Throughout history, the Freemasons have been accomplished craftsmen who concerned themselves with honest labor conducted in the service of a divine being whom they referred to as the Great Architect of the Universe. No one knows how old the order is. Its members are said to have worked on King Solomon's temple. During the medieval and Renaissance periods, this select guild built the great cathedrals in Europe and Britain. Secret information, in the form of symbols, was interwoven into the architecture of these structures; therefore only tradesmen with special skill, knowledge, and morality were deemed capable of conveying this wisdom. Masonic symbolism even appears on the dollar bill and in the wording of the Declaration of Independence.
Freemasonry describes itself as “a science of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” Its physical lodges, rites, and literature are rich with symbolism. The symbols represent objectives, states of mind, and other conditions; when a brother sees a symbol, he is instantly reminded of a facet of the Masonic system. When someone is initiated into the order and follows its doctrines, he is said to make a “symbolic pilgrimage.” Members advance through three classes, or stages of learning, to become adepts. Rather than concerning itself with doing magic spells, the Masonic system seeks to promote friendship, virtue, and spiritual transformation, not only for its members, but ultimately for humanity in general.
A number of America's founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Knox were Freemasons. Since the order's inception, presidents, military leaders, industrialists, literary figures, and movie stars have been Masons, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Glenn, General Douglas MacArthur, and Clark Gable.