43069 of alt.freemasonry
From: A M J N HARPER email@example.com
Subject: Is This The True History of Freemasonry ? ? ?
Date: 1 Mar 1998
I would like to have your critique of "my" history of Freemasonry.
Additionally, I would like to have you forward your ideas and/or stories
surrounding what you have found to be the history of our Fraternity.
Fraternally and Sincerely,
(PM, PHP, PTIM, PC, 32nd AASR, AAONMS, et. al.)
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY
"In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth. The
Earth was without form, and void. And darkness was upon the face of
the deep. And the Spirit of God moved across the waters, and God said:
'Let There Be Light', and there was Light". This quote from Genesis
1: 1-3 is powerful, and it is also ironic that it is also read, to every
Masonic candidate, during the very first Masonic Degree. It is suiting
to a Fraternity, like Freemasonry, to have the new member start his
path of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, with the word of God.
The exact beginning of the society of Freemasons is not known, but many
historians, Masonic and Non-Masonic, have many theories. Some place
the origins to the days of Noah's Ark, others may believe it began with
the building of King Soloman's Temple, while some feel it originated
with the building of the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and others trace it
to King Athelston, of England in 930 ad.
These are highly unlikely, but I will admit, they do make for a very
colorful history. However, the most widely supported, and accepted,
theory places the origin of the Fraternity to the building trade guilds
of the Middle Ages.
The possibility for this theory is because these skilled craftsmen were
allowed to travel from city to city, to build the huge Cathedrals and
beautiful Castles, which now dot the European landscape. Because of
their incredible skills, these workmen; painters, carpenters, stonemasons,
etc., were given the freedom to travel from job site to job site, they
were not owned like the serfs and other residents of the kingdoms. It
is believed this is where the term free-mason comes from.
The humble stone mason, with his common tools: the chisel, the hammer,
the square, the plumb-line, and the compasses, were all he needed to
create and build the magnificent edifices which have stood for centuries,
and are admired by people to this day.
The place where these operative craftsmen ate, slept and drew up the
plans for their construction projects, was called a "lodge".
And, each town, or village, that had construction crews, had these lodges
of masons, carpenters, painters, etc. This term has stayed in our vocabulary
to this day, what was once called a lodge of Free-Masons, is now called
a Masonic Lodge.
The friendship and brotherly love these men, and their families developed
was an incredibly strong bond. One which was evident by the support
of their fellow masons in distress, their widows and orphans. But, as
the saying goes... all good things must come to an end, and there began
an eventual "phasing out" of these massive construction projects.
As this downsizing progressed, all the labor guilds began to lose members,
and eventually discontinue all operations. However, these lodges of
free masons, which had insisted on the high moral and ethical standards
of its members, continued to survive.
The most accepted theory, for the continuation of these groups of
"Operative" Masons and their Lodges is that they started to
admit new members, men who were not operative stone masons. Doctors,
Farmers, Sailors, Merchants and other men, from all walks of life were
allowed to join. These men, who did not really work with stones and
bricks, were called "Speculative" Masons. When these Speculative
members joined the Masonic Lodges, Freemasonry became more of a club
or Fraternity, than a labor guild. These new members, the SpeculativeMasons,
became accepted as equals with the Operative Masons, in a spirit of
Fraternal Brotherhood, hence the "Accepted" in Free and Accepted
Masons. Although, this colorful beginning of Freemasonry in not necessarily
factual, nor is it provable, it only serves to lend an "air"
of antiquity to the origins of this Fraternity, as there were several
hundred years between the operative and speculative lodges. For instance,
there are no records of operative masonic lodges in England, after 1560,
nor are there any records of operative lodges in Scotland, after 1580.
So for any person to say there is an actual documented connecting lineage
between the two has yet to be proven to any History Scholar, Masonic
or Non- Masonic.
While this is the most "popular" theory, there is also some
profound research which would trace the origins of Freemasonry to the
original Knights Templar, who were founded in 1117. The original name
of what we know as the Knights Templar was "The Poor Fellow-Soldiers
of Christ and the Temple of Soloman in Jerusalem". This is obviously
a long name to be called when people are referring to this group, over
time the name was modified to "The Knights of the Temple",
later it was modified even more, to the "Knights Templar".
The name with which we are so familiar with today.
The Knights Templar, like the Freemasons, also had three "classes"
of membership in its structure. The lowest being that of Sergeant-Foot
Soldier, then the highest was that of a full Brother-Knight, the third
classification was that of a Cleric- Chaplain-Secretary. The job assigned
to each on was well known, and the orders were given by one Grand Master
of the Knights Templar who answered directly to the Pope.
According to this theory, Pope Clement V, supported by Philip IV, King
of France, issued an order to arrest and execute all of these Knights
Templar. The date of this order is possibly significant in more than
one way. Friday October 13th, 1307, was the date the Pope chose to start
the systematic arrest and execution of these Christian Knights. This
action by the Pope caused the Knights themselves to go "underground".
These Knights were suddenly despised by the very people who had instituted
their foundation. Which was a very confusing situation for these men
to be in, the painful question of "WHY" would be one which
became all too clear as time went on. All the wealth that the Knights
accumulated became the object of desire in the eyes of the King. France
was financially strapped, and the only way King Philip IV apparently
felt he could continue the war against England was to convince the Pope
to turn over much of the accumulated wealth these Knights possessed.
Where could these Knights flee to that would give them safe harbor ?
The most reliable sources trace the travels of these Knights Templar
to Scotland. Apparently Robert Bruce, the King of Scotland, in his desire
to keep his country free from outside rule, decided he did not need
to read the Papal Bull ordering the arrest and execution of the Knights.
Besides, if the Knights Templar wished to relocate to Scotland, they
might prove useful in the battles with England, either way both groups
win. The Knights Templar find safe refuge and the Scots gained a new
Of course in order to further conceal their identity from spys who worked
for the Pope and the King of France the Knights would need to come up
with new identities. The Knights Templar apparently devised a "cover-name",
that of free mason, to use as the new name under which they would know
themselves. Keep in mind that not all of the Knights Templar made it
to Scotland, many were hiding out in other countries, and needed to
find a way to regroup and to communicate with the other members. The
Knights used these allegorical stories as not only to prevent
their identity from being found out, but it also served as lessons in
morality. The humbleness of the name of free-masons served as kind of
a Knights Templar "witness relocation program", and helped
to spare the lives of these humble Soldiers of Christ, the Knights of
the Temple. If this theory is accurate, then it would most certainly
explain the occasional references made, prior to 1717, of the Society
Some of the earliest writings, which allude specifically to Masonry,
are the Regis Manuscript, dated in 1390, and the Cooke Manuscript, written
in 1400. According to the research Lodge, Quatuor Coronati, of England,
the earliest records of non-operative Masons being admitted to the Masonic
Lodges took place in June of 1600. The Laird of Auchinleck, John Boswell
is registered to the Lodge in Edinburgh. In 1643, there were other names
added to this list. They include Lord Alexander, Sir Anthony Alexander
and Sir Alexander Strachan. In 1640, General Robert Moray is entered
on the roster and in 1641 General Alexander Hamilton is added. Elias
Ashmole and Randle Holme were both added in 1646 and the Earl of Cassillis
was registered in 1672. According to the Phililethes Society, the first
native born American to be made a Mason was Jonathan Belcher, in 1704,
who was then the governor of Massachusetts.
Whether or not these records are proof of an earlier beginning of Fraternal
Freemasonry has yet to be documented, but their being admitted to the
"Society of Freemasons" sounds a lot like a Lodge of Freemasons.
However, the date of June, 24th, 1717 is given as the "historically
official" beginning of the Masonic Fraternity, as we know it today.
This is when the United Grand Lodge ofEngland was formed, and from which
all regular Masonic Lodges, in every country, can be traced to.
It wasn't until 1731 the first American Grand Lodge received its Constitution.
The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was Constituted in 1731, making it the
first Grand Lodge in America. I have included a listing of the Grand
Lodges in the U.S., the year they were Constituted, the number of Lodges
in that State, and the approximate total membership of that State, you
will find it in Appendix A. The first duly Constituted Lodge in America
was Chartered July 30th, 1733, in Boston, Massachusetts.
As European trade routes expanded, these Lodges of Freemasons also spread.
Eventually Lodges were set up in India, China, Africa, and many other
Countries. You will find a listing of recognized Grand Lodges of the
world in Appendix B.
You will see from the listing, the universal Brotherhood of Freemasonry
truly extends into every farflung corner of the world. Yes, even into
some of the communist and other less democratically run countries. Unfortunately,
Freemasonry and membership in this Fraternity is "secret"
in these places. Only because the governments are run with an iron fist.
The leaders of these countries do no believe in having a country run
by its citizens, like we are fortunate enough to have here in America.
One of the reasons that Freemasonry is such an important organization
is because it promotes a Government of the people, with the elected
citizens serving as their own leaders and lawmakers. Without the freedom
to accomplish this, the citizens are the ones who suffer at the hands
of the tyrannical leaders.
For an example, the former Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, a Mason,
stated that he regretted allowing the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to
return to Iran. The Ayatollah, who is not a Mason, upon seizing power,
systematically destroyed Masonic Lodges, arrested, interrogated and
imprisoned Masons, and even executed those who did not turn over the
names of other Masons. This kind of brutal action leads me to ask...
what was the Ayatollah afraid of anyway ? Could it be Democracy,
and a peace filled country.
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