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Scottish Freemasonry

Scottish Freemasonry emerged originally from the lodges
of Scottish medieval working stonemasons, which cultivated fellowship and mutual charity. From the early 17th century in Scotland, men from the upper classes joined masons’ lodges, bringing new ideas derived from Renaissance humanism and religious idealism. These leaders tended to be from conservative Catholic families, such as the dynasties of royal architects and masons, or the Sinclairs of Roslin. This persisted into the 18th
century when Jacobites like the Chevalier Ramsay founded Jacobite lodges on the Continent to encourage Protestant sup
port for the exiled Catholic Stewarts. However, freemasonry’s stress on the undesirablity of sectarian division had given it wide appeal and Covenanting generals could also be found in its ranks. Scottish Speculative or Free Masonry originally seems
to have had only two degrees: Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft. If the 17th century was the Scottish century of freemasonry, the 18th was the English and Irish, as the movement spread to the other two kingdoms, and to America and Europe. Scots adopted the third degree of Master Mason in the mid 18th century for the sake of conformity with England, and established a national Grand Lodge only in 736, after England (1718) and Ireland (1725). Masonic lodgcs became the social
club of 18th century elites and standard—bearers of Scottish Enlightenment values, which explains why men like Robert Burns and Henry Dundas were freemasons.

In the 19th century there was an explosion of masonic orders and rites. Scottish, like other Anglophone Masonry, never made the leap to admission of women, which began on the Continent in the late 18th century. Most of the so—called ‘Scottish rites’ are in fact of
French origin, apart from the Royal Arch, the only masonic order with its headquarters in Scotland. Masonry flourished in 19th-century Scotland, but has had difficulty recruiting younger members in the 20th and 21st centuries. It has always had problems with the churches due to its secrecy and blending of religious traditions.

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