Some Interesting Masonic Facts

As the Article says some may know all of these facts some may know a few, but a few may surprise you. I added a few extra that I though interesting as well.

There are many myths and “theories” about Freemasonry and sometimes it may be hard to distinguish between the myths and the actual facts. Rumors throughout the many years of Freemasonry has brought about many wrong information, misguided accusations and all around “illiteracy” about the craft. That is why today we’d like to share some very interesting and truthful facts about Freemasonry.

  • The conventional establishment of Freemasonry is usually dated to 1717, when the Grand Lodge of London emerged on the 24th June. The emergence of this Grand Lodge marks the beginning of Grand Lodges governing other lodges. 
  • At the first Premier Grand Lodge meeting they voted in the “oldest Master” in the room at the time, as Grand Master, Mr. Anthony Sayer, gentleman. Of note is that in the years following Mr. Anthony Sayer twice applied for and received Masonic relief for debts. Even the first Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge, was not immune to financial distress.
  • The third degree did not exist (as we know it today) at the beginning of Freemasonry. In fact, it only started in the 1720s, and it took quite some time to spread through Masonic lodges.
  • The conferment of a separate Third Degree is recorded in London, Edinburgh and Dublin from 1725 onwards. There were only two degrees when the first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717 and Reg. 13 in the first Book of Constitutions, 1723, confirms that the second or senior degree was entitled “Master and Fellow-Craft.” It is therefore speculated that the Third Degree was not a new invention. The original First Degree was split into two, the modern E.A. and F.C. Degrees, and thus the original Second Degree then became the Third Degree in the new Three Degree system. The one Degree instituted in the Middle Ages was an indication of qualification for the mason to become a Master Mason. The expansion of the Ritual over the centuries brought into existence a Third Degree for the Master Mason.
  • The Grand Lodge of England modified Anderson’s Constitution in 1815 to clarify the question of religion in Freemasonry. Anderson’s Constitution originally stated that a Freemason can “never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious libertine”, but this was later modified to “let a man’s religion or mode of worship be what it may”, professing freedom of religion and of worship.
  • Charles Darwin was a Freemason. Darwin became a Freemason in Scotland, and his grandfather and son also were Freemasons.
  • The first known speculative Freemason to be initiated is either Sir Robert Moray in 1641 or Elias Ashmole in 1646, depending on who you are talking to and where it took place.  Arguably it was Sir Robert Moray who was the first to be initiated on English soil, when considering purely speculative Freemasonry,  on Scottish soil there were quite a few before either of them. 
  • Freemasons played a great part in the Enlightenment. In the late 1700s they helped reform society. Since always, Freemasonry has valued human consciousness and reason, and these values were transmitted to the Enlightenment, when people were fighting for freedom of worship and speech, public education and a democratic government.
  • Freemasons were also the first advocates of equality. The fraternity has always disregarded social distinctions and was one of the first organisations in the world to believe all men are equal.
  • Freemasonic symbols are usually regarded as existing because of the secrecy of the fraternity. However, in reality, Freemasonry started being illustrated by symbols because at the very beginning most Freemasons could not read, so the symbols served to remind the members of the teachings of the Fraternity. This same philosophy applies to signs and tokens as up until the modern era, most could not read or write and these were the credentials, resumes and diplomas of the day.
  • The oldest Masonic symbol is the square and compasses. It is also the most universally recognized symbol of Freemasonry, even though its exact significance varies in different countries. The square usually symbolizes morality while the compasses symbolize wisdom of conduct. Together they mostly symbolize the harmony and perfection experienced when one lives in honesty and follows the path of right. 
  • The term “on the level”, used to describe someone who is truthful and honest, was actually derived from Freemasonry, where the level symbolizes being straightforward and truthful.
  • The term “square deal or on the square” has a similar meaning and origin.
  • The term “profane” also has unique usage in an out of a Masonic Lodge. The term is used to describe non-Masons by Masons. Also it is the root of  the word “profanity”, which is why non-Masons will think this is an insult. It is not. Accepted as the word is for general use among Freemasons, its ancient meaning “outside the Temple, an outsider,” may be misunderstood. –Source: Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
  • During the American civil war, enemy soldiers who recognized each other as Freemasons helped each other and saved each other’s lives. Even during war, these Freemasons’ loyalty to the craft did not fade away. In fact there is an excellent book titled; “The Better Angels of our Nature” by Michael A. Halleran that covers this topic in great detail. 
  • While Freemasonry is often considered a cult there are actually quite a few hard facts that differ it from cults. First of all, to become a Freemason a man has to ask a Freemason, while members of a cult are always looking for new recruits. Also, it is very easy to leave Freemasonry. On the other hand, once in a cult it can be extremely hard to leave.
  • Built in 1892, a Masonic building used to be the world’s tallest building. The Masonic Temple in Illinois, Chicago was the tallest building in the world at the time it was built and it is 22 floors high. See a list of famous masonic temples here. In case you missed it there is a little known Masonic Building in NYC that is now a private residences and if you look up and see it, you will know why.
  • At the New York World’s Fair, 1964 showcased a Masonic Pavilion replete with a huge S&C sculpture in front. That S&C sculpture now resided on the grounds of the Masonic Care Community in Utica, NY. 

    Masonic Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair

from 2/25/14