Origins of Freemasonry
The Strong Family, 1732 , Charles Philips (British, London 1703–1747 London)
Oil on canvas, Gift of Robert Lehman, 1944, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The inscriptions on the frame indicate that the family is that of Edward Strong, master mason of Saint Paul's Cathedral.
No one knows the true origins of Freemasonry. Although some Masonic Lodges existed in Britian in the early 1600s, its was not until 1717 that four London Lodges organized a Grand Lodge to govern themselves. Freemaonry's ritualsand teachings, however, contain deeper strata of thought that stretch back through the middle ages to the acient world. Over generations, many people of different communities, faiths and philosophies helped buid Freemasonry.
Three principals communities influenced the creation of Freemasonry. The first was Judeo-Christian faith, the second stonemasonry guilds, and the third, intellectuals from the Enlightenment period of history. The Judeo-Christian faith teaches the "Brotherhhod of man under the Fatherhood of God." The stonemason guilds provided the symbols, tools and stories around which to create a new society, while the enlightened intellectuals dedicated the Fraternity to tenets of Brotheryly love, Releif and Turth. Though separate and distinct, these communities were related through a fascination with the Temple of God in Jerusalem. According to the Bible, God's Temple was planned by wise King Solomon, built by organized stonemasons, and was perfect in its architecture.
Based on these three traditions, the "Most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity of Accepted Free-Masons" began in London. As British merchants, saiors, soldiers and colonists traveled, they took Freemasonry with them. In every corner of the world, the Fraternity would adapt to the needs of new communities, while perpetuating its rituals, symbols an tenets.