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.
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.
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.
The six 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.
Freemasons make a major contribution to society through their own charities, as we do not undertake any external fundraising – All money donated comes from our own efforts, as we play an active role in our communities.
The essential qualification for admission is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who fulfil this condition, and who are of good repute, as Freemasonry has always been about making good men better.