A Concise History of the Craft

Solid evidence supporting the history of Freemasonry prior to the 18th Century is hard to find. Theories vary wildly from the plausible to the sensational. Most masons believe that Freemasonry is derived from the early medieval stonemasons guilds and enquire no further. However, a Freemason should look more deeply at all possible roots, even if only to be able to dismiss most of them if he want to have a deeper understanding on the history of the order.

There is no commonly accepted Ancient History of Freemasonry – both the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of Scotland do not publish a view prior to its own initial conception, which is a little strange because judging for the fair number of medieval manuscripts, a strong resemblance of modern Freemasonry was already in place before their formation.

Most historians agree that Freemasonry, in its current form, probably developed as an adjunct from medieval stonemasons through the ages leading up to the Operative Stone Masons Guilds. Just how or when the transition took place from Operative Guild Free-Stone Masonry to Speculative intellectual Freemasonry (using stonemasons tools, clothing and customs as allegorical aids to teach their precepts) is not clear, although some Lodges in England were entirely non Operative by the time of Elias Ashmole in 1646ce and Lodge Kilwinning in Scotland has records showing non Operatives being admitted by at least 1672ce.

What was so special about stonemasons? They possessed great skill to create the castles, cathedrals and palaces and the necessary sculpted works and ornaments demanded of their masters. Such skill must have seemed almost magical to the vast illiterate masses. They were clearly the elite of the labour force, had secret customs and marks and would have attracted some of the brightest non-educated recruits. However, given the complexity and the emphasis on morality of the various Masonic rituals and teachings, this simple explanation of Freemasonry seems inadequate. To obtain a deeper historical appreciation, we should consider the various ancient and medieval legends with an open mind and then decide for ourselves which ones are a better fit.

small-craft Page 2 – The Knights Templar, Rosslyn and Scotland

small-craft Page 3 – Other Legends Surrounding Freemasonry

small-craft Page 4 – Proven History before 1700ce

small-craft Page 5 – Proven History afer 1700ce

small-craft Page 6 – Conclusion

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