Review of Freemasonry

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by Bro. Darren Lorente
St. Mary Islington Lodge #5451
United Grand Lodge of England

“To name a thing is to destroy it”

Nataf, A “The Occult”


After completing the third degree, we are told that we have reached, as Master Masons, the highest degree in Freemasonry and that all other side or additional degrees are exactly that: side degrees, which expound on the lessons of the first three degrees or introduce new allegorical dramas but that aren't any “higher” to that one of a Master Mason.

However, during the third degree ceremony we are informed that the genuine secrets of a master mason have been lost. If the third degree in Freemasonry is the highest degree attainable, it follows that these lost secrets cannot be restored in any of the additional degrees, otherwise these additional degrees would necessarily be higher since they would be providing superior knowledge by unveiling the Master Mason’s secrets. 


What are these secrets? Is the lost word a repository of ancient knowledge? According to Albert Mackey's "The Symbolism of Freemasonry":

"The mythical history of Freemasonry informs us that there once existed a WORD of surpassing value, and claiming a profound generation; that this Word was known to but few; that it was at length lost; and that a temporary substitute for it was adopted. But as the very philosophy of Masonry teaches us that there can be no death without a resurrection,--no decay without a subsequent restoration,--on the same principle it follows that the loss of the Word must suppose its eventual recovery."

Mackey, A “The Symbolism of Freemasonry” Chapter XXXI

What is the meaning of this lost word within the allegorical and symbolic system of freemasonry? In Freemasonry, nothing is what it seems at first glance and the lost word, therefore, potentially must stand for something else.


If the lost word is at the core of the Masonic secret it is quite clear that the only "literal" secrets that we encounter in Freemasonry, which we have sworn to never reveal, are the passwords associated to the secret signs of the degrees. These signs and tokens have a twofold purpose: recognition amongst the brethren on the one hand and as building blocks of the ritual itself on the other. These are the only "secrets" of Freemasonry, at least in a literal sense and are the only words and descriptions omitted from our ritual books, which anyone can buy over the counter or online. Even our passwords and tokens can be found on anti-Masonic websites.


Of course, these passwords and signs mean absolutely nothing outside of the context of Freemasonry.

For Albert Mackey, the lost word is a symbol that stands for "Divine truth" and that can only be attained in the afterlife. Perhaps this is why the Royal Arch is defined as the continuation of the third degree as it is often said that Craft Freemasonry concerns itself with the relationship of man with himself and others, whereas the Royal Arch focuses on man's relationship with God and the Divine.


The newly raised Master Mason has re-enacted the death of Hiram and thus confronted the idea of his own mortality. Could it be that the Hiramic legend itself is a "substituted secret"? To the profane or uninitiated, the Hiramic legend is, quite literally, a secret since finding out about it “from the outside” is an esoteric quest in spite of the fact that there is plenty of material about this legend both online and in the bookshops. This wouldn’t suffice anyway, since Freemasonry must be experienced to convey its meaning.


Taken literally, the Hiramic legend doesn’t seem to have direct relevance for the newly raised Master and appears to be solely the catalyst for the theme of mortality and resurrection dealt in the degree.


Hiram refuses to reveal the secrets of the temple and it is because of this that he is killed. This moral lesson fits in with the Masonic obligation of secrecy, which is mentioned several times in the ritual but has a deeper significance:


“The sacrifice of Hiram has been likened to that of Christ; the glaring difference, however, is that Hiram does not die to take away man’s sins but in order to ‘open up the way’ and encourage mankind to pursue the work he had begun in his own lifetime.”

Nataf, A “The Occult” W & R Chambers, UK, 1991. (p 143)


There are Masonic writers who see the Masonic secret in terms of scientific knowledge. One of these authors is Kevin. L Gest, who in his book, “The secrets of Solomon's Temple” defends the theory that early Freemasonry and the Mystery schools before it, communicated to the initiate scientific knowledge of great value. This makes perfect sense and doesn’t exclude the subsequent reinventions of Freemasonry from being operative to speculative and, dare I say, a system of spirituality.


Classic Masonic writer Manly Palmer Hall returns to the main idea of what the lost word might be:

"Isis is said to have conjured the invincible God of Eternity, Rd, to tell her his secret and sacred name, which he did. This name is equivalent to the Lost Word of Masonry. According to Christian mysticism, when the Lost Word is found it is discovered in a stable, surrounded by beasts and marked by a star." 

Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages.


This notion of a lost word related to the secret name of God probably stemmed from the Jews during their stay in Egypt and has been imported by Western mystics and adepts of Alchemy, Numerology and the Cabbala throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. At some moment in time, this notion may have crossed over into Freemasonry.


If the secret equaled scientific knowledge or had mystical and religious connotations, it would appear that these no longer have currency and that the lost word is a metaphor for another secret.


Scientific knowledge is now in the hands of huge corporations and governments and in a world in which religion and spirituality have almost become commodities mystical quests are down to each individual.


“Finding” the name of God is one of the parts that constitute the ritual of the Royal Arch; the discovered name used to be a composite and fictional name that attracted criticism from the Church, because of which a new word is currently used in the ritual. 


I am not yet a Companion but I know what these words are since they can be found with a little research. I will not disgrace myself by writing them down in this essay but the fact of the matter is that all these Masonic passwords, signs and tokens can be accessed by the uninitiated. This ultimately signifies that these passwords are substituted secrets anyway, i.e. in spite of the fact that as freemasons we should never disclose them, the real secret is something else that is hidden beyond them.


Julian Rees, in his excellent book “Making Light”, provides us with the most eloquent insight I have encountered to date on what the nature of the secret could be. Referring to the allusion made by the Senior Warden at the closure in the third degree, Julian Rees has this to say:


“This seems perplexing, even perverse. Taken at face value, it seems to say that although you have progressed through this degree, and although you have been raised as a Master Mason, yet the genuine secrets are not there; you must be content with substituted secrets. This is clearly not so: through the ceremony of raising, you have symbolically achieved a state of oneness with Divinity. You have indeed embraced the genuine secret, namely knowledge of God and the Self. Once you have achieved that state, nothing can ever take it away. This is a puzzle for which, once again, allegories are there to help us. The lesson of this exchange with the Wardens is that trough the restorative and transformative power of God, you have achieved a state if Divine grace, but this is your alone. You cannot communicate it to another, not even a fellow Master Mason. A substituted secret is a verbal symbol, since the true secret is beyond the ability of language to communicate.”

Rees, J “Making Light: a Handbook for Freemasons” 


Perhaps the Masonic secret is none other than the personal experience of each initiated candidate, of each Freemason. A secret that is personal, individual and impossible to communicate trough conventional language. A secret that may only be unveiled in the afterlife and that is bound to be incomplete because God and our own existence are the eternal mysteries by which our own condition as humans is defined. 





Rees, J “Making Light: a Handbook for Freemasons” Lewis Masonic, UK 2006


Palmer Hall, M “The Secret teachings of all Ages”


Gest L, K “The secrets of Solomon’s Temple”


Gardner L, “The Shadow of Solomon” Harper Collins, UK, 2005


Mackey, A “The Symbolism of Freemasonry” Chapter XXXI


Hewitt-Brown, R “Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy”

David W. Deley’s homepage


Nataf, A “The Occult” W & R Chambers, UK, 1991.

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