Freemasonry: A Fraternity United
=> Image of Square and Compasses
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins in the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries, probably in the stonemason guilds of Scotland. Freemasonry exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around three million (including approximately 480,000 in Great Britain and under two million in the United States). Through three initiation rituals, lectures and other ceremonies, combined with social and charitable activities, Freemasons seek to improve themselves as they improve the communities in which they live. To join, one must believe in a Supreme Being, be upright, moral and honest in character, and be recommended by a Mason.
Freemasonry employs the tools and instruments of stonemasonry to teach a system of morality, friendship and brotherly love, hence, the standard emblem of Freemasonry is the square and compasses. In the United States, Freemasonry is organized locally into lodges and supervised by Grand Lodges. Fifty-two Grand Lodges in the United States (one for each state plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) are Member Grand Lodges of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, representing more than 10,000 local lodges. There are numerous Appendant and affiliate Masonic organizations such as the Order of the Eastern Star, Scottish Rite, York Rite and the Shrine. Each of these organizations has its own leadership but is ultimately subordinate to the state Grand Lodges.