Brattleboro Lodge No 102

Free & Accepted Masons



What is Freemasonry?


Masonry is a unique institution that has been a major part of our society since before the founding of the United States.  No one really knows how old Masonry is. It may very well have begun when men first began to build with stone in Egypt or with brick in Babylonia, or even earlier. There were builders’ guilds in ancient Greece and Rome, and, Western Europe during the middle ages. In later times in England, these seem to have changed from the guilds of operative builders into social clubs or lodges of men who called themselves Masons and who used the builders tools symbolically; that is to teach moral lessons and to build spiritual houses rather than to erect temporal buildings of stone. Masonry, or more properly Freemasonry, is America's largest and oldest fraternity and one that continues to be an important part of many men's personal lives and growth.


No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages.  The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era.  The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work.  In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, transforming the craft from “operative” masons who constructed buildings, into a “speculative” fraternity that used the symbolism, tools, and terminology of the medieval masons as illustrations of character building. Masonic ceremonies use legendary tales of the construction of the biblical King Solomon’s Temple as symbols for building an inner temple in the hearts of men.


By the 1730s, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies.  Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts.  Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.


Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.  During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.


During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net".  The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.


Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.


The four million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.


Many years ago in England it was described as "a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." It is a course of moral instruction using both allegories and symbols to teach its lessons. The legends and myths of the old stonecutters and Masons, many of them involved in building the great cathedrals of Europe, have been woven into an interesting and effective way to portray moral truths.


In Masonry, the old tools and ways of the Craftsmen are used to help dramatically portray those moral truths. Two examples are the 24-inch gauge and the common gavel. Just as the ruler is used to measure distance, the modern Mason uses it as a reminder to manage one of his most precious resources, time. And, as the gavel is used to shape stones, so it is also the symbol of the necessity for all of us to work to perfect ourselves.


One modern definition is: "Freemasonry is an organized society of men, symbolically applying the principles of Operative Masonry and architecture to the science and art of character building." In other words, Masonry uses ageless methods and lessons to make each of us a better person.


Membership in the Masons is open to all men who believe in a Supreme Being and meet its qualifications and standards of character and reputation. One of Freemasonry’s customs is not to solicit members, but any man is welcome to request information about joining the fraternity.


Related organizations that base their membership on Masonic affiliation include the York Rite (made up of Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Knights Templar), the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Allied Masonic Degrees, the Order of the Eastern Star, Order of the Amaranth, Shrine International, and Grottoes of North America. Masonic related youth groups include DeMolay International for Boys, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, and Job’s Daughters International.


Ancients and Moderns

The first issue on regularity arose when in 1753 a rival group of Freemasons, which called themselves Ancients, formed a rival Grand Lodge to the Premier Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England, according to the Old Constitutions. In 1756 Laurence Dermott (1720-1791) wrote a Constitution for the Ancients, the Ahiman Rezon. Freemasons were known either as the Free and Accepted Masons (Moderns, Geomentic or Gentleman masons, Hanoverian), or Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (Ancients or Athol Masons, Jacobite).




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