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With members as influential as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Mark Twain, it is easy to see how Freemasonry came to be the most significant fraternal organization in the world. Freemasonry was thought to have originated from stonemasons who built castles in medieval Europe. The early history of freemasonry is recorded in mysterious and cryptic manuscripts which date back to 1425. The first document, known as the Regius Poem, recounts how the art of masonry came to England. It also contains instructions, rules, and warnings for craftsmen and for worksite construction. Later manuscripts contain additions and amendments to the Regius Poem. Records show that the first Grand Lodge, which is a governing body of the freemasons, was established in 1717 in London. Many other lodges exist worldwide, which serve as places for Freemasons to gather.
Is Freemasonry a Cult? A Religion?
Freemasonry is not affiliated with politics or religion, although some religions consider freemasonry a cult or secret society incompatible with religious doctrine. That said, Freemasonry prides itself on its devotion to many charitable causes and gathering together men of good moral character. The organization donates more than $38 million per year to different global, community, and individual organizations.
Requirements of Freemasons
Requirements of becoming a Freemason include being of sound reputation and character, being at least eighteen years old, and believing in God. Also, since it is a fraternal organization, women are prohibited from joining; however, an order of women Freemasons now exists.
The Three Degress and the Masonic Square and Compass
Participation in freemasonry involves attending meetings and ceremonies. Ceremonies take place for inducting new members, as well as when existing members fulfill the requirements for the three “degrees.” Each degree signifies a new step to achieving higher knowledge. The three degrees are: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. The Masonic square and compass is the symbol of the Freemasons. These represent architectural tools and are used as emblems to teach symbolic lessons.
14 Presidents were Freemasons!
While Freemasonry has its roots in England, there is significant membership within the United States. In fact, fourteen US presidents have been members of the organization! Though membership has gone down significantly, there are still over one million American members, largely based out of Pennsylvania and Ohio.