Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 in Scotland and Ireland, over a quarter of a million under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England and just under two million in the United States. Freemasonry uses the metaphors of operative stonemasons' tools and implements, against the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon's Temple, to convey what has been described by both Masons and critics as "a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."
- FREEMASONS, n. An order with secret rites, grotesque ceremonies and fantastic costumes, which, originating in the reign of Charles II, among working artisans of London, has been joined successively by the dead of past centuries in unbroken retrogression until now it embraces all the generations of man on the hither side of Adam and is drumming up distinguished recruits among the pre-Creational inhabitants of Chaos and Formless Void. The order was founded at different times by Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Cyrus, Solomon, Zoroaster, Confucius, Thothmes, and Buddha. Its emblems and symbols have been found in the Catacombs of Paris and Rome, on the stones of the Parthenon and the Chinese Great Wall, among the temples of Karnak and Palmyra and in the Egyptian Pyramids — always by a Freemason.
- The truth is, the Jesuits of Rome have perfected Freemasonry to be their most magnificent and effective tool, accomplishing their purposes among Protestants.
- John Daniel, in The Grand Design Exposed (1999), p. 302
- Why had the merchants, artists, bankers, officials, and lawyers, from the first quarter of the seventeenth century on, begun to call themselves masons and tried to recreate the ritual of the medieval guilds? What was all this strange masquerade about? Gradually the picture grew clearer. The old guild was more than a producing organization; it regulated the ethics and mode of life of its members as well. It completely embraced the life of the urban population, especially the guilds of semi-artisans and semi-artists of the building trades. The break-up of the guild system brought a moral crisis in a society which had barely emerged from medieval. The new morality was taking shape much more slowly than the old was being cut down. Hence, the attempt, so common in history, to preserve a form of moral discipline when its social foundations, which in this instance were those of the industrial guilds, had long since been undermined by the processes of history. Active masonry became theoretical masonry. But the old moral ways of living, which men were trying to keep just for the sake of keeping them, acquired a new meaning. In certain branches of freemasonry, elements of an obvious reactionary feudalism were prominent, as in the Scottish system. In the eighteenth century, freemasonry became expressive of a militant policy of enlightenment, as in the case of the Illuminati, who were the forerunners of revolution; on its left, it culminated in the Carbonari. Freemasons counted among their members both Louis XVI and the Dr. Guillotin who invented the guillotine. In southern Germany, freemasonry assumed an openly revolutionary character, whereas at the court of Catherine the Great it was a masquerade reflecting the aristocratic and bureaucratic hierarchy. A freemason Novikov was exiled to Siberia by a freemason empress.
Although in our day of cheap and ready-made clothing hardly anybody is still wearing his grandfather’s surtout, in the world of ideas the surtout and the crinoline are still in fashion. Ideas are handed down from generation to generation, although, like grandmother’s pillows and covers, they reek of staleness. Even those who are obliged to change the substance of their opinions force them into ancient moulds. The revolution in industry has been much more far-reaching than it has in ideas, where piecework is preferred to new structures. That is why the French parliamentarians of the petty bourgeoisie could find no better way of creating moral ties to hold the people together against the disruptiveness of modern relations than to put on white aprons and arm themselves with a pair of compasses or a plumbline. They were really thinking less of erecting a new building than of finding their way back into the old one of parliament or ministry.
- To enlarge the sphere of social happiness is worthy of the benevolent design of a Masonic institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications, that discover the principles which actuate them, may tend to convince mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.
- George Washington, in a letter to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (January 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 201
- It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.
- Most historians merely mention that Bruno was charged with the heresy of teaching Copernican astronomy, but Frances Yates, a historian who specialized in the occult aspects of the scientific revolution, points out that Bruno was charged with 18 heresies and crimes, including the practice of sorcery and organizing secret societies to oppose the Vatican. Yates thinks Bruno may have had a role in the invention of either Rosicrucianism or Freemasonry or both.
Bruno's teachings combined the new science of his time with traditional Cabalistic mysticism. He believed in a universe of infinite space with infinite planets, and in a kind of dualistic pantheism, in which the divine is incarnate in every part but always in conflicting forms that both oppose and support each other. Whatever his link with occult secret societies, he influenced Hegel, Marx, theosophy, James Joyce, Timothy Leary, Discordianism, and Dr. Wilhelm Reich.
- Robert Anton Wilson, in Everything Is Under Control : Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups (1998), p. 95
- Although Masonry is often denounced as either a political or religious "conspiracy", Freemasons are forbidden to discuss either politics or religion within the lodge. Gary Dryfoos of the Massachusetts Institute of technology, who maintains the best Masonic site on the web, always stresses these points and also offers personal testimony that after many years as a Mason, including high ranks, he has not yet been asked to engage in pagan or Satanic rituals or plot for any reason for or against any political party. The more rabid anti-Masons, of course, dismiss such testimony as flat lies.
The enemies of Masonry, who are usually Roman Catholics or Fundamentalist Protestants, insist that the rites of the order contain "pagan" elements, e.g., the Yule festival, the Spring Solstice festival, the dead-and-resurrected martyr (Jesus, allegedly historical, to Christians; Hiram, admittedly allegorical, to Masons). All these and many other elements in Christianity and Masonry have a long prehistory in paganism, as documented in the 12 volumes of Sir James George Frazer's Golden Bough.
The major offense of Masonry to orthodox churches is that it, like our First Amendment, encourages equal tolerance for all religions, and this tends, somewhat, to lessen dogmatic allegiance to any one religion. Those who insist you must accept their dogma fervently and renounce all others as devilish errors, correctly see this Masonic tendency as inimitable [sic] — to their faith.
Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1871) 
- Quotes about Freemasonry from Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (1871) by Albert Pike; also published as The Magnum Opus or the Great Work of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry
- Though Masonry neither usurps the place of, nor apes religion, prayer is an essential part of our ceremonies. It is the aspiration of the soul toward the Absolute and Infinite Intelligence, which is the One Supreme Deity, most feebly and misunderstandingly characterized as an "architect." Certain faculties of man are directed toward the Unknown — thought, meditation, prayer. The unknown is an ocean, of which conscience is the compass. Thought, meditation, prayer, are the great mysterious pointings of the needle. It is a spiritual magnetism that thus connects the human soul with the Deity. These majestic irradiations of the soul pierce through the shadow toward the light.
It is but a shallow scoff to say that prayer is absurd, because it is not possible for us, by means of it, to persuade God to change His plans. He produces foreknown and foreintended effects, by the instrumentality of the forces of nature, all of which are His forces. Our own are part of these. Our free agency and our will are forces. We do not absurdly cease to make efforts to attain wealth or happiness, prolong life, and continue health, because we cannot by any effort change what is predestined. If the effort also is predestined, it is not the less our effort, made of our free will.
- Ch. I : Apprentice, The Twelve-Inch Rule and Common Gavel, p. 1
- The Bible is an indispensable part of the furniture of a Christian Lodge, only because it is the sacred book of the Christian religion. The Hebrew Pentateuch in a Hebrew Lodge, and the Koran in a Mohammedan one, belong on the Altar; and one of these, and the Square and Compass, properly understood, are the Great Lights by which a Mason must walk and work.
The obligation of the candidate is always to be taken on the sacred book or books of his religion, that he may deem it more solemn and binding; and therefore it was that you were asked of what religion you were. We have no other concern with your religious creed.
- Ch. I : Apprentice, The Twelve-Inch Rule and Common Gavel, p. 1
- The great distinguishing characteristic of a Mason is sympathy with his kind. He recognizes in the human race one great family, all connected with himself by those invisible links, and that mighty net-work of circumstance, forged and woven by God.
- Ch. XI : Sublime Elect of the Twelve, or Prince Ameth, p. 176
- Let the Mason never forget that life and the world are what we make them by our social character; by our adaptation, or want of adaptation to the social conditions, relationships, and pursuits of the world. To the selfish, the cold, and the insensible, to the haughty and presuming, to the proud, who demand more than they are likely to receive, to the jealous, ever afraid they shall not receive enough, to those who are unreasonably sensitive about the good or ill opinions of others, to all violators of the social laws, the rude, the violent, the dishonest, and the sensual, — to all these, the social condition, from its very nature, will present annoyances, disappointments, and pains, appropriate to their several characters. The benevolent affections will not revolve around selfishness ; the cold-hearted must expect to meet coldness; the proud, haughtiness; the passionate, anger; and the violent, rudenesa Those who forget the rights of others, must not be surprised if their own are forgotten; and those who stoop to the lowest embraces of sense must not wonder, if others are not concerned to find their prostrate honor, and lift it up to the remembrance and respect of the world.
- Ch. XXII : Grand Master Architect, p. 193
- The true Mason labors for the benefit of those that are to come after him, and for the advancement and improvement of his race. That is a poor ambition which contents itself within the limits of a single life. All men who deserve to live, desire to survive their funerals, and to live afterward in the good that they have done mankind, rather than in the fading characters written in men's memories. Most men desire to leave some work behind them that may outlast their own day and brief generation. That is an instinctive impulse, given by God, and often found in the rudest human heart; the surest proof of the soul's immortality, and of the fundamental difference between man and the wisest brutes. To plant the trees that, after we are dead, shall shelter our children, is as natural as to love the shade of those our fathers planted.
- Ch. XIX : Grand Pontiff, p. 312
- The desire to do something that shall benefit the world, when neither praise nor obloquy will reach us where we sleep soundly in the grave, is the noblest ambition entertained by man.
It is the ambition of a true and genuine Mason. Knowing the slow processes by which the Deity brings about great results, he does not expect to reap as well as sow, in a single lifetime. It is the inflexible fate and noblest destiny, with rare exceptions, of the great and good, to work, and let others reap the harvest of their labors.
- Ch. XIX : Grand Pontiff, p. 316
- If not for slander and persecution, the Mason who would benefit his race must look for apathy and cold indifference in those whose good he seeks, in those who ought to seek the good of others. Except when the sluggish depths of the Human Mind are hroken up and tossed as with a storm, when at the appointed time a great Reformer comes, and a new Faith springs up and grows with supernatural energy, the progress of Truth is slower than the growth of oaks; and he who plants need not expect to gather. The Redeemer, at His death, had twelve disciples, and one betrayed and one deserted and denied Him. It is enough for us to know that the fruit will come in its due season. When, or who shall gather it, it does not in the least concern us to know. It is our business to plant the seed. It is God's right to give the fruit to whom He pleases; and if not to us, then is our action by so much the more noble.
- Ch. XIX : Grand Pontiff, p. 316
- To sow, that others may reap; to work and plant for those that are to occupy the earth when we are dead; to project our influences far into the future, and live beyond our time; to rule as the Kings of Thought, over men who are yet unborn; to bless with the glorious gifts of Truth and Light and Liberty those who will neither know the name of the giver, nor care in what grave his unregarded ashes repose, is the true office of a Mason and the proudest destiny of a man.
- Ch. XIX : Grand Pontiff, p. 317
- A Page About Freemasonry — the world's oldest Masonic website
- "Freemasonry" article from the 1911 (11th Ed.) Encyclopedia Britannica
- Web of Hiram at the University of Bradford
- Masonic Books Online of the Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry
- The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734), James Anderson, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Royster. Hosted by the Libraries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- The Mysteries of Free Masonry, by William Morgan, from Project Gutenberg
- The United Grand Lodge of England's Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London
- The Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield, UK
- Articles on Judaism and Freemasonry
- Anti-Masonry: Points of View