Masonic Lodge origins
Most authorities within and without the Masons believe the Masonic institution, as we know it today, to have been formed in 1717. The form of the Masons, officially instituted in 1717, was called speculative or esoteric Masonry. Prior to that year there was operative Masons Lodges which were a kind of Trade Union guilds with an increasing measure of religion.
As we look at the Masons we know that like all religious systems, their roots are either good or evil. The Bible says in Ecclessiasties 1:9-10, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” From a biblical perspective a religious system is either built of God or built of man under the inspiration of Satan.
Post 1717 – purely speculative
1600 – 1717 – partly speculative / partly operative
Pre 1600 – purely operative
As we stated, the Masons for years were basically the equivalent to a Trade Union today for those involved in the building trade. The 1600’s however saw the lodges taking on non-craft or non-occupational Masons.
To distinguish them from the ordinary Mason they were known under different names through that century as free-men Masons or free and accepted masons (i.e. free of the trade).
The 1600’s also saw the growth of a mystical religious sect known as the Rosicrucians. Over the next 100 years the mystical beliefs of the Rosicrucianism was to be married with the secret lodge system of the Masons.
What is Rosicrucianism? Basically it is a blasphemous sect of mystics that deny the Deity and power of the Lord Jesus Christ and which believe the Bible to be an accumulation of allegories and hidden mysteries. i.e. where Scripture is symbolic they take it literal – where Scripture is literal they take it symbolic.
1630 – The first clear link between the Masonic ‘word’ with the ‘Rosie Crosse’ is found in Perth
1646 – One of the best known Rosicrucians of all time – Elias Ashmole – joined the Masonic Lodge in Warrington, England.
1649 – The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland discussed the matter of the Masons Word believing it had connotations of some secret bond – and one that bound men together for sinister purposes. However they had no firm evidence to establish the nature of the Masons word.
1652 A candidate for the ministry in the Presbytery of Jedburgh – James Ainsley was believed to have the Masons word. He received strict examination and was eventually accepted to the ministry.
1689 Robert Kirk – Minister of Aberfoyle, Perthshire – who had a great interest in the supernatural phenomena is recorded having a conversation with a clergyman from England – Dr Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester. Kirk explained the Masonic second sight to the Bishop. He was not enamoured describing it as “sinful” and gained through “evil men or evil spirits.”
In 1698 an evangelical pamphlet was circulated throughout the Christian community in London warning them of the evils of the Masons. It called the Lodge: – (1) a “devilish sect of men,” (2) “anti-Christ,” (3) “evil doers” and (4) “corrupt people.” Its authors thought it needful to warn “all godly people in the citie of London” of the “Mischiefs and Evils practised in the Sight of God by those called Freed Masons.” The tract went on then to admonish, “I say take Care lest their Ceremonies and secret Swearing take hold of you; and be wary that none cause you to err from Godliness.”
The Masons institution as we know it today was then instituted on the 24th June 1717 in England by two men – James Anderson and John Desaguliers.