Freemasons have existed for 100′s of years. They have helped shape the history of the world. This private, fraternal secret society arose prevalently from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. However, scholars of the organization claim to trace its roots back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem in the year 967 B.C. It has since spread all over the world with an estimated 5 million members currently.
The United States is the most saturated with close to 2 million members. England, Ireland and Scotland are next with around 480,000 Freemasons combined.
There are various forms of Freemasonry. Yet they all share common moral and metaphysical ideals, usually centered around a strong belief in a supreme being.
Freemasons organize their fraternity into an administrated system of Grand Lodges that govern a specific jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction contains subordinate or “constituent” Lodges. These lodges are some of the most beautiful buildings ever created. Many are historic and have been standing for hundreds of years.
The communication and code language of Freemasons consists of using allegories and metaphors to describe the use of stonemasons’ tools on the building of King Solomon’s Temple. This “system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” is the backbone of the Freemasons’ code of ethics and is used to communicate goals and plans through Freemason symbols.
Masonic scholars believe that their true origins date back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple. These original Freemasons are said to be the start of modern Freemasonry.
The legend states that a master stonemason named Hiram Abiff, who worked on the temple, claimed to know the “secret of the temple”. As the story goes, Abiff was kidnapped for this knowledge but would not reveal the secret to his kidnappers, so he was murdered.
When King Solomon was informed, he sent a group of Freemasons to search for Abiff’s body and return with the secret of the temple. The expedition was unsuccessful. King Solomon then created a new Masonic secret, “Mahabone”, meaning “the grand lodge door opened”. When initiates reach the third degree, this is the password they must use as they are asked a long series of questions to see if they qualify to move up the ranks.
Since these obscure origins, the Freemasons have become well established. By the 1700′s they evolved from exclusively a stonemason’s trade guild into an organized secret society with a very distinct philosophy and purpose. They were often men of science and freethinking intellectuals. They promoted religious tolerance as much as they could during the iron grip control and destructive wrath of the Catholic Church.
With this era of enlightenment, the Freemasons adapted with it. No longer did they require members to be active or “operative” stonemasons. They started letting in aristocrats and artists into the organization. This new breed of Freemasons were deemed “speculative” Freemasons and it began to become fashionable to be a member.
The Freemasons gained traction in 1717 when four Masonic Lodges in London combined to form the very first Grand Lodge. This model perpetuated throughout Europe and later the United States. Soon after that first Grand Lodge was established, a Scottish Freemason, Dr. James Anderson created the first official set of bylaws and rituals for the organization, which many believed were handed down directly from God.
Now in modern times you can see the far reaching influence of the Freemasons through their Freemason symbols. Many of these symbols are used in pop culture, logo designs for large, multinational corporations and and even the layout and construction of roads and landmarks in many major cities.
The founding fathers of the Unites States were Freemasons as well as many prominent business, government and religious leaders. The fraternity is going stronger than ever and is mixing and mingling with other powerful secret societies.