The language of secrecy, part 1
Words are not available; silence is not available.
We define the opposite of prophecy as secrecy.
A secret is the opposite of a prophecy. A secret is a statement that is TRUE after a certain time, but cannot be said until an even later time. A prophecy is a statement that is TRUE after a certain time, but can be said following an earlier time. A prophecy is to speak the future; a secret is to not-speak the past.
Two common concepts that are associated with secrecy are those of privacy and censorship.
It is an article of faith among much of the American public that privacy is good and that censorship is bad. But from a certain angle, they look the same. You view a secret as protecting privacy, and I view the same secret as censoring information. It is almost a conjugation; I protect my privacy, you keep a secret, ta censors information.
Of course there are important differences, particularly regarding agency and enforcement; they will be discussed later. First we must understand secrets.
One of the difficulties of discussing secrets is that they are secret. If I were to just tell you a secret, it would no longer be a secret.
Thus, for an example of a secret, we once again turn to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter.
The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.
Analysis of a secret is very different from analysis of a prophecy. Prophecies are naturally vague and confusing. Secrets are not. The translation here is simply “
ORG1 AT PLACE1”. Our concern here is more with some of the technical details of secrecy.
There are multiple forms of secrecy involved here. We have both the building being unplottable, and the Fidelius charm.
Fidelius creates a new secret, it is not relevant to secrets that date to the dawn of time.
Fidelius is also described as being able to make previously widely-known things secret. Obviously this is limited by some off-screen mechanism; for example, the spell could not possibly make the existence of Belgium a secret.
On the death of the Secret-Keeper, the secret should end; there is no good reason that the status of Secret-Keeper should be inherited. A Fidelius spell would thus have a defined end-date.
Fidelius appears to protect against independent discovery. The Death Eaters deduce that Harry is located somewhere near 11 Grimmauld Place but are entirely unable to find him, despite weeks of investigation. However, I think that detail is more simply attributed to the unplottable protection.
Of course there are many different kinds of secrets. What we have here can perhaps be described more specifically as “magickal secrecy”. This is different from “prophetic secrecy”, and also different from “mundane secrecy”.