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Doctrines The basic doctrine of Freemasonry is belief in a Supreme Being, a doctrine which requires all Masons to have some form of religious belief before being admitted into the order and to continue to practise their religion after admittance. Freemasonry has three levels of initiation (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason). All initiates take their initiation vows on, or in full view of, the Volume of Sacred Law (i.e. the Bible), membership is composed exclusively of men, discussion of religion and politics is forbidden within the Lodge, and the Three Great Lights of Freemasonry (the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square and the Compasses) are always exhibited when the Lodges are at work.

History Though Freemasonry claims origins in Ancient Egypt, it was established in its present form in 1717 when the Grand Lodge of London was formed. Many intellectuals had abandoned the Christian Church, and felt the need for a new outlet for their faith. Freemasonry appealed to these men because it had a close-knit federal structure, and appeared like a counter-Church. Indeed, it was at first opposed by the Church authorities, a Papal Bull being issued against the movement by Pope Clement XII in 1738. The Masonic movement was also attractive because it claimed to be the sole recipient and guardian of an ancient powerful secret handed down from antiquity, an idea which had been popularised earlier by Renaissance scholars.
Most of the leading occultists of the Eighteenth Century were members either of Masonic Lodges or quasi-Masonic fraternities, such as co-Masonry, which allowed women to join them on an equal basis with men. The United Grand Lodge of England has stated since at least 1916 that "Masonry is not a religion or a substitute for religion, instead seeking to inculcate in its members a standard of conduct and behaviour which it believes to be acceptable to all creeds [whilst] studiously refraining from intervening in the field of dogma or theology. Masonry, therefore, is not a competitor with religion though in the sphere of human conduct it may be hoped that its teaching will be complementary to that of religion" ('Information for the Guidance of Members of the Craft', United Grand Lodge of England, p.18). However, Freemasonry is included here because of the influence it has had on developing Pagan religions in the last two centuries, particularly The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and modern Wicca.

Symbols The main Masonic symbols are those of the Square and Compasses. The Square is to regulate actions, symbolising the straight and undeviating line of conduct expected of a Mason. The Compasses symbolise the due bounds of relationship with all mankind and represent the unerring and impartial justice of the Supreme Being, who has defined the limits of good and evil and will reward or punish according to the regard or disregard paid to His commands. Together, they remind Masons to bear in mind, and act in accordance with, the laws of the Divine Creator.

Adherents No figures available.

Main Centre
 Each country has its own headquarters. The English headquarters are as follows: United Grand Lodge of England, Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2, England.