In a nutshell, here are some of the conclusions I've reached regarding the history and origins of the Freemasons:
- Freemasonry more than likely originated with fugitive Knights Templar, who fled to Scotland from Europe and England in 1307 when the Pope sanctioned the arrest of all Templars on the charge of heresy.
- In an effort to continue their Brotherhood "underground," the fugitive Templars met covertly as "masons," eventually adopting the working tools of the stonemasons and developing elaborate symbology based on these tools to teach and memorialize spiritual and moral lessons, as well as to teach and preserve the history of their Brotherhood.
- Being devote Roman Catholics, when the Templars were in effect cut off from God by being excommunicated by the Pope, they developed their own rituals which may have been derived from Jewish rituals they were exposed to in Jerusalem, or perhaps from Essene documents discovered when they were excavating the Temple mount in Jerusalem.
- The Templars/Masons recognized a fundamental theological truth that would eventually be fleshed out in the Protestant Reformation 250 years after they were condemned as heretics, namely, that every man himself is ultimately responsible for his own relationship to God, and no intermediary in the form of an earthly priest is needed. This would have been rank heresy to medieval Roman Catholicism.
- The Templars were French speaking, which can account for some of the oddities of Masonic vocabulary. For example, the Templars referred to each other as frére, "brother." Once they went undercover as masons, a "brother Templar" would be called frére Maçon. Over the centuries, as Masonry evolved in the English speaking lands of Scotland and England, frére Maçon became Anglicized into "Freer Mason" and finally "Free Mason."
- By the early 18th century, with the Reformation having changed the theological landscape forever, the necessity for the Templar/Masons to remain underground in fear of their lives had passed. Freemasonry became "public" with the formation of Grand Lodges in England and Scotland, but its true origins were still veiled by the cover of operative stone masonry in allegorical form.
- Freemasonry's ultimate triumph comes with the founding of the US, and its government based on a worldview that had evolved over the preceding three centuries in the underground Lodges of Freemasons.