The Masonic Lodge is one of the most influential and controversial organizations in the world. Established as a way for men of honor to meet with one another, join bonds of brotherhood and do good works for the world at large, the private nature of many of the rites of the Lodge have led many people to assume that Masons have something to hide. In truth, the “secrecy” of the Lodge has been overblown, and in general Masons are open and are always honest about their work. The Lodge is NOT a secret society, but rather a society that has secrets. Here’s what you should know about Masons and secrecy.
What Masons Keep Secret
Much like college fraternities, the rites of initiation and advancement in the Lodge are kept private from outside eyes. Slanderers of the Lodge have suggested that this is because there are crimes or acts of perversion committed in these rites, which is a lie. Masonic rites are in fact teaching tools for understanding the ideas on life, God, the world and right conduct associated with Masonic values. Any of these rituals taken out of context will seem confusing to the uninitiated, and so they are kept secret not so much to keep the public in the dark, but to avoid confusion on the part of students still moving up in the Lodge.
Masons also keep secret their means of identifying one another. The obligations of brotherhood one swears to in the Lodge mean that each Mason is obligated to sacrifice themselves to help brother Masons in need. If our means of identifying one another were made public, any con artist could use them to take advantage of true Masons. For this reason we keep these signs private.
What Isn’t Kept Secret
If the Lodge really is the sinister secret society its detractors make it out to be, we really are doing a pretty poor job of it. Pay attention in traffic and you’ll see the compass and square symbol on people’s cars—you may also see it on rings or lapel pins. Indeed, rather than obsessing over whether a particular individual is a Mason or not, just ask him! While some Masons prefer to keep their involvement private (in large part due to prejudices against the Lodge), most will happily tell you of their membership. A history of persecution—including more than 100,000 Masons killed during the Nazi Holocaust—has meant that we keep our membership rolls private. On an individual basis, however, no Mason is expected to keep his membership secret.
You can also usually find the location of your local Lodge online or in the phone book. When you drive by it is likely to be labeled rather prominently for all to see. It would seem to work against the interests of a truly secret organization to put a sign out front for everyone to know where it is located, and if indeed we were involved in criminal acts, it wouldn’t make much sense to let everyone know where the scene of the crimes was located. The truth is that Masons are proud of their accomplishments, as we work to honor God and make good men better.
The Truth About Exposed Secrets
Over the years a number of lapsed Masons have published various parts of the Masonic rites, so that while their deeper meanings only make sense to those who have been instructed in the Lodge, the outside performances can be found in certain places. Beware of trusting these sources, however, as they have been known to mix actual excerpts from Masonic rites with fictions and lies.