Origins of Freemasonry
No one knows the true origins of Freemasonry. Although some Masonic Lodges existed in Britain in the early 1600s, it was not until 1717 that four London Lodges organized a Grand Lodge to govern themselves. Freemasonry's rituals and teachings, however, contain deeper strata of thought that stretch back through the middle ages to the ancient world. Over generations, many people of different communities, faiths, and philosophies helped build Freemasonry.
Three principals communities influenced the creation of Freemasonry. The first was Judeo-Christian faith, the second stonemasonry guilds, and the third, intellectuals from the Enlightenment period of history. The Judeo-Christian faith teaches the "Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God." The stonemason guilds provided the symbols, tools, and stories around which to create a new society, while the enlightened intellectuals dedicated the Fraternity to tenets of Brotherly love, Relief, and Truth. Though separate and distinct, these communities were related through a fascination with the Temple of God in Jerusalem. According to the Bible, God's Temple was planned by wise King Solomon, built by organized stonemasons, and was perfect in its architecture.
Based on these three traditions, the "Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity of Accepted Free-Masons" began in London. As British merchants, sailors, soldiers, and colonists traveled, they took Freemasonry with them. In every corner of the world, the Fraternity would adapt to the needs of new communities, while perpetuating its rituals, symbols, and tenets.