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Freemasons
Encyclopedia of Religion. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Vol. 5. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. p3193-3199.
Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning
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Page 3193

FREEMASONS

FREEMASONS. The name for members of Freemasonry, the largest fraternal organization in the world, Freemasons are linked to numerous other rites, degrees, and orders collectively termed Masonic. Originally two words, Free Mason, the compound Freemason became standard by the nineteenth century. The term stands for "free and accepted mason," an accepted or "honorary" mason who is both freeborn (not bonded in servitude) and "free" from the original "operative" definition of masonry, the trade of stonecraft used to build churches and cathedrals throughout medieval Europe. Although there are records of noncraftsmen or "nonoperatives" joining earlier operative guilds, such as that of Elias Ashmole and Christopher Wren of Oxford, purely nonoperative "lodges" where Freemasons met were not publicly disclosed until the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in London in 1717. A Freemason (or simply "Mason") from about this time, and as outlined in the official Constitutions (1723 and 1738), was basically a "speculative" mason who, having undergone three degrees of initiation, lived a moral life devoted both to teachings derived from a symbolic understanding of the stonemason's craft and to the three great Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.

Secrecy—and a certain mystique—has surrounded and continues to surround the Freemason rituals of initiation and moral instruction, yet Freemasonry, or "the Craft," is not in principle a "secret society" in the subversive social or political sense, since respect for lawful authority is a hallmark of Masonic teachings. Though sometimes viewed as representing a specific or even "revolutionary" political agenda, Freemasons have been found on both sides of major political and social conflicts in modern times. Moreover, information regarding the history, rituals, and proceedings of Freemasonry is readily available in public libraries, in bookstores, and on the Internet. In certain instances, the names of members and even the existence of the order in some parts of the world where Freemasonry has spread were withheld from political authorities that were undemocratic, dictatorial, or generally inimical, such as those of Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Fascist Italy, Catholic Spain, and most Islamic countries today. On the other hand, political groups, such as the nineteenth-century Grand Orients in Spain and Portugal, have sometimes masqueraded as Freemasons.

As modern fraternal orders in secular societies, Masonic lodges and related organizations are open to public scrutiny, and membership is publicly displayed in almost all cases. Secrecy aside, one of the most engaging contemporary issues is whether Freemasonry is a "religion" or not. Membership requires a belief in a supreme being and the immortality of the soul, and there are ample references, albeit symbolic, toPage 3194  |  Top of Article religious symbols, personalities, and places in the rituals. Yet while the order testifies to its own archaic religious and even mythical roots, Freemasonry today resists the appellation of "religion" in the sectarian sense, encouraging only "that religion to which all men agree." Also, not claiming tax exemption as a religious body, the order aims to transcend individual religious differences and unite men of diverse backgrounds in common cause under a symbolic notion of God as the great architect of the universe. Religious tolerance and liberty of conscience have been among the principles of Freemasonry since its inception.

Despite the great importance of Freemasonry and other secretive societies in any accurate description of the rise of Western civilization, few historians of religion have undertaken a comprehensive study of the history and cultural significance of Freemasonry in its various dimensions. In recent years, social scientists and historians of ideas (Clawson, 1989; Carnes, 1989; Jacob, 1991) have sought to understand the significance of Masonry within the larger spheres of religious fraternalism, gendered cultural systems, and the rise of modern democracy and civil society. In addition, competent historians within the fraternity (Hamill, 1992 and 1994; Roberts, 1961) have maintained active lodges of research with accessible archives. And as a wider net of scholars begin to tap the formidable amount of archival material available on Freemasonry worldwide, its significance as a vital factor in Western cultural history will be further appreciated. In addition, the rich symbolism found in Masonic rites can provide a treasure trove for ritual specialists, semioticians, phenomenologists, and gender scholars.

HISTORY

Recent scholarship has placed the historical emergence of Freemasonry either in England or Scotland between 1600 and 1717. Yet the origin of Freemasonry is still perceived by the lay observer as a tangled web of mystery and opacity, due partly to the institution's use of ancient legendary history in its rituals and ceremonies, and to the fragmentariness of the early records of Masonic meetings, many of which may have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The confusion is heightened by a surfeit of origin theories—propounded by both Masons and non-Masons—that are largely untenable, such as proposals that the order has roots in the Druids, Gnostics, Egyptian pharaohs, the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, Phoenicians, Dionysiac Artificers, Vedic Aryans, Zoroastrians, Rosicrucians, the Jewish Qabbalah, Hermeticism, Essenes, or the Crusades. While aspects of these traditions permeate some Masonic rites and derivative orders, their direct influence during the seventeenth century is elusive and has been difficult to document. In fact, the precise historical circumstances of the transition from a medieval operative guild system, largely Catholic in orientation, to a nonoperative, gradually de-Christianized, nondenominational fraternity still remains to be adequately described and analyzed. Notwithstanding these conditions, it is perhaps most useful to divide Masonic history into two parts: legendary, the period for which there is virtually no authentic documents but only myths and legends; and historic, the period for which authentic documents appear (c. fourteenth century and after).

Legendary Masonic history

The legendary period of Masonic history as outlined within the tradition is founded upon a unique blend of biblical, Greco-Roman, and Afro-Asiatic personalities, places, symbols, and events. James Anderson's Book of Constitutions of 1723 and 1738, with nearly 150 pages of Masonic "history" tracing Freemasonry from Adam right up to Anderson's own time, was a benchmark in establishing and perpetuating the more influential aspects of the legendary histories, including the Temple of Solomon. Anderson, a Scottish Presbyterian minister, drew upon earlier manuscripts known as Old Charges that were associated with operative guilds from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. From the perspective of these sources, stonemasonry was viewed in ancient times as nearly synonymous with geometry and architecture, knowledge of which was a privileged or secret possession available only through direct transmission between craftsmen. The legendary origins of stonemasonry, or the "royal art," as it was called by Anderson and understood by medieval craftsmen, formed the basis upon which modern speculative Freemasonry was constructed. As such, the following may be construed as a linear account of the legendary history of Freemasonry as understood by members of the Craft in the eighteenth century. While also historically untenable, this scenario follows what the mainstream tradition had more-or-less accepted within its ranks as representing the most effective means to convey symbolic teachings pertaining to Masonic truths and virtues.

The almighty architect (God) created the universe according to the principles of geometry, and lastly created Adam in his own image. Possessing the divine knowledge of geometry as delivered to him, Adam built the first temple or place of worship in Eden, and lived in an innocent state. Then, despite his fall from grace, Adam retained this wisdom and taught his sons Cain, who built a city, and Seth, who taught his offspring. Later, the sons of Lamech perfected the arts of metallurgy, music, and tent construction; Enoch, anticipating a cataclysm (flood), built two pillars and engraved on them the sciences of geometry and masonry. According to the oldest manuscripts of the Old Charges, it was Hermes in Egypt who recovered one of the pillars and was able to restore the art of geometry by passing it on to the Egyptian pharaohs. But, according to Anderson, it was Noah who built the ark by the principles of geometry and, with his sons and their descendents, brought masonry into the postdiluvian world after settling on the plain of Shinar (Tigris and Euphrates). Anderson refers to a mason as a "true Noachite," since the universal religious principles taught to Noah by God in the Bible represented important Masonic teachings. The descendants of Shem built the Tower of Babel under the direction of Nimrod who allegedly presided over the first Masonic organization in Babylon. After the destruction of the tower and the confusion of languages, the masons were able to preserve their teachings by devising a system of signsPage 3195  |  Top of Article and passwords, and Nimrod succeeded in building an empire in Assyria at Nineveh, and passing on the wisdom to the Chaldean Magis of Persia. The descendants of Ham brought masonry into Egypt and Canaan, and the descendants of Japheth brought it into Greece, Italy, Great Britain, and America. The names of Pythagoras and Euclid are also included in these legendary histories, as well as the role of the mysteries of Osiris and Isis as prototypes for the use of symbolism in initiatory rituals.

Abraham, schooled in the builders' art in ancient Mesopotamia, answered God's call and moved his family to Canaan, where he taught geometry to the Canaanites, as well as to his own offspring. Their descendants, the Hebrews, were eventually enslaved in Egypt but rose up under Moses, who was learned in Egyptian masonry. After leading his people into the wilderness accompanied by an ark that was designed by divine geometrical instruction, Joshua and the Israelites established the masonic arts once again in Canaan, where preparations were later begun under King David for a magnificent temple to their God.

The biblical aspects of Freemasonry that relate to King Solomon's Temple reflect a closer alliance with recorded history. Though Solomon is briefly mentioned as part of the Masonic chain in the earliest manuscripts of the Old Charges, Solomon and his Temple are central to Anderson's account in which the Masonic lodge itself becomes a symbolic replica of the Temple, influencing successive generations of Freemasons. Anderson portrays King Solomon as the Grand Master of Jerusalem who was assisted in the construction of the Temple by "masons" and carpenters sent by Hiram, King (or Grand Master) of Tyre. Among the workers is the chief architect, Hiram Abif, a stonemason. In the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles (1 Kgs. 7:13–50; 2 Chr. 4), there is mention of a Hiram from Tyre who is "filled with wisdom and understanding" and is primarily a worker in brass and metals. Building upon the biblical story, the Masonic version portrays Hiram Abif as a master mason who was murdered before completion of the Temple by ruffians for not revealing the secret master's word (i.e., password and signs). The legend of Hiram Abif, including his murder and "resurrection," became a death-and-rebirth allegory that is dramatized within the third degree ritual of today's Craft. The initiated master mason is imparted with the master's word and continues the line of succession, protecting this "intellectual property" into the future.

After describing events surrounding the destruction of the Second Temple, and its rebuilding under Herod, Anderson continues in his narration with Jesus Christ as the Grand Master of the Christians who rose again from the dead. Then he focuses primarily on the architectural achievements of the Romans and how the Royal art was then preserved through the Middle Ages by the patronage of the British monarchy, right up until the time of the stonemasons and the first nonoperative lodges.

Historic period

The Historic period of Freemasonry has been traced by scholars (Clawson, 1989; Jacob, 1991; Hamill, 1992 and 1994) to these same periodic gatherings and confraternities of operative stonemasons engaged in the building of medieval churches and cathedrals in England and Europe. The earliest manuscripts associated with the work and moral symbolism of the stonemasons, the Old Charges, date from the late fourteenth century and are also called the "Gothic Constitutions." Besides tracing the legendary history of the Craft of masonry, as shown above, they contain specific moral instructions that are enjoined upon members as apprentices, fellow craftsmen (or journeymen), and master masons. It is probable that secrecy dates from this period, when knowledge of the building techniques of individual master masons was restricted to guild members.

Freemasonry as an official public institution is normally dated from the establishment of the first national Masonic organization, the Grand Lodge of England, a result of the combination of four smaller lodges of nonoperative (noncraftsmen) masons at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse, London, on June 24, 1717. While nonoperatives were included in operative masons clubs or guilds, no cooperative network of nonoperative lodges had been formally announced. The history of Freemasonry during this period is documented primarily through publications, private diaries, journals, minutes, and newspaper accounts. The Craft attracted royal patronage by 1720, and many of its early members in London were also connected to the Royal Society and the circle surrounding Isaac Newton.

The Masonic lodge became a radically new blend of aristocrat, commoner, Catholic, Protestant, and Jew, by which new ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity were celebrated. Many Masons in Europe at this time were distinguished figures of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire, Edward Gibbon, Goethe, Johann Herder, Johann Fichte, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and John Theophilus Desaguliers, an Anglican priest of Huguenot ancestry who became the order's third elected Grand Master. Mozart wrote an entire set of Masonic musical works for his lodge, as well as The Magic Flute (1791), an opera rich in Masonic symbolism.

The introduction of Freemasonry into France by 1725 signified the transition from a largely nonpolitical organization into a body that was also identified with the Jacobite cause for the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in England (King James). The descendants and followers of the exiled James II, who had died in 1701, found sympathizers on the continent, especially in Catholic France, who viewed Masonry as a means of infiltrating themselves back into English society. Though the Grand Lodge of France was nominally in control, there was a proliferation of new Masonic orders and exotic degrees that went beyond expectation. Under the direction of Chevalier Michael Ramsay, a Scottish pro-Stuart Catholic Freemason, the initial three-degree ritual of the English Craft tradition was enlarged into a system of hautesPage 3196  |  Top of Article grades, or high degrees, which greatly influenced the nature of the fraternity. In order to align Freemasonry with Scotland and the Stuarts, Ramsay made the claim in a famous speech that Freemasonry really originated from the Knights Templar, a monastic order protecting the Crusades that had been disbanded and persecuted by the pope in the fourteenth century, but which had sought asylum in Scotland until it resurfaced as Freemasonry. The Templar origin theory continues today in the works of John Robinson and Michael Baigent, as well as in some recently popular novels and films. Appealing to the French taste for high-sounding titles and rituals, and the continental aversion toward building trades, Ramsay initially contrived a series of three chivalric degrees that initiated the candidates into a kind of knighthood unknown to the British lodges. Numerous degrees were later added that included Rosicrucian, Gnostic, qabbalistic, and Hermetic elements (Knight of the Sun, twenty-eighth degree in the Scottish Rite), so that by the end of the nineteenth century there were literally hundreds of degrees offered by various Masonic and quasi-Masonic organizations, many of which were open to women.

Regarding certain occult aspects of Freemasonry, recent scholarship has shed light on the Hermetic and possibly Rosicrucian influences on the historical founding of Freemasonry. Building upon the work of Francis Yates, David Stevenson has shown plausible connections between early Freemasonry in Scotland, Hermeticism, Rosicrucian "invisible" brotherhoods (Lutheran mystical groups), and the ancient art of memory in the sixteenth century. According to Stevenson, the art of memory, originally a technique for improving the memory by visualizing rooms in a building, became, under the influence of the sixteenth-century Hermeticist Giordano Bruno, a magico-religious art for the ascent of the soul, and it was adapted into Masonry to fix the mind on images and symbols in the Masonic temple. As such, late Renaissance fascinations with Egyptian hieroglyphics, alchemical searches for immortality, Neoplatonism, and architecture were all persuasive factors in the genesis of the fraternity.

The higher degrees that survived into mainstream Freemasonry were later grouped into two principal rites, or systems: the Scottish Rite of thirty-three degrees, which was originally derived from the French but flourished in America; and the York Rite, a system of advanced degrees said to originate in York, England. The Scottish Rite, built upon the earlier Rite of Perfection of twenty-five degrees, was brought to the West Indies by Stephen Morin and formally established in the United States by 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina, where it was enlarged to thirty-three degrees. Albert Pike (1809–1891) rewrote all of these degrees during his term as Supreme Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

British Freemasonry, organized into separate Irish, Scottish, and English grand lodges, remained nonpartisan during the political-religious disputes of the eighteenth century. While there were some Protestant Christian advocates among the members, the order removed any requirement that its initiates be Christians with the adoption of the Constitutions of 1723, revised in 1738 by James Anderson. Largely as a result of British imperial expansion, initially among the military, lodges of Freemasons were established in North America, India, the West Indies, and throughout the world.

During the latter half of the eighteenth century, a rival grand lodge was formed by disaffected Irish and Scottish Masons that divided English-speaking Freemasonry for sixty years. Calling themselves "Antients" and the others "Moderns," this schism was finally healed in 1813 with the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England under the leadership of the duke of Sussex, who had been Grand Master of the Moderns. This division had led to the addition of the Holy Royal Arch to the basic three-degree system. While not of the highly imaginative character of continental degrees, the York Rite or Royal Arch provided Freemasons with a set of degrees that proposed to impart the ineffable name of deity to the degree's recipient. This rite was incorporated into the British Masonic system and also included Knights Templar and Knights of Malta degrees. Initially an Antient invention, the York Rite won wide acceptance throughout the Masonic fraternity in the nineteenth century.

The vital contribution of Freemasonry toward the establishment of the United States is confirmed by modern scholarship. Founding fathers like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and James Monroe, as well as the Marquis de Lafayette and a host of others, played key roles in making the ideals of Freemasonry a reality by creating America as a kind of Masonic "Temple of Virtue" that produced model citizens. Many of the principles laid down in the United States Constitution are essentially Masonic principles: liberty, freedom of conscience, religious tolerance, pursuit of happiness, and separation of church and state. Most federal and state government buildings were consecrated with Masonic ceremonies. In addition, Freemasonry became almost synonymous with patriotism toward America's "civil religion." Famous patriotic Masons like Irving Berlin ("God Bless America") and John Philip Sousa ("Stars and Stripes Forever") wrote stirring songs and marches, while lesser-known Masons designed the capital city of Washington, D.C., created the Statue of Liberty, and sculpted the faces on Mount Rushmore.

Freemasonry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries continued to develop along the lines established by the differing English and French models. English, Irish, and Scottish Freemasonry shaped the fraternity and its teachings in Canada, the United States, the West Indies, India, and much of Africa. The impact of the French tradition, with its rationalistic and politicized emphasis, was more deeply felt in Austro-Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Latin America. By 1877, communication between these two groups had virtually ceased, when the Grand Orient of France removed the requirement that its initiates declare a belief in the existencePage 3197  |  Top of Article of God as the "Great Architect of the Universe." In English-speaking areas, Freemasonry has in general prospered as a support to constitutional, democratic government.

One notable blemish on the Craft was the anti-Masonic episode in the United States. The abduction and suspected murder of William Morgan of Batavia, New York, in 1829 caused a widespread reaction against Freemasonry throughout the country. Morgan had published an exposé of its rituals and had brought considerable wrath upon himself from the fraternity, yet no solid evidence of his murder has been brought forward. Other secret societies, including Phi Beta Kappa and college social fraternities that are derived from the Freemasons, were also publicly affected, largely as a reaction against the perceived influence of political and social elites. This situation also precipitated the first American political party convention, that of the Anti-Masonic Party in 1832.

MASONIC TEACHINGS

Since 1717, Masonic teachings have retained a remarkable continuity and consistency. Membership in Freemasonry is comprised essentially of three steps or "degrees." The prospective candidate, after initial screening and interviewing, is initiated into the first degree as "entered apprentice," passed to second degree as "fellowcraft," and raised to the third degree as "master Mason," usually within a year. In place within Masonic ritual by 1730, the completion of all three degrees in succession made a man a full Mason, with all the rights and privileges of lodge fellowship, but also with expectations of participation in leadership succession, charitable work, and submission of dues. As part of the transformation from operative to speculative (initiated and living according to Masonic virtues) Masonry, each of the three degrees has employed within its structure "working tools" of the operative stonemasons, transformed from raw implements into symbols of Masonic teachings. The entered apprentice degree uses the 24-inch gauge and the common gavel, the former symbolic of dividing the hours of the day into three periods of service to God, charity, and rest, and the latter symbolic of removing vices and superfluities of life (i.e., forming the perfect ashlar out of the rough or imperfect stone, itself symbolic of the new candidate). The fellowcraft degree utilizes the plumb, square, and level to symbolize walking upright before God and fellow humans, honesty ("fair and square"), and equality ("on the level"). The third degree of master Mason utilizes the trowel in order to spread ("the cement of") brotherly love. In this degree, the legendary architect of King Solomon's Temple, Hiram Abif, is portrayed in a drama whereby he is symbolically slain by ruffians for not revealing Masonic secrets, and then "resurrected," thus serving as a paradigm for the rebirth of the candidates into a new life.

In addition to the above tools, there are three immovable "jewels" of the lodge, the rough ashlar (unpolished state of noninitiation), the perfect ashlar (ideal "polished" state of Masonic life), and the trestleboard (the rules and designs given by the "Great Architect of the Universe," the symbolic name for God). Each implement as used in the lodge both illustrates and confers specific Masonic teachings and obligations that are spoken as part of a "catechism" memorized by the candidate for each degree. All Masonic degrees are related to the transformation of the human personality from a state of darkness to light ("light in masonry"), symbolic of a higher level of human moral perfection destined to reach the "celestial lodge above," the term used for immortality beyond death.

Because Freemasonry has transposed a system of moral and noetic teaching upon a graded institutional structure, it has often been deemed a threat to confessional and orthodox religion. The basis for such assumptions is the fraternity's use of symbols that describe the change of personal moral character and human awareness by stages or degrees. These degrees have been interpreted as a plan for spiritual redemption without penance and forgiveness of sin. A study of the basic ceremonials and teachings, however, suggests that the goal of Masonic initiation is not actually redemption in the literal sense, but rather a shift in the initiate's perception toward the betterment of his personal moral character.

The lack of central authority and the multitude of Masonic degrees and ceremonials make it impossible to state unequivocally that Freemasonry is religious in any final or conclusive sense. Since Pope Clement XII's encyclical In eminenti in 1738, the Roman Catholic Church has proscribed Masonic affiliation for Catholics, with excommunication as the penalty. The emancipation of Jews was one of the by-products of the Enlightenment, and was ascribed to Masonic influence. As such, the free admission of Jews into lodges of equal fellowship with Christians evoked further condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, the identification of major southern European and Latin American revolutionary leaders, such as Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Simón Bolívar, Bernardo O'Higgins, and José Julián Martí y Pérez, with Freemasonry created more tension by the end of the nineteenth century, especially during the First Vatican Council (1869–1870). More recently, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States and the General Conference of the Methodist Church in England and Wales have legislated claims that Freemasonry is a system of faith and morals outside of the Christian tradition.

Beside suspicions of philo-Semitism, including the fictional notion of a worldwide Jewish-Masonic conspiracy, Christian opposition to Freemasonry stems from the alleged elements of deism, natural religion, and Neoplatonism in Masonic rituals that suggest the perfectibility of humanity rather than its sinful nature and need of redemption in Christ (see Whalen, 1958). However, many churches that maintain a less exclusive understanding of revelation have been much more tolerant of Freemasonry's belief in a universal brotherhood of humanity under the fatherhood of God. Many Christians today continue to enjoy both Masonic and Christian fellowship. Moreover, in parts of the world where religions other than Christianity prevail, the volume of sacredPage 3198  |  Top of Article law used in Masonic lodges corresponds to the prevalent book or scripture: in India, the Vedas or Bhagavadgītā; in Muslim countries where Masonry is permitted, the Qurʾān; and in Israel, the Torah. As such, Freemasonry does not advocate deism or any other specific religious doctrine, stressing that members pursue their religious life outside of the fraternity, yet live a moral life according to universal principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Freemasonry has a worldwide membership of approximately seven million people. It is governed by independent national grand lodges, except in the United States, Canada, and Australia, where grand lodges are organized by state or province. All Freemasons maintain membership in a specific lodge, yet are welcomed as fellow Masons in most places of the world where Freemasonry thrives.

Freemasonry has also provided a working structure or model for secret organizations. During the nineteenth century, many new fraternal orders were created that in some way were derivative of Freemasonry. The Knights of Columbus is a Masonic-like order for Catholics only, and the Order of B'nai B'rith has a Jewish clientele. There is an endless list of these, including Odd Fellows, Elks, Moose, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and Eagles. Even such occult groups as Gardnerian Witchcraft, the Theosophical Society, and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn are not without Masonic influence.

More closely within the Masonic fold are the groups that require initiation into the three Craft degrees. Beside the Scottish and York Rites, there is the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Shriners), which has a visible Islamic theme to its rituals, and, along with the Grotto, provides a recreational dimension to fraternity life that is also strongly committed to charity in the form of burn clinics and hospitals for crippled children. The Order of DeMolay is designed for young men, and Acacia is the name for the Masonic college fraternity.

Freemasonry is by no means an exclusively male concern. Since ancient times, women have also bonded together into sisterhoods, both religious and secular. The Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient Greece, and the various women's orders in the Roman, medieval, and Renaissance periods, are precursors for what came to be referred to as adoptive Masonry, established in France about 1775. The Adoptive Rite, designed for wives, sisters, widows, and daughters of Freemasons, consisted of four degrees: apprentice, companion, mistress, and perfect mistress. Numerous Masonic rites and orders that included women proliferated in the nineteenth century, including Co-Masonry.

The most famous and successful of the adoptive or androgynous orders (orders that include both men and women) emerged in the United States in 1868 under the guidance of Robert Morris, an active Freemason. This group is called the Order of the Eastern Star, and it has over two million women members worldwide. Their rituals, utilizing a five-pointed star, consist of five degrees drawn from the examples of five biblical heroines: Adah (Jephtha's daughter; Judges 11: 29–40), Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electa (alluded to in 2 John). Florence Nightingale was one of their famous patron members. Other Masonic orders for women include the White Shrine of Jerusalem and the Order of Amaranth, with Job's Daughters and Rainbow Girls for young women. Beside these, there are now several full-fledged women's grand lodges in the United States, which are independent of male Freemasonry. These groups, like most Masonic organizations, engage in various charitable activities. While Freemasonry is racially mixed, there are also independent, largely black, grand lodges. The largest of these African American lodges is Prince Hall, named after a freed slave in eighteenth-century Massachusetts who received a charter from London. Many notable African Americans, such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois were Prince Hall Masons, as were jazz musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Nat King Cole.

FAMOUS MASONS

Any assessment of the Masonic fraternity must acknowledge the wide range of membership that cuts across religious, ethnic, cultural, and racial lines. The list below includes names of some Masons who have distinguished themselves in service to both Masonry and the society in which they lived.

Stephen Austin, "Father of Texas"; Luther Burbank, American naturalist; Robert Burns, Scottish poet; Marc Chagall, Russian artist; Walter Chrysler, American car manufacturer; Winston Churchill, English statesman; Ty Cobb, American baseball legend; Davy Crockett, American frontiersman; Cecil B. De Mille, American filmmaker; Arthur Conan Doyle, English author; W. C. Fields, American comedic actor; John Glenn, American astronaut; Pasha Ismail, Egyptian viceroy and builder of the Suez Canal; Jerome Kern, American composer; Rudyard Kipling, English writer; Charles Lindbergh, American aviator; Charles H. Mayo, American physician and co-founder of the Mayo Clinic; Andrew Mellon, American industrialist; Motilal Nehru, Indian politician and father of Jawaharlal Nehru; Norman Vincent Peale, American Protestant clergyman; Pedro I, first king of Brazil; Paul Revere, American Revolutionary War hero; Sugar Ray Robinson, American boxing champion; Roy Rogers, American actor; Antoine Sax, Belgian inventor of the saxophone; Walter Scott, Scottish novelist and poet; Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer; Arthur Sullivan, English composer; Leo Tolstoy, Russian author; Swami Vivekananda, Hindu ascetic and philosopher; John Wayne, American actor; and Oscar Wilde, Anglo-Irish writer.

United States presidents who were Masons include George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan.

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SEE ALSO

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, James. The Constitutions of the Freemasons. London, 1723; facs. reprint, London, 1976.

Anderson, James. The New Book of Constitutions. London, 1738; facs. reprint, London, 1976.

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum: Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. London, 1888 onwards. Transactions of the premier lodge of Masonic research.

Baigent, Michael, and Richard Leigh. The Temple and the Lodge. New York, 1989.

Beck, Guy L. "Celestial Lodge Above: The Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem as a Religious Symbol in Freemasonry." Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 4, no. 1 (2000): 28–51.

Bullock, Steven C. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730–1840. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1996.

Cahill, Edward. Freemasonry and the Anti-Christian Movement. 2d ed. Dublin, 1930.

Carnes, Mark C. Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America. New Haven, 1989.

Clawson, Mary Ann. Constructing Brotherhood: Class, Gender, and Fraternalism. Princeton, 1989.

Coil, Henry Wilson. Coil's Masonic Cyclopedia. Rev. ed. Richmond, Va., 1996.

Dumenil, Lynn. Freemasonry and American Culture, 1880–1930. Princeton, 1984.

Ferguson, Charles W. Fifty Million Brothers: A Panorama of American Lodges and Clubs. New York and Toronto, 1937.

Fox, William L. Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle: Two Centuries of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in America's Southern Jurisdiction. Fayetteville, Ark., 1997.

Hamill, John. World Freemasonry: An Illustrated History. London, 1992.

Hamill, John. The History of English Freemasonry. London, 1994.

Henderson, Kent. Masonic World Guide. London, 1984.

Horne, Alex. King Solomon's Temple in the Masonic Tradition. Wellingborough, UK, 1972.

Jacob, Margaret C. Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe. New York, 1991.

Keith Schuchard, Marsha. Restoring the Temple of Vision: Cabalistic Freemasonry and Stuart Culture. Leiden, 2002.

Knoop, Douglas, and G. P. Jones. The Mediaeval Mason: An Economic History of English Stone Building in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times. 3d ed. New York and Manchester, UK, 1967.

Knoop, Douglas, G. P. Jones, and Douglas Hamer. The Early Masonic Catechisms. 2d ed. Edited by Harry Carr. London, 1963.

Mackey, Albert G. The History of Freemasonry: Its Legendary Origins. New York, 1898; reprint, 1996.

Ovason, David. The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's Capital: The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C. New York, 2000.

Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Charleston, S.C., 1871.

Ridley, Jasper. The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society. New York, 2001.

Roberts, Allen E. House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War. Richmond, Va., 1961.

Robinson, John J. Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry. New York, 1990.

Robinson, John J. A Pilgrim's Path: Freemasonry and the Religious Right: One Man's Road to the Masonic Temple. New York, 1993.

Stevenson, David. The First Freemasons: Scotland's Early Lodges and Their Members. Aberdeen, UK, 1988.

Stevenson, David. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590–1710. Cambridge, UK, 1988.

Walkes, Joseph A., Jr. Black Square and Compass: 200 Years of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Richmond, Va., 1979.

Weisberger, R. William, Wallace McLeod, S. Brent Morris, eds. Freemasonry on Both Sides of the Atlantic: Essays concerning the Craft in the British Isles, Europe, the United States, and Mexico. New York, 2002.

Whalen, William J. Christianity and American Freemasonry. Milwaukee, Wis., 1958.

Yates, Frances A. The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London, 1972.

WILLIAM H. STEMPER, JR. (1987)

GUY L. BECK (2005)

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) 
Stemper, William H., Jr., and Guy L. Beck. "Freemasons." Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Lindsay Jones, 2nd ed., vol. 5, Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, pp. 3193-3199. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http%3A%2F%2Flink.galegroup.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FCX3424501080%2FGVRL%3Fu%3Dclevnet_cpl%26sid%3DGVRL%26xid%3Dd70b8c77. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3424501080

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  • Abraham (biblical figure),
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3195
  • Acacia,
    • 5: 3198
  • Adam,
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • Adoptive Rite,
    • 5: 3198
  • African American religions,
    • Masonic lodges,
      • 5: 3198
  • Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Shriners),
    • 5: 3198
  • Anderson, James,
    • 5: 3194
    • 5: 3195
    • 5: 3196
  • Ashmole, Elias,
  • Baigent, Michael,
    • 5: 3196
  • Bʾnai Bʾrith,
    • 5: 3198
  • Bruno, Giordano,
    • and art of memory,
      • 5: 3196
  • Cain (biblical figure)
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • Clement XII (pope), Freemasonry prohibited by,
  • David (biblical figure),
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3195
  • Desaguliers, John Theophilus, as Freemason,
    • 5: 3195
  • Determinism
  • Eleusinian Mysteries,
    • and Freemasonry,
      • 5: 3198
  • England.
    • Freemasonry in,
      • 5: 3194
      • 5: 3195
  • Enoch (biblical figure),
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • Fichte, Johann Gottlieb,
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • France and French religions.
    • Freemasonry in,
      • 5: 3195-3196
  • Freemasons,
    • 5: 3193-3199
    • Christian opposition to,
      • 5: 3197
    • famous members of,
      • 5: 3197
      • 5: 3198
    • on God,
      • 5: 3194
    • history of,
      • 5: 3193-3197
    • principles of,
      • 5: 3193
    • teachings of,
      • 5: 3197-3198
  • Free will
  • Gibbon, Edward,
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von.
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Haydn, Joseph
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Herder, Johann Gottfried,
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Hermeticism
    • and Freemasonry,
      • 5: 3196
  • Hiram (king of Tyre),
  • Hiram Abiff,
  • Initiation,
    • Masonic,
      • 5: 3197
  • James II (king of England),
  • Jesus (Christ),
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3195
  • Jewish people,
    • Freemasonry and,
      • 5: 3197
  • Job's Daughters,
    • 5: 3198
  • Joshua (biblical figure),
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3195
  • Kipling, Rudyard
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3198
  • Knights of Columbus,
    • 5: 3198
  • Knights Templar
    • and Freemasonry,
      • 5: 3196
  • Lamech (biblical figure)
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • Memory
  • Morgan, William,
    • 5: 3197
  • Morin, Stephen,
    • 5: 3196
  • Morris, Robert,
    • 5: 3198
  • Moses (biblical figure),
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3195
  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Newton, Isaac,
    • Freemasons and,
      • 5: 3195
  • Nightingale, Florence,
  • Nimrod, Freemasons on,
    • 5: 3194
    • 5: 3195
  • Noah,
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • Old Charges,
    • 5: 3195
  • Order of Amaranth,
    • 5: 3198
  • Order of DeMolay,
    • 5: 3198
  • Order of the Eastern Star,
    • 5: 3198
  • Pike, Albert,
    • 5: 3196
  • Pope, Alexander
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Rainbow Girls,
    • 5: 3198
  • Ramsay, Chevalier Michael,
    • 5: 3195-3196
  • Robinson, John,
    • 5: 3196
  • Roman Catholicism,
    • Freemasonry prohibited by,
      • 5: 3197
  • Rosicrucians,
    • and Freemasons,
      • 5: 3196
  • Scotland.
    • Freemasonry in,
      • 5: 3194
      • 5: 3196
  • Scott, Walter,
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3198
  • Scottish Rite,
    • 5: 3196
  • Seth (biblical figure)
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • Shriners,
    • 5: 3198
  • Solomon's Temple (Jerusalem)
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3195
  • Stevenson, David,
    • 5: 3196
  • Swift, Jonathan,
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • Tolerance
    • Freemasons and,
      • 5: 3194
  • Tower of Babel
    • Freemasons on,
      • 5: 3194
  • United States.
    • Freemasonry in,
      • 5: 3196
      • 5: 3197
  • Voltaire
    • as Freemason,
      • 5: 3195
  • White Shrine of Jerusalem,
    • 5: 3198
  • Women.
    • in Masonic organizations,
      • 5: 3196
      • 5: 3198
  • Wren, Christopher,
  • Yates, Frances,
    • on Freemasonry,
      • 5: 3196
  • York Rite,
    • 5: 3196