An old Greek
philosopher, when asked what he regarded as the most valuable quality to
win and the most difficult to keep, he replied:
“To be Secret
and Silent.” If secrecy was difficult in the olden times, it is doubly
difficult today, in the loud and noisy world in which we live, where
privacy is almost unknown.
indeed, a priceless but rare virtue, so little effort is made to teach and
practice it. The world of today is a whispering gallery where everything
is heard, a hall of mirrors where nothing is hid. If the ancient
worshipped a God of silence, we seem about to set up an Altar to the God
Some one has
said that if Masonry did no more than train its men to preserve sacredly
the secrets of others confided to them as such - except where a higher
duty demands disclosure - it would be doing a great work, and one which
not only justifies its existence, but entitles it to the respect of
Mason needs to be told the value of secrecy.
Masonry would cease to exist, or else become something so different from
what it is as to be unrecognizable. For that reason, if no other, the
very first lesson taught a candidate, and impressed upon him at every turn
in unforgettable ways, is the duty of secrecy. Yet, strictly speaking,
Masonry is not a secret society, if by that we mean a society whose very
existence is hidden. Everybody knows that the Masonic Fraternity exists,
and no effort is made to hide that fact. Its organization is known; its
Temples stand in our cities; its members are proud to be know as Masons.
Anyone may obtain from the records of a Grand Lodge, if not from the
printed reports of Lodges, the names of the members of the Craft. Nor can
it be said that Masonry has any secret truth to teach, unknown to the best
wisdom of the race. Most of the talk about esoteric Masonry misses the
mark. When the story is told the only secret turns out to be some odd
theory, some fanciful philosophy, of no real importance. The wisdom of
Masonry is hidden, not because it is subtle, but because it is simple.
Its secret is profound, not obscure.
mathematics, there are primary figures, and in music fundamental notes,
upon which everything rests, so Masonry is built upon the broad, deep,
lofty truths upon which life itself stands. It lives, moves, and has its
being in those truths. They are mysteries, indeed, as life and duty and
death are mysteries; to know them is to be truly wise; and to teach them
in their full import is the ideal at which Masonry aims.
is not a secret society; it is a private order. In the quiet of the tiled
lodge, shut away from the noise and clatter of the world, in an air of
reverence and friendship, it teaches us the truths that make us men, upon
which faith and character must rest if they are to endure the wind and
weather of life. So rare is its utter simplicity that to many it is as
much a secret as though it were hid behind a seven-fold veil, or buried in
the depths of the earth.
What is the
secret in Masonry? The “Method” of its teaching, the atmosphere it
creates, the spirit it breaths into our hearts, and the tie it spins and
weaves between men; in other words, the lodge and its ceremonies and
obligations, its signs. tokens and words - its power to evoke what is most
secret and hidden in the hearts of men. No one can explain how this is
done. We only know that it is done, and guard as a priceless treasure the
method by which it is wrought. It is the fashion of some to say that our
ceremonies, signs and tokens are of little value; but it is not true.
They are of profound importance, and we cannot be too careful in
protecting them from profanation and abuse. The famous eulogy of the
signs and tokens of Masonry by Benjamin Franklin was not idle eloquence.
It is justified by the facts, and ought to be known and remembered:
and tokens are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act
as a password to the attention and support of the initiated in all parts
of the world. They cannot be lost so long as memory retains its power.
Let the possessor of them be expatriated, ship-wrecked or imprisoned; let
him be stripped of everything he has in the world; still these credentials
remain and are available for use as circumstances require.
effects which they have produced are established by the most incontestable
facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the Destroyer;
they have softened the aspirates of the tyrant; they have mitigated the
horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence; and
broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation.
“On the field
of battle, in the solitude of the uncultivated forests, or in the busy
haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the most hostile
feelings, and most distant religions, and the most diversified conditions,
rush to the aid of each other, and feel a social joy and satisfaction that
they have been able to afford relief to a brother Mason.”
equally true, and no less valuable, is that in the ordinary walks of
everyday life they unite men and hold them together in a manner unique and
holy. They open a door out of the loneliness in which every man lives.
They form a tie uniting us to help one another, and others, in ways too
many to name or count. They form a net-work of fellowship, friendship,
and fraternity around the world. They add something lovely and fine to
the life of each of us, without which we should be poorer indeed.
Still let us
never forget that it is the spirit that gives life; the letter alone is
empty. An old home means a thousand beautiful things to those who were
brought up in it. Its very scenery and setting are sacred. The ground on
which it stands is holy. But if a stranger buys it, these sacred things
mean nothing to him. The spirit is gone, the glory has faded. Just so
with the lodge. If it were opened to the curious gaze of the world, its
beauty would be blighted, its power gone.
The secret of
Masonry, like the secret of life, can be known only by those who seek it,
serve it and live it. It cannot be uttered; it can only be felt and
acted. It is, in fact, an open secret, and each man knows it according to
his quest and capacity. Like all the things most worth knowing, no one
can know it for another and no one can know it alone. It is known only in
fellowship, by the touch of life upon life, spirit upon spirit, knee to
knee, breast to breast and hand to hand.
reason, no one need be alarmed about any book written to expose Masonry.
It is utterly harmless. The real secret of Masonry cannot be learned by
prying eyes or curious inquiry. We do well to protect the privacy of the
lodge; but the secret of Masonry can be known only by those who are ready
and worthy to receive it. Only a pure heart and an honest mind can know
it, though they be adepts in all signs and tokens of every rite of the
Indeed, so far
from trying to hide its secret, Masonry is all the time trying to give it
to the world, in the only way in which it can be given, through a certain
quality of soul and character which it labors to create and build up. To
the making of men, helping self-discovery and self development, all the
offices of Masonry are dedicated. It is a quarry in which the rough
stones of manhood are polished for use and beauty.
uses the illusion of secrecy, it is because it knows that it is the nature
of man to seek what is hidden and to desire what is forbidden. Even God
hides from us, that in seeking Him amid the shadows of life we may find
both Him and ourselves. The man who does not care enough for God to seek
Him will never find Him, though He is not far away from any one of us.
One who looks
at Masonry in this way will find that his Masonic life is a great
adventure. It is a perpetual discovery. There is something new at every
turn, something new in himself as life deepens with the years; something
new in Masonry as its meaning unfolds. The man who finds its degrees
tedious and its Ritual a rigmarole only betrays the measure of his own
If a man knows
God and man to the uttermost, even Masonry has nothing to teach him. As a
fact the wisest man knows very little. The way is dim and no one can see
very far. We are seekers after truth, and God has so made us that we
cannot find the truths alone, but only in the love and service of our
fellow men. Here is the real secret, and to learn it is to have the key
to the meaning and joy of life.
Truth is not a
gift; it is a trophy. To know it we must be true, to find it we must
seek, to learn it we must be humble; and to keep it we must have a clear
mind, a courageous heart, and the brotherly love to use it in the service