Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is it okay to talk to non-Masons about your Masonic obligations?

Many Masons these days feel that the only secrets of Freemasonry are the due guards, signs, grips and passwords, and say that anything else we know about Masonry is okay to discuss with non-Masons. If it's written in the minutes, they say, it's alright to talk about it.

Some believe that the rituals should be sacrosanct and never mentioned. Some jurisdictions only have a few copies of the ritual, coded into a cipher. Others print their rituals out verbatim, for anyone to read.

Some brothers hold a very strict view, and feel that nothing that goes on behind a tyled lodge door should ever be discussed outside the lodgeroom.

Are our obligations secret? Or is it permissible to tell the world what they are?

What do you think? Please participate in the poll and also leave a comment about what you think or about what your jurisdiction mandates.


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  1. Woohoo! This is the first time I am the first to leave a comment (unless someone is leaving a comment as I type and beats me to it).

    The intiatory experience of the degrees is setup to instill many things in the candidate. One of those things is trust. We all know the obvious parts of the degrees which teaches this, but the obligation is equally a part of the lesson.

    The candidate is assured by the Master of the Lodge that he is about to take an obligation which will not conflict with his duty to god, himself, etc. Here in lies the trust!

    If the candidate already knows all he will be obligated to, where is the lesson of trust?

    If you must answer the question on "What will I have to obligate myself to?" or something along that line, the best answer is found right in the ritual itself:

    "Nothing that will conflict with your duty to god, your neighbor, or yourself"

    Just my opinion.


    Bro. Arthur Peterson

  2. What in the world in my obligation should I not divulge? That I've promised to help a brother when he needs it? That I will treat his family with courtesy?

    If we were as dedicated to actually performing the tasks set forth in our obligations as we were to keeping them this big deep, dark secret we might be getting somewhere.

  3. "If we were as dedicated to actually performing the tasks set forth in our obligations as we were to keeping them this big deep, dark secret we might be getting somewhere."

    Exactly! Care to lead the charge?

    Br. Arthur Peterson

  4. Hurm... what an interesting question. One that I would like to think about much deeper.

    But along those lines, it makes you stop and think. What is taught in masonry that is differnt than the moral lessons learned in church? What requires the secrecy or what is so secret about it? How did our ancient brethren communicate their membership? I'm sure they had their rings, but did they tell everyone about it? Personally, I will tell someone if they ask me, but I will not go around telling everyone I'm a Mason.

    But most of all, I believe that we should live our obligations by how we act, not just by talking about it.

  5. Hmm..I voted no. It is, after all, an obligation; an oath.

    During it we swear many times, and are admonished over and over again in our teachings, that we are to keep the ritual itself a secret; as it is distinguish us from other members of the community.

    It doesn't matter that the ritual is published many places on the Internet as well as in books. It was my own oath and I figure I ought to honor it in the least little way.

    While I am not crazy hard core about it, and I often reference some of the moral principles espoused in the ritual, I don't need to go posting it on my website or anything.

    As far as the initial ceremonies themselves, I read them online before I received my EA degree. I have always regretted doing so.

    The experience is degraded somewhat if the candidate has read everything there is available ahead of time.

    I think Right Worshipful Brother Crhis Hodapp strikes a good balance in his book 'Freemasons for Dummies'.


  6. I voted no. But I guess there is a distinction between talking about the obligation and reciting the obligation. In Grand Lodge of Texas the obligation is part of the secrets of Freemasonry that we swear to never write down, etc., along with the whole Q&A of each degree. Discussing the principles behind the obligation shouldn't be an issue, but ultimately it's a matter of semantics.

  7. I'm torn on this.

    Working in the French tradition, and under the guidance of European brothers and sisters, I have been taught to be always discreet in my Masonry--meaning not to even let on I'm a Mason, much less talk about what we do in Lodge.

    I've been told by French Masons that they are never "out" as Masons because a) there is anti-Masonic prejudice in France, b) they still have living memories of Masons being rounded up by Nazis (one of my Brothers had a grandfather whose legs were covered with deep scars left from his Nazi interrogation regarding whether or not he was a Mason) and c) they simply feel that Masonry is a private journey, not something to be paraded in public, or used for self-agrandizement.

    I, however, was raised in the land of the bumper sticker Masons and wonder why I can't be out open it too. Other than wackadoo Christians and conspiracy theorists, I'm not aware of any prejudice against Masons in the US, since sane people see that Masons here as harmless patriotic old guys who do charity work.

    I wonder what would happen to that attitude if a liberal form of Freemasonry grew strong here in the US? That would be interesting, and if our government swings further to the right, maybe a little scary. But I sway between knowing realistically that's not going to happen in my lifetime, and idealistically deciding that even if it does, I would take a stand for the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

    Anyway, that's all pretty out there. On a more practical level I believe that it is important to let the word out that there are legitimate alternative forms of Freemasonry. If I am not out about my Masonry, there is no way at all that anyone would ever know there is an alternative--particularly women.

    So if it comes up somehow, I'll confess to being a Mason, and answer all questions they have, outside of describing initiation or any other ritual work. I really feel the need to be straighforward because I have to distinguish between what we do and GL style Masonry. I also have to disambiguate them if they are expecting smoke, fireworks, and the secrets of the universe on a silver tray.

    But I never bring it up, and if the person's interest seems to come from the wrong place, I will keep silent.

    If I am out, though, I always have to be very careful not to inadvertently out any of more discreet my brothers or sisters. It can be awkward when someone asks us, "How did you meet?" and the real answer is "Well, I had a blindfold on and he was carrying a sword..."

  8. I voted "No".

    Let me elaborate a bit. I would not discuss the exact wording of the obligations with a non-Mason, as Chuckeye had posted, but would, in general, discuss what I had promised to do.

    What's more, I make an effort to live by my obligations. I have often said that a Mason should be able to remove every scrap of paraphenalia that marks him as one and *still* be recognized as a Mason.


  9. I vote "no" not just because of some sense of moral obligation to keep Masonic rituals secret per the oaths we as Masons take, but also because the secret is central to the mystique of Masonry. Without it, people would not be curious. With the whole world knowing what we do--however inane it may seem to them--few would be interested in learning the deeper meaning behind the rituals we practice. In other words, the secrecy has helped, to some degree, maintain interest in Masonry and stimulate the curiosity of many who wonder what we are all about.

    That said, the comment WS made on the previous topic ("Oh $#!+") had me ROTFLMAO.

    Fraternally yours,
    The Libertarian

  10. The question as written "Is it okay to talk to non-masons about your Masonic obligations?"

    The language of the question states the subject to talk about is our obligation. The question never states that talking means revealing. So I voted 'yes.'

    In Virginia our 'secret arts, parts and points' that are never to be revealed are the due guards, grips and words (ie. modes of recognition). Talking about our obligations can be general like; "I took an obligation that I will look after my fellow Freemasons as I see the need and have the resources." OR inquisitive, word for word dialogue. So in light of the questions words the answer must be yes because just saying, to someone, you had to take a masonic obligation is inherently talking about our Masonic obligation.

    If one were to recite the Virginia EA, FC and MM Ob's to a non Mason it would probably be heard as Clap Trap and silly or sincere and caring. Those that hear the care in it might just be the next ones to take it.

    Remember we were not first made masons in a room adjoining the lodge. So also remember it is that same place that we first became masons that can guide what we 'talk' about.

  11. In Virginia our 'secret arts, parts and points' that are never to be revealed are the due guards, grips and words (ie. modes of recognition). Talking about our obligations can be general like; "I took an obligation that I will look after my fellow Freemasons as I see the need and have the resources."

    Connecticut is similar. It's really the wording of the poll question that's the problem; In Conn we are free to discuss what we do and we can give a "general" idea of what happens in the initiation, although "general" naturally isn't defined. I voted "no" mainly because I was second-guessing the question.

  12. I agree with Tom. I feel we can discuss our obligations but the modes of recognition are to remain a privelege extended and discussed only between those who I find worthy brethren of that degree via due trial, strict examination or lawful masonic information.

  13. I don't discuss the content of the obligation with non-Masons. Its specific wording, at least in Ohio, calls for the candidate to keep it private. I do believe each Mason is free to interpret the obligation as he sees fit, but I find the obligation so matter-of-fact in its wording that I know that I have made a promise not to share the obligation or any part of the degrees with anyone not qualified to receive same.

    If the obligation makes me a better man, or a better Mason, and someone benefits from something good I have done, then that's what really counts -- not the private aspects of our rituals.

  14. You need a couple more options...
    What exactly do you mean when you say discuss the obligations? If you mean repeat them word for word, then I'm against it. If you mean discuss the tenants behind it, I'm all for it!
    Why wouldn't I want people to know that I'm for helping people, and (as I'm typing this, the DeMolay obligations that I've repeated several times more than Lodge ones keep popping into my head) being an all around good person?

    Tom Bowersox

  15. Bro. Bowsersox,

    If there were more options, there would be fewer comments. The way the question is worded and the minimal possible answers lead readers to be more communicative in their written responses.

    I like hearing people's opinions, instead of just always writing my own.

    — W.S.

  16. I might be wrong, but I'll say the vast majority of Masons are going to respond "No" to this subject. There will probably be all sorts of "logical" and "noble" explanations for that decision, but the fact most will universally avoid, is that very few can say they're "proud" of what they've been taught to accept as "normal" behavior.

    Imagine trying to explain to your wife, mother, or daughter, that you were stripped almost naked, blindfolded, had a large rope tied around your neck, stuck with a sharp instrument, and made to swear on a Bible that you'd never tell anyone what happened, under penalty of having your throat cut, your heart ripped out, or your body cut in half. In the higher degrees, you're eventually even required to drink wine from a cup made from a human skull.

    That doesn't just "sound" absurd, it really IS absurd, yet Masons are somehow indoctrinated to think it's "normal" and "acceptable." Heck, playing around with snakes in the middle of church services is nothing compared to that!

    Just give me one example of something "innocent" and "right" that men do, that they wouldn't feel comfortable telling their wives, mothers, or daughters, and I'll concede the point. I don't think that's likely to happen, but it might.

  17. In my experience most people don't ever ask any questions. Probably because they believe everything is a secret.

    I don't think we should share the O&A's exact wording but if asked we should be willing to explain the basics. Part of the initiation experience is the mystery and telling too much takes away from that.


  18. I voted "no" three times cause I'm sick-and-tired of hearing my Masonic friends prattle on-and-on about the inane internal power struggles within their Lodges, gossiping about who is always breaking the Rule (like who's been sleeping with a brother's wife, sister, mother, whatever), the endless detailing of how uninformed other brothers are about the history of the Craft, Templars or Graud.

    No wonder you guys lost the Word. You couldn't keep your mouths shut. I say it's time for you guys to start policing your own and stand up, be a Mason and follow through on those fancy schmancy blood oaths.

    Bunch of shrill gossiping old spinsters...


  19. The answer I received on this topic the night I was made an Entered Apprentice was that it was fine to talk to anyone about anything that was in print about the Craft. This would include anything except the recognitions, words, etc, etc.

    I've taken this to heart and see no reason we should not discuss our obligations or rituals in a general way to non-Masons. By general way I mean giving someone a sense of what goes on in a Lodge or discussing a particular bit of Masonic lore with someone. I do not think reciting ritual verbatim or spouting the lectures from the rooftops would fall into this category.

    I think that an open and honest discussion with non-Masons is essential to the survival of many of our Lodges today.

    I also struggle with this when I write an article for Grail Seekers (as I'm sure you do too with your writings Widow's Son). I have a passion for discussing history or lore, but attempt to temper that with my own Oath.

    Bro. Brian Kannard

  20. The Grand Lodge of my jurisdiction informs us that if it is written down, it is not secret. That is to say, if it is published in by the Grand Lodge in our ritual book, we can discuss it with non-masons or even let them read it. The passes/penalties are left out of the book, and obviously non-ritual secrets such as dueguards, grips, and floorwork are not printed.

    Having said this, I am of the opinion that this is mistake. I guess I fall into the category of strict masons who believes that nothing that goes on in lodge should be discussed outside of lodge, and perhaps even that membership should remain secret. Even further, I believe that membership should be the result of selection from within the Fraternity, much like the 33rd degree.

    However, I am a member of the lodge that exists, not the one that I want to exist. One of the things I love most about Masonry is that we can have our own opinions without our love for the Fraternity being questioned. I therefore proudly display my Masonic affiliation, and refrain from keeping our ritual a "deep, dark secret." If someone asks and it's not a secret, I tell them. This is because I believe the collective will of my brethren supercedes any opinions, dreams, or wishes I may have.

    Finally, I am also a realist. In the internet age, none of our secrets will actually remain secret, save perhaps personal ones. So many former Masons have concluded, laughably, that we are an evil organization. As a result, they have published every bit of our ritual work. The dueguards, grips, passes, etc. are all over the internet. All we as Masons can do is keep our oaths and make sure that if outsiders find out our secrets, it is not from us.

  21. "SECRETS"

    I take full responsibility for anything I write. It has not been, isn't and I don't foresee it being or will be interpretable by any reasonable think person to be remotely Un-Masonic. Accordingly if I post it to you, you are free to forward it with my name still affixed. In fact, I request you do. Of course that is at your election.

    Secrets, secrets are my main point within this e-mail. I invite anyone who wishes to respond, to e-mail me. My e-mail address is

    If you even THINK I am in error here I feel it your DUTY as a Mason to whisper good council in my ear. I promise your comments although they may be replied to openly your identity (IF) you request will be "inviolate".

    a. Masonry is not a secret organization. (We post our signs, times, dates and places of meetings "Proudly" for the whole world to see). Even the convening of Grand Lodge is posted in the News Papers. Masonry is however an organization "With Secrets".



    1. Pass words.
    2. Signs of recognition and Grand Haling Signs.
    3. The conduct and content of each degree.
    4. Sanctity of the ballot box.

    These Brothers are "Secret". Should someone wish to know these "Secrets" let them petition and if found worthy even these "Secrets" will be revealed unto them.

    My Brothers it goes without saying. What transpires within the tiled recesses of the Lodge are not to be discussed without. (I think to a man we are all guilty of violating this). In my defense, and possibly yours. I hasten to point out. Here we have a case of "Intent"? We all on occasion, I think, have spoken with a Brother who was not in attendance and thus was unaware, so we enlighten him. This is a case wherein the fraternity could not function if we did not discuss some matters with those having (a need to know).

    There you have it. There is NO-OTHER-SECRETS to which you or I, are bound by any obligations, Masonic Laws, Digests, Edicts, Rules, Regulations, Monitors or any other Masonic usages.

    Alas, there may (have been one other) your own ignorance of what is and is not secret. Unfortunately this perceived secrecy, or lack of what can and cannot be talked about has been a thorn in the side of Masonry for years. This secrecy was the reason for the falling out with the Catholic Church in the 13th. Century. The Catholic Church's inability to gain access to the "Secrets" of Free Masonry was the reason for the "Papal bulla denouncing Free Masonry". The church was unable to exact obedience and control the, "secret fraternity? Therefore the Pope felt compelled to ostracizing the fraternity. It is part of the reasons for so many of the "Anti-Masonic" web sites today. It may well be a contributing factor for many not seeking membership as well?

    "We simply are not comfortable discussing Free Masonry for fear of divulging secrets unlawfully".

    Well, welcome to more light my Brothers. Now let it shine.

    Fraternally Yours,

    O. D. Burtcher, PM
    Adoniram Lodge #288
    Ambassador of "Friendship,
    Morality and Brotherly Love".

  22. Lots of interesting comments! Very nice! Thanks to WS for wording a question that provokes discussion....

    Anyway, as a new EA, my WM told me specifically that what is said or done within the walls of the lodge stays within the walls of the lodge. He further said that if my wife wanted to know what goes on within the lodge, I was to simply ask her, "Can you keep a secret?" To which she would likely reply, "Yes!" To which I should reply, "Good. So can I." Corny? Maybe. But you know, when I discussed this with my wife, she was very agreeable to it. In fact, she says that she very is proud of me and pleased that I am involving myself with a group of men who are trying to better themselves. Some of you would be really amazed by how some women are pleased with men who aspire to be virtuous.

    I respect my WM, and I respect the call to maintain secrecy where it is due. My dimly-lit opinion on this may change as I learn more and advance in the degrees, but I took an obligation to always conceal and never to reveal Freemasonry's secrets, and wanting to be a man of my word, I will uphold that obligation.

    And let's also not forget that an "obligation" is something we MUST do, not something we simply CHOOSE to do.

  23. The immediately above Anonymous' comments about keeping Masonic secrets from his wife reminded me of a strange tradition that goes on here in Georgia. I'm not sure if it's a tradition just at my lodge and the Order of Eastern Star (OES) group that shares our building, or if it's area- or statewide.

    Once a year, the OES hosts an open-meeting — open to all Masons, anyway; I don't think it's open to the public — where the women put on a skit enacting what they think goes on in a Blue Lodge meeting.

    I've never seen it, but have been told it's hysterical, seeing women doing what they think is the opening, closing, and stuff in between. Supposedly, all they "know" they've garnered from their talkative husbands and other Masons.

    While some say it's funny, others say often they are dead-on in their version, acting and reciting the various portions of a Blue Lodge meeting very closely to the way they really are.

    Good-natured fun, or near-blasphemy for mocking and exposing time-honored meaningful rituals?

    — W.S.

  24. Last week driving my way home I saw a nice mercury car with the following inscriptions in the bump sticker : Right angles, horizontals and perpendiculars. What should we as masons say about this ?


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