Recently I heard a brother wonder if we had any real “secrets” as he had discovered Duncan’s Ritual on the Net. This led me to think about what the “real” secrets of the Craft are and whether it matters that our rituals have been “exposed”.
In my short time in the Craft, I have found Masonry is a journey and a very personal one at that. The discovery of the secrets is in fact a slow and very rewarding process and whilst a lot of material is available, it does not (in my opinion) detract or really reveal the true secrets of the Craft.
Since the amount of literature on the Craft is so pervasive, sometimes it is hard to avoid reading about “secrets” to which an initiate is yet to be exposed. In my progress since I was initiated, I was faced with this dilemma on more than one occasion. For example, during my time as a FCF, I was reading “Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry” by John J. Robinson. As I progressed through the book I found that chapters 14, 15 and 16 covered the 3 degrees in some detail. So, as my raising was only a few days away, I put the book aside without reading chapter 16 (The Master Mason). Why? Because, for one I remembered my S.O. in the 1st degree but more importantly I felt that reading about the ritual would take away from my own enjoyment and would probably diminish its impact, I felt that it was more important to “live” the event, rather than to read it.
The reality I found was that probably this would not have been the case. Why? Well, three days after my raising, I was privileged to see three brothers being raised and whilst by then I had first hand experience on the ritual I found it no less moving or dramatic. In fact, I think that it enhanced the impact of my own!
Basically, I believe that if one looks hard enough, one can find just about anything about the Craft. Exposés have been written and published in many occasions and most of these have been done with the intention of harming the Craft.
Harry Carr in his “World of Freemasonry” covers in full one such exposé by one Samuel Pritchard published in 1730. This book was Pritchard’s one and only claim to fame. Although as Carr points out there appears to be no records of Pritchard being a Mason other than a tenuous single entry for Bro Pritchard in one Lodge’s minutes.
The most famous exposé is by Captain William Morgan who according to folklore was a Freemason in the 1800s and applied to join a lodge in Batavia New York and was rejected. So he wrote a book exposing all rituals including the Royal Arch and the Knights Templar to name a few. He disappeared and some Freemasons were jailed for his alleged murder. Others claim that he was taken to Canada where he lived to old age...
It seems to me that in spite all of these so called exposés, and whilst much of the available material is similar to our own ritual; quite often it is not the same. Also, it is apparent to me that a very large chasm exists between understanding and knowing and therefore these so called exposures will seldom lead to real knowing.
In my short time in the Craft, I have been learning that the Craft is based on effort. I.e. the more effort on ones part, the more rewarding it is. In addition to this, I think that since the Craft requires effort, then its true secrets are only revealed through practice and perseverance.
Basically, no amount of reading or video watching will reveal the true picture. One has to experience it. For example, most of us can understand basic differentiation or integration when it is explained to us. However, unless we practice and in effect make the lessons our own, very few of us will be able to differentiate or integrate later on. Why? Because, we need to absorb, assimilate and get to a point where we actually know rather than just understand.
I know someone who once told me "I have no desire or need to travel to Japan", I responded "Why?" the answer came "Because, I know exactly what it is like". I replied "How could you? You have never been out of Australia!” The response amazed me "I have seen movies, documentaries and I have read about it"
Have you ever seen a brother who is really “gifted” in delivering charges or conducting ritual; so gifted in fact that it appears effortless? In reality that effortlessness is quite probably a direct result of many, many hours and years of practice.
Understanding can be instantaneous; knowing requires effort, practice, perseverance and time. This can be illustrated in the four stages of learning:
- UI - Unconscious Incompetence - This stage could be called blissful ignorance i.e. I don't know that I don't know.
- CI - Conscious Incompetence - This is a very painful stage, I know that I don't know
- CC - Conscious Competence - I can do it but with thought. I.e. it requires thought and is not fluid or effortless. This is a very frustrating stage and many give up at this stage
- UC - Unconscious Competence - Effortless. This is the result of practice and effort. Here one can do without actually thinking. This is the real knowing; here the skill has become part of us.
One more analogy based on the Martial Arts. If one Googles self‑defense or Martial Arts, or Kung Fu, Gung Fu, Karate, etc. One can find books, references, videos that clearly show many of the "secrets" of the "Masters". However, I have found that in practice a very, very small proportion of the population can actually understand, let alone know how to apply these techniques. Quite often even when one shows a person a technique, they are unable to perform it. Why? Because, this requires study, practice and perseverance and these are attributes that I am beginning to find are an absolute necessity in Freemasonry.
So, it does not matter that people can see or read about the Craft. They will miss out unless they engage. There might be a few that will learn from that information but those will be the exception rather than the rule.
Personally, I believe that "secrets or no secrets", the real discovery is personal and therefore these secrets are only "visible" to those who are active in the Masonic journey.
Kind fraternal regards,