nohwhere_man (nohwhere_man) wrote in masons,

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Secrets in the open

I was discussing this with a brother recently- when and how secret is a secret? Many parts of our rituals have been published openly, and some bits are straight out of the christian bible. Even outside a tiled (tyled?) lodge or otherwise in private with our brethren, we can't avoid some of things that are considered secrets to us but also in common currency. For instance, look up the pass words in wikipedia. All the ones I know have entries, although Masonry they isn't specifically mentioned. Of course it would be improper to connect one of those words to it's place in ritual, but other than the old favorite "I can neither confirm nor deny that remark.", how do you handle this when it comes up with non-Masons?
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Much less of the ritual is actually secret than most people (including most Masons) think. For example, if someone asks what that square-and-compasses symbol on your ring means...tell them. The symbolism is beautiful, meaningful, and impressive. Don't recite ritual word-for-word, but you can *explain* things in general terms. The square represents perfection, which is our goal, because there's only one right angle: 89 or 91 degrees isn't a right angle. The compasses represent the circle that we draw around ourselves, that we won't step over, the moral limits we place upon ourselves that we won't cross.

Don't give away passwords, grips, etc. At least *act as though* they were unobtainable secrets. Yes, all this stuff can be found on the web (if you know where to look, and I do) and even in your favorite big-box bookstore (if you know where to look, and I do), but I don't tell profanes where to find it, because I took an oath not to.
This is what I was told as well. You can't say the ritual word-for word, and you can't reveal the passes, grips, etc... of the the degrees, those are the general secrets of freemasonry. And you can't reveal a confidence communicated to you by a Brother - that is also a masonic secret. But when my Mom asked me what the symbols on the masonic pin that used be my grandpa's meant, I was perfectly right to tell her that the pillars represent the pillars of King Solomon's Temple, and the square and compass are emblems of morality, and the G stands for God or Geometry. Those aren't secrets. The one thing I'm not sure is secret or not is the content of the Hiramic Legend. I've heard different opinions on this.
Consider well the difference between secret and Mystery.

One conceals, yet unlocks, the other.
And without receiving the one in a proper manner, one can NEVER receive the other ... not saying it's not allowed, just it's impossible to receive.
You have taken an obligation to keep the secrets. That those same secrets might be readily available does NOT mean you can discuss them with non-Masons.

You took a vow. Now keep your word.
Some have misinterpreted what I asked- I didn't ask whether it's OK to reveal the secrets as such, that's a simple question with a simple answer. ("no").

The question is about discussing what might be a secret with a non-mason who presumable doesn't know it is one or who starts asking about the connection. Take one of the words. Look it up in a dictionary or on wikipedia. It's a familiar concept- how to test a person to see if they belong. (Yes, I'm being deliberately vague here)

This came up in conversation recently about an unrelated subject (theater sound reinforcement). My friend proposed we have a test for potential helpers, and used "our word" to refer to the test. No problem there, it's common usage. However some brethren would say to never utter the word to a non-mason (IMHO unrealistic and unlikely what was intended). Now, if he'd mentioned that it is a masonic secret, I'd have been compelled to either feign ignorance or refuse comment. So I'm asking: what do you do to handle this situation?

I find my cipher & monitor books to be a good guide for some of this. If it's printed in clear text, it probably isn't very secret. I'm presently learning the FC lecture, and over half is clear text.

BTW, I also know where to find all this on the web, and even have a couple of books with it, to varying degrees of accuracy. I was collecting some of that stuff before I even applied for degrees. Didn't look it, though, while I was taking them.
So what you're asking is this, yes?....

Say "Rumplestiltskin" is a Masonic password (which I will neither confirm nor deny [grin]). Is it permissible to merely *utter* this word, in a non-Masonic context? As in, say you're just chatting about fairy tales. The answer is clearly "yes, it's permitted". If a word comes up that *just happens to be* a Masonic word of significance, of course you can say that word. What you can't do is "communicate that word in a Masonic manner", you can't let on that it *is* a significant word in Freemasonry, you can't explain what it means in a Masonic context, you can't use it *as* a significant Masonic word. But you *can* utter it, i.e. use it in conversation. There is no word -- well, perhaps there *is* one, and you can guess which, and understand why -- that you are not permitted to even *utter*, under any circumstances. Does that answer the question?
That leads the discussion in the direction expected, by laying out a bit of a framework.

The original question was asked rhetorically. I did not ask what is permitted, I asked what do -you- do when this comes up. Where do -you- draw the line? Obviously, someone asks "is gezornenplatz a secret word?" the answer could well be "couldn't say." But when you've been discussing things with someone for ten minutes and they start to converge on a secret, do you deflect? Stop short? Change the subject? Circumspection can only go so far without seeming obstructionist.

(BTW of course you are allowed to utter that word, under certain specific conditions.)