THE TITLE “FREE AND ACCEPTED”
How did the term “Free and Accepted” originate? Ancient craftsmen were very skilled, and their craft was considered to be indispensable to the welfare of both “Church” and “State.” For this reason, they were not placed under the same restrictions as were other workers - they were “free” to do their work, travel and live their lives in a manner befitting their importance. In England during the middle Ages this freedom was rare. Most workers were under bond to the owners of the land on which they worked. Our legendary history carries this freedom for the Operative Mason back to the year 946, in York, England.
The word “Accepted” also goes back to the time of the operative mason. During the latter years of the middle Ages, there were few educated men outside the monasteries of the world. Naturally, men wanted to become Freemasons to obtain the advantages the craft had to offer. These men did not necessarily want to build buildings; they wanted to belong to the organization. These were “Accepted” Masons, rather than operative masons. This practice probably originated when some of the people for whom the craftsmen were working asked to be admitted. This was an important transition for the Craft, because the secrets of the building trades were becoming more widely known, architecture was changing and membership was declining. By becoming “Speculative,” the Craft grew rapidly. As time went on, there became many more “Accepted” members than there were operative members, and eventually we became a Speculative rather than an operative organization.
Sign of Fidelity (optional)
The sign of fidelity is not mentioned in the Arizona Constitution or Ritual. No Mason is required to use it. Whereas the sign of fidelity is generally accepted and used in many Lodges, the following guidelines are suggested for Lodges that choose to employ it.
There are only "three degrees" in the Masonic hierarchy. A Freemason who has been raised to the third degree (Master Mason) has attained the highest level of Freemasonry. All Master Masons are peers, though some hold other offices (such as Worshipful Master of a Lodge, or District Deputy Grand Master, or similar). No one ever 'rises higher' than the third degree.
The only time a Master Mason might write his name followed by 32° is for Scottish Rite business. There is no such thing as a 32° Master Mason or a 33° Master Mason. It is recommended that if you feel it is important to impress a listener that you are something more than a Master Mason, then qualify your identity as "32° SCOTTISH RITE Mason."