The secret and fraternal organisations believed to have evolved from the medieval guilds of the stonemasons. Membership is open to men only, requires no allegiance to a single faith or religion, although belief in God is necessary, and aims to enable members to meet in harmony, to promote friendship and to be charitable.
The orders provide a network for business, professional and social success and advancement. The basic unit of Freemasonry is the lodge, which exists under a charter issued by a grand lodge exercising administrative powers. The lodges are linked together informally by a system of mutual recognition between lodges that meet the Masonic requirements. The lodge confers three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.
Additional degrees are conferred by two groups of advanced Freemasonry: the York Rite, which awards twelve degrees, and the Scottish Rite, which awards thirty higher degrees.
Many legendary theories exist concerning the origin of Freemasonry, but it is generany linked to the development of medieval craft guilds of stonemasons. Small numbers of skilled stonemasons would travel between towns to build churches and cathedrals commissioned by the clergy. To protect their knowledge they organised themselves into
guilds, complete with passwords, rules of procedure, payment and religious devotion.
How the membership of the guilds changed to clubs or lodges attracting largely unskilled, honourary membership is unclear, but Freemasonry's present organisational form began on 24 June 1717, when a grand lodge was formed in London. Since that time lodges have spread all over the world with local grand lodges formed whenever enough
lodges exist in an area.
At various times and places freemasonry has met religious and political opposition. Religious opponents, especially the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, have traditionally claimed that Freemasonry is a religion and is a secret organisation. A papal ban on Roman Catholic membership in Masonic lodges was rescinded in 1983.
Freemasons hold that the organisation is religious but not a religion, and that it is not a secret organisation since it works openly in the community. Freemasonry has always been suppressed in totalitarian states.
Interest from the outside has always centred on the alleged Initiation rites and on the supposed Esoteric knowledge conferred on those who attain to the higher dgrees of the 'craft'.
There are approximately 4.8 million Freemasons in regular lodges scattered around the world. Many notable men in history have been Freemasons, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Christopher Wren, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Ford, Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, George Washington and various other American presidents.
RESOURCES FROM OTHER CHRISTIAN SITES:
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THE MASONIC LODGE (FREEMASONRY) at Ankerberg Theological Institute
WHAT DOES MASONRY TEACH ABOUT CHRISTIANITY? at Ankerberg Theological Institute
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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