General Information About Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that traces its origins in the loose organisation of late medieval Stonemasonry. Early organisational forms included “lodges,” incorporations, and craft guilds. Early Freemasonry based on craft labour is known as Operative Freemasonry, while the modern, more philosophical form of Freemasonry is known as Speculative Freemasonry.
Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated by the United Grand Lodge of England at around six million worldwide. The fraternity is administratively organised into independent Grand Lodges (or sometimes Grand Orients), each of which governs its own Masonic jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. The largest single jurisdiction, in terms of membership, is the United Grand Lodge of England (with a membership estimated at around a quarter million). The Grand Lodge of Scotland and Grand Lodge of Ireland (taken together) have approximately 150,000 members. In the United States total membership is just under two million.
The various Grand Lodges recognise each other—or do not—based upon adherence to landmarks. A Grand Lodge will usually deem other Grand Lodges who share common landmarks to be regular, and those that do not to be “irregular” or “clandestine”.
There are also numerous appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.