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Three Excellences of Character

Assembled and edited by V.W. Bro. Norman McEvoy
Past Master
Victoria Columbia No 1
Grand Lodge of BC& Yukon (Canada)

 

The reference, of course, is to that portion of the Charge by the Senior Warden in the Entered Apprentice Degree dealing with these specific excellences.

It is not my intention to provide the full content of that Charge, rather I would suggest that, for those unfamiliar with what I am referring to, that they get out their Ritual Books and read it for themselves.

In doing so, please read slowly and attempt to relate the admonitions to the to the society in which they were written. I do believe you will realize that those were very different times where these qualities were incredibly necessary in order to simply survive.

SECRECY                FIDELITY                OBEDIENCE

 

SECRECY

Secrecy Lexicon of Freemasonry,                    Albert G. Mackey (circa 1908)

The objection which has been urged against Freemasonry on the ground of its secret character is scarcely worthy of serious refutation.

It has become threadbare, and always has been the objection only of envious and illiberal minds.

Indeed, its force is immediately destroyed, when we reflect that to no worthy man need our mysteries be, for one moment, covered with the veil of concealment, for to all the deserving are our portals open.

But the traditions and esoteric doctrines of our order are too valuable and too sacred to be permitted to become the topic of conversation for every idler who may desire to occupy his moments of leisure in speculations upon subjects which require much previous study and preparation to qualify the critic for a ripe and equitable judgment.

Hence are they preserved, like the rich jewel in the casket, in the secret recesses of our Lodge, to be brought forth only when the ceremonies with which their exhibition is accompanied, have inspired that solemnity of feeling with which alone they should be approached.

Secrecy & Silence  (in part) Encyclopedia of Freemasonry      Albert. G. Mackey (circa 1919)

These virtues constitute the very essence of all Masonic character, they are the safeguard of the Institution, giving to it all its security and perpetuity, and are enforced by frequent admonitions in all the degrees, from the lowest to the highest.

The Entered Apprentice begins his Masonic career by learning the duty of secrecy and silence.

Hence it is appropriate that in that Degree which is the consummation of Initiation, in which the whole cycle of Masonic science is completed the “abstruse” (hard to understand) machinery of symbolism should be employed to impress the same important virtues on the neophyte (candidate).

The same principles of secrecy and silence existed in all the ancient mysteries and systems of worship.

When Aristotle was asked what thing appeared to him to be the most difficult of performance, he replied,

“To be secret and silent”

“If we turn our eyes back to antiquity” says Calcott,  “we shall find that the old Egyptians had so great a regard for silence and secrecy in the mysteries of their religion that they set up the God Harpocrates, to whom they paid particular honour and veneration, and who was represented with the right hand placed near the heart, and the left hand down the by his side and covered by a skin full of eyes.”

Among the Egyptians, the sign of silence was made by pressing the index finger of the right hand on the lips.

Comment

In today’s society, where there appears to be no limit to what can be revealed or exposed,

I feel, we as Freemasons are finding ourselves very much in the circle of public opinion, which, I believe, offers the opportunity for each of us to represent “ A great and glorious example” of what Freemasonry means to each of us as individuals, parents and members of society.

This, again in my opinion, can all be done, very effectively, within the framework of our Craft, and without violating our Integrity.

We are all very capable of that challenge.

 

FIDELITY

Fidelity Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary

Faithful           The quality of being faithful

Fidelity Encyclopedia of Freemasonry     Albert G. Mackey (1917)

See Fides.

In the lecture in the first degree, it is said that:

our ancient brethren worshipped deity under the name of Fides of Fidelity, which was sometimes represented by two right hands joined, and sometimes by two human figures holding each other by the right hands”

The deity here referred to was the goddess Fides, to whom Numa first erected Temples, and whose priests were covered by a white veil as a symbol of the purity which should characterize Fidelity.

No victims were slain on her altars, and no offerings were made to her except flowers, wine and incense.

Her statues were represented clothed in a white mantle, with a key in her hand and a dog at her feet.

The virtue of Fidelity is, however, frequently symbolized in ancient medals by a heart in an open hand, but more usually by two right hands clasped.

Horace calls her ‘incorrupta fides”( non corruptible) and makes her the sister of Justice ;

while Cicero says that that which is religion towards God and piety toward our parents is “Fidelity” towards our fellow men.

There was among the Romans another deity called “Fidius”, who presided over oaths and contracts, and it is said that there was an ancient marble at Rome, consecrated to the God Fidius, on which was depicted two figures clasping each other’s hands as the representatives of Honour & Truth, without which there can be no Fidelity not truth among men.

Masonry, borrowing its ideas from the ancient poets, makes the right hand the symbol of Fidelity.

 

Comment

Personally I  have not witnessed the Lecture in the First Degree referred to in this quote, however, that does not mean that it has not, at one time or another, been presented.

I would be very interested in knowing if any reader has witnessed same and where.

Regarding Mackey’s treatment of the word Fidelity, I can only comment that I can now see where some of the accepted customs we see in practice every day may have come from.

The White Veil frequently worn by brides offers one such example.

I also recall having heard of Lawyers fulfilling their Fiduciary responsibility.

Makes sense!!!!!

 

OBEDIENCE

Obedience Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary

1. (a) an act or instance of obeying

(b) the quality or state of being obedient.

Obedience Lexicon of Freemasonry    Albert G. Mackey (1908)

Submission to the constituted authorities, both in state and the Craft, is a quality inculcated upon all Masons.

With respect to the State, a Mason is charged to be a “peaceable subject” to the civil powers, wherever he resides or works, and never to be concerned in plots or conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates.

And with respect to the craft, he is directed “to pay due reverence to his Master, Wardens, and Fellows, and to put them to worship”.(respect)

And another part of the same regulations directs, that the rulers and governors, supreme and subordinate, of the ancient Lodge, are to be obeyed in their respective stations, by all the Brethren, with the humility, reverence, love and alacrity (eagerness)

The spirit of obedience runs through the whole system, and constitutes one of the greatest safeguards of our Institution.

The Mason is obedient to the Master; the Master and the Lodge to the Grand Lodge; and this , in it’s turn, to the old landmarks and ancient regulations of the Order.

Thus is a due degree of subordination kept up and the Institution preserved in its pristine purity

Comment

Personally, I find it worth noting that Mackey wrote this definition in 1908, and I cannot help but wonder how he would word his definition in light of today’s society. One can only ponder what his definition might be!!!!!.

 

Conclusion

I preesent the following from the writings of Bernard E. Jones and offer his comments re: “The Temple of God”

“ In the Temple of God,

the Foundation is Faith, which is conversant with unseen things ;

the roof is Charity, which covereth a multitude of sins.

The door is Obedience…

The pavement is humility, of which the Psalmist saith “My Soul cleaveth to the pavement”

The four sides are the FOUR Cardinal Virtues—justice, fortitude, temperance, prudence”

Hence the Apocalypse saith “ The City lieth four-square”

Think Act Live

Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead- That is where your future lies –  Ann Landers

Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again– Franklin P. Jones


Who are we, Where did we come From and Where are we Going.

I was going through my files looking for something that I has saved for a special moment and I discovered this piece saved in March 2004.   Wonderful words & Very True.

A few years ago (1995)  I visited the Grand Lodge of BC&Yukon  offices to research the history available in their archives. I was welcomed by R.W.Bro. Gordon Phillips (Grand Secretary) given a brief orientation and then set loose to begin my labours. During the day, if I recall correctly. At precisely 10.00am the “tea time” call was made and a much welcome break was taken.

During this social time, I became acquainted with R.W.Bro. Robert Clark custodian and Grand Librarian. He invited me to peruse the volumes of Lodge Histories on file and to use them as a pattern for my research.

For those who have not had the opportunity to visit the Grand Lodge Library, I can assure you, it is extensive and contains numerous volumes dedicated to Masonry.

As our R.W.Bro. pointed out, they represent the PAST.  What is more important he added “is over here on this smaller shelf”

Stored on the shelf he referred to were Monthly Publications from many Grand Jurisdictions.  He said, “All those books are History, these Publications tell the real story of Freemasonry TODAY.”

I’ve never forgotten those words and I can’t refute them. Masonry is dynamic!!. You my companions are what Masonry is and What it can be. What was, can’t be changed. The present, is what YOU are, and what YOU are doing in Freemasonry. What Masonry will or will not be is wholly dependent on YOU.

Don’t point to the dignitaries of the past, YOU are the key element to today’s Freemasonry.

Don’t bathe in the reflected light of those who have gone before you.

If you choose not to participate in your Lodge that is your business, however, you should reflect on the fact that you have the opportunity to work on the Foundation of what tomorrow’s Freemasonry will be built on.

Attitude is Everything when “Facing the Challenge

Adapted from an email from R.W.Bro. Jim Whyte. Past DDGM. BC&Y (2004)

 

Closing Comment

Brethren, and family, who may have had this shared with you, this edition completes the series on the Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Excellences of Character.

Commencing in October/November,(when I get home from vacation), it is my intention to address the “Lodge Officers Guide” and attempt to shed some light, or at least create some discussion. on the various offices in the Lodge and the duties associated with them.

The objective will be, by opening discussion,  to create more clarity & hopefully more interest in becoming a Lodge Officer.