It has to be something important to get the Magpie Mason to miss a meeting of his Rose Croix Chapter, and so it was Tuesday night. The first meeting of 2009 at Fairless Hills Lodge No. 776 in Pennsylvania was highlighted by several educational presentations that inaugurated a full year’s calendar of lectures and other programs and travels intended to broaden the perspectives of the brethren. The Magpie Mason couldn’t miss that!
And there were many gifts and awards given by the Worshipful Master. Arguably the most touching honored W. Bro. William E. Jones who received his Past Masters jewel and apron, having just completed his year in the East.
The Worshipful Master, left, and W. Bro. William Jones.
The main presentation was provided by a visitor, the junior Past Master of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education, located just across the river in Trenton. His subject was the Four Cardinal Virtues, which he was told do not appear in Pennsylvania Craft ritual, making his job of spreading Light a little more challenging than usual.
It was a lengthy presentation that tied together how Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, William Preston and Thomas Smith Webb all are heard in Masonry’s ceremony of initiation where the Four Cardinal Virtues are symbolized by the Perfect Points of Entrance, and also in the governance of the lodge as provided by the Master and Wardens. Understanding, internalizing and exemplifying the Four Cardinal Virtues are key to making a Mason.
Well, except in Pennsylvania.
The guest speaker distributed a sheet of notes summarizing the main points of his presentation to the 40 Masons present:
Plato, Aquinas and YOU:
The Four Cardinal Virtues in Making a Mason
The Four Cardinal Virtues are Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance and Justice.
• Oxford English Dictionary: Physical and structural strength; moral strength and courage.
• Plato: The military class of society is prepared for arduous endeavor against obstacles.
• Aquinas: “A certain firmness of mind” and a “condition of every virtue” when facing “grave dangers.”
• Preston: Teaches us to “encounter dangers with spirit and resolution” and not rashness and cowardice.
• YOU: “Undergo pain, peril or danger in the performance of duty.” Withstand efforts to extort Masonic secrets. Be received upon the point of sharp object…. (Think Senior Warden: Sees that “none go away dissatisfied” to protect the peace and harmony – “the strength and support” – of our institution.)
• O.E. Dictionary: Ability to discern the most suitable, politic or profitable course of action, especially in conduct; practical wisdom, discretion (as in jurisprudence).
• Plato: From the intellectual conflict between the producer class and the military class arises the philosopher (lover of wisdom) class, which rules society.
• Aquinas: Goodness comes from applying “right reason to action.”
• Preston: “Regulate our conduct by the rules of right reason” to benefit the “general good.”
• YOU: We “regulate our lives and actions according to the dictates of reason… to wisely judge and prudently determine on all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness.” (Think Worshipful Master: Embodies the wisdom of Solomon as he gives us “good and wholesome instruction” so the Craft enjoys “profit and pleasure thereby.”)
• O.E. Dictionary: Rational self-restraint and moderation in action of any kind.
• Plato: “Bottom” class of society that produces the necessities of life for all. Can never be self-indulgent or inefficient.
• Aquinas: Moderation in human functions and appetites; differs from Fortitude because Temperance withdraws man from seductive things, while Fortitude enables him “to endure or withstand” them.
• Preston: Masons control their passions and desires for the health of body and mind.
• YOU: Restraint of affections and passions; “guards the mind against the allurements of vice” for the protection of Masonic secrets. (Think Junior Warden: “Call the Craft from labor to refreshment” and allow none to “convert the purposes of refreshment into those of intemperance and excess.”)
• O.E. Dictionary: The exhibition of morally just principles; integrity, just conduct, rectitude. Observance of divine law. Conformity to reason, fairness, correctness.
• Plato: Justice is the result of all three classes of society operating harmoniously. Justice is the only virtue that is directed at others, rather than for the benefit of oneself.
• Aquinas: “The common good transcends the individual good of one person.” Justice comes from the rational appetite, unlike the other virtues which come from the sensitive appetite.
• Preston: A Mason renders “to every man his due without distinction; it is not only consistent with divine and moral law, but is the standard and cement of civil society.”
• YOU: “As Justice characterizes the really good man, it should be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof.” (Think Freemasonry: The Craft at labor in peace and harmony, united by the cement of brotherly love, meeting on the Level, acting by the Plumb and parting upon the Square.)
Plato (427-347 BCE) – Athenian philosopher, student of Socrates and master of Aristotle. Founded the Academy to pass the Socratic method of thinking to younger generations. Most significant writing is titled the “Republic,” which discusses the Four Cardinal Virtues as ideals for both the individual and society. He termed the Virtues: justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation. His philosophy is known as Platonism.
Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274 CE) – Italian-born member of the Dominican Order. Avid student of Greek philosophy whose writings reconciled Aristotelian thought with Catholic theology by explaining how an understanding of God can be achieved by applying human reason. His most influential writing, titled “Summa Theologica,” was unfinished at the time of his death. Because of his impact on the Church, he was canonized a saint in 1323 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1567. In Christian iconography, he is represented by the Blazing Star, which also is a Masonic symbol. His philosophy is known as Thomism.
William Preston (1742-1818) – English Freemason and prolific scholar who gave shape to the rituals used in Britain and America. His book, titled “Illustrations of Masonry” published in 1772, provided some uniformity in ritual. A lasting effect of this was to turn Freemasonry from a purely convivial club to a fraternal order that had profound lessons to teach. In his honor every year the Prestonian Lecture is authorized by the United Grand Lodge of England to share a topic concerning the Craft in England.
Thomas Smith Webb (1771-1819) – Massachusetts-born Freemason who authored “The Freemason’s Monitor or Illustrations of Masonry” in 1797. This continued Webb’s work and is the basis for much of the ritual we use today. Served as Grand Master of Rhode Island in 1813. He is credited with establishing the (York Rite) Knights Templar in 1819.