History of FreemasonryQUESTION: What is the history of Freemasonry?ANSWER:
There are many theories as to the history of Freemasonry. I will present the version that I was taught when I was a member of the lodge. According to legends, the fraternity began during the construction of King Solomon's Temple. This undertaking was so vast that in order to see it completed in a correct and timely fashion, an organization was formed among the stonemasons and architects. They were divided into various grades and classes with responsibilities as described in the rituals of the lodge.
Many of the characters mentioned in the books of Bible (Kings and Chronicles) are seen in the context of the various degrees of Masonry. They include King Solomon himself and Hiram King of Tyre, who supplied many of the materials for the temple (especially the Cedar wood used to construct that temple). Also mentioned is Adoniram and many others that history does not make note of today. Although some Masonic brothers may take the rituals to be historical truth, there are no true Masonic authorities who give and credence to an actual organization of Masons in ancient times.
The modern period of Masonry dates from the founding of the first Grand Lodge on St. John's Day, 1717 in London. Four "old lodges" came together together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House and organized the first Grand Lodge.
The first Grand Lodge in England was soon challenged by a rival organization. Some have termed this a schism (a split), but other recent scholarship claims that the rival Grand Lodge originated from Lodges in other parts of the British Isles, notably Ireland. The new organization sought to attract members by claiming greater authenticity using the term "Antient" as part of their name. The Antient (or Ancient) Masons were also known as "Athol" Masons, from the Duke of Athol being one of their early Grand Masters (Presidents).
Eventually those two Lodges merged into one organization, the United Grand Lodge of England, in 1813. By this time both lodges had been chartering lodges in the New World. Some are known as "Ancient Free and Accepted Masons" or merely "Free and accepted Masons." It seems that the only difference is that the Ancient ritual is considerably briefer than the Modern version.
Some lodges use what are called ciphers, which is are small books with the various rituals written down, but leaving out the secret signs and passwords. Other lodges do not permit the use of these books, they learn the rituals one on one at approximately one-hour sessions. The one-on-one method takes longer, but those who use this method feel that this is the way it was done from the beginning.
Freemasonry grew dramatically during the 1800's and beginning of the 1900's. Traditionally, the Masons founded orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged. They provided the only security many people knew. The Masonic Fraternity (North America) gives almost $1.5 million each day to good causes like children's hospitals, treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes. The four million Masons around the world continue their quest of helping people throughout the world.
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