Freemasons have been a focus of interest for centuries, partly because of their secrecy, and partly because they have been linked to esoteric and secret knowledge. One of the most common questions asked about Freemasonry is, how did it begin? It may surprise some that this question is hotly debated within Freemasonry itself. There are two traditional theories. The first is that Freemasons are a continuation of the trade guilds of medieval builders, and the second is that the Freemasons are a secret continuation of the Knights Templar from the fourteenth century. A more recent and probably more historically based theory is that Freemasonry arises out of a combination of various strains of metaphysical or occult thought that came together in seventeenth-century Europe, which could have included ideas brought to Europe by the early masons and Templars. The most likely correct answer to the question of where Freemasonry came from is all of the above. It is likely that all of the influences that have been claimed by Freemasons and scholarsthe mason guilds, the Knights Templar, and metaphysical thoughthad an influence on the development of Freemasonry.
[...] MI: Missouri Lodge of Research Hall, Manly P. The Lost Keys of Freemasonry: Or, the Secret of Hiram Abiff. Richmond, VA: Macoy and Masonic Supply Co Hamill, John. The Craft: A History of English Freemasonry. Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire: Crucible Haywood, H. L. The Great Teachings of Masonry. New York: George H. Doran John Hamill, The Craft: A History of English Freemasonry (Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire: Crucible, 1986) Jacob, Margaret C. Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe. New York: Oxford University Press Knight, Christopher. The [...]
[...] The theory that the Templars influenced the formation of Freemasonry in Scotland depends on the belief that the Templars brought their information north after the Order was closed down. One link in this chain involves the Scottish family of Sinclair (formerly St.-Clair), which dates back at least to the time of the Templar escapes and was later connected to first masonry and then Freemasonry. In 1441, the Scottish king James II appointed a later Sinclair, Sir William, the Patron and Protector of Scottish Masons. [...]
[...] Conclusion A look at Freemasonry and its symbolism shows that it borrowed quite a lot from prior traditions. Freemasonry was clearly set up according to the structure of operative masonry, and Scottish masons and aristocracy may well have preserved Templar lore from past centuries. It is equally true that the intellectuals who became involved in speculative Freemasonry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had been exposed to centuries of Eastern metaphysical thought that greatly resembled much of what the Templars gathered in the East. [...]
[...] Like other craft guilds, the masons participated in acting out mystery plays for the community on feast days, probably including plays that related to the building of the original Temple in Jerusalem, a practice that may have carried over into the rituals of Freemasonry that involve acting out such scenes. In Scotland the operative masons were still active in guilds at the time that they began to invite speculative Masons from the upper classes to join them. In England the operative guilds were less active, and it is unclear whether there was a direct transition from operative masonry to speculative Freemasonry. [...]
[...] We can only imagine what effect similar texts might have had on people in the more literal age of the Templars. The Order of the Knights Templar grew quickly, capturing the romantic imagination of the time. Men from many noble houses joined and donated their property. In this way the Templars became one of the richest bodies in Europe, financing whole kingdoms, a situation that would eventually lead to their downfall. B. Beyond the Holy Land, The Christian kingdom in Jerusalem was lost in 1137 and the Christians were slowly pushed out of the Middle East. [...]
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