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more light #302

Origin Of Freemasonry

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

Dear Masonic Student,

Below we have something that is taken from Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry that should be helpful to read and retain for the time when someone asks what the origin of Freemasonry is. It seems like that is a question that gets asked by Masons and non-Masons alike who are genuinely interested in the history of Masonry. You may have a copy of Mackey’s; I hope so, because they are great books to have for the Masonic Student. If you don’t have a set you might be able to get one from a used book source; my favorite used book source is Brother Harold Davidson at , I also like the on-line versions such as the e-book library at . I’m sure you’ll like reading what Brother and Dr. Mackey, and subsequent editors, wrote about the Origin of Freemasonry.


The origin and source whence first sprang the institution of Freemasonry, such as we now have it, has given rise to more difference of opinion and discussion among Masonic scholars than any other topic in the literature of the Institution. Writers on the history of Freemasonry have, at different times, attributed its origin to the following sources:

1. The Patriarchal religion.
2. The Ancient Pagan Mysteries.
3. The Temple of King Solomon
4. The Crusaders.
5. The Knights Templar.
6. The Roman Colleges of Artificers
7. The Operative Masons of the Middle Ages.
8. The Rosicrucians of the sixteenth century
9. Oliver Cromwell, for the advancement of his political schemes.
10. The Pretender, for the restoration of the House of Stuart to the British throne.
11. Sir Christopher Wren at the building of Sailt Paul’s Cathedral.
12. Doctor Desaguliers and his associates in the year 1717.

Each of these twelve theories has been from time to time, and the twelfth within a recent period, sustained with much zeal, if not always with much judgment, by their advocates. A few of them, however, have long since been abandoned, but the others still attract attention and find defenders. Doctor Mackey had his own views of the subject in his books History of Freemasonry, to which the reader is referred (see Antiquity of Freemasonry Egyptians Mysteries; Roman College Artificers; Como; Comacine Masters; Traveling Masons; Stone-Masons of Middle Ages; Four Old Lodges; Revival; Speculative Freemasonry).

Those references about seeing those topics in Mackey’s 7 volume set of the History of Freemasonry are a great help in shortening up the time it might take to find information in the set on the origin of Freemasonry, if you’d like to follow-up with some reading. If you don’t have a set they can be found in most Masonic Libraries, and there is an e-book copy of each volume at:

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Last modified: March 22, 2014