Lloyd Pickering's Blog

Personal blog site of Lloyd covering diverse topics of Programming, Freemasonry and Gaming

Do Freemasons Have Secrets?

I order to answer this question we have to go back in time to the travelling guilds of stonemasons who built the castles, fortifications and houses of worship that litter the old world.

A travelling stonemason would frequently move from job to job as work started or stopped. How then in a time when most people couldn’t read or write, could a mason prove himself to be skilled? How could a senior mason prove himself to be a senior mason? The answer comes in the form of a password and a grip.

What is a grip? Well it’s like a handshake, except without the shake. You grasp the other person hand in a certain way to prove yourself.

The Grand Secretary has stated that there is no masonic handshake but while technically correct, I think it’s a little disingenuous. He is correct in that a grip is not a handshake (though most would see the distinction as being pedantic) and secondly, there isn’t a single masonic grip, there are grips and passwords for various degrees. This should help to explain why giving ‘a handshake’ will not distinguish a mason – there’s more to it than that.

So back to the original question – do Freemasons have secrets? Yes we do. These secrets are the grips and passwords associated with the various degrees we have undertaken. To the outside world they are meaningless. They are symbolic secrets rather than actual ones. I undertook a solemn obligation not to reveal these secrets, and as a man of honour, I shall not. The value is in the fact they are kept secret, rather than the value of the password and grip itself – a token effort as it were.

So is that all there is to the secrets?

For the most part yes. We don’t allow non-masons to attend the lodge meetings (but regularly open the festive board up to non masons) in the same way you can’t just walk into a board meeting at Coca Cola. We don’t give out our passwords and grips in the same way Coca Cola don’t give out their exact recipe.

The dates and times of our meetings are public, and members are free to tell people they are masons (although some tend not to as a lot of people are anti-mason based on rumour, suspicion and misinformation).

The ceremonies we undertake are well published – just look on Amazon for ‘Emulation Ritual’ – BUT – BIG WARNING HERE – If you are ever considering becoming a mason I would strongly urge you not to read the ritual. Undergoing the degrees is something that only happens once in your life, it would be a shame to spoil it. It loses something in the translation to text.

There is one part of the ritual though, which I would like to share with any prospective masons…

Before you undertake your Solemn Obligation, you will hear something similar to the following (lodges are free to set their own rituals, so there are variations):

“It is my duty to inform you that Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every Candidate for its mysteries. It is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue. It possesses great and invaluable privileges, and in order to secure those privileges to worthy men, and we trust to worthy men alone, vows of fidelity are required; but let me assure you that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral, or religious duties. Are you therefore willing to take a Solemn Obligation, founded on the principles I have stated, to keep inviolate the secrets and mysteries of the Order? ”

A lot is made out of the ‘oaths’ you swear – most of it a load of crap. The above passage, and the rest of this post should explain it all. New masons are asked to do what is right for their country, religion, family, freemasonry – in that order. Freemasons should never be asked to break the law, or give anyone an unfair advantage. In fact to do so risks expulsion from freemasonry.

A final warning. Some rituals posted publicly are correct in nearly all regards, save one – the secrets are incorrect, with substituted words, syllables or pronunciations. If you want to get into a masonic meeting – join.

Categorized as Freemasonry

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