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The Freemasons are a worldwide fraternal order emphasizing deistic metaphysics and military-style morality. The fraternity's symbol—a square and a compass—indicates its original efforts to connect with the medieval stonemasons' guild. The era between 1580 and 1750 brought an increased interest in secret societies, hidden knowledge, and even witch-craft; one cause may have been the Protestant Reformation and the attacks on the Roman Catholic Church.

Modern Freemasons modeled their associations on the traditions and patterns of the Scottish Masons: adopting a patron, developing rituals and symbols, building lodges for their meetings. When educated men joined operative guilds, hoping to discover mystical knowledge or secrets long kept from the public, their subsequent beliefs and their interests in sci-ence and alchemy transformed the working-class nature of skill-based guilds to that of secret societies containing symbolism and rituals un-related to craftsmanship. (Speculative [in contrast to operative] masons belong to societies made up of people from different occupations, regard-less of skill or ability.)

In the sixteenth century, William Shaw wrote down the ?rst lists of Masonic statutes and codes. In the tradition of the Roman collegiums, he also chose a patron for the guild: William Sinclair, a descendant of the mason who built Rosslyn Chapel. By the eighteenth century, Freemasons were concentrated in England, France, and Germany (DVC, 203).

Printed with permission from Bethany House Publishers, South Bloomington, Minnesota from the book "The Da Vinci Codebreaker : an easy-to-use fact checker for truth seekers" by James L. Garlow.

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