AN OBJECTIVE VIEW OF FREEMASONY (IX) – FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL
By a blog reader
It should by now be quite clear to the reader of this series of articles, that the formation, spread and growth of Freemasonry was not due to some sinister strategic plan forged by an organized cabal but one of necessity and of organic growth. It was at the same time itself a product of the times and yet one that quickly and efficiently adapted to changing factors and also gave meaning to a new modern and increasingly globalized world that made its spread possible. Without a combination of these factors, Freemasonry would probably have never been born let alone gain any form of traction.
We have seen how its origins lie in the medieval masonry guilds of Britain and how the reformation and its bloody aftermath necessitated the creation of a space where people of different and religious opinions could reconcile and focus on things that brought them together rather than those that separated them. We have seen how the intense rivalry between nations and the ensuing race for empire enabled Freemasonry to efficiently navigate this emergent reality.
We have seen how in response it created innovative administrative features that enabled it to facilitate its own growth.
However, even with all these things in place, Freemasonry would have had great difficulty in spreading if European society or at least its growing literate class was not predisposed to it.
The fact is that as it achieved global extensity Freemasonry also gave its members a way to conceptualize this new world.
To be clear, the world of eighteenth-century Freemasonry, as with all subsequent eras of Masonic history, was characterized by internal differences and divisions. Masonry differed depending on the national origin of members and even within national jurisdictions.
That said, the Masonic ideal certainly was to achieve a single, unified brotherhood, and, as we will see, more often than not, masonry was able to transcend the intense, often violent national rivalries. Thus through the activities of Dutch, French, Hispanic, and especially British Masons, the fraternity, as one early nineteenth-century mason put it, had become a “vast chain extending round the whole globe.”