Freemasonry is very real and everywhere a living, common, supported practice, with a Latin motto, ultimately enigmatic: "Ordo ab Chao".


With its roots dating back to the medieval guilds of stonemasons, Freemasonry is the oldest initiatory society in the West and is not dependent on a religious institution. With Lodges in almost every major city in most parts of the world, it has grown from an originally British institution to a worldwide phenomenon with a wide range of local idiosyncratic features and characteristics. With nearly ten million active members, it is the largest fraternal organization in the world, still managing to attract new members in the postmodern society of the 21st century.

Freemasonry is an initiatory society, which has been built on its own history since its origins. It has long remained legendary, written with the idea of providing timeless, not to say mythical, foundations for a whole body of symbolism and ritual. Freemasonry, “the eldest daughter of eighteenth-century intellectualism,” was born in England under the conflicting auspices of rationalism, as professed by Locke and Newton, and that pre-romantic longing for mystery, which had its roots in the occult tradition and in medieval spiritualism. Since the Enlightenment, the need for man to come out of obscurantism, Christian tolerance, and freedom of conscience was emphasized and a more moralistic-rationalist approach to Protestant beliefs and practices was developed. It spread rapidly on the European continent as well, where it adapted to the ethnic spirit of different nationalities, facilitated in asserting its distance from feudalism and obscurantism. 


Today’s international Masonic scene was built gradually in the 18th and 19th centuries. The United Grand Lodge of England finally took its form and name in 1813. The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the most widely practiced Masonic system worldwide, gained its final form in the United States of America in 1801 and spread to Europe in 1804. The Grand Lodge of London and Westminster since 1717, is today considered “the mother of all the Grand Lodges of the world”.

Its identity survives in the United Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge of the “Ancients”, founded in 1751, joined in 1813 the first Grand Lodge in London from 1717 (“The Moderns”), forming the United Grand Lodge of England – The United Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of England -, which is still in operation at the present day, and which English Masons know by the short name of “The Grand Lodge.” The Ancients and Moderns agreed on an Act of Union, signed on November 25, 1813 by the Dukes of Sussex and Kent, then confirmed on December 27, 1813, the day that marks the establishment of the United Grand Lodge of England. 

Among the Articles of the Union, Art. II., in which it is declared and proclaimed that the true Ancient Freemasonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely the Admitted Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Royal Arch, is of great importance: “It is declared and proclaimed that Ancient and pure Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely, the entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.” 


In Art. VIII., in paragraph 29-I, it was stated about the theories of the history of Freemasonry. The descent of modern Freemasonry is traced as follows: a) from the Roman Colleges; b) from the Eastern Brotherhoods of Builders; c) from the Medieval Guilds; d) and from the German Operative Stone Cutters, from the beginning of the 11th century. Standardization of ritual, procedures and regalia followed. The relations between English, Scottish and Irish Freemasonry show the major institutional developments that took place in the 18th century. Indeed, the history of Freemasonry in the British Isles is a history of four nations, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

The separation of Freemasonry into two bodies - regular, recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England, and irregular, is one of the examples that testify to the evolution of speculative Freemasonry, with its roots in operative Freemasonry. After Grand Lodges were founded in countries around the world, a schism occurred in 1877, after the Grand Orient of France changed its Constitution. Most Obediences have cut ties with it. First, the Grand Orient of France approved the optional reference to the Great Architect of the Universe in its rituals, and then to most of the traditional Masonic symbols and teachings. 

From the beginning modern or speculative Freemasonry had proclaimed a profound, progressive and necessary principle: religious tolerance. The brotherhood’s deistic cosmology, which claimed God as the Architect of the Universe by rejecting privileged individual predestination, assured all members of the existential values of their lives. The consequences of the 1877 decision of the Grand Orient of France to suppress the obligation to believe in God and the immortality of the soul were felt immediately. By removing from the Constitution, a statement of principle incompatible with absolute independence of thought, the Grand Orient of France was merely aiming to establish the strict neutrality of Freemasonry in matters of religious belief. 


Anderson’s Constitution is generally regarded as the founding Charter of modern Freemasonry. The emphasis in the second version, that of 1738, is on the Noahide’s law (a set of moral imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the children of Noah, therefore for all mankind), considered as the milestone of society at the dawn of civilization. Freemasonry is not a religion per se, although it has “consciously or unconsciously a religious character". From a historical point of view, five “ideal types” of Freemasonry can be distinguished: esoteric, with a flourishing of the higher degrees; Christian, where initiation is sometimes reserved for Christians and more specifically Protestants, for example in some forms of German and Scandinavian Freemasonry; Anglo-Saxon (more Anglican) morality, with an emphasis on humanitarian aspects; modern liberal-symbolism; and agnostic, in Catholic countries.

The presence and continued development of Freemasonry, with its rich diversity in practices and interpretations, raises the question: what makes such an ancient phenomenon seem relevant for over three hundred years to so many people? There is no particular answer to the question, but part of it surely rests on the fact that, despite its emphasis on tradition and progress, Freemasonry has remained a non-dogmatic organization in the sense that its rituals, symbols and practices have no had official and final interpretations. 


Freemasonry actually represents a multitude of organizations – independent, sovereign Grand Lodges, Rites and systems – each of which may recognize some organizations as Masonic while rejecting others. From this perspective, in Masonic terminology we speak, on the one hand, about regular or conservative forms of Freemasonry, and on the other hand, about liberal or irregular forms. At the same time, from a scientific perspective, clandestine or marginal forms of Freemasonry can also be distinguished. Names loaded with historical value and tradition are generally used, such as conservative and irregular, which are based on accepted understandings of the construct of authority and legitimacy, but also on self-designations regular and liberal, to distinguish between the two dominant forms of Freemasonry.


All over the world Obediences which follow the principles adopted in London are described as regular. Among their defining principles is belief in a supreme being, regardless of what name it is given, and the prohibition of initiating women. In Catholic countries, especially in France, a liberal Freemasonry is more commonly found, which seeks to distance itself very clearly from any notion of the divine and which accepts atheists. In the late 19th century, Female Lodges, Adoptive Lodges and Mixed Lodges were also created. The traditional branch and the most widespread in the world, orders the so-called regular Obediences, namely those related to the Old Charges, coded over time in various lists of rules or Landmarks. 

This branch can be classified into two groups: a main one, commonly called mainstream, the most important in the world from the numerical perspective and composed of Grand Lodges recognized as regular among themselves and by the United Grand Lodge of England, and which regards the latter as the “Grand Mother Lodge of all Regular Obediences.” It has no other course of action than the recognition of the various Grand Lodges of the world. The requirement, in terms of criteria, imposes compliance with the principles codified rather late, on September 4, 1929, in eight fundamental principles for the recognition of other Grand Lodges, sometimes called the “8 Point Rule”. There are Grand Lodges awaiting or likely to receive mainstream recognition in the future. Recognition is an ambivalent term and over the years Masonic leaders have interpreted it flexibly.

The other group represents the totality of traditional Obedience“ that respec” the Old Charges but practice religious segregation and are not included in the main group for various reasons, including the refusal to recognize certain Obediences accepted by the mainstream. This is also the case in Scandinavia, where the Grand Lodges generally only admit members of the national Lutheran churches. The liberal branch, which calls itself non-dogmatic because it does not impose a particular faith and accepts atheists, continues the tradition of openness and tolerance of the United Grand Lodge of England before the Union in 1813, called the “Moderns”. The work of these Lodges is spiritual, but frequently takes on social and political connotations. Thus, liberal Freemasonry is also characterized by the fact that it is not only composed of male but also mixed and female Obediences. 


Facing the challenges of our time means keeping alive a dynamic emancipation, established by the Freemasons in 1717. Freemasonry is the happy result of the relationship and synthesis between different ways of accessing knowledge and the uniqueness that these forms demand. It is and will remain a traditional storage of wisdom, imparting teachings to those who are able to receive them and spreading them with spiritual generosity.

The privileged situation of this association of medieval builders – which we can call – without fear of error – a guild, comes from the fact that its members were the builders of churches and cathedrals. All the domes and cathedrals of European Gothic art were erected by the Freemasons. Between the 10th and 17th century this was the main occupation of Freemasonry, which was called Operative Freemasonry. Operative Freemasonry was, like any medieval guild, a secret society. We clearly find within it the two main strategies of any secret society: esoteric initiation and the oath of secrecy. Members also had passwords, signs, special clothing, a secret alphabet. In the operational stage, the Masonic society had – like any guild – three degrees: Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. 

These three degrees have remained to this day the first three initiatory stages of all Masonic ritual systems that constitute Speculative Freemasonry (also called Blue, due to the predominant color of Masonic collars and aprons). Why did builders/mason join together in associations? The primary goal, attested to in all guilds, was the preservation and transmission under control of professional secrecy. This operation also had a spiritual dimension: there was a symbolic ritual, a symbolism of objects (especially of masonry tools) and a fundamental myth of the guild – the myth of Hiram’s murder – the architect of Solomon’s Temple. 

Because they were builders of holy buildings, the Freemasons always had a privileged position, being one of the most important medieval guilds. In the 16th century, however, with the expansion of the Renaissance style in Western sacred architecture and with the printing of the first architectural books, professional secrecy was practically destroyed. The builders’ guild no longer finds its justification, it gradually decays, but it retains its privileges. The prestige of operative Freemasonry, as well as its indisputable autonomy from state authorities, attracted more and more aristocrats and men of culture to the builders’ lodges. They were not craftsmen, but they were looking for a place where they could perfect themselves spiritually in freedom, equality and brotherhood, without fear of the censure of the autocratic state. At first, non-craftsmen called themselves “accepted masons”. 

At the end of the 17th century, the accepted Freemasons were already the majority in the lodges. Now is the time when Freemasonry changes from an operative society to a speculative society, namely what it is today. It is considered that the first Grand Lodge of Speculative Freemasonry was established in London on June 24, 1717. The fundamental normative act that regulated the activity of this first Grand Lodge (called the “Mother Grand Lodge”) was the “Book of Constitutions”. The constitutions, with the full title “The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, containing the History, Charges, Regulations of that Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity”, were drawn up in 1723 by James Anderson, assisted by Jean-Théophile Désaguliers, then revised also by him in 1738. 


Modern and contemporary Regular Freemasonry is a discreet society, composed of free men for the purpose of perfecting themselves morally and spiritually in freedom, equality and fraternity. Worldwide Regular Freemasonry has made an essential contribution to the creation of modern democracy, which it proclaims and defends.
Freemasonry contributed to the progress of mankind, created bodies for the fraternization of nations, bodies of universal character, guarantees of peace, of understanding between peoples, campaigning to eliminate abuse, affliction and fought to institutionalize the Proclamation of Human Rights.