Esoteric Freemasonry: The Hidden Side of the Pyramid
Among the Western Initiatic Traditions, Freemasonry is one of the best known. Today, it seems strange to say that this amazing organization was founded in 1777 in an English pub, but it's true! Of course, it was a formalization of groups that preexisted. However, it is from this moment that the legend really begins. At first, simple rituals were used, along with signs and secret words. Progressively, a third degree was added to the two originals, then thirty degrees more, then sixty-five Egyptian degrees more, and so on.
Anyone, aristocrat or not, was able to wear a sword, to become a builder, an architect, a knight, or a Jewish Priest. Everyone wore aprons of legendary builders and eventually, gleaming golden decorations of various kinds. Almost all the secret rituals were published very early. Some of them referred to sacred lost words, others about ancient teachings from the Middle East. It is clear that these groups were talking about establishing a social system more equal, more tolerant, and under less influence from the Church. You don't need to be an historian to understand that such groups could have been suspected of conspiracy against the state and the church. (On the other hand, you could laugh at the idea of the multitudes playing to be knights or high priests—but the Lord does work in mysterious ways.) Eventually, this incredible jumble of symbols and misspelled Hebrew words succeeded and conquered the world.
Today, Freemasonry is regulated by Grand Lodges organized by countries and states; lodges are under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodges. Most of them share the same principles, and are recognized by the Grand Lodge of England. The other Masonic organizations, no matter what ritual they use, are qualified as clandestine and disqualified from the "universal" brotherhood of the "British Masonic Commonwealth."