How did Freemasonry start?
How did Freemasonry start?
No one knows just how old Masonry is, because its actual origin has been lost in time. Most probably, it arose from the guilds of stonemasons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior-monks formed in 1118 A.D. to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land. The name Freemason appeared as early as 1212 AD in connection with the master builders who traveled throughout Europe erecting the magnificent cathedrals and churches. These builders were called Freemasons because they were a privileged class, not subject to feudal servitude or bondage to a lord. They were free to travel about Europe practicing their building craft, while ordinary people labored as serfs under feudal lords.
The Freemasons were protective of their art, guarding against any proliferation which would cheapen it or could cause them to be less in demand. They knew that so long as their art was practiced only by relatively few craftsmen, the demand for their services would continue and the particular freedoms they enjoyed would endure. But they also recognized the fact that if their work was to continue, the secrets of their craft must be passed on to future generations.
So the Freemasons formed themselves into lodges in which their secrets might be taught and preserved. They were, naturally, most selective of those making application to join their lodges, determined that the secrets of their art should be handed down only to those morally and otherwise fit to receive and perpetuate them.
As time passed and cathedral building came to an end, the lodges of Freemasons received fewer and fewer applications. Meanwhile many men had become interested in the Freemasons, having admired their circumspect behavior and their loyalty to their fellows. So it was perhaps inevitable that the old practicing Freemasons, popularly called operative masons, would eventually accept others (who weren’t builders) into their lodges.
These new non-operative or speculative members were taught the same old rituals and were obligated in the same manner as were their operative brethren. In time, the membership of Freemasons came to be totally speculative (that is, composed of members who were not actual stone masons.).
Today, Freemasonry is a fraternal society whose members are linked together by a common moral uprightness, and whose ethical principles are acceptable to all good men. Its doors are open to all men who seek harmony with each other, who feel a desire to self-improvement and who wish to participate in the adventure of making this world a better place in which to live.
The fundamental virtues characteristic of a Mason are: kindness in the home, honesty in all things, courtesy in society, fairness to all, compassion for the sick and unfortunate, resistance toward evil, forgiveness for the penitent, and above all, reverence and love for God.