Symbolic, or speculative Masonry, owns quite a lot to the Worshipful Company of Freemasons of the City of London from which the present Craft took its name, its principles of government, its administrative and financial organisation, but also its esoteric system. Some experts now believe that there was an inner fraternity of speculative or symbolic Masons within the Company. It is possible that the Company’s membership in late seventeenth century included operative members or skilled masons on the one hand, and non-operative ones on the other hand. Those non-operative masons were of two types:
. Those who had joined for social reasons.
. Those who had become “accepted” as speculative or symbolic masons.
The Company initiated its decline in the middle of the seventeenth century and was loosing its attraction both to the operative masons and to the social climbers. It can be assumed that most of the non-operative members did not join for social reason, but to become first “accepted” in the inner fraternity, hoping to become liverymen later on. It is known that the percentage of non-operative “accepted” Masons increased from that time on. This process started before 1655 when the name of the Company was modified, the word “Freemasons” being replaced by “Masons” in its title. This change was due to the fact that the word “Freemasons” was obsolete when applied to operative masons and, moreover, if there was an inner esoteric fraternity growing within the Company, its members were bound to claim this word for themselves. For a century or more the operative masons continued to be known as Freemasons.
The first clear indication that the Company had an “accepted”, as well as operative, membership can be found in the Company’s records for 1620 and 1621. However there are no record of any meeting of a lodge within the building of the Company.