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Article # 68
Masonic Ethics

Author: M.W.Bro.Jack Levitt P.G.M.    Posted on: Monday, May 12, 2003
General Article | 3 comments  | Post your comment

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[California Freemason Online had posted the following article on Masonic Ethics by M.W.Bro.Jack R Levitt.P.G.M. The article is very relevant to Freemasons spread over the face of the earth, presenting a reminder to all Masons on how the practice of our virtues should compel us and not simply be an item of speculation. Please read on…..]

Masonic Ethics

M.W.Bro.Jack R. Levitt P.G.M

What has happened to the ethics revered and generally followed in the past? Mass cheating and public scandals are the trend today. Worse yet, despite knowledge of misconduct, violators are not turned in. Today, more and more Freemasons are violating the tenets of the Institution of Freemasonry. Rules prohibiting gambling and those involving the use of alcohol are unobserved. Code sections and various time honored regulations are being misinterpreted or ignored in attempts to increase membership. Lack of respect for the views of others and like matters disturbing the harmony in Lodges are becoming more frequent.

Not too long ago conduct was self-imposed; it sprang from core beliefs. At one time students signed a paper "pledging one's honor as a gentleman that no assistance was given or received". Agreements used to be made solely by the shaking of hands, and a man's word was his bond. Trust and adherence to Truth was the standard of conduct for most Freemasons. This sense of honor is largely unobserved and probably not comprehended by much of our society nowadays. Freemasons, however, are supposed to be ethical before they become Freemasons and, as such, are taught to think and act ethically.

Bobby Jones, the noted golfer, who often called penalties on himself once remarked to one who praised him for this and other acts of sportsmanship - "You might as well praise a man for not breaking into banks. There is only one way to play this game and that's by the rules". The principle behind this simple observation should be self-evident to all right thinking people.

There are many other instances in history of men with a firm understanding of and adherence to ethics. One in particular involves Socrates, the Greek Philosopher, who, when advised by Crito to escape from prison to avoid his sentence of death, asked several Questions. He asked - "are we to say that we are never intentionally to do wrong ……. or is doing wrong always evil and dishonorable ……..?". Crito answered "Yes. He then asked - "Ought a man to do what he admits to be right …..?". Crito agains answered "Yes". He finally asked - "Do you imagine that a state can subsist ………in which the decisions of law have no power, but are set aside and overthrown by individuals?". The answer Socrates received to this was "No". Thus Socrates accepted his death sentence, even though believing it to be unjust, rather than violate the law himself. He had made an agreement with the State that he would duly obey its laws, and had not sought to change them. Socrates thus valued his oath and obligations as sacred and, not having sought to change the laws of his State, obeyed them. Can Freemasons do less involving laws that do not endanger their lives, but merely how they mangage them? Can they not be expected to obey their oaths and obligations and abide by the laws of the Craft, especially if they have taken no action to change them?

Honor, along with duty, form the bedrock of human character. Today, many who see an injustice or are dissatisfied with a status do nothing. Others betray the right. Toleration of misconduct makes the person who tolerates equally guilty of malfeasance. Ethics rules, unlike most laws, are observed only by ethical people, who don't need them. Honor codes are meaningless to individuals without a sense of honor. Freemasons who breach the Constitution and Ordinances of their Grand Lodge, or the By-laws of their Lodges, not only violate their obligations, but are individuals without a sense of honor. Those who have knowledge of those breaches and do nothing are likewise guilty of malfeasance. An observation of such inherently immoral action is set forth in the Volume of the Sacred Law, "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?".

Freemasonry's only dogma consists of moral principles requiring only common sense to understand them. T.R. Fehrenback, an editorial writer, observed that ethics is - Do right if you can; above all do no harm; and if questionable, do not do it, whatever the law allows. Freemasonry sets a higher standard to always do right. Its ritual includes references to: purity of life and conduct; being good and true; practicing the domestic and public virtues; squaring our actions by the Square of virtue; and displaying discretion, virtue and dignity. But even the most explicit laws or lists of do's and don'ts or standards of conduct are futile if those they apply to lack the basic character to abide by them.

It is not difficult to know right from wrong. Common sense is inherent in most people. Epictetus, when asked what common sense was, said - "As that may be called a common ear which distinguishes only sounds, while that which distinguishes musical notes is not common but produced by training; so there are certain things which men not entirely perverted see by the natural principles common to all, Such a Constitution of the mind is called common sense". Thus, Freemasons can not only understand the principles of Masonic ethics, but work them out in life. Determining what is right and exercising common sense should be the constant rule and guide for each Freemason. Since Freemasons are urged to live Masonic principles and thus, by precept and example, encourage others to emulate their actions, they must abide by their obligations and not palliate the offenses of their brethern. They must realize that the teachings of the Craft are designed to improve society as well as each member, just as Aristotle knew that though it is worthwhile to obtain the end merely for one man, it is fine and more Godlike to attain it for a nation.

. The membership selective process in our Craft must be always by the requirement set forth in the first Degree charge - by not recommending any one to a participation in our privileges without having strong reasons to believe that he would ultimately reflect honor on our ancient Institution.

In this day and age of pleasure derived solely from material gain, Freemasons should also take pleasure in seeing themselves daily grow better. They must do as the Emperor Marcus Aurelius suggested - no longer talk about the kind of man that a good man ought to be, but be such.

The author is a distinguished Freemason held in high esteem. He is a Past M.W.G.M of the Grand Lodge of California. The article was posted some time ago in California Freemason on line, which is an electronic Masonic Magazine. Bro.Brad Bradbury, the Editor was pleased to permit us to post the article in our web site. We are very thankful to the distinguished author and the helpful Editor for the gracious permission.

Click Here To Post Your Comment

towcop1 wrote on Tuesday, June 7, 2005:

Subject: I can't agree more

Brother, you have posted an excellent article. I have observed the actions of several freemasons and would deem them un-masonic conduct by all means. I ask the same question, whatever happened to ethics? Whatever happened to just doing right because it was the "right" thing to do? What happened to the days when if a brother got off his square, several well informed brothers put the offender in his place and made sure that the offender understood that Masons do not conduct themselves in a negative manner, whether it be domestic abuse, criminal activity or anything that may bring embarrassment upon the fraternity? My apologies, but I could go on and on. Excellent article brother.

towcop1 wrote on Friday, June 24, 2005:

Subject: My Apologies

Brothers all. I apologize for not identifying myself. Bro. NeKael L. Jones W.M. Louie Lodge #24 M.W. King Solomon AF&AM Detroit, MI wrote on Wednesday, December 19, 2007:

Subject: masonic ethics

Thank you for an interesting article, as a new mason it has given me much to think and act on Brother Colin Hughes, Chorlton Lodge 1387,England

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