The freemasonry is a group of fraternal organisations dating back to the stonemason fraternities of the 14th century which were the regulatory bodies for the qualifications of the local stonemasons. The members of these fraternal organisations are called Freemasons.
There are 33 degrees of freemasonry with three different grades, the first is the medieval craft guilds, the second grade is of Journeymen or Apprentice and the third and final grade is the Master Mason.
The lodge is the local basic organisational unit of Freemasonry, these lodges are administered and supervised by the Grand Orient or the Grand Lodge at the regional level. It is not necessary for one lodge to recognise the legitimacy of other lodges as each operates independently without the existence of an international or global Grand Lodge.
Currently there are two main groups of Freemasonry, one is the Regular Freemasonry, it insists that every member should belief in a Deity, political and religious discussions are banned and women are not allowed to join.
The other group is the Continental Freemasonry consisting of more liberal members and it has removed almost all the restrictions of the Regular Freemasonry.
There are numerous secret rituals, ceremonies and symbolism associated with Freemasonry, most of the symbols of Freemasonry are derived from the manual tools of the stonemasons including their main symbol the compass and square, other symbols include the trowel and the level and plumb rule etc.
There are two ways to join Freemasonry, the traditional way requires an invitation from someone who is already a member, but now people can contact Freemasonry lodge in their locality and ask for joining.
Once a person has joined the Freemasons he is progressively trained, initiated, raised and passed through all the three degrees of the craft, members are taught about the secret signs and words which will signal to other members that hey have been initiated. Lodge symbols are also explained and taught during the passing of these degrees.
There are various forms of Freemasonry all around the globe and according to estimations there are more than five million members. Over two million of these members are from United States while Britain has almost 500,000 members.
George Washington, the founding father of United States was also a freemason, eight of the people who signed who signed the Declaration of Independence were also Freemasons. There have been fourteen US presidents that were Freemasons, they are: George Washington: James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford.
Other than US presidents, numerous historic, powerful and influential people around the globe were and are Freemasons like Charles Darwin, Mozart, Simon Bolivar, Mark Twain, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, J. Edgar Hoover, Earl Warren, Silvio Berlusconi, Jackie Jackson, John Elway, Salvador Allende, Samuel Colt and many others.
In the form of Freemasonry practiced in United States there are following requirements to become a Freemason:
- Every man should join of his own free will.
- Minimum age of joining is 18-25 depending on the jurisdiction.
- Applicant should have good reputation and morals.
- He should have perfect mental and physical condition.
- Should believe in a supreme authority, however, the form is left for their own interpretation
- He should be born-free.
- Should have at least two references.
- Applicant should be a male as women are not allowed to join Freemasonry, however, many European lodges allow women to join.
Freemasonry is different than the usual secret societies as their existence is not kept a secret and their members are allowed to represent their affiliations publicly. However, the rituals and inner practices are kept totally secret and are shrouded in mystery.
Hitler associated the Freemasons with Jews and an estimated 200,000 Freemasons were killed under the Nazi regime.