Freemasonry is a fraternal organization whose traditions date to Medieval craft guilds but which was formally organized as a secret religion in the 18th century ^^. The term freemason is thought to originally refer to artisans (masons) who either (A) worked in ornamental (free) stone as opposed to rough stone, or (B) were exempt from the control of local guilds and thereby free to work wherever their services were needed ^ ^. Despite ardent claims to the contrary, Freemasonry is "an eminently religious institution"^ ^, holding itself up to be "...the custodian and depository (since Enoch) of the great philosophical and religious truths, unknown to the world at large, and handed down from age to age by an unbroken current of tradition, embodied in symbols, emblems and allegories"^^.
Two primary tenets of Freemasonry are belief in a Supreme Being (often referred to as the "Great Architect of the Universe") and the Universal Brotherhood of all men. The beliefs of Freemasonry borrow from all kinds of pagan traditions, including the ancient pantheism of Egypt and Babylon, the mysticism of the East, and the monotheisthic religions of the West^ ^^^^^^^.
- ? According to the History of the United Grand Lodge of England, "Organised Freemasonry became established on 24 June 1717 when four London lodges ... formed themselves into ... the first Grand Lodge in the world ... and began to establish itself as a regulatory body ... In 1723 the first rulebook ... was published ..."
- ? Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Freemasonry
- ? Mackey, Albert G, 1921 Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Revised Edition, p 618
- ? Pike, Albert ,1871, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, p 210. (From the 1966 Edition of this approved doctrinal book of Freemasonry.)
- ? "Masonry, around whose altars the Christian, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Brahmin, the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, can assemble as brethren and unite in prayer to the one God who is above ALL the Baalim, must needs leave it to each of its initiates to look for the foundation of his faith and hope to the written scriptures of his own religion" (Pike, p 226).
- ? "The first Masonic legislator whose memory is preserved to us by history, was Buddha, who, about a thousand years before the Christian era, reformed the religion of Manous" (Pike, page 277).
- ? "Everything good in nature comes from OSIRIS - order, harmony, and the favorable temperature of the seasons and celestial periods" (Pike, p 476).
- ? "It reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the lawgiver to the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabain Iconoclast, great teachers of morality, and eminent reformers, if no more; and allows every brother of the order to assign to each such higher and even divine characteristics as his creed and truth require" (Pike, p 525).