The Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons is the oldest, largest and most widely known fraternal organization in the world. Volumes have been written about it. Yet, to many, Freemasonry remains a mystery.
History – Some historians trace Freemasonry to the Tenth Century, B.C., during the building of King Solomon’s Temple. Records reveal that Freemasonry was introduced into England in 926 A.D. Many other historians believe that Freemasonry is directly descended from the association of operative masons, the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages, who traveled through Europe employing the secrets and skills of their crafts.
In the 17th Century, when cathedral building was on the decline, many guilds of stone-masons, known as “Operative Masons” or “Free Masons,” started to accept as members those who were not members of the masons’ craft, calling them “speculative Masons” or “Accepted Masons.” It was from these groups, comprised mostly of “Adopted or Accepted Masons,” that Symbolic Masonry or Freemasonry, as we know it today, had its beginning.
A more recent theory suggests that Freemasonry grew out of the survivors of the destruction of the Order of the Temple in 1314 by King Philip The Fair of France. Many Templars fled France and hid in England, Scotland and Ireland. To maintain their Order, they developed another organization, giving it a legendary ancient history to contribute to its cover from the authorities who wished it destroyed. John Robinson’s book, BORN IN BLOOD, is an excellent text describing this theory in detail.
Grand Lodges – In 1717, four Lodges of Freemasons meeting in London, England, formed the first Grand Lodge. The first Grand Lodge chartered Symbolic Lodges and Provincial Grand Lodges in many countries, including the United States. Today, there are more than 160 Grand Lodges in free countries of the world with a membership of more than 3.6 million. In the United States there are 51 Grand Lodges. There are approximately 1,600,000 Freemasons in the 51 Jurisdictions of the United States.
Symbolic Lodge – The basic unit of all Grand Lodges is the Symbolic Lodge, or “Blue Lodge,” as it is commonly known. It is the Symbolic Lodge that issues petitions for initiation and membership, acts on petitions and confers the three Symbolic Degrees, known as the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason Degrees. There are more than 430 Symbolic Lodges in the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania with a membership of approximately 130,000.