Freemasonry

Freemasonry, in modern times is the name given to a world-wide institution of the nature of a friendly benevolent society, having for its objects the promotion of social intercourse amongst its members, and, in its own language, “the practice of moral and social virtue,” the exercise of charity being particularly commended. By a peculiar grip of the hand and certain passwords members are enabled to recognise each other, and the existence of masonic lodges in all countries enables the freemason to find friendly intercourse and assistance wherever he goes. Its origin is found in the masonic brotherhoods of the Middle Ages, and some of the names, forms, and symbols of these old craft guilds are still preserved. In an age when great cathedrals and monasteries were rapidly springing up masons were in great demand, and had to travel from place to place, hence signs were adopted by which true masons might be known amongst each other and assisted. The idea of utilising this secret method of recognition for general, social, and charitable purposes, without reference to the mason's craft, seems to have originated in the Edinburgh Lodge, where, in 1600, speculative or theoretical masons were admitted. In its present form of organisation it dates back to 1813, when the “United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England” was formed, and of which, since 1874, the Prince of Wales has been Grand-Master, and which has nearly 2000 local lodges under its protection.

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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