A TRIBUTE TO ALBERT PIKE
Edwin Grafton 33°
WE PAUSE to pay tribute to a great and good man, Albert Pike. Many have written to express in words a fitting tribute to his memory only to find none that were adequate to convey properly the deeper emotions of the heart. He has been referred to as "a symbol of our august institution, of our ideals and of our principles." Also, as one of great "prominence, an immortal given to us by Divine Providence." It is said that "he found the Scottish Rite in a cabin and left it in a Temple." He was the outstanding Mason of the ages.
It has been said that every man is entitled to two lines on his tombstone, one to give the date of birth, the other the date of his death; but only men who achieve are entitled to a third line on their tombstones. Let us consider for a few minutes an appropriate third line for the tomb of Albert Pike. On his crypt in the House of the Temple are these words: "Born December 29, 1809, Died April 2, 1891, Sovereign Grand Commander 1859-1891." Other pertinent information on his life would be the following: He became a Mason in July, 1850, at the age of 41 years and a Knight Templar March 20, 1853. The Scottish Rite degrees were communicated to him by Albert G. Mackey before the year 1853 and he immediately started the task of revising, dramatizing and spiritualizing the degrees. He received the 33rd degree in 1857 and was elected Sovereign Grand Commander in 1859.
He was a man of many talents. Let us review some of them briefly.
He was a scholar, a self-educated man. He was ready for college at the age of 15. He sought admission to Harvard but found he did not have enough money. He worked hard, studied diligently, and in a few years had mastered the courses taught in the first two years at Harvard. He again sought admission. He passed a creditable examination and eliminated the first two years of courses only to be told that he would have to pay the tuition for the first two years even though he had not taken them. This seemed unjust to him, so he decided to learn all that Harvard could teach by his own efforts. Years later Harvard was glad to offer him an honourary degree, but he would not accept it.
As a boy he taught school in Massachusetts and in a short time was made principal of the school. He taught school in Arkansas for several years. Such was his final attainment that he was able not only to write fluently but to translate French, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit.
An educator would certainly want to speak of his ability as a scholar in writing a third line for his tomb.
He was an adventurer. Leaving New England in March, 1831, he made his way to St. Louis and there joined a party of 40 traders who travelled by wagon train over the old Santa Fe trail to New Mexico. He was a powerful man, 6 feet 2 inches tall, fleet of foot and a sure shot with a gun. His manly figure was greatly admired by the Indians. No doubt, he learned to talk the sign language as he became a fast friend of the Indians. He spent considerable time in the wilds of New Mexico and nearly died of hunger and thirst. Later he walked 500 miles to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, where he arrived penniless and nearly naked.
A screen writer in Hollywood would most assuredly speak of his adventures in writing a third line for his tomb.
He was a military man. In 1846 he raised a squadron of cavalry and served in the Mexican War as a captain. He won fame at the Battle of Buena Vista. During the Civil War he cast his lot with the South and attained the rank of brigadier general. Because of his friendship for the Indians he was assigned to guard the Indian Territory during the Civil War.
Any military man writing a third line on his tomb would stress his ability as a military leader.
He was a poet. He wrote some beautiful poems. Some were very profound in their sentiment, others of a lighter character. It is not generally known that he wrote the words that became the inspiration for the song loved by all Southerners, "Dixie." His best known poem was entitled "Every Year."
The first verse;
Life is a count of losses, every year;
For the weak are heavy crosses, every year;
Lost Springs with sobs replying
Unto weary autumn's sighing.
While those we love are dying, every year
Too true! — Life's shores are shifting, every year;
And we are seaward drifting, every year;
Old places, changing, fret us,
The living more forget us.
There are fewer to regret us, every year.
If a poet were writing the third line on his tomb he would write of his poetic soul, his love of the beautiful, and his ability to speak in soul-stirring language.
He was a writer and author, As Scottish Rite Masons we know him best for his masterpiece, Morals and Dogma. However, he built an enviable reputation as a newspaper reporter, editor and owner. While teaching, school in Arkansas he wrote under the pen name of "Cisca" for the Little Rock Advocate. He soon became associate editor and later became owner of the paper. His whole adult life was spent in writing. He wrote continuously on Masonic subjects.
Should a journalist be asked to write a third line on his tomb he would write eloquently of his ability as a writer and author.
He was a lawyer and jurist. While teaching school and running a newspaper he studied law. He rose in the legal profession to become the operator of a school of law, president of the State Bar Association, and a justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas. Some of his decisions while on that Supreme Court were noteworthy and received acclaim throughout the land.
It was during the early years of his legal profession that he married a beautiful southern lady named Mary Ann Hamilton. He erected a handsome dwelling in Little Rock which is now a showplace of that city. After coming to Washington, D. C., he practised before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Any lawyer commissioned to write a third line on his tomb would write of Pike's great ability as a Jurist.
These things I have recounted can be verified by historical record. The things that made Albert Pike really great are matters of the heart and mind and are not covered by dates and recorded events. Let us now think of him as a humanitarian, philosopher and man of God.
His love of humanity can be traced throughout his writings and the good deeds of his life. He believed in the dignity of the individual, the right of every man to achieve to the limit of his ability, the right of every man to a decent home and education for his children. His love for the human race knew no bounds. His charity in thought pleaded for tolerance toward the opinions of others and for their right to express their opinions. His charity for the oppressed, the unfortunate, those in distress and all in need is expressed throughout the pages of Morals and Dogma.
Some day the world will recognize him as one of the world's great philosophers. It seems reasonable to believe that the thing which attracted him to the Scottish Rite was the opportunity to study the philosophies of the ages as recorded in our degrees. Why would he have given up an opportunity to serve as a distinguished jurist had it not been for some compelling force that drew him to the Fraternity? He knew the effects of a bad philosophy and the benefits of a good philosophy on a nation. He condemned the philosophy that led such men as Emperor William II who, through the teachings of false philosophies, led his people into the first World War and the equally bad philosophy that created a Hitler and a second World War. The philosophy that has brought on two World Wars during our own life span is as old as time. It is the teaching that a certain group of people is better than another and that it is destined to rule by might.
Contrast that philosophy with the kind that our Masonic forefathers brought to this land in colonial days and there planted the seeds of freedom, justice and fraternity. It was the philosophy so beautifully expressed by Thomas Jefferson when he wrote, "We deem these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...." With a philosophy of equality of opportunity this nation has been built to its present place as the leading nation of the world. We must not forget that through our philosophy of government the road to America has become a one-way street. Men of all nations want to come here; no one wants to leave. They want to come here not for money or lands or stocks and bond, but for an opportunity to live as free men in a free country.
Albert Pike gave us, as Masons, three great lessons. First, to attain happiness we must serve. Second, to bring happiness to our nation we must sacrifice all personal ambitions to the common good. Third, to have a happy world, all people of all nations must love God and their fellow men. Until the United Nations adroit God into its councils, it will never bring a permanent peace to this troubled world of ours.
Lastly, Albert Pike was a man of God. Only a man with a deep spiritual understanding could write as he wrote. Listen to this:
God is one, immutable, unchangeable, infinitely just and good; His light will finally overcome darkness, good will conquer evil, and truth will be victor over error. These, rejecting all the wild and useless speculations, are the religion and philosophy of Masonry.
Again he wrote:
To every Mason there is a God — one supreme, infinite in goodness, in wisdom, foresight, justice and benevolence. Creator, disposer and preserver of all things. How, or by what intermediate powers of emanations He creates and acts, and in what way He unfolds and manifests Himself, Masonry leaves to creeds and religions to inquire.
Albert Pike had an unfaltering trust in the goodness of God and an abiding faith in the immortality of the soul.
In the story of Queen Esther in the Bible is a passage of scripture which reads, "Who knowth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Our faith tells us that God in His infinite wisdom brought several great men to this earth in 1809. One as the immortal Lincoln, the saviour of our country. Another was Albert Pike. The teachings and philosophy as written by him have been a blessing to this land of ours in binding up the wounds of war, of alerting Americans to the perils of dictators and demagogues, and of holding high the ideals of our forefathers in making this a land of the free and the home of the brave.
Albert Pike was a humble man. He was not concerned with tombs and monuments that might be erected to his memory. He cared little about "the third line on his tomb." He wanted to leave something that would last for all time, so he wrote these words: "I wish to leave the Scottish Rite at my death able to stand alone and, God helping, I will."
And so, for us who honour his memory, let us write the third line for his tomb in our hearts. Let it be as he wished — let us build his monument in our hearts and memories.
Not silent is this hallowed dead, A richer eloquence survives, We have from him who has gone ahead The inspiration of his life.