True Secrets of Freemasonry

Those who become Freemasons only for the sake of finding out the secret of the order, run a very great risk of growing old under the trowel without ever realizing their purpose. Yet there is a secret, but it is so inviolable that it has never been confided or whispered to anyone. Those who stop at the outward crust of things imagine that the secret consists in words, in signs, or that the main point of it is to be found only in reaching the highest degree. This is a mistaken view: the man who guesses the secret of Freemasonry, and to know it you must guess it, reaches that point only through long attendance in the lodges, through deep thinking, comparison, and deduction.

He would not trust that secret to his best friend in Freemasonry, because he is aware that if his friend has not found it out, he could not make any use of it after it had been whispered in his ear. No, he keeps his peace, and the secret remains a secret.

Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Memoirs, Volume 2a, Paris, p. 33

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Masonic Principles, Morals and Ethics

Freemasonry teaches us we must walk uprightly before g-d and man, acting upon the square and on the level.

In the first degree, we are reminded of those principles, as the foundation of a Masonic life. They are the mission statement of the fraternity. This is the statement of what we are, what we stand for, and what we will and will not do.

Principles are like lighthouses. They are natural laws that cannot be broken. As Cecil B. deMille observed: “It is impossible for us to break the law. We can only break ourselves against the law."
Principles are not practices. A practice is a specific activity or action. A practice that works in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another, as parents who have tried to raise a second child exactly like they did the first can readily attest.

While practices are situationally specific, principles are DEEP, fundamental truths that have universal application. They apply to individuals, to marriages, to families, to private and public organizations of every kind. When these truths are internalized into habits, they empower people to create a wide variety of practices to deal with different situations.

~ The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ~ by Stephen R. Covey
Our principles are the foundation of our actions, they define us as men. The set of principles that we live by are the touchstones of our lives. Freemasonry offers a set of principles in the first degree, and expands on them in the following two degrees. The principles I am referring to are NOT esoteric, mysterious, or “religious” ideas. There is not one principle taught (in Freemasonry) unique to any specific faith or religion…

Masonic principles are a part of most every major enduring religion, as well as enduring social philosophies and ethical systems. They are self-evident and can easily be validated by any individual. It’s almost as if these principles or natural laws are part of the human condition, part of the human consciousness, part of the human conscience.

They seem to exist in all human beings, regardless of social conditioning and loyalty to them, even though they might be submerged or numbed by such conditions or disloyalty. These principles are, for instance:
Fairness, Integrity, Honesty, Service, Quality, Excellence, Potential, Patience, Human dignity, Encouragement, Nurturance (brotherhood), and Growth (personal and spiritual).
Principles are the territory. Values are the maps. When we value correct principles, we have truth – a knowledge of things as they are. So, lets take a look at the principles as they are taught in the very first degree of masonry:
Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, Integrity, Silence, Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Hope, Faith, Charity, Freedom, Fervency, and Zeal.
The principles enumerated above are fundamental to human life, regardless of where or how the humans live, or what understanding they have of g-d. These principles are like the very air we breathe, the food we eat. They are essential to any human society. One way to quickly grasp the self-evident nature of the principles is to simply consider the absurdity of attempting to live an effective life based on their opposites.

These fundamental principles, like all great fundamentals, are really self evident to all men who pause for just a moment to consider what they expect from their fellow men. They spring from what is the basis of divine law. To quote Rabbi Hillel (c20 BCE):
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole of the law. The rest is commentary.
Therefore a little commentary: Freemasonry teaches us principles to inculcate in our morality, as our morality is rooted in those principles. As masons, we are enjoined to act upon the square, as the square is a symbol of morality.

Lets look at what Merriam-Webster has to say about morality:
a. of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical (moral judgments)
b: expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior (a moral poem)
c: conforming to a standard of right behavior
d: sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment (a moral obligation)
e: capable of right and wrong action (a moral agent)
So, principles of right and wrong behavior define our morals. Inculcation of Masonic principles therefore informs our morals. By the inculcation of these principles, we improve our morals, or rather, reinforce our morals, and become better men. I write reinforce our morals deliberately, because to become a mason, you must already be a good and upright person.

There is nothing in freemasonry, hopefully, that does not already exist in your heart and conduct, hence the inference that a person is first prepared to be made a mason in his heart. To become a mason, you must already BE an upright, moral person.

Initiation simply reteaches you, reinforces in you, those great moral principles that you have already learned from your parents and from, hopefully, society. Freemasons are, or should be, moral people, acting upon the level and by the square, upright before god and mankind, circumscribing their desires and keeping their passions within dues bounds.

From morals proceeds, or ought to proceed, ethics. Again, from Merriam-Webster:
1. plural but sing or plural in constr : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a: a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values (the present-day materialistic ethic) (an old-fashioned work ethic) — often used in plural but singular or plural in construction (an elaborate ethics) (Christian ethics)
b: plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group (professional ethics)
c: a guiding philosophy
d: a consciousness of moral importance (forge a conservation ethic)
3 plural : a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness) (debated the ethics of human cloning)
From Principles proceeds morals and from a set of morals proceeds our ethics. Once again, the trinity, the triad which is really a monad, three sides of the same thing, each supporting and defining the other.

Principles to Morals to Ethics. Each dependent upon the other as none can stand alone.

The principles of freemasonry are much the same. No one principle stands alone, but works in conjunction, each supporting the other into a pleasing and unified whole. By the influence of brotherly love we are more charitable toward our brothers failings (and strengths). By being prudent, and speaking only that which is appropriate to be spoken (Maintaining silence), acting in a brotherly manner with charity, we avoid the pitfall of gossip.

An extended case can be made that acting on the principles in all our lawful activities we will be moral and upright men, acting with ethics than none can reproach. In fact, it is quintessentially Masonic TO act by these principles, and do nothing that will cast a cloud upon our ancient and honorable fraternity.

As always, I look forward to your comments.
“May the blessing of heaven rest upon us and all regular masons, may brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue, cement us.”


giovanni lombardo said...

Principles unite us, while practices divide us.
Br. Nathan was a liberal, but he nationalized the system of transports. It was right to do that in those times.
The very question is which is the Principle par excellence we have to abide by.
IMO, the Golden Rule.

chad hooker said...

Interesting "masonic" blogs! Kind of reminds me of AA meetings for the "sane" HAHA!

Unknown said...

I believe the Mason deserve respect and even though I am not a member I would gladly speak in the defense of a group that has held the company of men like George Washington. My support goes out to the Free Masons and I hope to be accepted into your fraternity one day.

Unknown said...

Speaking of this I have a question pertaining to membership. Both of my parent always drilled the concept of right and wrong into my head as far back as I can remeber. My father passed away when I was fourteen and my mother when I was 21, I am now 22. My concern with membership is that in between the death of my parents around 18 or 19 I hit a rebellious streak and busted out recklessly into the world, I found myself in a bad place and without food clothing or shelter. Regrettably I made the mistake of committing a shop lifting offense of which I plead nolo contender (no contest) I had stolen socks and underwear to wear to a job interview and a bag of chips. I regret my moral error everyday. My question being that does good moral standing allow room for spots like these? I am now the father of 2 beatiful children and a student at my local community college. Does human error bar me from this admirable society?

Unknown said...

3.75 gpa last I checked though it could be lower now

Unknown said...

Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith. See the link below for more info.


Unknown said...

Cant wait to further my knowledge of this fraternity this little bit of insight brings me up!

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