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Introduction

Standard image of masonic square and compasses
The Masonic Square and Compasses.
(Found with or without the letter G)

Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. The degrees of freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow (now called Fellowcraft), and Master Mason. The candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The initiations are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. The three degrees are offered by Craft (or Blue Lodge) Freemasonry. Members of these organisations are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by their own bodies (separate from those who administer the craft degrees).

The basic, local organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge. The Lodges are usually supervised and governed at the regional level (usually coterminous with either a state, province, or national border) by a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. There is no international, worldwide Grand Lodge that supervises all of Freemasonry; each Grand Lodge is independent, and they do not necessarily recognise each other as being legitimate.

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A Masonic Lodge, often termed a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge in Books of Constitutions, is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. Every new Lodge must be warranted by a Grand Lodge, but is subject to its direction only in enforcing the published Constitution of the jurisdiction. A Master Freemason is generally entitled to visit any Lodge in any jurisdiction in amity with his own. He is first usually required to check, and certify, the regularity of the relationship of the Lodge - and be able to satisfy that Lodge of his regularity of membership. Freemasons gather together as a Lodge to work the three basic Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.

Freemasons meet as a Lodge not in a Lodge, although Masonic premises may be called Lodges, as well as Temples ("of Philosophy and the Arts"). In many countries Masonic Centre or Hall has now replaced these terms to avoid arousing prejudice and suspicion. Several different Lodges, or other Masonic organisations, often use the same premises at different times.

In Great Britain, the term Mother Lodge is used to identify the particular Lodge where the individual was first "made a Mason" (i.e. received his Entered Apprentice degree). 'Mother Lodge' may also refer to a Lodge which sponsors the creation of a new Lodge, the Daughter Lodge, to be warranted under the jurisdiction of the same Grand Lodge; specific procedures pertaining to this vary throughout history and in different jurisdictions.

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George Washington Masonic Memorial.jpg
Photo credit: Ben Schumin
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial is supported by the 52 Grand Lodges of the United States.

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Highland Park Masonic Temple

Notable Freemason

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George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) was the first President of the United States, (1789–1797), and led the Continental Army to victory over the Kingdom of Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

Washington was chosen to be the commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey and defeated the surprised enemy units later that year. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington retired to his plantation on Mount Vernon, prompting even King George III to name him "the greatest man in the world."

Quotes

  • "The grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race." - George Washington
  • “Freemasonry is an institution calculated to benefit mankind.” - Andrew Jackson
  • "Masonic labor is purely a labor of love. He who seeks to draw Masonic wages in gold and silver will be disappointed. The wages of a Mason are earned and paid in their dealings with one another; sympathy that begets sympathy, kindness begets kindness, helpfulness begets helpfulness, and these are the wages of a Mason." - Benjamin Franklin

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