The following is excerpted from a discussion of Dan Brown's book The Lost Symbol:

Why so secret?

Freemasonry does have secrets, but Masonic secrecy is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the fraternity. Freemasonry teaches its philosophy to its members through symbolism, and secrecy is actually a symbol of honor.

Originally, the medieval stonemason guilds kept the practices and knowledge of their skilled trade as closely guarded secrets, to protect the value of their livelihood, and to ensure only qualified men were employed. Likewise, passwords and secret signs were developed so members of the guild in different parts of the country could recognize each other, even if they had never met.

These traditions have been retained by the modern Freemasons. If a person canít be trusted to keep a simple secret like a password or a handshake, his word isnít really trustworthy. He is not an honorable person.

There are other secrets, besides these modes of recognition. Some have to do with the specifics of Masonic rituals and ceremonies of initiation. Others are more personal, and different for each Freemason. Like all initiatic experiences in the world, the real secrets of Freemasonry are the effects its teachings and ceremonies have on the individual, and how he applies them to his life.

The following is excerpted from William Preston, Illustrations of Masonry, Book I, Section VI (11th edition, 1804):

Reasons why the secrets of Masonry ought not to be publicly exposed

William Preston

If the secrets of Masonry are replete with such advantage to mankind, it may be asked, why are they not divulged for the general good? To this it may be answered;--Were the priviliges of Masonry to be indiscriminately dispensed, the purposes of the institution would not only be subverted; but our secrets being familiar, like other important matters, would lose their value, and sink into disregard.

It is a weakness in human nature, that men are generally more charmed with novelty, than with the intrinsic value of things. Innumerable testimonies might be adduced to confirm this truth. [...]

Did the essence of Masonry consist in the knowledge of particular secrets or peculiar forms, it might be alleged that our amusements were trifling and superficial. But this is not the case; they are only the keys to our treasure, and having their use, are preserved; while, from the recollection of the lessons which they inculcate, the well-informed Mason derives instruction: he draws them to a near inspection, views them through a proper medium, adverts to the circumstances which gave them rise, and dwells upon the tenets they convey. Finding them replete with useful information, he prizes them as sacred; and being convinced of their propriety, estimates their value from their utility.

Many are deluded by the vague supposition that our mysteries are merely nominal; that the practices established among us are frivolous; and that our ceremonies may be adopted or waived at pleasure. On this false basis we find the brethren hurrying through all the degrees of the Order, without adverting to the propriety of one step they pursue, or possessing a single qualification requisite for advancement. Passing through the usual formalities, they consider themselves entitled to rank as masters of the art, solicit and accept offices, and even assume the government of the lodge, equally unacquainted with the rules of the institution they pretend to support, or the nature of the trust they are bound to perform. The consequence is obvious; anarchy and confusion ensue, and the substance is lost in the shadow. [...]

Were the brethren who preside at our meetings to be properly instructed previous to their appointment, and regularly apprized of the importance of the offices they are chosen to support, a general reformation would speedily take place. This conduct would establish the propriety of our government, and lead men to acknowledge that our honors were not undeservedly conferred. Till genuine merit shall distinguish our claim to the honours of Masonry, and regularity of deportment display the influence and utility of our rules, the world in general will not be led to reconcile our proceedings with the tenets of the profession.

An explanation of why European Lodges are so secretive, in the wake of Nazi oppression.

Created on ... May 29, 2008