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Flowers left for Andrew Wootters
History Masonry: A Symbolic Lodge, in which the first three degrees of Freemasonry are conferred, the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason, is so called from the color of its decorations.  Freemasonry is an oath-bound fraternal and benevolent association of men whose purpose is to nurture sound moral and social virtues among its members and mankind.  Its origins go back to 17th-century England when guilds of working stonemasons began accepting honorary members, many of whom were gentlemen architects or amateur scholars interested in the new rational philosophy of science and the Enlightenment.  A separate "speculative" fraternity of Freemasons, using the guild system of degrees and secret passwords, and the stonemason's tools as symbols, was officially organized as the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.  A Masonic Lodge in America is first mentioned in Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette in 1731.  By the mid-18th century Freemasonry had gained wide acceptance in America. Although much of Freemasonry's ritual symbolism is drawn from Biblical references, it has no religious affiliation or requirement except in a belief in a Supreme Being.  For 18th century Americans, removed from the European center of learning, Freemasonry served as a vehicle for the popularization and spread of new ideas.  Enlightenment concepts of equality, religious tolerance, and natural laws were incorporated into Freemasonry's moral system.  These radical ideas helped form American arguments for independence and democracy; many of the leaders of the American Revolution were Freemasons. Today, additional information has surfaced that links early Freemasonry to Templarism and the Crusades of the Middle Ages.  The thesis for this even earlier origin of Freemasonry can be found in John Robinson's book "Born in Blood". Freemasonry today remains the oldest and most successful of all fraternal organizations and has served as a model for many subsequent groups.
- Judy Richards
 Added: Jul. 13, 2013

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