The Policy of Truth
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
Policy of Truth is the third single off Depeche Mode's seminal album, Violator. It was released on May 7, 1990. It reached number 15 on Billboard's US Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Alternative Airplay charts. The song is about living with the consequences of being untruthful. The song begins with the below lyrics:
You had something to hide
Should have hidden it, shouldn't you?
Now you're not satisfied
With what you're being put through
It's just time to pay the price
For not listening to advice
And deciding in your youth
On the policy of truth
In our First Degree, we are taught that the tenets of a Mason's profession are brotherly love, relief and truth. Furthermore, that "Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other's welfare and rejoicing in each other's prosperity."
If truth is so important to us as a Fraternity, then why are we sworn to secrecy when it comes to not revealing our "Secrets"? Each degree obligation that we take has some part within it where we swear to always hele, ever conceal, and never reveal any of the secret arts. parts, or points of the Hidden Mysteries of Freemasonry. In most jurisdictions, these "secrets" are our modes of recognition. However, how can we as Masons be "Good and True" after swearing to never reveal things from our ritual? Does our obligation supersede our first lesson?
From a very pragmatic point of view, assuming our ritual was heavily influenced by or directly borrowed by the rituals being practiced in the Operative Guilds from which Modern Freemasonry sprung, then the idea of secrecy becomes clear. During the Middle Ages, while our operative brethren were building the Castles and Cathedrals throughout Europe, someone impersonating a Mason could potentially armed with the knowledge of the modes of recognition might infiltrate a work site. This person, called a Cowan, would usually be a stonemason who had not served an apprenticeship. It is possible that others who were completely unfamiliar with Stone Masonry could attempt to infiltrate the work sites as well, however I think that their lack of knowledge would quickly show them to be imposters. A Cowan, however, would be harder to spot because they would be able to perform the work and thereby be entitled to wages. So, it was imperative for our Operative Brethren to ensure that their livelihood was protected from these individuals, as they would be a direct threat to their incomes.
Up until the dawn of the internet, there were various exposes which would be written where our secrets were revealed, and we have a Fraternity suffered from the most famous, which was the Morgan Affair. We suffered not from William Morgan exposing our "secrets" but from the reaction to the mysterious disappearance of Morgan after he had threatened to do so. While many believe that the Morgan Affair was the catalyst for Anti-Masonic rhetoric in the United States, Dr. Thomas S Roy noted in his work: Stalwart Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachussetts, 1733-1970 that there was already a tremendous belief in conspiracy theories regarding Freemasonry. He noted that in 1820s there was a belief that:
"Every untoward event that disrupted mankind was blamed upon Freemasonry. It was secret, and therefore, men said, must be conspiring against society. The Masons were considered responsible for the French Revolution and its terrors. They were supposed to be in collaboration with a society known as the Illuminati, which was accused of being conspiratorial in its designs…"
Isn't it interesting that almost 200 years after the Morgan Affair that the above is still perpetuated by those who believe that Freemasonry is some nefarious organization?
Many Grand Lodges will tell you that the best way to combat Conspiracy Theories is to be as public as possible, holding open houses and being involved in your community. While I do not disagree with such, I think we must understand why we have secrecy. Since the only real value that having our "secrets" is that it is an exercise in Trust. We swear secrecy to not reveal the things which are used to identify us "in the dark as well as the light", and we feel that we can trust a stranger because they have taken the same obligations as we have. In most cases, in my own experience, this is an absolute truth. Unfortunately, there are some cases where men will pretend to be a Freemason and use this for their own material gain by scamming brethren out of money for promises of goods, most often on social media.
Can Freemasonry be good and true when it purposely hides things from the rest of the population? Let's be honest, the things that we hide can easily be found on the internet. The thing that makes us Freemasons is not our secrets, but rather our shared initiatic experience. It is an idea that every other Freemason that we have met has undergone the same experiences in their degrees that you have undergone in yours. Those that feel that these experiences are transformative and spiritual are those that I have found affinity with. Those that decide that Freemasonry begins and ends with a gavel are those that I feel are better served by demitting themselves from our Fraternity. Those that memorize the ritual but don't think about the words and what they mean and who don't try to apply our lessons into their own lives, those are those that I pity. How can you memorize something but not practice it? Is not being good and true being someone that not only knows our ritual but tries to exemplify it their daily lives?
Yet, I can go on social media and see brethren that fit the above category. Raise your hand if you've seen a brother post something ignorant on social media about those women who want to be Freemasons, who dare to practice something that has value for all of humanity, to practice something that is as beneficial for a woman as it is for a man. I'm counting and I see a lot of hands raised. Raise your hand again if you have seen a social media discussion regarding the subject of homosexual men being Freemasons, or the idea of a transgender man becoming a Freemason, and the reactions are viler and quite frankly sometimes bordering on unmasonic behavior. I believe that when we do not act according to Masonic values, when we do not treat those that are not Freemasons with brotherly love or what I would call empathy is when we are not following the policy of truth.
When we do not practice empathy, when we decide to hate others on the basis of their skin color, sexuality or gender, we are not being Good and True. It is my belief that the Grand Architect has a design on the trestle board for everyone. My design is different than yours. At the end of the day, we are regardless of our skin color, sexuality or gender still of the same stock. We are all human. Each of us have these inalienable rights as defined by the Declaration of Independence as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but most importantly that all men are born equal. Do you think that the authors of the Declaration of Independence meant that only men are equal? That women are inferior? I do not believe this for a moment. I believe that it means all of mankind.
Freemasonry has for over 300 years for better or worse been promoting the belief that all men are equal in the eyes of G-d, that we are all on the level, that we have more in common than that which divides us, that we can operate in a lodge, govern ourselves and sit in harmony with each other without regard to color, religion, political affiliation, and sexuality. If you are unable to believe this, then I ask you to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are following a policy of truth. If you are a Freemason who is incapable of empathy, if you are incapable of acting upon the square with others who have a different color of skin, sexuality or gender identity than we have, then do us a favor and demit. We don't want you and we certainly don't need you. You are the real Cowan. Freemasonry is at its essence the practice of the Golden Rule. Treating others as we ourselves want to be treated is the core of being empathetic.
There are people that want to impose their will, their beliefs and morality upon others and we as Freemasons need to understand that we will be in their crosshairs and continue to be in their crosshairs because we are a threat to them. It is the same reason as to why Freemasonry was targeted by the Nazis and Fascists, because Freemasonry is antithetical to the beliefs of these regimes. There are those who are going to champion human rights and those who do are a threat to those who do not want all humans to have rights. Those who do not want all humans to have rights are going to do whatever they can to prevent them from having rights. Freemasonry is and has always been on the side of Truth. We can either choose to follow the policy of Truth that our ritual lays out for us, and live it, or we can choose not to. For those that chose not to, I only ask this: If we are first made a Freemason in our hearts, then is it possible for one that does not have a heart to be a Freemason?
WB Darin A. Lahners is our Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine, and a grade one (Zelator) in the S.C.R.I.F. Prairieland College in Illinois. He is also a Fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research. He was presented with the Torok Award from the Illinois Lodge of Research in 2021. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.