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more light #343

Keeping Secrets

by Ed Halpaus Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

“Freemasonry makes no secrecy of the great principles it teaches”
Bernard E. Jones  

I receive quite a few comments and questions on Masonry from Masons and non-Masons alike. I do enjoy opportunities to help by answering questions on Freemasonry, even critical questions; it’s a real pleasure to learn and to help in learning. If you or someone you know has a question you think I could help with please feel free to contact me; my email address, and Blog URL is below.  

One of the messages I received recently was in the form of a paragraph on Masonry from someone who repeats many accusations anti- Masons direct at Freemasonry. The reason the paragraph below was sent is because the sender made some outlandish charges: My response was to ask him to cite some evidence of his accusations and to sign his name to his statements. I am not including his name, as it’s not important except for me to address replies to him by name. I will direct him to my blog so he can read my response to his message in this publication. He sent me the following:  

"You must conceal all the crimes of your brother Masons, except murder and treason, and these only at your own option, and should you be summoned as a witness against a brother Mason be always sure to shield him. Prevaricate [falsify], don't tell the whole truth in his case, keep his secrets, forget the most important points. It may be perjury to do this, it is true, but you're keeping your obligations, and remember if you live up to your obligation strictly, you'll be free from sin. ‘That's the evidence I sight." (Edmond Ronayne, "Masonic Handbook," page 183)   

 Before getting into response to this I will say that the book this person is using for his authority against Freemasonry is available at Amazon, for those who would like to read the book. I will also tell everyone that the information cited from Ronayne’s book is certainly contrary to everything Masonry teaches and stands for.  

To begin our study relating to the quote above we can look at the oldest Masonic document extant, “The Regius Poem, also known as the Halliwell Manuscript” dated as early as 1388 and refers to the period of Masonry during the reign of King Athelstan from about 925: This Manuscript has in it Articles and Points [it can be read in books and on-line, so I won’t reproduce it in its entirety here.] But, I will cite some of it, as it applies to our study of the information quoted above: Article 7 states – “That a master shall not harbor thieves, murderers, or one ‘that hath a feeble name”: Article 15 says that “A master is not to ‘ maintain his fellows in their sin for no good that he might win; nor no false oath suffer him to make, for dread of their soul’s sake.” Also in the Halliwell Manuscript are Points: Point 15, ‘relates to the sheriff’s duty in imprisoning the disobedient mason and confiscating his ‘goods and cattle.  

When someone says Masons are to keep secrets of crimes, and / or to lie about these kinds of things to protect another person, Freemason or otherwise, from prosecution for a crime, as the quote above does, it only shows a lack of knowledge of what Freemasonry is, what it isn’t, and what it stands for.  

For anyone, initiated or uninitiated, to begin to know what Freemasonry’s stand is on such things is to read the charges of the various degrees.  The charge of the first degree tells the new Freemason what is expected of a Freemason, it says in part: “  In the State, you are to be a quiet and peaceful subject, true to your government, and just to your country; you are not to countenance disloyalty or rebellion, but patiently submit to legal authority and conform with cheerfulness to the government of the country in which you live. In your outward demeanor be particularly careful to avoid censure or reproach. Let not interest, favor, or prejudice, bias your integrity, or influence you to be guilty of a dishonorable action.”  (This is the official stance of Freemasonry in Minnesota as published in the Masonic Manual of Minnesota.)  

Knowing what that part of the charge of the first degree says, anyone would know it would be impossible for a Mason, who lives up to expectations, to do or act as the quote from Ronayne’s book asserts.  

The information from the Masonic Manual of Minnesota, in my quote above, is current, but the Charge of the first degree has been the same since the formation of our Grand Lodge in 1853, and the same in Freemasonry in general for much longer.  

Two statements regarding secrecy, which Masonic students may fine interesting, are from the Prince of Wales in 1880, (then the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England,) and another from someone identified as an ‘Irish Clergyman.’  

First from the Price of Wales, and Most Worshipful Grand Master:  

“We have among us secrets concealed from those who are not Masons, but they are lawful and honourable, and not opposed to the laws either of God or man. They were entrusted to Masons in ancient times and, having been faithfully transmitted to us; it is our duty to convey them inviolate to our posterity.”   

Here is the quote from an ‘Irish Clergyman:’  

“No secrecy of Masonry obliged him to conceal anything which as a Christian, he should divulge, and the concealing of which might prove injurious to his fellow creatures.”   

For a more modern statement on secrecy and Freemasons we can turn to Brother Jim Tresner, Ph.D. in his booklet “Conscience and The Craft:” In it he answers the question “What kind of Secrecy do we teach?”  

His answer says:  

“The first and most important kind is the ability to keep confidences. All of us value those friends to whom we can talk, “Blow off steam,” really open ourselves to, and still know without any question that the friend will never tell anyone else or use those moments of sometimes painful honesty against us in any way. As it says in Proverbs 11:13 “A tale bearer revealeth secrets, but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” Masons are taught it is important to be such a friend.   

“The Second kind of secrecy we teach is the idea of ‘doing good in silence.’ One of the degrees says it this way; ‘ Be careful that you do not contribute to showy charities in order to have the reputation of being a charitable man, while sending away from your door the Poor whom   

God has sent to test you.’   

“Secrecy in those senses is a virtue, and it is in these senses it is taught in Masonry.”  

Nothing in any of the above words written by me or quoted from other sources in my response to the paragraph quoted from Ronayne, lends any credence to the false information in the quote from Ronayne’s book, and what is foisted upon the unknowing public by the anti-Masonic movement.  

"Be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.” Jim Stovall  

Judge Kindly - by an unknown Brother  

“Don’t expect perfection in a man because he is a Mason. If you do, you will be disappointed. Masonry makes a man better, but no human agency can make him perfect. If he is a Mason, you have the right to presume he is a fairly good man, but do not condemn Masonry even if a few Masons turn out bad. Even the great teacher Himself had a Judas. The aim and purpose of Masonry is to receive none but good men, keep them good and make them better. Judge the institution not by a few failures, but by the average of its success. That average is high and it consequently gives standing to its members, but it cannot be an infallible guide.”  

“Freemasonry can stand up to investigation, it’s the false charges against it that cannot.”   

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Last modified: March 22, 2014