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What is Masonry?

Masonry, or Freemasonry is probably the oldest fraternity in the world. It is a society of men who share similar social, moral, spiritual and philosophical beliefs and values. Members are taught the lessons of Freemasonry by ritual dramas, following ancient forms of instruction using the Operative Masons' customs and tools as symbolic and allegoric guides.

Please find below a few highlights about Freemasonry. You may also find useful to visit some interesting websites and blogs.

Freemasonry has no dogma and therefore no "required" literature except rules and regulations issued by a local Grand Lodge that govern its organizational and administrative functions.

Who founded Freemasonry?
There is no recognizable "Founder". Freemasonry is considered by many as originating, or developing from a professional guild of Operative Masons (practical builders). The building practices and professional traditions, were universal, and not the product of any one people or time.

Why Free Masons?
Operative Masons, particularly Master Masons, were legally free to travel in foreign countries and work in various construction sites, as their profession required. Highly unusual in ancient times, when travel was either forbidden, extremely costly or highly dangerous. Consequently, they were usually not subject to the laws, rules, and taxes of any one particular country, king, or prince for whom they worked.

How old is Freemasonry?
This depends on what is meant by "age". According to the oldest Masonic document available, the Regius Poem, it is implied that some form of organization of builders existed as early as 926 CE, chartered by Athelstan, the legendary King of England. If similar traditions and initiation rituals are considered, Freemasonry can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome. If a formal, legal establishment is meant by "age", complete with a recognized set of rules, laws and regulations, the first modern (Speculative) Grand Lodge came into existence in 1717, in England.

Why Speculative?
Speculative Freemasonry is a descendant of the Operative Freemasonry. It began by admitting to membership in Operative Lodges men who were not necessarily builders, but were interested in the moral, ethical, and philosophical teachings of the Masonic Fraternity. The Freemasonry of today does not involve practical construction of buildings, but in a pursuit of moral knowledge and self improvement.

What are the Ancient Landmarks?
Though theoretically Landmarks are fundamental laws, which no Grand Lodge should be able to make or unmake, adopt or repeal, over time and due to historical or social circumstances, different Grand Lodges around the world developed various lists of Ancient Landmarks. The Landmarks of each Grand Lodge are unalterable by any individual or group except in due process by the local Grand Lodge. Every Freemason should ascertain what his own Grand Lodge has adopted (or not adopted) as Landmarks and govern himself accordingly.

Most Grand Lodges will agree that at least seven Masonic fundamentals are considered Landmarks:

  • Belief in God (monotheism) is the sole dogma of Freemasonry.
  • Immortality of the soul is the ultimate lesson of Masonic philosophy.
  • The Volume of the Sacred Law (Tanach, Bible, and/or Koran) is indispensable on the altar of a Lodge.
  • The legend of Hiram, involved in the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem (the first edifice built for G-d by Solomon, King of Israel).
  • The modes of recognition of the Fraternity.
  • Symbolism of the operative art by way of the professional construction tools.
  • A Freemason must be a freeborn male adult.

Is there any reading required?
"Nullius in Verba" (in Latin: On the words of no one). Masonry does not have any "required" books or readings except the Masonic Education Booklets and the Masonic Digest, both isseud by the Grand Lodge of Florida and explain, respectively, the rituals of the Degrees and the rules and regulations that govern the Fraternity. There are also the Lodge By-laws that spell the rules under which the Village Lodge operates.

Websites about Freemasonry:

Once a Mason, you will find your own path among the thousands of books and articles based on your own choices. However, to start you off, here are a few websites you may find useful:
    A good summary of Freemasonry and a starting point for more in-depth research.
    Ars Quatour Coronatorum is one of the best, and most prestigious Masonic research lodges. Many in-depth, academic level works by eminent scholars both Masons and laypersons.
    Very comprehensive website with many details on famous Masons. Here you can also find copies of the "Regius Manuscript" and the "Cooke Manuscript".
    Excellent resource for documents about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers of our nation, all available online.
    This is the site of the Northern Carolina Research Lodge. It includes a collection of articles on Latin American Freemasonry and mystical aspects of our fraternity.

Blogs on Freemasonry: