Freemasonry has played a significant role in the histories of England and the US. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other American notable were Freemasons. Members of the British royal family, aristocracy, and scientific elite have been, and continue to be, Freemasons, while some Freemason organizations in the US have become more charitable organizations, running hospitals and helping children.
For centuries the bases of Freemasonry were kept secret, with members taking vows of silence about the stories and rites of the order. Secrecy is hard to maintain over a long period of time, though, and the secrets leaked out. This paper presents an overview of Freemason legends, symbols, and artifacts to provide readers with an insight into the organization that has attracted so many influential people over the centuries and continues to thrive today.Though the secrecy surrounding Freemasonry has led to fear of the Masons and accusations against them, Freemasonry is fundamentally about an individuals search for spiritual attainment, symbolized by the attainment of degrees in the order. The purpose of the order has been to maintain purity and integrity, and in modern times, to help others. Members achieve this by calling on the traditions of the past. All of that is reflected in the legends and symbols of the order.
[...] Floor Cloths and Tracing Boards When a candidate is initiated into a degree of Freemasonry a chart or picture containing symbols relevant to the degree is used in the ritual. These ready-made charts did not exist the earliest days of Freemasonry. At that time the Tyler, a Lodge officer responsible for guarding the door, would draw the necessary chart on the floor of the Lodge before the ceremony. Eventually Lodges began to have the charts professionally painted on canvas so that they could be rolled up and stored when not needed. [...]
[...] Adam was a Mason, and the Masons built the Tower of Babel. In the biblical story, this was hubris and punished by God. He made people speak different languages so they could not understand each other and conspire to build a tower to reach him. In the Freemason version God favored the masons, even thought they were trying to reach heaven. Since the people spoke in different languages, God told the masons to communicate with each other in the form of secret signs. [...]
[...] Lodges from England to Japan reflect both the principals of Freemasonry and the cultural design of the area. B. The Deity The concept of a Creator Deity is central to Freemason thought, and some representation of the Deity appears in most Masonic charts and artwork. There are several symbols that can relate to or signify Deity, including five-pointed and eight-pointed stars, a triangle, an eye, the letter and the Hebrew name of God. These symbols are often associated with a glory, which is aura of radiant light. [...]
[...] In modern Freemasonry a sword is ceremonially used to guard the door or portal against intruders and to preserve the confidentiality of the proceedings. Swords are also used in rituals. For example, in one ritual, the candidate feels the point of a sword against his breast, reminding him of the danger of the work he is about to undertake. The sharp point also symbolizes charity and mercy, while the double-edged blade of the sword represents the capability of Justice to cut both ways. [...]
[...] A complete discussion of Freemasonry symbolism would fill a large volume, but there are a few basic symbols that reoccur frequently and are important to the teachings of the Craft. In American Freemasonry, charts were made of all the symbols to ensure that the Freemason Lodges were using them correctly. This chart was sometimes called a Master's Carpet. A. The Lodge The Lodge itself is a symbol of the metaphysical structure of both the individual and of the mystical work of Freemasonry. [...]
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