name a thing is to destroy it”
A “The Occult”
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.
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
What are these
secrets? Is the lost word a repository of ancient knowledge? According to Albert
Mackey's "The Symbolism of Freemasonry":
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
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
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.
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:
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.”
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
writer Manly Palmer Hall returns to the main idea of what the lost word might
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.
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.
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
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
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:
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.”
J “Making Light: a Handbook for Freemasons”
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
“Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy”
David W. Deley’s
Nataf, A “The
Occult” W & R Chambers, UK, 1991.