The Substituted Secrets of the Third Degree

Dr. A. T. Brand

THAT there is considerable uncertainty, or want of due appreciation, among the Brethren as to what exactly constitutes the Substituted Secrets of the Third Degree, is evident from the manner in which they are usually communicated during the closing of the Lodge in the 3rd degree in extenso.

It will, therefore, be my endeavour this evening to define exactly what I believe these Substituted Secrets to be, and then to discuss the manner in which they axe usually communicated, pointing out where I consider extraneous and irrelevant matter is introduced.

This will involve reference to the secrets of the 3rd degree as a whole, and also to the method of proving oneself a M.M. by signs.

In treating this subject, I take as my authority the Ritual itself, just as it stands, and as rendered in our Lodges.


Referring to our Ritual, we find, in the continuation of the Traditional History, that when King Solomon was informed of the discovery of the fact that his principal Architect had indeed suffered a cruel death as the penalty of his devoted adherence to his sacred trust, he informed the Fellowcrafts, who had brought the afflicting intelligence to him, that, in consequence of the crime, the genuine secrets of a M.M. were irretrievably lost, and this declaration most, or all of us, can appreciate who now know what they are.

King Solomon directed the F.Cs. to return and raise the body of the martyred H.A., and convey it to Jerusalem for such sepulchure as became one of his exalted rank and distinguished talents. At the same time he charged them to observe very carefully, and to note any casual signs, tokens, and words which might occur and be spoken during the performance of their sad duty.

We find that they faithfully carried out their instructions, and that they reported to the Supreme Grand Master what they had observed, viz., two casual signs which they repeated, and which we now know as those of H. and Sy. They also reported that they overheard two words having a similar signification. Finally, they described the peculiar G. which was found necessary, owing to the condition of advanced decomposition in which the body was found, and the special attitude assumed in effecting the elevation of the body. This G. and attitude we now denominate the F.P.O.F.

King Solomon thereupon decreed that these two casual signs of H. and Sy. the G. used as described, and the words overheard, should thenceforth designate all M.Ms. throughout the world until time or circumstance should restore the genuine Secrets.

Thus we find that the Substituted Secrets of the 3rd degree consist definitely of the two casual signs only, viz., those of H. and Sy. a G. given with certain adjuncts, and two words, nothing more and nothing less.


When closing the 3rd degree the W.M. invites the Wardens to communicate to him certain s…d s…s which they state they have discovered. This is done differently in different Lodges, but in many cases the Ss. and Ws. of the 1st degree and 2nd degree are given, and P.G. and P.W. leading to the 3rd degree, after which several of the Ss. of the 3rd degree proper are given, including those of H. and Sy., the P.S. and generally the S. of G. and D. Finally the Ws. are given on the F.P.O.F.

Now I submit that this procedure is not in accordance with the decree of the Supreme Grand Master, and is not the faithful communication of the s…d s…s of a M…r M…n, which alone are asked for and which should alone be given. The Ss. and Ws. of the 1st degree and 2nd degree and the P.G. and P.W. leading to the 3rd degree are not substituted in any sense. They are real and do not belong to the 3rd degree, all of them having been given before the L…e was opened in the 3rd degree. They are, therefore, in my opinion, extraneous and irrelevant. Again the S. of G. and D. and the P.S. are not casual or s…d s…s, the former being simply one of the auxiliary Ss. of the Third, and, moreover, not intended to be used inside the L…e, but only outside in case of emergency as a signal of distress, while the latter is the P.S.

I would submit that when the Wardens are directed to communicate the s…d s…s they should respect the decree of King Solomon, and strictly confine themselves to an exact compliance with the specific order.

Thus, the J.W., having taken up his proper position, should simply take the s…p and make the two casual Ss. of H. and Sy. only, then give the G., followed by the other 4 P.O.F., and in this position repeat the Ws. in a w…r. Having done so he should disengage himself and then salute the S.W. with the P.S., keeping it up while returning to his chair.

The S.W. then repeats the procedure with the W.M. but speaks the Ws. aloud.

It is the custom of the Craft for the J.W. to communicate the s…d s…s to the S.W. before the latter communicates them to the W.M., but it has always seemed to me that such rehearsal is as unnecessary as it is uncalled for. It is the S.W. who announces to the W.M. that they bring with them certain s…d s…s, and the W.M. then directs that they shall be forthwith communicated to him. Why then should not the S.W. himself communicate them to the W.M. as ordered, without the rehearsal between the Ws.?


I have alluded to the S. of G. and D. as forming one of the Ss. used in communicating the substituted secrets. It is also used in proving oneself a M.M. in many Lodges in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and I believe it is confined to them. It is only fair to state, however, that the third sign referred to is not given in the same way as the sign is directed to be given in the Ritual, nor has it even the same name. It is called the S. of Sw.

The whole of the Ss. of a M.M. are 5 corresponding in number to the F.P.O.F., and are as follows:- Those of H. and Sy. which are the casual or substituted signs proper, reported to King Solomon by the F.Cs. and decreed by him to be those which alone should designate M.Ms. These constitute the first two signs. The third is the P.S., used for the purpose of standing to order with, and for saluting generally in the 3rd degree.

Then we have the 4th and 5th, the signs of G. and D. and the G. and R.S. of J. and E. These last are known as the auxiliary signs, the latter being chiefly used as a salute in the 3rd degree only, and the former for quite a different and specific purpose.

This sign of G. and D. is a most interesting one, which is NOT intended for use inside the Lodge, while it is the only sign in Freemasonry which may be legitimately used outside the Lodge, indeed, it is intended to be used OUTSIDE ONLY, and not even then except in the case of great and pressing emergency, for its use indicates to any M.M., who may, fortunately, observe it, that the individual making it is a brother mason who believes himself to be at the time in great danger or distress, and that he is signalling for assistance. It is interesting to note that in the Scottish and Irish M.M. Obs. the use of this sign is strictly defined and insisted on.

I would suggest that the only legitimate way to prove oneself a M.M., by signs, is to make the two substituted signs of H. and Sy. only, as specially decreed by King Solomon, and then, having done so, to stand to order with the P.S., not forgetting the S…p, which is so often omitted.

Such, Worshipful Brethren, are my views on the Substituted Secrets, and the method of their communication, and I shall be glad for you to discuss and criticise them freely and fully.