Who or what are Freemasons?
Freemasons are a fraternal organisation, whose origins are generally to be considered to lie in the 16th or 17 century. There are many masonic symbols associated with Freemasons, such as the all seeing eye and the square and compass, often with a G, for God, in the centre.
Despite the word mason within their title, they are not physical builders, but philosophical builders. They use the symbolism of masonry as metaphors for their moral and ethical stories.
To join the Freemasons you must fulfill a set of criteria, outlined here in an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Freemasonary.
Generally, to be accepted for initiation as a regular Freemason, a candidate must:
Be a man who comes of his own free will.
Believe in a Supreme Being (the form of which is left to open interpretation by the candidate).
Be at least the minimum age (from 18–25 years old depending on the jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions the son of a Mason, known as a “Lewis,” may join at an earlier age than others).
Be of good morals, and of good reputation.
Be of sound mind and body (lodges had in the past denied membership to a man because of a physical disability; however, now, if a potential candidate says a disability will not cause problems, it will not be held against him).
Be free-born (or “born free”, i.e., not born a slave or bondsman).As with the previous, this is entirely an historical holdover, and can be interpreted in the same manner as it is in the context of being entitled to write a will. Some jurisdictions have removed this requirement.
Be capable of furnishing character references, as well as one or two references from current Masons, depending on jurisdiction.
It is not a religion as such. More a meeting of like-minded individuals. It is also not a religion or subsitute for religion. However it is heavily ritualised and does have secret signs, grips and handshakes to denote membership of a particular fraternity. However the actual whereabouts of their lodges and grand lodges are not secret. There are many who are opposed to Freemasons, and there are many conspiracy theories revolving around them.
There is also a direct link between Freemasons and King Solomon. This quote from Revelations of the Square by Rev Dr George Oliver DD explains:
“The Society adopted the Temple of Solomon for its symbol, because it was the most stable and the most magnificent structure that ever existed, whether we consider its foundation or superstructure; so that of all the societies men have invented, no one was ever more firmly united, or better planned, than the Masons . . . The edifices which Freemasons build are nothing more than virtues or vices to be erected or destroyed; and in this case heaven only occupies their minds, which soar above the corrupted world. The Temple of Solomon denotes reason and intelligence.”