In the discussion of Masonry’s secrets there are many mistaken assumptions arising from a lack of knowledge – a failure to inform oneself.
The fraternity is often called a secret society. This, of course, implies that Masons conceal the fact of their membership, that they meet in secret, that their purposes are secret.
Nothing could be more remote from the truth.
Freemasonry is not a secret society. Furthermore, its members make no attempt to conceal their Masonic affiliation, often proudly wearing rings or other jewelry marking them as Freemasons. Meeting places are prominently located and clearly marked. Dates and times of meetings are often advertised in newspapers or posted on bulletin boards. The history, the teachings, and many records of the order are available in any good public library. The rules and regulations of Masonry are in print and no effort is made to lock them away from interested persons. Minutes are made of its meetings and are often studied by those who are not members. These practices are clearly not those of a secret society.
Freemasonry can be described as, as one prominent Freemason once stated: “Masonry is not a secret society, it is a society with secrets.” Freemasonry does have some secrets it attempts to preserve.
Freemasonry has secret modes of recognition, which enable its members to quickly recognize each other as Masons upon their first meeting. The value of these secrets to members away from home is fairly obvious and it does not seem unnatural that the fraternity should wish to preserve them.
In addition Freemasonry has secret rituals, its modes of instructing new members in the three symbolic degrees. This ritual originated, in large part, has been handed down over the centuries. Most of the secret rituals are based upon writings in the Holy Bible and the writings of other great philosophers, so they are secret only in their unique adaptation and presentation. This ritualistic mode of instruction has proven remarkably effective over the centuries and its use, being peculiar to Freemasonry, has kept the fraternity apart from those that would imitate it The lessons taught in the Masonic ritual are in no way secret, they may be obtained from many and various Masonic writings, available to all.
These secrets, the modes of recognition and the modes of instruction, are the only secrets Masonry has. The man who might be thinking of making application for Masonic membership solely out of curiosity concerning the secrets of Masonry will be well advised to let his curiosity lead him down other and less demanding paths.