Secrecy perhaps the strongest objection urged by the enemies of the Masonic Order against its existence, arises from the fact that it is essentially a secret institution.
Secrecy is, indeed, a most important keystone of the great edifice; but surely no rational mind can over be brought to hold that secrecy is in itself criminal.
The broad Catholic principles which bind and govern the brotherhood are all well-known, all public property, and any man may know them if he will but read.
True, the working of the Craft is the great enigma of which the world is ignorant, as indeed it ought to be, for no man has a right to a prying interference in the affairs of his fellow men.
It may seem ridiculous to a thinking mind, to dispute seriously a proposition in itself absurd, but unhappily there are people who often yield to the influence of a subtle train of reasoning without a moment’s consideration of the false and deceptive basis whereon it rests.
… is secrecy a crime ?
To begin then, at the beginning—is secrecy a crime ?
Is not the mind of every man a secret volume, concealed from the eye of his fellow man ?
Where is the human breast that is not, to some extent, the repository of secrets ?
Has not the tongue of man been condemned a thousand times for its imprudent and unnecessary utterances, where it has once for its silence ?
How often have we not heard men commended for their wisdom and discretion, when the secret of that wisdom and discretion was simply a closed mouth and a silent tongue ?
Why, in the name of reason, should the secrets of an orderly and benevolent community dishonour it, when every well-regulated family maintains its secrets and its honour unimpaired ?
Every government under the sun, no matter what its nature, has its secrets—secrets which it is bound to keep from the people, at least for a time, or it would fail in its purposes, perhaps in its very being.
Surely, then, secrecy in itself can be no crime, for as long as a secret is honourably kept peace reigns, virtue is protected, truth lives, character is preserved, and the whole public welfare is safely guarded.
… your secrets are foolish, injurious, subversive of order
“But,” our enemies will say, “your secrets are foolish, injurious, subversive of order, mutual confidence and good government; ” and by a process of argument, as false and illusive as the proposition whereon it is founded, they go on heaping up vilification and slander against an institution, the very nature of which precludes the possibility of investigation.
Groping on, in their ignorance and darkness failing to comprehend and control, they labour to subvert and destroy.
As well might they strive with tongue and pen to uproot the timeworn landmarks of that ancient Eastern clan the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of masonry, and the theatre of on immortal tragedy.
How man in spirit and contemptible in nature must that man be, who traduces, who slanders a man or woman he does not know, or who pours the vials of his vindictive wrath upon a house or an institution that he has never been in.
… Oh! it’s a secret society and can-not be good
And yet, they will tell you, ” Oh! it’s a secret society and can-not be good.”
Not good, forsooth, because it has secrets. Not good, because it keeps its affairs to itself, and never preys into those of its neighbours ?
It is secret, and secrecy is a crime. Then is government criminal, society criminal, people criminal, the world a crime, yea, even the boundless universe itself one vast crime, since its limit-less depths hold an infinity of secrets, that the mind of man can no more penetrate nor comprehend than it can control.
But, to return to more familiar things, does not every man of sense know that all artists, mechanics and tradesmen have their secrets of trade and business, which they keep to themselves?
What artist or photographer will initiate you into the mysteries of his studio?
What merchant or man of business will publish his ledger and correspondence, and what writer will tell you the sources of inspiration on which he draws ?
Every trade, every business and every profession has its secrets, and is not this their unquestioned right ?
Who will forfeit his reputation for common sense by asserting that there is aught wrong in maintaining such secrets ?
How often daily do we see the legend ” No admittance here except on business,” and what but that is written on the portals of the Masonic temple ?
If such policy were made universal would not the whole world have greater quiet and happiness ?
How often in life does the soft tongue of hypocrisy tell the secrets which, though true, lead to envy, hatred, misery, broils and death ?
Indeed it is the publication of the secrets of human littlenesses and human weaknesses that destroys confidence, makes disturbances, creates enemies, and breaks many of the thousand ties which should bind men together.
… all evil should be exposed and all misery be made public
There are men, who, in their ignorance of life’s true philosophy, appear to think that all evil should be exposed and all misery be made public.
Were such men wise, were they discreet, in a word, were they Masons, they would know that the grace of charity, when properly exercised, would enable them to save a soul from death and hide indeed a multitude of evils.
But no, they must go out and publish in the highways and from the housetops every fault of their neighbours, making every imaginable addition in order to demonstrate how zealous they are in the causes of truth and morality, as voluntary policemen to protect society.
Why the very world is filled with slanderers and traducers of this sort, who actually make their living of the innocent and unsuspecting, whom they tear to tatters and destroy in order to get their places.
Such men are never Masons, and are always to be found foremost in the ranks of those who incessantly condemn and belie our Order and its principles.
Against us, however, they are harmless, but against society they are moral cut-throats—the meanest banditti with which the world is cursed.
Secrecy—why it is our safeguard, our bulwark against such, and indeed, ” a pillar and tower of strength.”
Were the secrets of the Masonic Order paraded before the eyes of the world tomorrow, they would make Freemasons, as such, not one bit better, nor the world at large not one jot happier.
And under such circumstances, what guarantee could we take from those who, not knowing us, persist in abuse and vilification, that, when they knew as much as we know, they would even then acknowledge that something good come out of Israel after all.
The Mason works in secrecy and silence, but not in darkness; for, whether on the floor of the Lodge in the midst of his brethren, or doing his duty in the busy haunts of the work-a-day world, the Light of an All-seeing Eye is over present, and the sublime assurance that” who so walketh in this Light shall not walk in darkness ” continually before him.
His labour may indeed be secret, but the fruits of that labour can be no secret to the eye of reason and justice.
Since the primal fall of man from the perfection in which the Great Architect of the Universe created him, men have been good and bad, false and true; and since the building of Solomon’s Temple, Masons have been good and bad, false and true
—but take a true Mason, and if you find not God’s noblest work, an honest man, an upright, generous, liberal, sincere and truthful man, then, indeed, is secrecy a crime, our mighty edifice built on a foundation of sand, and its ancient existence a fabled dream.
Judge us by our fruits. Boasting is anti-Masonic, and if wo were not Masons, we could afford, like our enemies, to be uncharitable
—yes, indignant, and point to the widow relieved, housed and protected, the orphan fed, clothed and educated, saying:
Gentlemen, this is the work of a Secret Society.
Extract: The Freemason’s Chronicle 20th March 1875
Recent Articles: in this series
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The Mason: A Discreet Man
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Secrecy perhaps the strongest objection urged by the enemies of the Masonic Order against its existence published in The Freemason's Chronicle 20th March 1875
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The Archaeology of the Craft
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The Mason: A Sincere Man
What it means to a Freemason to be a sincere man
Citizenship of the World
What it means to a Freemason to be a citizen of the world ?
Brotherhood! In that one word what sympathetic associations arise.
The Mason: A Gentleman
This opening article was written 145 years ago, yet it resonates with Freemasons today as it did then.
making good men better
share the square with two brothers
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