Vol. XVII No. 6 — July 1939

What to Tell Your Wife

Following is an extract from a pathetic letter to the editor of these pages:

“By the sacrifice of the money we had laid aside for a vacation, my husband was enaabled to apply for the degrees of Freemasonry. I was heartily in favor, having heard only good of the organization. We are, I think, a devoted couple; married twelve years, and have always shared our every thought and interest. But now there is a barrier between us; from every meeting, from all his ‘instruction’ engagements, he has returned to me absolutely silent. He says he can tell me nothing. And so I have developed a dislike for the organization with all its secrecy, which feeling I know must be wrong, and yet I cannot help it . . . can you give me a truer perspective?”

How many wives have such feelings? How many brethren have so enlarged on the secrecy enjoined on Freemasons regarding certain matters, that to them any word spoken of Freemasonry is a violation of the obligation? How much harm has been done the Fraternity by brethren not knowing that much which is beautiful and sacred in Freemasonry, while private, is not secret?

These pages cannot answer such questions. But they can suggest that there is much that may be told to wife or mother or father or friend — told to the glory and the help of the Ancient Craft with no violation of the solemn pledge sacredly to keep secret that which is secret.

The Grand Lodge of New Jersey — among many others — phrases the essentials of secrecy in a succinct paragraph in her list of the Landmarks. They read:

"The Legend of the Third Degree, the means of recognition, the methods of conferring degrees, the obligations of those degrees, and the ballot of every brother are, and must continue to be, inviolably secret.”

These matters are recognized the world over as the essence of Freemasonry, belonging to Freemasons and only to Freemasons. But there is not therein a line or a word, nor is there word or line in the ritual, which forbids the telling, in proper and right circumstances, of a thousand and one matters regarding the Fraternity.

It is no secret that he who becomes a Freemason joins an order which reverences womanhood, which upholds law and constitutional government, which cares for the widow and the fatherless, which inculcates the highest moral and religious principles, which fosters patriotism, which instructs in toleration and obliges conscientiousness in human relations.

The most careful brother may tell his wife that in his lodge the Holy Bible lies open upon an altar. The fact is written in a thousand volumes, and is proclaimed in Masonic books of the law.

The manuals and monitors of many grand lodges set forth the prayers which are uttered in the degrees — what is printed by a grand lodge cannot in its very nature be a secret from anyone. That all lodges are opened and closed with prayer — that every lodge has (or should have!) a chaplain — is a secret from no one.

All grand lodges in the United States devote a major part of their incomes to charity. Many maintain and support Masonic homes and hospitals; orphanages and sanitaria; schools for the orphans of Master Masons. In these beautifully conducted and heart-gripping expressions of brotherly love may any visitor — man or woman, Mason or non-Mason — learn at first hand that “the greatest of these is charity” is not a mere phrase from the Bible, transplanted to Masonic ritual, but a living, breathing actuality, pulsating with action and the pity of the strong for the weak.

It has been well said that Freemasonry is not a secret society, but a society with secrets. A secret society is one of which only its members know; a society with secrets may be one of which the world knows much.

Grand lodges publish "Proceedings” in which the actions of the grand lodge at annual and special communications are set forth. Many of these contain the names of every man in the state who is a Freemason. To be found in libraries the world over, these are no more secret documents than is a telephone or a city directory.

The President of the United States is now — and eleven certainly and probably thirteen of his predecessors were — a Mason. George Washington was master of his lodge, and wrote many a letter attesting his high regard for Freemasonry. Two percent of the civil population of this country are Freemasons but more than two-thirds of our Congress are Masons. A governor of his state was recently installed master of his lodge, and the press rang with the fact.

There is nothing secret about a man being a Freemason — he is proud of the fact and the Fraternity is proud of him.

Freemasonry appears at times in public — usually to lay a cornerstone, or to conduct a Masonic funeral. Such ceremonies are performed by Masons who have met and opened a lodge; the members wear Masonic aprons and gloves; the open Bible and the square and compasses upon it are publically carried and displayed. Yet some men are so over cautious they do not dare tell such simple facts as these.

The newly made Master Mason and the brother old and wise in the Craft may freely read wife and friend the Declaration of Principles, set before the Conference of Grand Masters in February of this year and since adopted, exactly or substantially, by many grand lodges. Undoubtedly more will adopt the Declaration as they may meet in annual sessions. The Declaration of Principles (first officially adopted by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts) is as follows:

Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious society. Its principles are proclaimed as widely as men will hear. Its only secrets are in its methods of recognition and of symbolic instruction.

It is charitable in that it is not organized for profit and none of its income inures to the benefit of any individual, but all is devoted to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of mankind.

It is benevolent in that it teaches and exemplifies altruism as a duty.

It is educational in that it teaches by prescribed ceremonials a system of morality and brotherhood based upon the Sacred Law.

It is religious in that it teaches monotheism, the Volume of the Sacred Law is open upon its altars whenever a lodge is in session, reverence for God is ever present in its ceremonials, and to its brethren are constantly addressed lessons of morality; yet it is not sectarian or theological.

It is a social organization only so far as it furnishes additional inducement that men may forgather in numbers, thereby providing more material for its primary work of education, of worship, and of charity.

Through the improvement and strengthening of the character of the individual man, Freemasonry seeks to improve the community. Thus it impresses upon its members the principles of personal righteousness and personal responsibility, enlightens them as to those things which make for human welfare, and inspires them with that feeling of charity, or good will, toward all mankind which will move them to translate principle and conviction into action.

To that end, it teaches and stands for the worship of God; truth and justice; fraternity and philanthropy; and enlightenment and orderly liberty, civil, religious and intellectual. It charges each of its members to be true and loyal to the government of the country to which he owes allegiance and to be obedient to the law of any state in which he may be.

It believes that the attainment of these objectives is best accomplished by laying a broad basis of principle upon which men of every race, country, sect and opinion may unite rather than by setting up a restricted platform upon which only those of certain races, creeds and opinions can assemble.

Believing these things, this grand lodge affirms its continued adherence to that ancient and approved rule of Freemasonry which forbids the discussion in Masonic meetings of creeds, politics, or other topics likely to excite personal animosities.

It further affirms its conviction that it is not only contrary to the fundamental principles of Freemasonry, but dangerous to its unity, strength, usefulness and welfare, for Masonic Bodies to take action or attempt to exercise pressure or influence for or against any legislation, or in anyway attempt to procure the election or appointment of governmental officials, or to influence them, whether or not members of the Fraternity, in the performance of their official duties. The true Freemason will act in civil life according to his individual judgment and the dictates of his conscience.

Nothing is there set forth which is secret — and surely naught is in these phrases but that which any man may he proud to call his own!

“But my wife wants to know what we do in lodge!”

Tell her what you do in lodge! What do you do in your lodge? You meet and open.

The opening is a ritualistic ceremony in which brethren are reminded of that which is high and holy in Freemasonry. The chaplain invokes the blessing of God. Minutes are read, visitors welcomed, matters of business and charity are discussed, action is taken. The ill are heard from, through the committee on the sick; letters from absent brethren are read. Is there anything here, except the words and the form of ritualistic ceremony, the world may not know?

A degree is conferred. Here, indeed, is secrecy! But the degree is but a manner of teaching, and if Freemasons desire to keep it to themselves, it is because those not Masons cannot understand. The instructor of mathematics would gladly teach the binominal theorem to a kindergarten child — but the child would not know even the meaning of the words. He must have knowledge before he can comprehend. So it is with a degree — it can only be understood by those who have been taught — and it is itself that teaching.

The degree over, there follows a social hour, a fraternizing and a fellowship. Then the lodge is closed, again with a ceremony which is uplifting and inspiring. Again the blessing of the Most High is asked and the brethren return to their homes. He is poor of spirit indeed who takes not with him something of inspiration from this that he has heard — as simple as it is profound.

If there be anywhere a member of the order who is not a loving husband and father; who does not give loyalty to his friends and government; who is not honored of men and reverent before God; who is not charitable and compassionate in act as well as thought; who is not honorable before all men; such an one has not abided by that which Masonry teaches, nor lived up to the obligations he has most solemnly assumed. And of this there is no secrecy — Masonry proclaims these teachings as her own, and any Freemason may tell them to whom he will.

Finally, Oh troubled brother who knows not what to answer wife of thy heart or friend of thy bosom who is not yet a Mason, when these question you as to what is Masonry, read to her and to him the great and beautiful prayer at opening of lodge offered by Brother Joseph Fort Newton, gentle Minister of God and beloved brother of the Ancient Craft . . . for here, in words not of the ritual but of the holy spirit, is the heart of Freemasonry for all to see. . . .

Eternal Father, as the sons of men and Thy children we gather in a House of Light, erected to Thee and dedicated to Thy Holy Name, humbly invoking Thy Blessing. Hallow the lodge with Thy holiness; overcome our evil with Thy goodness; help us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before Thee. Unite our minds to know Thee, our hearts to love Thee and our hands to serve Thy Holy Will, that we may be worthy workmen on Thy Temple.

Lord, by Thy faithfulness keep us faithful to the vows of chastity and charity we have taken upon the Holy Law at the Altar of Obligation — let us not fail or forget. Make us men of Brotherly Love in an unbrotherly world; give us gentle and skillful hands in the practice of Relief; lead our minds in the quest of Truth — even the truth of Eternal Life in the midst of our fleeting days. Here may youth find Thy consecration, and age Thy consolation.

Merciful God, to all weakness which our Brothers bear as a burden from the past, make us merciful; to their faults make us forgiving, as we would be forgiven. Teach us to be gentle in our thoughts, just in our dealings, and generous in our judgment. May the Spirit of Masonry dwell in us, casting out all envy, all uncleanness, all unkindness. At the end of the day when our labor is done, admit us into the Great White Lodge, in the House not made with hands. Amen.

The Masonic Service Association of North America