On this date in 1706 was born Benjamin Franklin in Boston. Philosopher, statesman, scientist, inventor, business innovator, publisher, post master, Masonic grand master, and so much more, Franklin was a colossus who very much remains with us in the 21st century.
In fact, if your Masonic lodge or your dearest friends or your general social life lacks a practical approach to philosophy—that is, a proper application of good ideas toward improving your attitude and behavior—then a new movement aiming to “transform your world” might be for you. Launched about a year ago, the Ben Franklin Circles are local groups that unite the intellectually curious who wish to make positive changes in their individual lives and in the world around them. Franklin is the namesake because the participants in these groups are united in discussion of Franklin’s “13 Virtues” for the noble purpose of self-improvement.
In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, published posthumously in 1791, Franklin defined his 13 Virtues. His list began in his thinking at age 20 as a system of moral building he actually tracked in a journal, keeping daily record of whether he applied the virtues to his personal conduct. (Didn’t we all do that kind of thing at age 20?) His 13 Virtues are:
- Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
- Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Freemasons should have no difficulty recognizing these 13 concepts from their internal work. One also might see a connection to the Rules of Civility that George Washington would internalize during his youth.
In Ben Franklin Circles, these are your topics of discussion. It’s not like Freemasonry, where merely memorizing and reciting Enlightenment prose is the goal (without reinforcement to aid in the comprehension of what’s being said); in the Circles, these giant ideas form a basis for fixing flaws in character within, with the added goal of putting that refined character to work in repairing the world without. It’s a very Masonic way of thinking that your lodge could claim for its own by forming a new Circle.