The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
BEYOND THE RITUAL
Bro. J. A. Lore
Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude and Justice
There are four Cardinal Virtues in Masonry, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. Cardinal is defined as “of first importance”. These four virtues are necessary to enable a Mason to “practice every moral and social virtue”. Temperance is defined as moderation in action, speech and habits. It is necessary to command respect. Emotional outbursts and over indulgence in food and drink, indicate a lack of self control. Intemperate behaviour lacks resolute action. A charitable acceptance of an intemperate act is often mistaken for approval of those acts in our society. Masons do not take advantage of this charity and tolerance. The admonition to hate the sin but love the sinner seems to be interpreted by society as approval, or at least acceptance of sin.
A Mason should practice temperance, but he should be charitable to the faults of others. But he does have a duty to instruct and help his brethren. Excess drinking is often accepted, even encouraged by society, and sometimes Masons. When a man’s brain is already fogged with too much alcohol, it isn’t very useful to encourage him to drink even more. It also isn’t the time to give a lecture on abstinence, but it can be very useful to see that he is fed and gets safely to his bed or home.
Not very long ago pre-marital conception brought disgrace on the family as well as the individual. It often meant a life time stigma on the mother as well as the child. This was often a serious injustice to innocent people and society has become more tolerant. This is interpreted in some quarters as approval for birth without marriage.
Drunkenness and other excesses at one time brought disgrace to a family. This was a harsh judgement by society on intemperate behaviour, but it was unjust to many innocents. It was right to be more tolerant of the sin, but it should not be interpreted as approval.
The second charge instructs us, “in the decision of every trespass against our rules, judge with candour, admonish with firmness and reprehend with mercy.”
The Mason demonstrates Masonic views by practising temperance himself, while accepting intemperate acts by others in a charitable way.
Fortitude is defined as courage in facing pain, danger, or trouble, or as firmness of Spirit. It takes “guts” to be true to one’s self. That is, to do what you believe is right, even if it is against the stream. Even when your peers are doing otherwise. The Volume of the Sacred law says “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil...” In the third charge, we are “authorized to correct the errors and irregularities of our younger brethren and guard them against a breach of fidelity.” This takes fortitude and also much tact. But it takes more fortitude “to improve the morals and correct the manners of men in society...” Even more to do the same for ourselves.
A “con” man who had decided to go straight was asked what was the best protection against con men. His reply was direct and rapid. “Honesty”. The “con” man appeals to our greed. Those unfortunate people whose priorities of material gain are higher than integrity are the con man’s prey. The quick deal, making a fast buck by having an unfair advantage over someone else. “He that makes haste to be rich” is the con man’s prey. One who has the fortitude to put honesty and integrity above material gain cannot be the prey of the con man. This hardly a new concept. The Volume of the Sacred Law is many hundreds of years old. Ben Johnson, in his play “The Alchemist” illustrated in an entertaining way the problems that our greed and lust brings upon us. How vulnerable we are to the preditation of unethical people if we do not have fortitude. Shakespeare shows how MacBeth was so power hungry he would stoop to any act, including murder.
But what happens when you are the recipient of the trespass, and are powerless to reprehend. In other words, we realize we have been had, or taken in. This is doubly wounding when it may have been someone we trusted. What do we do? In the first Charge we are to consider the V.S.L. as “the unerring standard of truth and justice”. Prudence, the third Cardinal Virtue, is defined as the exercising of careful thought before taking action. The Volume of the Sacred Law tells us, “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This does not mean that we should be a patsy.
There was a laundry man in the early days, who trusted everyone. His philosophy was “you fool me once, shame on you! You fool me twice, shame on me!” This philosophy shows prudence.
My wife, returning from Toronto, brought a lady home from the airport who had lost her luggage. She was distraught because the luggage contained legal documents. She was on her way to a divorce hearing in which she was suing her husband. Her husband had married her, spent her savings, and then moved in with another woman. She was incensed, felt double crossed. She was bitter and determined to have vengeance. Her father had said to her, “It is only money, don’t destroy yourself over it.” He gave her good advice but she was not prudent enough to accept it.
The fourth Cardinal Virtue is Justice. It is defined as just conduct, fair dealing, fairness, rightfulness, lawfulness.
Where I was raised, a “square dealer” was one who fit the definition above. If one was described as “square” it meant he was just, that he possessed the fourth Cardinal Virtue. Later, a “square” in a more modern vernacular, was one who was naive. One who was not informed, who was unsophisticated.
These changing meanings of “square” say much about society’s values. At one time justice or fair dealing was admired, and later was the mark of the naive and unsophisticated.
The V.S.L. tells us, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink, for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” and also, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged.”
Who is naive and unsophisticated? If one has faith, and the proper priorities, then one is certainly not naive and unsophisticated. A square dealer sleeps well at night. He is happy and can communicate that happiness to others.
During a discussion on taxes, one participant observed that to cheat on income tax was to steal from the poor. The second snorted, “How can you be so naive? Politicians are all crooks and those on welfare are lazy bums! It is no sin to cheat on taxes, because it is legalized robbery!” Well, is it? We are admonished to obey the laws of our country in the first Charge. That includes the laws governing income tax. Integrity is honesty and uprightness. It means just that. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use legal political means to change society but it means that a law is a law in spirit and in word. Cheating on taxes that is claiming invalid expenses, not declaring income that can’t be traced, are all practices that are illegal. No Mason can countenance them and still be just even though our society tends to accept this kind of thing.
Socrates said, “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.”
Bob Edwards said, “What a man is when alone, is what he is.”
I am sometimes surprised at the business ethics of some people. People who will break a commitment when to their advantage. I have been surprised at the kind of Christmas party that some businesses throw for their customers. Some of these bashes include lots of booze, girls and the whole bit. These kinds of practices are not necessary for success in business. Lots of people succeed without resorting to shoddy practice. When someone tells me that no one can be trusted anymore, I usually feel that the speaker probably can’t be trusted.
I have worked in an area where a written contract is often a rarity. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars of agricultural produce trade daily on verbal contracts. This isn’t to say everyone in the business is ethical, but it does say that to stay in business verbal commitments must be honoured.
There is nothing wrong with a written contract. A written contract serves some very useful purposes. It forces everyone to understand the commitments being made. It is a record to refresh memories or in case of a third party becoming involved, such as occurs if one party dies. It does not and cannot enforce ethics and honesty. These are part of character that are enhanced by Masonry and there is no substitute.
Oscar Wilde observed that “One has a right to judge a man by the effect he has over his friends.”
The four Cardinal Virtues are contagious, and Masons can spread them. Masonry is a stabilizing factor in our society.
What greater honour than to be known as a “Square” dealer, and to live Masonry BEYOND THE RITUAL.