What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a society of men and in some countries, in separate Lodges, a society of women, who are interested in universal moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its principles (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas – a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by heart and performed within each Lodge – which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons’ customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry instils in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: a mason’s values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches moral development through concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
Becoming a Mason
Famous International Masons
An overwhelming number of the world’s best and brightest have been or are Freemasons. These groups give you far from a comprehensive list — they’re just a sampling:
Founding fathers: America’s most famous Freemason, George Washington was initiated in 1752, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Other founding fathers who were also Masons include Benjamin Franklin, Marquis de Lafayette, Robert R. Livingstone, John Hancock, and Aaron Burr.
U.S. presidents: Fourteen U.S. presidents are definitely known to have been Freemasons: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Gerald R. Ford.
Explorers and adventurers: Freemasons who blazed new trails include Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, Sam Houston, Christopher “Kit” Carson, Lewis and Clark, Charles Lindbergh, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
Science and medicine: Many Freemasons have played an important role on the scientific and medical frontiers, among them Edward Jenner (discoverer of the cure for smallpox), Joseph Lister (the man who pioneered the concept of antiseptics in medicine), and Alexander Fleming (won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of penicillin).
Arts and letters: The world of art, music, and literature wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the contributions of the Masons Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Aleksander Pushkin, Jonathon Swift, Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alex Haley, and Mark Twain.
The origins and early development of Freemasonry are a matter of some debate and conjecture. A poem known as the “Regius Manuscript” has been dated to approximately 1390 and is the oldest known Masonic text.
There is evidence to suggest that there were Masonic lodges in existence in Scotland as early as the late 16th century. The Lodge at Kilwinning, Scotland, has records that date to the late 16th century, and is mentioned in the Second Schaw Statutes (1599) .
There are clear references to the existence of lodges in England by the mid-17th century. The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster (later called the Grand Lodge of England (GLE), was founded on 24 June 1717. This was the first Grand Lodge in the world.
After four years of negotiation, the two Grand Lodges in England united on 27 December 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England. This union led to a standardisation of procedures and regalia.
The earliest official English documents to refer to masons are written in Latin or Norman French. Thus we have “sculptores lapidum liberorum” (London 1212), “magister lathomus liberarum petrarum” (Oxford 1391), and “mestre mason de franche peer” (Statute of Labourers 1351). These all signify a worker in freestone, a grainless sandstone or limestone suitable for ornamental masonry. In the 17th century building accounts of Wadham College the terms freemason and freestone mason are used interchangeably. Freemason also contrasts with “Rough Mason” or “Layer”, as a more skilled worker who worked or laid dressed stone.
Freemasonry in Switzerland
Regular Freemasonry has existed in Switzerland for more than 200 years. With over 80 Lodges to choose from across Switzerland, as well as those in neighbouring countries, the visiting Mason has a wide choice.
There is a total of 21 Lodges in the Canton of Vaud, working various rituals like Emulation in French and English, Schroder, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Scottish Rectified Rite as well as the Ancient and Primitive Memphis and Misraïm Rite.
Currently there are four Lodges working in English under the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland: St George’s Lodge in Morges, Masonry Universal Lodge in Geneva and Cosmopolitan Lodge in Zurich. There is also an English-speaking Lodge, St. Andrew’s Lodge in Basel, working Scottish Standard ritual.
In Geneva there are 13 Lodges working many different rituals. Just across the border in France, you will find a similar structure in the Province of Dauphiné-Savoie under the auspices of the Grande Loge Nationale Française, which also includes a Lodge (Flumen Luminis) working Emulation ritual in English.
Lodges in various other orders can also be found in Switzerland, including the Royal Arch, Mark, and Royal Ark Mariners.
Links to these Lodges can be found in the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland Website.
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