Can you think of anything said in a lodge room recently that could not have been said in public without doing harm to Masonry? Is there any need for secrecy today?
When the concepts that have become Masonic concepts first emerged, the people were uneducated and lived in a society in which order was necessary to preserve life. The Mysteries which we have inherited were clothed in ceremony and ritual, and their deep meanings were restricted to the intellectual class. Secrecy was needed so that the ignorant would not pervert the lessons and knowledge of these Mysteries to the detriment of society. Such knowledge in the hands of men motivated by false and petty reasons would have been dangerous to order and therefore to life.
Such organizations as the Essene Order, the Dionysian Mysteries, the Delphic Mysteries, the Pythagoreans, early Christians, Knights Templar, Rosicrucians and finally Masonry, were meant to be places of learning and investigation into the philosophical and scientific vanguard so that society could progress. Their secrecy was never for the purpose of evil.
When our Order was organized into a public institution, it was hoped that three things would occur: (1) greater access could be made of the intellectuals of that day; (2) the general good of society could be improved; and (3) men of caliber and integrity could oversee the dispersal of the knowledge for the good of all. Free thought and discussion can occur in an organization where no revelation is made of its discussions to the public. Peace and harmony does not mean an absence of disagreement; it merely means a willingness to continue to live in disagreement. It was in such a careful atmosphere that the Boston Tea Party was planned and where Madison forged the Bill of Rights. In such an atmosphere, Benjamin Franklin developed his concepts, and his brilliance was recognized.
Consider the value of such an atmosphere. Both radical and conservative decisions could be arrived at without fear of preliminary discussion leaking out. The brethren could agree and disagree without lasting bitterness. The Master, acting as moderator, could insure that all is done in a gentlemanly way, without rancour. The Brethren could find even higher truths together that would aid all of society, and those truths could be released in the most beneficial of ways.
Unfortunately, little like that occurs today. The business of most lodges could be revealed without threat to the lodge or to society. And, in light of today's intense anti-Masonic criticism, many feel that this is the way it should be. But, perhaps we should preserve at least a modicum of secrecy in order to maintain an atmosphere of freedom of discussion in our lodge meetings and never completely open them to the profane. That kind of secrecy is one of the many things that makes Masonry unique.
Reprinted from the Grand Lodge of Texas Web site