What is a Mason and Freemasonry? That's a commonly asked question. Freemasonry is traced back to King Solomon's temple but was formally established in England in 1717. Operative Masons were protective of their art, guarding against any proliferation which would cheapen it or could cause them to be in less demand. They knew that so long as their art was practiced only by few craftsmen, the demand for their services would continue and the freedoms they enjoyed would endure.
Freemasons then formed themselves into lodges in which their secrets might be taught and preserved. They were most selective of those making application to join their lodges, determined that the secrets of their art should be handed down only to those morally and otherwise fit to receive and perpetuate them.
Speculative Masonry came about when cathedral building and operative Freemason lodges encountered a reduction in applicants. Men became interested in the history and traditions of Freemasons so the acceptance of non-operative Masons was allowed to maintain interest in the craft of fellowship.
Today, Freemasonry is a fraternal society whose members are taught the same rituals and are obligated in the same manner as previous operative Masons. Although there is a misconception that Freemasonry is a secret society, Masons don't make a secret of the fact that they are members of the fraternity. We wear rings, lapel pins, tie clasps, and other items that demonstrate our membership to Freemasonry. Masonic buildings are adorned with the Masonic Square and Compasses, and we have public events where we work with the community. There are few secrets we as Freemasons maintain but those fall into the categories of preserving our historic rituals and traditions as well as keeping identifying information from those who would seek to deceive our brothers.
The final secret of Freemasonry is difficult to put into words as it is what occurs when a man encounters changes that happen when he accepts full responsibility for his own life and, at the same time, truly decides that his real happiness is in helping others. It's a wonderful feeling, but it's something you simply can't explain to another person. That's why some say that Masonic secrets cannot, rather than "may not" be told.