David Llewellyn's wonderful piece, "The True Secret Word of a Master Mason," was part of this edition of the Short Talk Bulletin.
The Short Talk Bulletin is distributed free of charge to all Lodges that belong to Grand Lodges that are members of the Masonic Service Association of North America. It is also received by all elected Grand Lodge officers and most appointed officers. The Bulletins are often used for programs in constituent lodges.
The True Secret Word of a Master Mason
David J. Llewellyn
Past Master of East Point Lodge No. 288, F. & A. M. (Georgia)
and Dual Member, Gate City Lodge No. 2, F. & A. M. (Georgia)
At the beginning of his Masonic career each candidate for initiation is instructed that “Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. The design of the Masonic Institution is to make its members wiser, better and consequently happier . . . .” To that end we are reminded by symbols to circumscribe our desires and to keep our passions within due bounds. Our Lodges are universally opened with a prayer. In many jurisdictions we beseech the Grand Architect of the Universe, whom each of us worships privately in his own way, to “[g]rant that the sublime principles of Freemasonry may so subdue every discordant passion within us, so harmonize and enrich our hearts with Thine own love and goodness, that the Lodge at this time may humbly reflect that order and beauty which reign forever before Thy throne.”
Our degrees teach and constantly remind us of our duties to ourselves and our fellow creatures. In the Entered Apprentice Degree we are taught to extend true charity to all. Not just material charity, but also that more noble charity of mind and spirit that inspires us to help every other human being who is in need. We are reminded to act with Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. The last of these cardinal virtues – Justice – “enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction.” The Fellowcraft Degree instructs us to engage ourselves in the pursuit of knowledge, not just at passing, but forever. In particular it encourages us to study the classical liberal arts and sciences, which lead to a liberal and enlightened mind. That mind is free from the dross of all prejudices, national, cultural, ethnic, racial, and religious. It could hardly be otherwise, for we are also taught that Masonry is universal, extending its benevolence throughout the entire terrestrial globe. By so freeing our hearts and consciences from all prejudices we are taught that we will earn, not be given, wages of spiritual nourishment, refreshment, and joy. The Sublime Degree of Master Mason goes even further. It is called “sublime,” that is “elevated in thought,” “inspiring awe,” because it teaches us of our further duties to each other and, indeed, to all humankind. In that degree we undertake certain serious and solemn obligations to each other as brothers. But these duties are not exclusive to us. The true, mature Mason understands that they apply to all persons of every kind in every situation. We bind ourselves to each other only as a starting point, a point from which the real Mason travels onward.
The Master’s degree, however, comes with a warning. That warning is conveyed in the most dramatic fashion. It is that we must ever guard against the worst ruffians of our natures and oppose them, even to death, if we hope to be placed as living stones in that “House not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” We must act. We may not just hope.
The Master’s degree also informs us that the secret word of a Master Mason has been lost to us through the perfidy of our unseemly desires and passions – the ruffians that confront us daily and to which we so often succumb. It is our duty to seek out that secret word, that hidden meaning, even though it will always remain ineffable and inexplicable to others. It is our individual duty to become worthy of receiving it by subduing our passions and controlling our desires. Only then may we hope to obtain and understand it – the true meaning of Freemasonry – within our hearts and soul.
He who would receive the true secret word of a Master Mason must come to understand that it can only be learned it by the constant practice of the virtues inculcated by our degrees. We all will one day stand naked and defenseless before the Grand Architect of the Universe. Before that Throne there will be no distinctions of nationality, class, or race. All those artificial distinctions, meaningful only to sinful man, will be worthless to us. If we would finally receive the true secret word, the word that has been lost, we must constantly resist the ruffians of our natures that keep us from it. We must not sow discord. We must resist the temptation to treat only those who look and think like ourselves as our neighbors and brothers.
He who allows the three ruffians of religious bigotry and intolerance, ethnic and cultural blindness, and racial animosity and hatred to dominate his thoughts and control his actions will no more discover the true secret word of a Master Mason, no matter how hard he cries “Give it to me!!”, than did those ruffians whose evil deed bloodied the ground at the building of King Solomon’s Temple. This is the great teaching of the Third Degree. It is of greater importance than any haled word or sign. And it is the hardest one for most of us to grasp. But grasp it we must if we are ever to become true Master Masons.
One does not become a Master merely by being raised. Rather one becomes a Master by truly embracing and living that which our ceremonies teach. In the end it is up to each of us to become a Master Mason in spirit as well as in body. Only then will one be worthy to receive the true secret word of a Master Mason. Whether one ever reaches that goal, whether one ever becomes worthy to be placed as a living stone in that celestial Temple, will be known only to him and to our Infinite Creator when he finally stands before Him. Therefore it is well that we constantly strive to make smooth our rough natures by embracing and following the great lessons of Freemasonry – the lessons taught by symbols, types, and allegories in the Three Degrees - in all our thoughts and actions inside the Lodge, as well as in the profane world.
[Author’s note: This edition has been revised to eliminate all references to sectarian scripture].
Gate City II is an Atlanta Masonic Lodge. We are Free and Accepted Masons working under the jurisdiction of The Grand Lodge of Georgia. We meet at the Atlanta Masonic Center (formerly The Atlanta Masonic Temple) 1690 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309