Freemasonry isn’t always viewed by outsiders as a global organization. Community groups like Rotary are often seen as the most popular ‘global’ organizations, whereas Freemasonry tends to lurk in the shadows somewhat.
But when you look into the numbers behind Freemasonry, you will realize that the Craft attracts Masons in communities all over the world. Worldwide, there are thought to be somewhere in the region of six million Freemasons, with the majority of lodges operating in North America.
That being said, Freemasonry membership in the US has declined from more than four million in the US in 1960 to just over one million in 2012. The good news is that the declines have been less steep in recent years, as Masonry is adapting to the changing world around the fraternity.
According to Wikipedia, Masonic lodges can be found in more than fifty countries worldwide, with representation on all continents barring Antarctica. Regardless of the country in which Masons assemble, the objectives and values enshrined within the fraternity are uniform. Whether you’re in Romania or Liberia, Freemasonry follows the same format and brings men together around shared objectives.
The lodges in which Masons meet preserve the rich history of a fraternity that has existed for centuries. Officially starting in 1717 with the formation of the Grand Lodge in England, Freemasonry quickly spread across the world in the years that followed, with US Presidents, famous writers, and academics all over the world joining the Craft.
The traditions and rituals of Freemasonry are rooted in the practices of the stonemasons of the Middle Ages, and the allegorical plays and teachings are taken from religious texts. While Freemasonry has had to adapt to the modern world, it’s a testament to the dedication of brothers throughout the ages that many of the initial traditions and rituals are still carried out within lodges today.
What’s more, much of the symbolism found in Masonic lodges and within literature written about the Craft is inspired by the equipment used by stonemasons – the Masonic apron being an interesting example of this.
It seems that Freemasonry’s global appeal is one of the most attractive things about the fraternity, and brothers join lodges in order to benefit from the companionship and camaraderie enjoyed by Masons. As custodians of the rich history of Freemasonry, brothers ensure that the core values and objectives of the Craft are preserved for future generations.
Let’s hope in the coming century that Freemasonry continues to evolve and adapt, so the thriving global community remains integral to communities in different parts of the world.