The secret doctrine of the Jews was, according to Steinschneider, nothing else than a system of metaphysics founded on the Commentaries on the Law and the legends of the Talmudists. Of this secret doctrine, Maimonides says: "Beware that you take not these words of the wise men in their literal signification, for this would be to degrade and sometimes to contradict the sacred doctrine. Search rather for the hidden sense; and if you cannot find the kernel, let the shell alone, and confess that you cannot understand it." All mystical societies, and even liberal philosophers, were, to a comparatively recent period, accustomed to veil the true meaning of their instructions in intentional obscurity, lest the unlearned and uninitiated should be offended. The Ancient Mysteries had their secret doctrine; so had the school of Pythagoras, and the sect of the Gnostics.
The Alchemists, as Hitchcock has clearly shown, gave a secret and spiritual meaning to their jargon about the Transmutation of Metals, the Elixir of Life, and the Philosopher's Stone. Freemasonry alone has no secret doctrine. Its philosophy is open to the world. Its modes of recognition by which it secures identification, and its rites and eeremonies which are its method of instruction, alone are secret. All men may know the tenets of the Masonic Creed.
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