What is Freemasonry? A Complete Guide to the Secret Society

Freemasonry is a concept that has intrigued people for centuries. It is considered by many as a secretive society, with mysterious rituals and beliefs. Although the organization has been around for hundreds of years, it still remains somewhat enigmatic and shrouded in myth and legend. Freemasonry has been associated with some of the most important events in history, including the revolutionary war and the founding of America. Despite its long history and significant influence, there are still many misconceptions about what Freemasonry is and what it stands for. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the history, beliefs, and practices of Freemasonry, as well as examine the controversies and criticisms surrounding the organization. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what Freemasonry is all about and why it continues to attract so much attention and interest.

Introduction to Freemasonry

Introduction to Freemasonry

Freemasonry is a worldwide organization known for its mysterious nature and secrecy. Considered by many to be a secret society, Freemasonry has attracted the attention of people for centuries. It’s a fraternity that is based on the principles of brotherhood, charity, and truth. The members of this society are known as “Masons”.

The origins of Freemasonry are shrouded in mystery, but it is believed that it dates back to the early 17th century. Freemasonry has always been associated with secrecy, and this has led to many misconceptions about the organization. However, in reality, Freemasonry is not a secret society. It is an organization that keeps some aspects of its activities private.

While there are many myths and rumors surrounding Freemasonry, the truth is that the organization is dedicated to promoting moral and ethical values. Masons believe in charity and community service, and they work towards improving their respective societies. They also support each other, providing assistance to other Masons in times of need.

One of the most prominent features of Freemasonry is its symbolism. The organization uses symbols to represent various concepts and ideas. These symbols are often shrouded in mystery, and their meanings are not immediately apparent. However, they play an essential role in understanding the beliefs and practices of the organization.

In conclusion, Freemasonry is a secretive organization that has fascinated people for centuries. While much of what goes on within the organization remains a mystery, it is clear that the group focuses on promoting moral and ethical values. By providing support to one another and working towards improving their communities, Masons strive to make the world a better place.

The History of Freemasonry

Origins and Founding of Freemasonry

Origins and Founding of Freemasonry

The origins of Freemasonry are shrouded in mystery, but scholars generally agree that it emerged from the guilds of stonemasons who built the great cathedrals and castles of medieval Europe. The earliest known references to “Freemasons” date back to the late 14th century, with the first recorded instance occurring in 1390.

The exact founding of Freemasonry is somewhat unclear, as it was a gradual evolution from these guilds of skilled workers to an organization with its own unique rituals and beliefs. However, many credit the formation of the first Grand Lodge of Freemasonry in London in 1717 as a pivotal moment in the organization’s history.

One of the most well-known figures associated with the early years of Freemasonry is Sir Christopher Wren, the famous English architect who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Wren was a member of the fraternity and is believed to have influenced the development of its architecture and symbolism.

Other key figures in the early history of Freemasonry include Elias Ashmole, a wealthy Englishman who became a member in the mid-17th century and documented his experiences in a journal, and Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers, a French physicist who joined the fraternity in the early 18th century and helped to spread its teachings throughout Europe.

Despite its early origins, the exact nature of Freemasonry’s founding remains a subject of debate among scholars and members alike. Some argue that the organization was founded by a secret society of intellectuals who sought to promote scientific and philosophical ideas during a time when such thinking was frowned upon by the Church and government. Others believe that it grew out of a need for mutual support and protection among skilled tradesmen.

Whatever its origins, there is no denying that Freemasonry has had a profound impact on Western culture and society. Its influence can be seen in everything from the architecture of public buildings to the language and symbolism used by secret societies and fraternities around the world.

Evolution of Freemasonry: From Operative to Speculative

Evolution of Freemasonry: From Operative to Speculative

Freemasonry has its roots in operative masonry, which refers to the actual work of stone masons. These skilled laborers built cathedrals and other important buildings during the Middle Ages. The lodges where they worked became gathering places where they shared knowledge and expertise.

Over time, speculative masonry emerged as a separate branch of freemasonry. This evolution began in the 17th century when non-masons were allowed to join the lodges. The focus shifted from the actual building of structures to the development of moral and ethical values.

Speculative masonry is based on the belief that the principles and tools used by operative masons can be applied to the development of one’s character. Masonic symbols, such as the square and compass, are used to teach moral lessons. Members of the fraternity are encouraged to live virtuous lives and to make positive contributions to their communities.

One of the most significant events in the evolution of freemasonry occurred in 1717 when four lodges in London came together to form the Grand Lodge of England. This was the first time that freemasonry had an organized structure. Other Grand Lodges soon followed, including those in Scotland (1736) and Ireland (1725).

As freemasonry evolved into speculative masonry, the organization spread beyond Europe and became an international phenomenon. Today, there are millions of members worldwide, including women’s lodges and co-ed lodges.

In conclusion, the evolution of freemasonry from operative to speculative has resulted in an organization that is focused on personal growth and moral development. While still grounded in the traditions of the past, modern freemasonry continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of society.

Freemasonry in the Modern Era

Freemasonry in the Modern Era

Freemasonry has been around for centuries and has evolved significantly over time. In today’s modern era, the organization has adapted to changing times while still holding true to its core values and beliefs.

With the advent of technology and social media, freemasonry has become more visible and accessible to the general public. Online forums and social media groups have made it easier for masons to connect with one another and share their experiences.

In addition, freemasonry has also become more diverse and inclusive in recent years. Women and members of the LGBTQ+ community are now able to join certain masonic organizations that were previously exclusive to men. This shift towards inclusivity has helped freemasonry appeal to a wider audience and attract new members.

Another notable trend in modern freemasonry is the increased emphasis on charitable work and community service. Masonic lodges across the globe are involved in various philanthropic activities such as food drives, blood donation camps, and disaster relief efforts. These initiatives not only help those in need but also promote the values of charity and compassion that freemasonry stands for.

Despite these changes, freemasonry still maintains its traditions and rituals. Members continue to take part in masonic ceremonies and uphold the moral and ethical principles that form the foundation of the organization.

In conclusion, modern freemasonry has evolved significantly from its origins, adapting to changing times while remaining rooted in its core values. The organization continues to thrive and attract new members, while also making a positive impact on communities through charitable work and service.

The Structure and Organization of Freemasonry

The Lodge

The Lodge

The lodge is the basic unit of organization in Freemasonry. It is where Masons meet and perform their rituals and ceremonies. A lodge can be found in almost every major city around the world, and its members are made up of men who share a common belief in the principles of Freemasonry.

What Happens in a Masonic Lodge?

A masonic lodge is a place where Masons come together to learn from each other and engage in discussions about philosophy, morality, and spirituality. During these meetings, members also perform various rituals and ceremonies. The exact details of these rituals are kept secret, but they typically involve elements like the use of symbolic tools, lighting candles, and reciting prayers or chants.

While the specifics of what happens in a lodge meeting are kept confidential, it is generally understood that these gatherings are meant to help Masons grow as individuals and deepen their understanding of the world around them. Members of the lodge are encouraged to ask questions, share insights, and explore new ideas.

The Structure of a Lodge

Each lodge has its own set of officers who oversee its activities. The most senior officer is the Worshipful Master, who acts as the leader of the lodge. Other officers include the Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Secretary, and Treasurer.

In addition to these officers, each lodge has a set of rules and bylaws that govern its operation. These rules may vary slightly between different lodges, but they are generally designed to ensure that the lodge operates in accordance with the principles of Freemasonry.

The Importance of the Lodge in Freemasonry

The lodge is an essential part of Freemasonry because it provides a space for Masons to come together and learn from one another. The sharing of knowledge and ideas is a central tenet of Freemasonry, and the lodge helps facilitate this process.

By participating in lodge meetings and ceremonies, Masons develop a deeper understanding of the principles that guide their organization. They also form strong bonds with other members of their lodge, creating a sense of community and brotherhood that is central to the Masonic experience.

In summary, the lodge is the heart of Freemasonry. It is where Masons come together to learn, share ideas, and engage in meaningful discussions about morality, spirituality, and philosophy. Through their participation in the lodge, Masons deepen their understanding of their beliefs and form strong bonds with other members of their community.

Grand Lodge

Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge is the governing body of Freemasonry in a specific jurisdiction, usually a state or country. It is responsible for overseeing the affairs of all subordinate lodges within its jurisdiction. The Grand Lodge is made up of elected officers who are responsible for carrying out the business of the organization.

In many jurisdictions, the Grand Lodge is also responsible for conferring the higher degrees of Freemasonry, such as the Scottish Rite and York Rite. This is done through the establishment of appendant bodies, which are separate organizations that work closely with the Grand Lodge.

One of the most important roles of the Grand Lodge is to preserve the traditions and history of Freemasonry. To this end, many Grand Lodges have established museums and libraries dedicated to the preservation of Masonic artifacts and documents.

The Grand Lodge is also responsible for ensuring that Freemasonry adheres to its core values and principles. It accomplishes this by setting standards and guidelines for the behavior of its members, and by enforcing discipline when those standards are not met.

In some jurisdictions, the Grand Lodge is also referred to as the Supreme Council. This is typically the case in countries where multiple Grand Lodges exist, each with its own jurisdiction. In these cases, a Supreme Council may be established to oversee the affairs of all the Grand Lodges within the country.

Overall, the importance of the Grand Lodge cannot be overstated. It serves as the backbone of Freemasonry, providing governance, guidance, and leadership to the organization and its members. Without the Grand Lodge, Freemasonry would lose much of its structure and organization, and could potentially cease to exist altogether.

Other Masonic Bodies and Organizations

Other Masonic Bodies and Organizations

Apart from the Masonic Lodge and Grand Lodge, there are several other Masonic organizations that exist. These organizations focus on specific aspects of Masonry, providing its members with unique opportunities for growth, development, and fellowship.

Scottish Rite

The Scottish Rite is a Masonic organization that consists of the 4th through 32nd degrees for the Southern Jurisdiction in the United States. It is an extension of the craft lodge system and aims to further enhance the knowledge and understanding of the fraternity’s teachings. The Scottish Rite is known for its elaborate theatrical presentations, which use drama and storytelling to teach moral lessons and values.

York Rite

The York Rite is another Masonic organization that originated in the United States. It consists of three bodies – Royal Arch Masons, Cryptic Masons, and Knights Templar. Each body has its own distinctive ceremonies and teachings, and members must be Master Masons to join. The York Rite emphasizes the importance of the Christian faith and its members are expected to uphold its principles.


Shriners are a group of Masons who focus on philanthropy and community service. The organization was founded in 1870 and is known for its support of children’s hospitals and burn centers. To become a Shriner, one must first be a Master Mason. Shriners are famous for their signature red fezzes and parades, which help them to raise funds and awareness for their charitable causes.

In conclusion, these Masonic organizations provide members with opportunities to deepen their knowledge, strengthen their faith, and give back to their communities. While each organization operates independently, they all share the same core values and commitment to brotherhood.

Beliefs and Practices of Freemasonry

The Masonic Moral Code

The Masonic Moral Code

Freemasonry is known for its emphasis on moral and ethical principles. At the core of this emphasis is the Masonic Moral Code, a set of guidelines that guide the behavior of Freemasons both inside and outside the lodge.

The Masonic Moral Code is based on three primary virtues: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. These virtues serve as the foundation for all Masonic ethics and guide the behavior of Freemasons in their personal lives, careers, and interactions with others.

Brotherly Love

The first virtue of the Masonic Moral Code is Brotherly Love. This principle emphasizes the importance of showing kindness, compassion, and understanding to our fellow human beings. It requires us to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, and to work towards the betterment of humanity as a whole.

In practice, Brotherly Love requires Freemasons to support one another in times of need, to offer comfort and aid to those who are suffering, and to promote peace and harmony in the world around them. It also encourages Freemasons to develop strong bonds of friendship and brotherhood with their fellow members, fostering a sense of community and belonging within the lodge.


The second virtue of the Masonic Moral Code is Relief. This principle focuses on the importance of charitable giving and helping those in need. It requires Freemasons to actively seek out opportunities to assist others and to use their resources and skills to make a positive impact on the world.

In practice, Relief requires Freemasons to support charitable causes and organizations, to volunteer their time and talents to help those in need, and to provide financial assistance to those who require it. It also encourages Freemasons to engage in acts of random kindness and to look for ways to make a positive impact on the lives of others.


The third virtue of the Masonic Moral Code is Truth. This principle emphasizes the importance of honesty, integrity, and transparency. It requires Freemasons to be truthful in their dealings with others, to uphold the highest standards of ethical behavior, and to always speak the truth even when it is difficult or unpopular.

In practice, Truth requires Freemasons to always act with integrity in their personal and professional lives, to avoid dishonesty and deception, and to hold themselves to a high standard of moral behavior. It also encourages Freemasons to seek out knowledge and wisdom, embracing lifelong learning and personal growth.

In conclusion, the Masonic Moral Code serves as a guiding force for Freemasons around the world, shaping their behavior and helping them to lead lives of purpose, meaning, and integrity. By embracing the principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, Freemasons can make a positive impact on the world around them while fulfilling their obligation to act as virtuous, upstanding members of society.

The Masonic Ritual

The Masonic Ritual

One of the most intriguing aspects of Freemasonry is its unique and elaborate rituals. Rooted in ancient traditions, the masonic ritual involves a series of symbolic actions and words intended to impart moral lessons and spiritual insights to the initiates.

At the heart of the masonic ritual lies the initiation ceremony, which marks the beginning of the candidate’s journey into the fraternity. This solemn and dramatic event typically takes place within the Lodge, the sacred space where Freemasons meet and perform their rituals.

During the initiation, the candidate undergoes a series of symbolic trials and ordeals that test their determination, courage, and commitment to the values of Freemasonry. These trials may include blindfolded walks, symbolic gestures, and oaths of secrecy and loyalty.

Central to the initiation ceremony is the concept of rebirth, which symbolizes the candidate’s transformation from a profane person to a mason. Through this process of purification and enlightenment, the candidate gains access to the secrets and mysteries of the craft, as well as the fellowship and support of his brothers.

The masonic ritual also includes other important ceremonies, such as the passing and raising of a mason, which mark the candidate’s progress through the ranks of the fraternity. Each of these ceremonies builds upon the teachings and symbolism of the previous ones, deepening the initiate’s understanding of the masonic philosophy and worldview.

Overall, the masonic ritual is more than just a series of elaborate performances. It is a powerful tool for personal transformation and spiritual growth, designed to help the initiates become better men, better citizens, and better members of the human family. By participating in this timeless tradition, Freemasons can tap into the wisdom and insights of centuries of masonic thought and practice, and carry on the legacy of this remarkable fraternity for generations to come.

The Masonic Symbolism

The Masonic Symbolism

Masonic symbolism is an integral part of Freemasonry. It refers to the use of signs, emblems, and allegorical figures that represent moral and ethical values, and convey important messages to Masons.

The Importance of Symbols in Freemasonry

Symbols are essential tools in Masonic teachings and rituals. They help Masons to understand complex concepts, such as the nature of the Supreme Being, the meaning of life, and the journey of self-improvement. Symbols also serve as reminders of the duties and obligations that come with being a Mason.

Some of the most well-known symbols in Freemasonry include the Square and Compasses, the All-Seeing Eye, the Letter G, and the Blazing Star. Each symbol has a specific meaning and purpose, and Masons learn how to interpret them through their personal experiences and interactions with other Masons.

The Square and Compasses

The Square and Compasses is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Freemasonry. This symbol represents the tools used by stonemasons to measure and construct buildings, and is used in Masonic teachings to remind Masons to be honest and fair in all their dealings. The Square represents morality, while the Compasses represent spirituality. Together, they symbolize the balance between these two aspects of human existence.

The All-Seeing Eye

The All-Seeing Eye is another prominent symbol in Freemasonry. It is often depicted as an eye within a triangle, and represents the watchful eye of God, who sees all and knows all. This symbol reminds Masons to be mindful of their actions and to strive for moral perfection.

The Letter G

The Letter G is a symbol that represents both geometry and God. It is placed in the center of the Square and Compasses, and reminds Masons that the study of geometry leads to a better understanding of the architecture of the universe. The Letter G also stands for the Great Architect of the Universe, which is how Masons refer to the Supreme Being.

The Blazing Star

The Blazing Star is a symbol that represents divine guidance and enlightenment. It is often depicted as a star with rays emanating from it, and reminds Masons to follow the light of knowledge and wisdom in their journey towards self-improvement.

In conclusion, Masonic symbolism plays a crucial role in Freemasonry. It provides Masons with powerful tools for learning, growth, and spiritual development. Through the use of symbols, Masons are able to connect with one another on a deeper level and develop a stronger sense of brotherhood.

Controversies and Criticisms Surrounding Freemasonry

Conspiracy Theories and Myths About Freemasonry

Conspiracy Theories and Myths About Freemasonry

Freemasonry has been the subject of various conspiracy theories and myths for centuries. Some of these theories have gained traction, while others have been debunked. In this section, we will examine some of the most popular conspiracy theories and myths about Freemasonry.

Freemasonry Myths

Myth #1: Freemasons worship Satan

One of the most persistent myths about Freemasonry is that its members worship Satan. This myth likely originated from the fact that Freemasonry is a secret society, which has led some people to speculate about what goes on inside its lodges. However, there is no evidence to support this claim.

In fact, Freemasonry requires its members to believe in a Supreme Being, but does not specify which one. Therefore, members are free to worship any deity they choose.

Myth #2: Freemasonry is a religion

Another common myth is that Freemasonry is a religion. While Freemasonry has certain religious elements, such as a belief in a Supreme Being, it is not a religion. Rather, it is a fraternity that encourages its members to be moral and upright citizens.

Freemasonry Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy Theory #1: Freemasons control the world

Perhaps the most famous conspiracy theory about Freemasonry is that its members control the world. According to this theory, Freemasons are part of a global elite who use their power to manipulate world events. While there is no evidence to support this claim, it has persisted for centuries.

Conspiracy Theory #2: Freemasons were involved in the assassination of JFK

Another popular conspiracy theory is that Freemasons were involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This theory is based on the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated Kennedy, had connections to Freemasonry. However, there is no evidence to suggest that Freemasons were involved in the assassination.


While conspiracy theories and myths about Freemasonry may be entertaining, they are not based in fact. As a fraternity, Freemasonry encourages its members to be moral and upright citizens, and does not have any nefarious agenda. It is important to separate fact from fiction and avoid falling prey to baseless speculation.

Discrimination and Secrecy

Discrimination and Secrecy

Freemasonry has faced criticism for its history of discrimination and its culture of secrecy. While Freemasonry has evolved over time, there are still issues that persist.

Discrimination in Freemasonry

Discrimination in Freemasonry originated from the organization’s roots as a men-only society. Although some Masonic organizations have since opened their doors to women, the majority still remain exclusively male. This exclusionary policy is viewed by some as discriminatory and outdated.

Another aspect of discrimination in Freemasonry is the perception that it is primarily a group for wealthy, white men. The organization’s membership has historically been composed of individuals from privileged backgrounds, leading some to believe that it perpetuates a system of privilege and elitism.

Secrecy in Freemasonry

The culture of secrecy in Freemasonry has also been a point of controversy. Many outsiders view the organization as being shrouded in mystery, with secret rituals and ceremonies that are known only to members. Additionally, the use of symbols, handshakes, and other gestures that are unique to the organization can make outsiders feel excluded and suspicious.

While Freemasons argue that secrecy is necessary to preserve the integrity of their organization and protect the privacy of its members, critics argue that it reinforces negative stereotypes and fosters suspicion and distrust.

In addition to these concerns, the secretive nature of the organization has also led to accusations of impropriety and misconduct. Some conspiracy theorists suggest that Freemasonry is involved in nefarious activities, ranging from political manipulation to satanic worship.

Despite these criticisms, Freemasonry remains a popular and influential organization around the world. Its values of brotherhood, charity, and personal growth continue to draw new members. However, the organization must address its issues of discrimination and secrecy if it hopes to maintain relevance in an increasingly diverse and transparent world.

Freemasonry and Politics

Freemasonry and Politics

Freemasonry has often been associated with politics throughout history. While Freemasonry as an institution does not promote or endorse any political party or ideology, some members of the organization have held prominent positions in politics. This has led to controversies and criticisms surrounding the influence of Freemasonry on politics.

Politics in Freemasonry

Freemasonry has a strict policy of non-interference in politics. Members are not allowed to discuss politics or religion during lodge meetings, and the organization does not endorse any political candidates or parties. However, this does not mean that politics is entirely absent from the organization.

Many Freemasons have held prominent positions in politics, including several US presidents such as George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman. The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was also a member of the fraternity. These politicians were not elected based on their membership in Freemasonry but because of their leadership qualities and achievements.

Freemasonry and Political Allegiances

While Freemasonry does not officially align with any political party, some critics claim that the organization has an underlying political agenda. There have been accusations that Freemasonry promotes a particular political ideology or supports specific political candidates. However, these claims remain unsubstantiated, and there is no evidence to suggest that Freemasonry has ever tried to influence political decisions or elections.

Criticisms of Freemasonry in Politics

The association between Freemasonry and politics has attracted criticism from various quarters. Some opponents argue that the organization’s secrecy and exclusivity make it unsuitable for public office holders. Others claim that the influence of Freemasonry on politics undermines democratic principles and values.

In some countries, such as Italy, Freemasonry was banned by fascist regimes who viewed the organization as a threat to their ideology. Similarly, during the Cold War, many countries considered Freemasonry as a conduit for espionage and subversion.


Despite the controversies surrounding Freemasonry and politics, it is essential to recognize that the organization does not officially endorse or promote any political agenda. While some members of the fraternity have held prominent positions in politics, their achievements were based on merit and leadership qualities rather than their membership in Freemasonry. Ultimately, the role of Freemasonry in politics remains a subject of debate and speculation.
The Freemasons have a long and complex history that has been the subject of numerous controversies and criticisms. Despite this, Freemasonry continues to thrive and attract new members from all walks of life. From its origins as a guild of stonemasons to its current status as a global organization, Freemasonry has always been characterized by its commitment to brotherhood, morality, and intellectual curiosity. Whether you are drawn to its mystique or simply seeking a sense of community, the world of Freemasonry offers something for everyone. As you explore this fascinating and enigmatic society, remember to keep an open mind and embrace the spirit of inquiry that lies at the heart of Freemasonry.

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