Freemasonry calls itself the world's oldest and largest fraternity. Freemasonry and Masonry are interchangeable words for the same organization, which has its roots in the medieval trade guilds of stonemasons. In fact, the most widely used symbols of Freemasonry are the tools of the stonemason... a square and compass. The organization was formally created in London in 1717, and quickly spread to the American colonies and across Europe. Today, there are probably four to six million men in the fraternity worldwide.
The mission of Masonry is said to be: "To teach a man the duty he owes to God, his neighbor, and himself." Charity work and community involvement are important parts of Masonic life. Freemasonry is not affiliated with any religious group, but members are required to profess belief in a supreme being.
Masonic groups are called lodges, and the United Grand Lodge of England is the oldest body of Freemasonry. Membership is restricted to adult males, and lodges do not usually recruit members. Potential members must seek out a Mason or a Masonic lodge and apply to the organization (hence their slogan: "2B1ASK1").
Freemasonry has been decried as a secret society and even a political conspiracy or religious cult. But Masons believe that what little secrecy they have is simply so members of the fraternity can identify each other by things like handshakes and passwords. They state that the rituals of Masonic meetings are used to reinforce the central values of the organization, such as morality and belief in a supreme being.
Buffalo Bill Cody
Sugar Ray Robinson