at conciliation between Versailles and the Paris Commune on 21 April 1871. They were received coldly by Adolphe Thiers, who assured them that, though Paris was given over to destruction and slaughter, the law should be enforced, and he kept his word. A few days after they decided, in a public meeting, to plant their banner on the ramparts and throw in their lot with the Commune. On the 29th, accordingly, 10,000 of the brethren met (55 lodges being represented), and marched to the Hôtel de Ville, headed by the Grand Masters in full insignia and the banners of the lodges. Amongst them the new banner of Vincennes was conspicuous, bearing the inscription in red letters on a white ground, "Love one another." A balloon was then sent up, which let fall at intervals, outside Paris, a manifesto of the Freemasons. The procession then wended its way through the boulevards and the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe, where the banners were planted at various points along the ramparts. On seeing the white flag on the Porte Maillot the Versaillese ceased firing, and the commander, himself a Freemason, received a deputation of brethren, and suggested a final appeal to Versailles, which was agreed to. The "chief of the executive" hardly listened to the envoys, and declined to further discuss the question of peace with anyone. This last formal challenge having been made and rejected, the Freemasons definitely took their stand as combatants for the Commune.
The schism between French and English Freemasonry is popularly supposed to originate at a general assembly of the Grand Orient de France in September 1877. Accepting a recommendation in a report by a Protestant minister, Frédéric Desmons, the assembly, on a majority vote, amended its constitutions to read "Its principles are absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity". The words "Its principles are the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and human solidarity" were struck out. The United Grand Lodge of England's (UGLE) response was a resolution in March 1878 that "That the Grand Lodge, whilst always anxious to receive in the most fraternal spirit the Brethren of any Foreign Grand Lodge whose proceedings are conducted according to the Ancient Landmarks of the Order, of which a belief in T. G. A. O. T. U. (the Great Architect of the Universe) is the first and most important, cannot recognise as ‘true and genuine’ Brethren any who have been initiated in Lodges which either deny or ignore that belief". Relations between the two governing bodies effectively ceased, purportedly because the French body had removed the requirement for a belief in a supreme being. However, UGLE had just entered into fraternal relations with the Grand Orient of Belgium, which had removed the Great Architect from its constitutions in 1872, a relationship which lasted until 1921. The reasons for the split are obviously deeper and more complex than the official records suggest.
Mutual distrust between English and French Freemasons was apparent in the 1850s, when French Masonic refugees were appalled at the relationship between UGLE and the Monarchy, aristocracy, and the Anglican church. The English distrusted the mysticism of French Masonry, and its ideals of Fraternity and Universality.
Desmons' review had been prompted by the Lausanne Congress of Supreme Councils of 1875. Eleven countries were represented at an attempt to unify the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. An agreement on colonial lodges would have seen the UGLE as the only recognised masonic grand lodge in British colonies, in spite of the Scottish and Irish lodges already flourishing there. The Scottish delegate, Mackersy, who also represented Greece, withdrew. His letter of withdrawal cited his jurisdiction's disagreement with any shift from the requirement for a member to believe in a personal god. He said that he believed the congress would agree to a non-requirement, or the specification of a vague universal principle. In avoiding ratifying a treaty which would obliterate Scottish lodges in the colonies, Mackersy sparked a debate that led to the removal of a requirement for an open volume of scripture in French lodges. The English interpretation of this as a slide towards atheism was probably partly prompted by the difficult political relationship between Britain and France at that time.
The gulf between UGLE and GOdF widened due to the French body's active engagement in politics, on a personal and organisational level. All discussion of politics and religion is expressly banned from English lodges.
During the First World War, many American lodges relaxed their opposition to the Grand Orient de France to allow servicemen to engage with other masons while in France. Many of these continue to allow their members to associate with continental Freemasons.
In December 1913, UGLE recognised a new Grand Lodge in France. The basis of this recognition was the series of obligations that the Independent and Regular National Grand Lodge of France (later the Grande Loge Nationale Française) imposed on its lodges. These were:
These "basic principles" were accepted by UGLE itself in 1929, and written into its constitutions.
Between the years 1885 and 1897, Léo Taxil maintained a hoax against both Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church, by making increasingly outlandish claims regarding Freemasonry. On 19 April 1897, Taxil called a press conference at which he claimed he would introduce the "author" of his books to the press. He instead announced that his revelations about the Freemasons were fictitious.Nevertheless, the material is still used on some anti-Masonic websites today.
Many twentieth century totalitarian regimes, both Fascist and Communist, have treated Freemasonry as a potential source of opposition due to its secret nature and international connections (not to mention its promotion of religious and political tolerance through its symbolism). It has been alleged by Masonic scholars that the language used by the totalitarian regimes is similar to that used by some modern critics of Freemasonry.
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, commonly known as simply the Scottish Rite, is one of several Rites of Freemasonry. A Rite is a progressive series of degrees conferred by various Masonic organizations or bodies, each of which operates under the control of its own central authority. In the Scottish Rite the central authority is called a Supreme Council.
A Masonic lodge, often termed a private lodge or constituent lodge, is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. It is also commonly used as a term for a building in which such a unit meets. Every new lodge must be warranted or chartered by a Grand Lodge, but is subject to its direction only in enforcing the published constitution of the jurisdiction. By exception the three surviving lodges that formed the world's first known grand lodge in London have the unique privilege to operate as time immemorial, i.e., without such warrant; only one other lodge operates without a warrant – the Grand Stewards' Lodge in London, although it is not also entitled to the "time immemorial" title. A Freemason is generally entitled to visit any lodge in any jurisdiction in amity with his own. In some jurisdictions this privilege is restricted to Master Masons. He is first usually required to check, and certify, the regularity of the relationship of the Lodge – and be able to satisfy that Lodge of his regularity of membership. Freemasons gather together as a Lodge to work the three basic Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.
In Freemasonry, regularity is the process by which individual Grand Lodges recognise one another for the purposes of allowing formal interaction at the Grand Lodge level and visitation by members of other jurisdictions. The United Grand Lodge of England is not the governing body of Freemasonry, as each individual Grand Lodge determines who it considers Regular by its standards.
William Preston was a Scottish author, editor and lecturer, born in Edinburgh. After attending school and college he became secretary to the linguist Thomas Ruddiman, who became his guardian on the death of his father. On the death of Thomas, Preston became a printer for Walter Ruddiman, Thomas' brother. In 1760 he moved to London and started a distinguished career with the printer William Strahan. He became a Freemason, instituting a system of lectures of instruction, and publishing Illustrations of Masonry, which ran to several editions. It was under Preston that the Lodge of Antiquity seceded from the Moderns Grand Lodge to become "The Grand Lodge of All England South of the River Trent" for ten years. He died on 1 April 1818, after a long illness, and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.
The Grand Orient de France (GODF) is the largest of several Masonic organizations in France and is the oldest in Continental Europe. It is generally considered to be the mother lodge of traditional Liberal, or Continental Freemasonry.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) is the governing Masonic lodge for the majority of freemasons in England, Wales and the Commonwealth of Nations. Claiming descent from the Masonic grand lodge formed 24 June 1717 at the Goose & Gridiron Tavern in London, it is considered to be the oldest Masonic Grand Lodge in the world. Together with the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, they are often referred to by their members as "the home Grand Lodges" or "the Home Constitutions".
The Order of Mark Master Masons is an appendant order of Freemasonry that exists in some Masonic jurisdictions, and confers the degrees of Mark Mason and Mark Master.
There are many organisations and Orders which form part of the widespread fraternity of Freemasonry, each having its own structure and terminology. Collectively these may be referred to as Masonic bodies, Masonic orders or appendant bodies of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry and women have a complex relationship, which can be readily divided into many phases with no demonstrable relationship to each other until the 20th century. A few women were involved in Freemasonry before the 18th century; however the first printed constitutions of the Premier Grand Lodge of England appeared to bar them from the Craft forever.
There are a number of masonic manuscripts that are important in the study of the emergence of Freemasonry. Most numerous are the Old Charges or Constitutions. These documents outlined a "history" of masonry, tracing its origins to a biblical or classical root, followed by the regulations of the organisation, and the responsibilities of its different grades. More rare are old hand-written copies of ritual, affording a limited understanding of early masonic rites. All of those which pre-date the formation of Grand Lodges are found in Scotland and Ireland, and show such similarity that the Irish rituals are usually assumed to be of Scottish origin. The earliest Minutes of lodges formed before the first Grand Lodge are also located in Scotland. Early records of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 allow an elementary understanding of the immediate pre-Grand Lodge era and some insight into the personalities and events that shaped early 18th century Freemasonry in Britain.
Freemasonry in Denmark was first established in 1743 and is today represented by a number of Grand Lodges. The oldest and biggest Masonic Grand Lodge in Denmark is the Danish Order of Freemasons, in English also known as the Grand Lodge of Denmark.
The Ancient Grand Lodge of England, as it is known today, or The Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons as they described themselves on their warrants, was a rival Grand Lodge to the Premier Grand Lodge of England. It existed from 1751 until 1813 when the United Grand Lodge of England was created from the two Grand Lodges. They are now called the Antients, in contrast to the Moderns, the original Grand Lodge who had moved away from the ritual of Scotland, Ireland, and now the Antient Grand Lodge. This Grand Lodge was also informally called the Atholl Grand Lodge because the Third and Fourth Dukes of Atholl presided over it as Grand Masters for half of its 62-year existence.
The Rectified Scottish Rite, also known as Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City or Knights Benefactor of the Holy City is a Christian Masonic rite founded in Lyon (France) in 1778.
The Holy Royal Arch is a degree of Freemasonry. The Royal Arch is present in all main masonic systems, though in some it is worked as part of Craft ('mainstream') Freemasonry, and in others in an appendant ('additional') order. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter; in the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch as practised in the British Isles, much of Europe and the Commonwealth, Chapters confer the single degree of Royal Arch Mason.
Tracing boards are painted or printed illustrations depicting the various emblems and symbols of Freemasonry. They can be used as teaching aids during the lectures that follow each of the Masonic Degrees, when an experienced member explains the various concepts of Freemasonry to new members. They can also be used by experienced members as reminders of the concepts they learned as they went through the ceremonies of the different masonic degrees.
Royal Arch Masonry is the first part of the York Rite system of the Masonic degrees. Royal Arch Masons meet as a Chapter, and the Royal Arch Chapter confers four degrees: Mark Master Mason, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason.
Masonic ritual is the scripted words and actions that are spoken or performed during the degree work in a Masonic Lodge. Masonic symbolism is that which is used to illustrate the principles which Freemasonry espouses. Masonic ritual has appeared in a number of contexts within literature including in "The Man Who Would Be King", by Rudyard Kipling, and War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.
Freemasonry in Scotland in Lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland comprises the Scottish Masonic Constitution as regular Masonic jurisdiction for the majority of freemasons in Scotland. There are also Lodges operating under the Scottish Masonic Constitution in countries outside of Scotland. Many of these are countries linked to Scotland and the United Kingdom through the Commonwealth of Nations and prior colonies and other settlements of the British Empire although there are several lodges in countries such as Lebanon, Belgium, Chile and Peru, which do not have such connections.