George H. T. French

The three odd looking words mean, in English, "see, hear, be silent." They constitute a motto used by some Masonic Grand Jurisdictions, are frequently found on Masonic medals, and often appropriately appear in Masonic documents.


The first two words, audi, vide, refer to the alertness con- ducive to the acquisition of knowledge. For it is through these two senses, hearing and seeing, that we absorb most of our information.

Tace, or be silent, refers to the dissemination of information, and alerts one to the desirability of thinking before speaking, of deciding what should be kept hidden, of ever bearing in remembrance those truly Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection.

Unfortunately, the word secret, harmless enough in itself, has come to be linked up with things furtive, stealthy or wicked. But to the clean mind it is evident that a thing may be kept hidden and still not be corrupt or deceitfull.

Jesus, as a teacher, propounded his doctrines in parables both dim and cryptic, understandable only to those who had ears to hear and eyes to see. He did not cast pearls to the swine.

In the case of Freemasonry, the illusion of secrecy is useful because it is in the nature of man to seek what is forbidden, to want what is just beyond his reach.


He who knows how to measure his words carefully will not be prone to disseminate information injudiciously. That is the first advantage of silence. The second advantage springs from the fact that when silent one can listen and look, thereby opening oneself to the acquisition of further knowledge.

Secrecy is a Masonic virtue. That is why this is one of the first lessons taught to the Entered Apprentice, and in our grand Jurisdiction very dramatically! Furthermore, the Charge to the E.A. tells him to keep sacred and inviolable the Mysteries of the Order, as these are to distinguish him from the rest of the community, and mark his consequence among Masons.

Secrecy is a Masonic duty, and Masons are enjoined not to disclose those valuable secrets which they have promised to conceal and never reveal. Should they do so they would subject themselves to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons, besides which Masonry would have to change gradually to the extent that it would become unrecognizable, or cease to exist.


Many of Masonry's activities are overt, not secret. Some because they are printed, such as its purpose, its history, its precepts, the roster of its members, the time and place of its meetings. Others because they are performed in public, such as masonic funerals, the laying of foundation stones, the installation of officers. And yet others because they are institutions and edifices, such as masonic Homes, Masonic Libraries, Masonic Temples.


That which Masonry does keep unto itself can be consid- ered under four headings:

  1. The Esoteric Work, with its obligations and modes of
  2. recognition.
  3. A Brother M.M.'s troubles and personal affairs.
  4. Masonic Benevolence.
  5. The Doctrines as presented in the ceremonial procedures, evident to some, always hidden to others.


By definition Esoteric Work is secret, because the word esoteric refers to that which is designed for, and understood by, the specially initiated alone.

In olden days the Mason who was in possession of the technical secrets of the Craft was given the modes of recognition. Then he could establish his identity when he traveled in foreign countries.

Modern Speculative Masonry inherited and kept these signs, tokens and words. They are of value because they speak a universal language, and serve as passports to the attention and support of the initiated in all parts of the world.


A Master Mason promises to keep the secrets of a Bro. M.M. when communicated to him as such, except where a higher duty demands exposure. If Masonry did no more than train its members to keep faithfully the secrets of others confided to them it would be doing a great work. That alone would justify its existence, and entitle it to the respect of mankind.

Unfortunately, the keeping of a secret is becoming ever more difficult. In today's world individuality is being replaced by collectivism, privacy is becoming scarce, and Man has devised a computer whose mission is the collection and indiscriminate dispersion of personal information.


True it is that much of Masonry's Benevolence is in the form of Institutions, and is therefore evident to the casual observer.

But much is done following the precepts given by the wise Teacher of Nazareth who said "When thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets, that they may have glory of men."

Masonic Charity is not performed to create a favorable image, as did the hypocrites. It is not indulged in to get men to admire the Fraternity and petition for membership. As a matter of fact, one of our problems today is that most of our Lodges are grossly overpopulated. Charity is not the purpose of the Order. It is a result, a most commendable fruit.


In olden days the Operative Master's Great Secret consisted in knowing how to try the square, which is a triangle within a circle.

But in Modern Speculative Masonry at no place, nor at any time, are the true secrets of a Master Mason given. The true secrets are those which the Mason thinks out for himself. They are his personal conceptions and his own conclusions as developed from his dedicated study of Masonry.

The real secrets of Masonry cannot be learned by prying eyes or curious enquiry. Neither can a literal minded man ever grasp them. So the reading of an exposure will not reveal Masonry's Arcana.

The real secrets can no more be defined than it is possible to define God. Because to define is to limit. The only limits of the secrets are in the education and the heart of the possessor. For only an honest mind and a pure heart can glean the real secrets of Masonry. Others seek them in vain, and never learn them, though they be adepts in all the signs and tokens of every rite and rank of the Craft.

The secrets of Masonry, as happens with music, perfume or color, cannot be uttered. They can only be felt, experienced and acted. Like all things most worth knowing, no one can know them for another, and no one can know them alone. They are known only in fellowship. For God has so made us that we cannot find the truth alone, but only in the love and service of our fellow men. Here is the real secret, the secret that has the power to evoke what is most hidden and inscrutable in the heart of man. No one can explain how it is done. However, we do know that it requires real labor, deep study, profound meditation, extensive research and a constant practice of those virtues which will open a true path to moral, intellectual and spiritual illumination.

Thus we are taught that Masonry's real secrets are only grasped when study and meditation take place in an atmosphere of love and service to one's fellow man.

Freemasonry's secrets are simple, not subtle. They are profound, not obscure. And Masonry does not try to hide them, but is always trying to give them to the world. Consequently, one could say that Freemasonry's doctrine, philosophy and teachings are more sacred than secret.


There are secrets possessed by the Mason which he must not divulge. This supposes sealed lips.

There are secrets held by Masonry which the individual Mason can only seize if he is willing and able to work for them. This demands effort, toil and tenacity.

May we be granted the grace and the steadfastness of purpose to discharge fully both tasks.

So mote it be.

Published in The Texas Freemason, September 1973.