The ‘secret’ and ‘secrecy’ element has been one of the major controversies surrounding Masonry, and this perhaps for good reason. This factor is little understood even by practicing Masons on the one hand (and so this aspect of secrecy in its deeper meaning has been misrepresented), and on the other the truer spiritual purposes of Masonry have not yet been presented clearly to the public inquiring mind, which, if they were, would somewhat clarify the ‘secrecy’ element, or at least explain it even if it were not accepted by those who do not or cannot understand such things.
In all schools of the mysteries since time immemorial there has ever been a strictly observed practice of secrecy pertaining to the knowledge gained, revealed and realized. This is not because of any sectarian or exclusive reasons, but rather because access to such knowledge requires an unusual type of spiritual purity and selflessness of motive in thought, word and deed. Such knowledge invariably admits one to the hidden side of nature and to the more subtle and causative energies and forces at work, as well as to beings and entities on all levels of the subjective and spiritual planes who are the embodiments of such energies and forces (but who remain veiled to worldly eyes), for all being and existence is entified. This pantheistic teaching lies at the heart of all true mystery schools. Inevitably, if one progresses in mastery of self then the truer side of the mysteries of nature and of being are revealed. But such knowledge is earned by virtue of strenuously applying oneself to the requirements for Self-Knowledge. Such so-called mysteries are thereby revealed to the consciousness as a natural unfoldment of the inner faculty of one’s nature, and this awakening of inner faculty is one of the natural and normal aspects of progress upon the spiritual Path. What was formerly a mystery then no longer exists as such to such a consciousness.
This type of requirement pertains to the truer meaning of that which is “esoteric.” Esoteric is conventionally considered as some kind of arcane knowledge of that which is ‘hidden,’ but the meaning in the context of the nomenclature of the mystery schools pertains to that which is ‘hidden’ from purely mortal and conventional eyes and consciousnesses on the one hand, and to a knowledge of those hidden forces and energies conditioning forms and qualities, on the other, plus the capacity to wield such energies and forces which, if prematurely placed in the hands of those who are of impure motive, could prove disastrous for the welfare of the human race.
Gradually, over the aeons, certain aspects of knowledge that was previously esoteric and part of the secrets of the Mystery Schools has been permitted to filter into the more general consciousness of humanity and has thereby become ‘common knowledge,’ and this, as humanity itself has made spiritual progress and become more mentally stabilised and enlightened. The wonders of the modern world that conventional science has made available to us has contributed to this revelation, but although in certain instances science perhaps explains to us how things work, it does not teach us what such things mean. For meaning, one will have to penetrate into the world of meaning and for that one will have to study the inner and spiritual science and apply it to oneself in order to become a knower. There are yet vaster areas of knowledge about which humanity is entirely ignorant, and such knowledge is carefully guarded on the higher levels of the mental plane, the plane where dwells the Soul, and so one cannot even gain access to such knowledge unless one is able to elevate one’s consciousness to such altitudes—hence, the value of the right type of meditation.
The true initiate into the Mysteries is obligated to apply the knowledge and power gained and acquired of those hidden forces and energies to the service of the race and for the benefit of mankind, and not for selfish purposes. If a person were to apply such knowledge for selfish purposes then he would be stepping very closely and precipitously onto the left-hand path of black magic and evil doing. Masonry teaches the way of the right-hand Path and that of the altruistic and selfless server of mankind. Gradually, and through a genuine spiritual discipline and progress, the student in the mystery schools gains a measure of Self control over himself and of the forces extant in Nature, and learns how to wield such forces and energies for the benefit of others, and thus an increasing power spiritual is placed in his hands.
Thus, Masonry, being of the lineage of the ‘Ancient Mysteries’ and Mystery Schools, has preserved the wording in its ritualistic dramatization of these internal processes, “to the worthy, and to the worthy alone,” and continues in this type of preservation, and for good reason. Masonry has thereby preserved the form of secrecy about such hidden forces and energies until that period—which is well nigh upon us—in which the truer Mysteries will be restored and the Mystery Schools that once flourished in previous cultures and civilisations will again be more widely accepted without superstition and as a natural part of the program for human living. In such Schools, there will, of course, be the careful revelation of such ‘mysteries’ to the advancing students, and so there will be the need for guarding the real secrets from the ‘unworthy’ and ‘profane.’
In the meantime, Masonry has preserved the symbolism of the secrets pertaining to the ‘Ancient Mysteries’ and as revealed in the true Mystery Schools.
There is a hidden wonder and mystery lying behind the symbolic forms of Masonry, the revelation of which is guarded by the Grips, indicated by Signs, and brought into manifestation by Words.
As practiced in modern or conventional Masonry, these symbolic signs and secrets are perhaps little understood. But the symbolism of the signs, grips and words have been preserved universally as ‘the proper modes of recognition,’ by which “one Mason may know another in the dark as in the light.”
Unfortunately though, and as it appears to be in the practice of many existing Masonic Orders, these Masonic ‘modes of recognition’ are not even sufficiently accepted as such, and instead have been replaced with “dues-cards” and “men-only” badges. Such superficial “modes of recognition,” are therefore almost universally based upon bureaucratic formulae, which unfortunately only present Masonry—and that for which it stands—as a crystallised institution. They are but a distortion of the truer and more esoteric “modes of recognition,” which are actually symbolised in all the Masonic Workings, and such superficial ‘recognitions’ (dues-cards and men-only badges) are even held up as proof or non-proof as to the legitimacy of one Masonic Order to another in its ‘recognition,’ ‘non-recognition’ and relationships. It is time for all of this superficial indulgence in crystallised lower manas within Masonry to shatter so that the Beauty of Masonry may emerge and be revealed.
Now, it may be possible to say a few words about these ‘secrets’ of Masonry, as it pertains to the meanings of such symbolic forms. Of course, whatever one says will be within the context of the point of view of the basic premise that one holds about Masonry and its meanings. Since in AUM we have no problem relating Masonry to the Ancient Mysteries, and all that is implied thereby, then we have no problem discussing it from that angle without trying to be guarded about what is said, or trying to cast it all in a false or veiled allusion to secrecy.
The so-called secrets symbolise a revelatory beauty pertaining to the unfolding spiritual (and eventually divine) nature of the Soul expressing itself through the medium of the form. Although it could be said that this revelation is symbolised through a set of triple symbols in each degree, it is all basically indicative of an achieved state of inner being which is all interrelated and interdependent.
This revelation is guarded by grips. These ‘grips,’ as symbolised in Masonry, are (in fact) peculiar hand exchanges, but appear to have been unfortunately and erroneously designated “hand-shakes” by some Masons and non-Masons alike. The deeper symbolism, however, pertains to the nature of the “grip” that the soul has over the personality. As every student of the mysteries knows, at least theoretically, with every succeeding true initiation undergone by the Soul there is a consequent greater control, or grip, that it has over its instrument in the three-worlds, the personality.
To the illumined seer and initiate of the Mysteries, the nature of this “grip” (that the soul has over its personality) is self-evident to the inner sight and therefore needs no exchange of a ‘hand-grip’ to convey such information.
But in order to symbolise such awakening faculty conveying a mode of recognition between souls, (revealing spiritual status through which recognition, support, and a brotherly love are exchanged between those who can “meet on the level”), an ingenious series of ‘hand-grips’ has been instituted to symbolise the nature of this soul grip. These ‘hand-grips’ are not arbitrary, but do actually convey an esoteric and energetic interchange and interplay, but fortunately such esoteric knowledge remains completely unknown to most Masons, and better for them that it does for it would otherwise place in their ‘hands’ premature knowledge of certain powers for which they are unprepared and unworthy, that is, ‘unworthy’ from the angle of the spiritual requirements for true initiate status.
Successive spiritual insights and revelations are guarded by the genuine spiritual status of the soul. The Seal of the Mysteries locks the lips of the true initiate against revealing aught that should not be revealed to those who are not yet at the same degree or spiritual status, for such knowledge is not personal, but impersonal knowledge to which one is privileged (but which one has earned), pertaining to an actual participation in the Life of Deity, all things being relative of course. Such types of knowledge are exceedingly powerful, and far beyond the ken of ordinary or even intelligent man.
This revelation of the wonder and beauty lying behind the symbolic forms of Masonry is also indicated by Signs. Each degree in Masonry has its own peculiar Sign, which again is not arbitrary, and is therefore another of the ‘modes of recognition’ that symbolise ‘spiritual status’ pertaining to initiate level.
These ‘proper modes of recognitions’ are all part of the Landmarks of Masonry, and so the reader may also refer to that section for a fuller understanding.
Of course, all of these modes of recognition indicating ‘spiritual status’ are symbolic, and even in the true Hierarchical Temples of Light where the reality itself exists, nothing ‘personal’ is meant by such terms as ‘status,’ for the Brotherhood of Light operates in full cooperation with unity in diversity, i.e., unity of purpose in a diversity of modes of being, each fulfilling his part within the whole.
This revelation is also indicated by Signs. Each degree of Masonry has its own peculiar mode of recognition also by sign (i.e., of one Mason to another, symbolising one Soul to another as Builders of the inner man or being within the Temple of Light). Each ‘sign’ is related to and illustrative of the so-called ‘penalties’ of the particular Oath of each degree. The Oath, in reality, should have nothing to do with allegiance to an institution or outer form or personality, but should more likely be in the form of a pledge to one’s own soul, to service of the Plan, and to the service of the Grand Lodge on High, the spiritual Hierarchy Who guide the spiritual destinies of men, and Who are, in fact, the true government of the planet. Nevertheless, much nonsense has been made out of the Masonic ‘so-called’ penalties without any true understanding of the symbolism involved. The ‘penalties’ of Masonry are not to be regarded in the normal interpretation of the term “penalty as punishment,” but allude to something much deeper. If one is obedient to one’s Oath (or Pledge), and here is meant spiritual Oath or Pledge to one’s soul, then there inevitably would arise a spiritual emergence from the imprisoning conditions of the personality. The ‘penalties’ of Masonry are therefore symbolic of the success that the soul has in sequentially gaining control over its instrument, the personality, and from degree to degree. All of the penalties are indicative of and related to various parts of the body. But this ‘body’ alluded to is the subtle and occult anatomy of man, the esoteric constitution. All the penalties are indicative of something happening to the various esoteric centers, called in the oriental teaching, chakras, and this ‘something’ refers to transformative processes being undergone in the center, and an awakening of the particular center indicated. In order to bring about this awakening there is an inevitable struggle within the personal man, the personality, as the personal self-centered ego ‘revolts’ against ‘soul imposition,’ and so to that personality the ‘penalty’ may have implications of dire and dreadful consequences; but to the inner being, the Soul within the form, the ‘penalties’ are indicative of liberators of energy and of a freeing from those imprisoning conditions that have for aeons bound it to the form.
Therefore, the indication by sign as a mode of recognition, is again (on one level) symbolic of alluding to the inner and spiritual status of the soul by virtue of the condition of the awakened centers. This latter, is again, of course, self-evident to the illumined seer, but the symbolism of the revelation and as it pertains to the Ancient Mysteries is preserved.
This revelation of beauty and spiritual power is also brought into manifestation by Words. This is one of the more occult factors of the Mysteries, because there is no greater way that our lives are conditioned than through the power of the spoken word. Speech indicates thought. It therefore reveals the contents and qualities of the inner being. When one speaks, then one inevitably sets forces in motion through the vibration of the spoken word. This vibratory motion of which sound is the cause has a particular impact upon the surrounding ethers and particularly the sonoriferous ether, the akasha. The sound thus sets in motion synchronistic atomic lives and causes them to cohere and form subtle geometric forms vibrating to pitch, tone and quality. Depending on the type of ‘sound-form’ such forms can become entified by the denizens of the inner and subjective worlds.
When there is a true and stable alignment between soul-mind-brain, then there cannot fail to be an expression of that which is beautiful, encouraging and of wisdom delivered through the energy of love (for the soul is light essentially and love potentially). This internal creation (largely unconscious) of subtle forms, however momentary, can reveal inner expressions of beauty through which light, love and radiance can be expressed for the general welfare of others. The expression of love is a giving, freeing energy.
The esoteric teaching, or the Ageless Wisdom, is full of allusions to the power of the Word, of Sound and of Speech. Indeed, all the major scriptures of the world allude to the world being formed by the power of sound. “God spoke, and the worlds were made . . . etc.” When we speak, we set atoms into vibrational motion and these atoms are attracted to each other by virtue of their synchronistic quality and thus create ‘sound-forms.’ Will, Sound, Light and Life are all synonymous terms, esoterically understood. Indeed, all of us are in incarnation by virtue of the Word “spoken” by our soul, and just insofar as the Word is continually sounded forth by the soul within then we remain in incarnation. When the soul ceases to sound forth that Word then there ensues the snuffing out of that particular incarnation and we “die” to form life, the soul gathers unto itself the virtues and qualities gained by that particular incarnation to await the next incarnation and effort at making further spiritual progress at the sounding out of the Word from the soul. There is in fact no greater karmic determiner for each of us than through our use of the power of speech. It is unique to the human kingdom and is a direct expression of the individualised soul working through the mind. We do literally create our world (and the consequences of our personal lives) through our use of speech, for good or ill.
The Words symbolised in Masonry, however, allude to the words of power which are revealed to the true initiate at each initiation and which give him the capacity for wielding forces and energies through the power of the Word, and thus the knowledge of how to rightly control the energies and existences that inhabit the various and successive planes of existence. This particular factor all begins to get a bit more technical and esoteric, and so suffice it to say, that all such knowledge pertaining to sound and light is most carefully guarded on the higher levels of the mental plane, the place where dwells the soul, and so unless one is able to function at that level then such knowledge remains safely ‘out of reach.’ For such knowledge conveys the mysteries of creation and manifestation.
Again, it might be said that the current Words as used in Masonry for each degree are not arbitrary and have somewhat a deeper meaning as well as a phonetic one that vibrates to the awakening activities of certain etheric centers within the subtle and therefore more substantial and principled constitution of man.
But the time is well nigh upon us when the newer Masonic Words of Power will be revealed and instituted, but only when there has first been a raising of the consciousness of those who work in and through this media of truth and likewise an application by such persons to the strenuous practice of spiritual disciplines.
Thus, perhaps it can be appreciated that the so-called secrets of Masonry are but forms of secrecy that veil the mystery of the revelation that lies behind the form of the symbol, even to the eyes or conscious understanding of perhaps most Masons themselves. The nonsense surrounding Masonic “secrets” has been greatly exaggerated and grossly misrepresented by many Masons who do not even understand the meaning of their “secrets” anyway, and so this period of labouring under the glamour of secrecy must come to an end and Masons would do well to turn their attention—with all due humility—to the effort to understand the deeper spiritual and esoteric meaning of their art and science.
But the preservation of the forms of secrecy, for all the reasons presented in the foregoing, does again reaffirm the place that Masonry—as heir to the unbroken lineage of the Mystery Schools and the Ancient Mysteries—holds.