Masonic Secrecy

posted May 23, 2015, 5:12 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 23, 2015, 5:12 PM ]
Sophocles once said “Do nothing secretly; for time sees all thing and discloses all.”
Are we a secret organization?  It is difficult for one to say that Masonry is not a secret organization when in all craft degrees we have a secret which we withhold and for which we offer a substitute secret. The first lesson taught a candidate, and impressed upon him in unforgettable ways by the penalties, is secrecy – we promise not to convey the secrets of Masonry in any way! The degrees of Scottish Rite also emphasis Secrecy: Secret Master Degree, Confidential Secretary Degree, and Master of the Royal Secret Degree. In York Rite we have the Royal Arch of Solomon, the Holy Royal Arch, and the secret vault and Master of the Symbolic Lodge. Symbolic means that it is safely hidden; therefore, all of our symbols add emphasis to the belief that Masonry is a Secret Organization! 
Most new Masons soon learn that that the ritual and ritual work, the signs and words, the degrees, and all that one may believe to be secret can be found in many books available to the general public in book stores and on the internet. New Masons have been sworn to secrecy, the Lodge is tiled to prevent unauthorized intrusion, and visitors are examined to make sure that they are Masons and deserving to be admitted. All which gives credence to the general accepted belief that Masonry is a secret organization.
Masonry is a private order and is not a secret society. Behind a tiled Lodge, in a quiet environment away from world demands, and in an atmosphere of reverence and friendship, Masonry teaches us to be better men. Masonry depends upon secrecy for effectiveness. Secrecy is valuable, not because it keeps those outside the lodge from finding out what goes on inside, but because it makes the lessons within more effective for those being taught. Masonic secrecy enforces teaching by the principle of active involvement. Fortunately, secrecy and active involvement are fully compatible and mutually reinforcing to achieving long term understanding and implementation of Masonic philosophy.  We learn and remember it better by going over it in our minds, examining it, and trying it out in different situations. We get deeply involved and the learning takes place at a deeper level in our minds. Masonic secrecy is essential to the Masonic method of instruction and the means by which we insure that candidates receive their instructions in the prescribed active manner. This is the way that it has been done from the beginning of Masonry.  Merely reading the text that we want to learn is much less effective.
Concepts deeply learned are embedded in our minds and become a part of our self. They play an important part in controlling our future thoughts, actions, and responses to various situations. Deep learning is a powerful force that shapes the character of men according to the highest standards while instilling the virtues of brotherly love, relief and truth. 
It continues throughout our lifetime, forming our personality and shaping our character. Masonry tries to impress in our minds tremendous lessons. Masonry takes its candidates by the hand and literally leads them in involved participation in the ceremonies and lectures which clearly impress the lessons on the candidates by active experience. Candidates have to participate and get involved in the experience.
Secrecy serves to unite and bond members of a group. The principle of secrecy furnishes a mysterious bond of unity and strength, which can be found nowhere else. Cohesion of a group has more than intrinsic merit; it facilitates the aims of the group. Masonry uses secrecy because it is known that the nature of man is to seek what is hidden and to desire what is forbidden.
What are the secrets of Masonry? The method of its teachings, the atmosphere it creates, the spirit it creates in our hearts, the brotherhood between men, and its power to evoke what is most secret and hidden in the hearts of men. It is the conduct of the habit of confidentiality and privacy that matters to the members. To bond members of an organization, secrecy must be understood as a formal relationship among its members about a common goal. Secrecy has provided cohesion and unity to our fraternity creating a mutual trust and bond among members. 
The secrets of Masonry 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 an open secret and each man knows it according to his quest and capacity. Like all things 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, spirit upon spirit, knee to knee, breast to breast and hand to hand. We are a fraternity with good and sound philosophy (love and pursuit of wisdom) which helps one to shape his life, understand how one’s life fits together, and to think about the implications of life. During Masonic activities and encounters with other Masons, one is continuously reminded of these philosophical wisdom and enlightenments with time to seriously consider the teachings and to formulate his own beliefs and insights into life. Our meetings provide one the opportunity to think about the implications of Masonic philosophy and how it applies to each individual personally.
No one needs to be alarmed about books written to expose Masonry because it is harmless. The real secret of Masonry cannot be learned by prying eye or curious inquiry. The secrets 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. We are seekers after truth and we cannot find the truths alone, but only in brotherly love and service of our fellow men. Each individual Mason holds within himself his own beliefs, developed from Masonic philosophy, which are the true secrets of Masonry!
Let us not forget that it is the spirit that gives life; the letter alone is empty. An old house means a thousand beautiful things to those who were brought up in it. Its 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. This is true for the Lodge. If it were opened to the curious gaze of the world, its beauty would fade and its power would be gone.