No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons' guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity's rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Within thirty years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net". The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children's hospitals, providing 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 worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of Brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
What is a Blue Lodge?
This discourse is designed to give you a brief introduction to the Craft and the mainstay of Freemasonry, the Blue Lodge, or symbolic Lodge, as it is more properly known. Every man's journey into Freemasonry begins in a symbolic Lodge, where he receives the first three Degrees in Masonry. These are known, respectively, as the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Masons Degrees. Some refer to them as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degrees. Only the most profound ritual and symbolism characterizes our Degrees, designed to open the eyes and mind to a higher ideal.
Masonry is a closed society, not open to the general public, but rather to persons of like persuasions and ideals. While no two people are alike, they can share a common belief in the Brotherhood of man and in ONE who we in Masonry refer to as the Supreme Architect of the Universe. The tenets of Masonry are Brotherhood, Relief and Truth. We espouse all men being equal, regardless of their worldly wealth or position, and attempt to relieve our fellow man’s woes and tribulations, again regardless of membership in the Fraternity. We also practice the virtue of Truth. This may be the hardest of all, because it is often easier to tell a little white lie than to confront one with the truth.
Masonic Lodges, also known as Blue Lodges, are where Freemasons meet for meetings. These Masonic Blue Lodges are in many towns and cities throughout the world. You can easily identify where Freemasons meet by the Square and Compass emblem displayed on the building, either mounted on a wall or sign. Local Blue Lodges are organized under a Grand Lodge. Each state has a Grand Lodge, which presides over the operation of all Blue Lodges within that state. Joining a Blue Lodge is usually done by meeting a Brother from the Lodge that you are interested in joining. This Brother will be your guide to help you navigate the membership and initiation process of his Lodge. No man may become a Freemason without first being recommended by two Brothers and then having been found to be of good report by the Lodge's Investigation Committee.
The ritual practiced by the symbolic lodge is called York Rite, and follows into the Royal Arch Chapter, thence into the Commandry. On the other side of the coin is the Scottish Rite, which opens another door of Masonry.
The first President of the United States of America had a strong relationship with the Masons.
He was given the rank of Master Mason less than a year after initiation, and he performed Masonic rites at the laying of the U.S. Capitol's cornerstone on September 18, 1793.
Franklin became a member of Saint John's Lodge in Philadelphia, a few years after starting his own society -- the Leathern Apron Club.
His membership in the order and time spent as Grand Master of Pennsylvania didn't interfere with his role as hero of the Revolutionary War, Founding Father, and inventor.
Literary giant Mark Twain was a member of the Polar Star Lodge No. 79, A.F.&A.M. in St. Louis, and became a Master Mason within a few months of joining.
Wolfgang Amadeaus Mozart
Austrian composer and son of a Freemason, Mozart created a number of masonic musical numbers during his prolific career. He was a part of the Zur Wohltätigkeit (Charity) Lodge, Austria.
John Elway is a two-time Super Bowl champion and current executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos.
J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover may have created the FBI, but he probably received more accolades for his time spent as a Mason.
He became a Master Mason by age 25, became a Thirty-Third Degree Inspector General Honorary in 1955, and was given the Grand Cross of Honor -- the highest recognition by the Scottish Rite -- in 1965.
The American industrialist and inventor Samuel Colt is best known for popularizing the revolver that eventually led to the Colt 45.
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