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Masonry Private, Not Secret

by Bro. Paul Roberts

We do not remember to have read so lucid a statement and exposition of the distinction between a private and a secret order as is here made by Brother Roberts, Dean of St. Michael's Episcopal Cathedral, of Boise, Idaho. If kept in mind, it disarms many of the critics of Masonry, who identify the Fraternity with societies with which it has no affinity, much less affiliations.  

ONE may easily think that it is a mere quibble over words to try to make such a distinction in the question, "Is Masonry a secret or private organization?" However, it does represent an attempt to understand its spirit and purpose.  

A group of English teachers were once trying to determine what was the most hateful word in the English language, and they finally chose the word "exclusive." As a Mason I should dislike to think of Masonry as "exclusive" in the sense that it excludes some, while being a place for special privilege to others. It certainly is not secret in the sense that it has a secret membership or secret ideals. It is only secret in the sense that all things in God's world are secrets, waiting for men to unlock the door that guards them from the careless and the lazy, by study and work and perseverance.  

Electricity was a secret, but only the sort of a secret that lured men on to open up the doors that led into the great world that God had prepared for us. Medicine was a secret, but it has been giving up its treasures to those who will seek to understand. Even the beauty of nature is a secret, but only such a secret as waits for the person who so attunes his life that he may see and appreciate its glory.  

THERE, is no such thing as getting something for nothing in God's universe, but all its glories and riches are but waiting for its to pay the price of thought and persevering effort to open up the doors that lead to understanding and appreciation. So you penetrate into the realm of music, or art - yes, of character itself.  

In that same way, I would conceive Masonry. Secret perhaps, but not the sort that shuts men out except as they shut themselves out by an unwillingness to pay the price of study, of effort, of perseverance to enter into its meaning, to appreciate its ideals, to measure up to its standard of manhood. It is built upon the secrecy that lures eager men on to an understanding of its underlying purposes and visions. It does not bar men out because of personal dislike unless untrue to itself, but they bar themselves out by an unwillingness to enter into its high standard and the refusal to climb tip to its heights.  

Its faith in God; its belief in immortality: its trust in brotherhood, are not secrets that refuse to give up their truth to those who seek and who knock, but they are visions that must be won, citadels that must be stormed, discoveries that must be made by the struggle of men. They are but waiting for men to enter in and claim them. They are private in the sense that each must gain them for himself. They do not lie uncovered for every careless passer-by to appropriate.  

YET we, as Masons, try to appreciate that faith and idealism, and by earnest thought and effort try to enter into that perfect knowledge which comes not by mere profession, but by personal possession and consecrated living.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014