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Robert G. Aberdeen - Masonic Philosophy, An Overview Part 2 of 2

Robert G. Aberdeen - Masonic Philosophy, An Overview Part 2 of 2

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From: Ron Blaisdell <ron@blaisdell.com>To: mi-masons <mi-masons@egroups.com>Subject: Masonic Philosophy, an Overview Part 2 of 2Date: Thursday, March 11, 1999 9:19 PMOne last article. Masonic Education is also a good topic.Ron Blaisdell, PMCapital of Strict Observance No. 66~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*MASONIC PHILOSOPHY AN OVERVIEWBro. Robert G. Aberdeen, P.G.St,(1984-05-26)(The original work, presented during the Masonic Spring workshop,Baner, Alberta, in April, 1974, has been revised by the author forpresentation to FIAT LUX LODGE OF RESEARCH No. 1980, GRA.)---------------------------------------------------------------------------(Part 2 of 2)Well - that charge by itself is certainly something on which tophilosophize. There are, of course, many other considerations ofthis aspect of Masonic philosophy. indeed, the Master Mason Degreeitself is almost wholly devoted to the spiritual. Or is it? Thepaper in the Lodge Plan for Masonic Education which deals with theinterpretation of the ritual of this degree states that "it is,indeed, a 'sublime' degree, which a man may study for years withoutexhausting." Sublime means "having noble qualities" or "giving riseto high or noble thoughts". The paper goes on to say:In the first two degrees you were surrounded by the symbols anderrblems of architecture; in this degree you found a different orderof symbolism, cast in the language of the soul - its life, itstragedy and its triumph. To recognize this is the first step ininterpretation of this sublime and historic step in "Craft Lodge"Masonry. The second point is to recognize that the Master MasonDegree has many meanings; it is not intended to be a lesson complete,finished, closed.There are many interpretations of the Degree, all true. But mostessentially, it is a drama of the immortaltty of the soul, settingforth the truth that, while a man withers away and perishes, there isthat in him which perishes not.Let's change the emphasis now and consider morality. Freemasonry hasbeen defined as a "system of morality," and is described in theCanadian Rite as "....the most moral human institution that everexisted ...." The definitions of "moral" include: "Pertaining to aperson's conduct"; "concerned with the rightness or wrongness ofthoughts and actions"; "acting according to the law of right andwrong". I've always thought that the term "moral" wasinterchangeable with the term "ethical" in the same way that weinterchange Masonry and Freemasonry. Ethic is derived from the Greekword "ethicos" which means "moral" and moral comes from the Latin
 
"mores", meaning "custom" or "conduct". The word "moral" is alsoused as a noun and in this sense means the lesson of a story orfable. Perhaps this meaning is more applicable to Masonry than werealize. I found one dictionary definition of "ethics" which seemsto draw a fine distinction - it calls ethics "the rules whichregulate duty or conduct." That distinction, I believe, is of someimportance when considering the teachings of Masonry. Masonry notonly demonstrates the important truths of morality, it also instructsus in how to apply these truths to our daily lives and conduct.Morality, we are told, "is a name for the forces that bind us inthe relations of amity and accord ...." Confucius, the Chinesephilosopher, said: "I have taught men how to live.At the conclusion of the Master Mason Degree, the newly raisedcandidate is charged, in part, "to improve the morals and correct themanners of men in society ...." The phrase "to improve the morals"implies to me that morals are subject to change. If they can beimproved, may they not also worsen? We speak of the current wave ofsexual freedom as a "new morality" or as a loosening of moralstandards. The point I'm making is that if morals can be changed andimproved, improved in relation to what? What is the standard? Are wereferring to that perfection toward which we must ever strive, the"beauty of true godliness," or have we a more earthly standard? Whosets these standards? Are they not contained in the divine precepts ofthe Volume of the Sacred Law? The new Mason is told in the Charge toregulate his actions by these precepts, and ethics is defined as therules which regulate duty or conduct. Further, he is charged toconsider the Volume of the Sacred Law as the unerring standard oftruth and justice. The Holy Bible itself, however, reveals evidenceof ethical advancement. The Mosaic Law of Retaliation (life for life,eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot) iscontained in Exodus, Chapter 21, verses 23 and 24. The previouschapter of the same book reveals the Ten Commandments and the 19thchapter of Leviticus, the following book, contains the statement ofthe Golden Rule: ". . . love thy neighbor as thyself."Adding to the confusion of changing customs and morals is the problemof differing standards among the various cultures. How do we knowthat our morality is the only right one? Many differences in moralstandards between cultures are due to geographic locations. Differingclimates dictate differing modes of dress and this may lead totraditional beliefs with no basis in fact. To a person who has gonenaked all his life because of the hot, humid nature of hisenvironment, whose entire background accepts nudity as an everydayfact, may not the wearing of clothes, a covering and concealing of thebody, seem immoral? Can we legitimately question the moral validity ofthe differing practices of other cultures? How do we know that rightis right, that good is good, that we ought to love our neighbor andstrive for excellence?We know that all peoples have certain rules of behavior and that theserules may vary from man to man, from country to country and fromcivilization to civilization. Everyone receives some kind of moraleducation, beginning in his formative years and continuing throughadulthood. Somewhere along the line this education stops or "setsin". Values are established. Freemasonry continues this moraleducation, changing and improving the morals of men in society, withreference to the highest standards accepted by that society. Theseare the norms which we regard as true.
 
As stated in an earlier explanation, Masonry presents to its initiatesthose fundamental truths which have been proven by time to benecessary for right thinking and moral living. Thought, as well asaction. We accept, then, that at least some moral values arepermanent, but when we talk about maintaining the good order ofsociety, we must also accept that under certain conditions, even these"permanent" values may change. Thus we may find moral problems in ourdefinition of ". . . murder, treason, felony and all other offencescontrary to the laws of God or man." Is abortion or execution murder?Is draft-dodging treason? Is the Mosaic Law of Retaliation a law ofGod? Must we always obey the man-made laws of our society which havelong been obsolete butwhich still exist simply because we haven't gotten around to passingthe-necessary legislation to remove them? Would you act as Socratesdid when he drank the hemlock when the doors of his prison were openrather than set the example of disobeying the laws of his country?These are the type of questions that each must ponder for himself inhis search for truth.Earlier, I suggested that philosophy has come to mean the search fortruth, but "truth" is never clearly defined. What do we mean bytruth? Truth is agreement with fact; yes, but as a tenet ofFreemasonry, truth must be exact.Actually, truth refers not to the fact itself, but to what we believeor state about the fact. I hold in my hand a long, narrowinstrument. It is something that I use to write with, but it isneither true nor false: it is a fact. if I state "this is a pen" andit is a pen, then my statement is true. If it happens to be apencil, my statement is untrue. If I believe it to be a pen when infact it is not, even if I have always called that specific type ofinstrument a pen, my statement is still untrue. Just because it istrue as far as I'm concerned doesn't make it true. Truth consists instating the actual fact, This may seem pretty obvious to you but whenwe search for ultimate truth, in the philosophical sense, we mustdistinguish between reality, and dogma and opinion. We tend to callour firm beliefs "truths" without knowing if they are, in fact, thecase. We may believe with absolute conviction that a thing is true,but what we believe may be wrong. How do we prove that our belief istrue? To determine whether a thing is true or false we must applycertain tests. Our methods of testing are central to thephilosophical enterprise.We know that about some things we may be quite sure, while others mayrequire exhaustive study just to arrive at the point of arguableprobability. Physical objects can be identified with a high degreeof certainty, things that we can see, touch, smell, hear and taste,Adding to these impressions our previous experience, we may be ablesafely to conclude that the thing we're concerned with is true. Thesenses, however, may be confused and experience may be hallucination.In a darkened room a shadowy form may appear to be something which itis not. Before we make a statement about such a form we apply tests -we may touch it, walk around it, even turn on the light or strike amatch. Perhaps it's because we rely so much on the sense of sight toprovide the basic evidence for truth that we often say we are seekingfor light. To illumine the mind is to perceive truth. We find itsaid, "light comes from God." Can we now read new meaning into thephrase, "God said, let there be light: and there was light." Lightwas the predominant symbol in all of the ancient mysteries, reveredbecause it was an emanation from the sun, the common object of

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