All over the world, from Asia to small towns in the United States, freemasonry worked to build a more enlightened society. The name was inspired by masonry. Freemasons have helped to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment. They have also been accused of attempting to undermine religion and plotting for revolution. They had private clubs, held meetings in lodges, used symbols, and had secret rituals. Freemasonry has a rich history based in myth, but an even richer factual history. The study of Freemasonry can be approached in two different ways: factually or mythically, and each has a wealth of information.
It is uncertain how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. One theory is that it began during the Middle Ages with stonemasons' guilds. Scotland has a long connection with Freemasons and many believe some of the oldest Masonic texts can be found there. It is unknown how the first Masons were recruited. Stevenson (2011) states "Though at first Scotland's lodges were entirely composed of stonemasons, in time a trickle of outsiders, mainly gentlemen, begin to join them" (p.282) The oldest document that makes reference to Masons was printed sometime around the year 1390. The language and symbols used in Masonic rituals come from this period. Freemasons recognize the existence of Supreme Being, and new members must swear in this belief. Freemasonry has no religious requirements, and does not teach specific religious beliefs. Fozdar (2011) states "The official position in British and American Freemasonry has long been that the Masonic order is not a religion; rather, it is predicated on, and serves, religious faith" (p.496). Within Masonic Lodges, members are not allowed to speak about political or religious issues.
Freemasonry became very popular in America during the colonial times and had several well-known members. York (1993) states that "A half-century ago, some historians connected Freemasonry with American independence because a few leaders of the Revolutionary generation--most notably Benjamin Franklin and George Washington--were Freemasons" (p315.