Freemasonry is one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world. It unites men of good character who, though of different religious, ethnic or social backgrounds, share a belief in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind. Freemasonry offers a system or blueprint for the good man to further improve his character and actions through its system of degrees, symbols, and fellowship opportunities.
The United Grand Lodge of England reports that worldwide membership totals more than 6 million Freemasons, 1.1 million of whom are in North America. With 68,000 Masons and 440 local Lodges, Ohio has one of the largest Masonic memberships of any state in the country.
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When did Freemasonry start?
Modern Freemasonry was established in England in 1717, although its exact origins are lost in the unrecorded history of medieval times. Its roots are found in guilds of stonemasons that, from the end of the 13th century, regulated the qualifications of stonemasons. As a stonemason grew in his craft, he was entered into the appropriate rank: apprentice, journeyman (now called Fellow Craft) and master mason.
At each stage, the craftsman was entrusted with the secrets of each level, which include passwords and grips (or handshake) made known to him only upon due inspection of necessary proficiency by a master of the craft. This way, as stonemasons migrated across Europe to the next job, each man was assured proper pay and privilege commensurate with his skill level, and clients were assured of the quality of work. Today, Freemasonry shares this same system of secrets, ritual and growth, though the work has shifted from building edifices to building oneself in good character.
How many Freemasons are there?
According to the United Grand Lodge of England, there are 6 million Freemasons worldwide.