According to theory, the Masonic Order is an instituted form of mysticism, although some consider it as a quasi-Christian occult fraternity. Freemasonry, as it is also known, has been in existence since about 1718.
To become a Mason, one must be Male, at least 21 years of age, and have a belief in a monotheistic Supreme Being. Membership is never offered, it has to be requested. The main rules of the Order include: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and complete tolerance. Masons consider membership is equally valid for those who value ritual, fellowship, history, symbology, philosophy, architecture, etc. Masonic teaching claims that by following the ceremonies and symbols, men may find the roads that lead to a direct and first-hand experience of God.
Various organizations exist within the Masonic community, such as the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, the Shrine, the Eastern Star, the Grand Lodge of [country, state], etc. Some organizations are official, while others clandestine.
There is a theory which suggests that the conventional local orders are simply special troopers for a secret higher order that is behind most western political and financial powers. This seat of power is apparently also behind the Rosecrucians, the Bohemian Society, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Illuminati.
Compuserve [GO MASONRY]
Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, by Albert G. Mackey
The Great Teachings of Masonry, by H. L. Haywood (published by Macoy)