an international organization whose principles are embodied in SYMBOLS and ALLEGORIES connected with the art of building and involving an oath of secrecy. The origins of the movement probably lie in twelfth century Europe. There are two major divisions
   the Old Charges which date 1390 and 1400; and The Masonic Word, which is a Scottish institution of obscure origin. From the eighteenth century there developed "Speculative Masonry" or modern FREEMASONRY. The Grand Lodge was formed in 1717 to co-ordinate other Lodges. The origins of most Masonic ceremonies are obscure and probably date to the seventeenth century. The movement places considerable emphasis on social welfare activities and claims to be based on the fundamentals of all religions. In the eighteenth century it was closely associated with DEISM and even today a general deistic ethos generally prevails modified by the incorporation of religious symbols derived from ASSYRIAN and EGYPTIAN BELIEFS. The CHURCH OF ENGLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and many EVANGELICAL denominations have condemned FREEMASONRY as UN-CHRISTIAN. Recently various sensational journalists have published exposes claiming that it is a closed club which often breaks the law to promote the interests of its members. Such claims are, of course, hotly denied by Masons.

Concise dictionary of Religion. 2012.

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