No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
Today, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving millions of pounds every year to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
The six million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
Freemasonry has always been about making good men better. Individuals aim to shape their lives round five core principles:
Integrity: We say what we mean and we keep our promises.
Kindness: Although our families come first, we believe in playing a key role in our communities and give time and money to charitable ventures.
Honesty: We pride ourselves on openness, about what being a Freemason means for us.
Fairness: We treat everyone as equal – we listen to others, explore any differences and look for common ground.
Tolerance: We respect the opinions of others and behave with understanding towards them.