If Freemasonry had a specific dogma Albert Pike would of been one of its most profound Prophets. As it stands, he sits in a pantheon of others such as Mackey, Wilmshurst, Webb, and Preston, just to name a few.
The reason I mention Pike in this way, is that for many years his work Morals and Dogma was the field manual given to all Scottish Rite masons for years, so much so that the deep red tomes still frequently show up in used book stores and on Ebay fetching a fair price for such an old body of work.
But the reason I mention Pike and M&D is that amongst the strum und drang of what some states (read Grand Lodges) are doing to some of its members or the shock and surprise that one state picked up a former (read expelled) member of another, Pike talked about these very things in his commentary to the Rite’s degrees. Essentially, had we (Freemasonry) done our homework or applied the degrees so judicially bestowed upon us, that maybe we could see through the smoke that we ourselves are generating over these epic events.
Truthfully, I was surprised in coming across the passage while doing my work for the Guthrie Scottish Rite College of the Consistory. Surprised because his wide spread distribution in the past and the little regard given to him today.
Let me just say that Pike was talking about the very things we face in adversity today more than 100 years before it was ever an issue in the 50+ jurisdictions of Grand Lodges. So say what you want about Pike, personally I’m finding much in his ideas on how masonry should govern itself.
What I found was a small passage in the 10th degree that speaks to how a Freemason should see other faiths, that
“No man is entitled positively to assert that he is right, where other men, equally intelligent and equally well-informed, hold directly the opposite opinion.”
In that passage, Pike is asserting his idea of toleration to the aspect of religion, that no individual can assert that another individuals outlook of the divine spark is any more right than their own, asking the impossible to answer question “What is truth?”
Asking that question make me wonder if the same question can be extrapolated up to establish the definition of what truth means.
In the degree, Pike says (again about religious toleration):
Real knowledge never permitted either turbulence or unbelief; but its progress is the forerunner of liberality and enlightened toleration. Whoso dreads these may well tremble; for he may be well assured that their day is at length come, and must put to speedy flight the evil spirits of tyranny and persecution, which haunted the long night now gone down the sky. And it is to be hoped that the time will soon arrive, when, as men will no longer suffer themselves to be led blindfolded in ignorance, so will they no more yield to the vile principle of judging and treating their fellow-creatures, not according to the intrinsic merit of their actions, but according to the accidental and involuntary coincidence of their opinions.
Whenever we come to treat with entire respect those who conscientiously differ from ourselves, the only practical effect of a difference will be, to make us enlighten the ignorance on one side or the other, from which it springs, by instructing them, if it be theirs; ourselves, if it be our own; to the end that the only kind of unanimity may be produced which is desirable among rational beings,–the agreement proceeding from full conviction after the freest discussion.
What stands out to me, especially in this instance with so much hand wringing and heated exchanges, is the second paragraph, even more specifically:
Whenever we come to treat with entire respect those who conscientiously differ from ourselves, the only practical effect of a difference will be, to make us enlighten the ignorance on one side or the other.
The key here seems to be the idea of treating with respect those who differ from ourselves, which applies to all sides in this discussion.
Pike in his conclusion cites a Roman quote saying:
Men in no respect so nearly approach to the Deity, as when they confer benefits on men. To serve and do good to as many as possible, there is nothing greater in your fortune than that you should be able, and nothing finer in your nature, than that you should be desirous to do this.
Which is, after all, the reason for being a Mason, right?
I’ll be publishing more in the days to come, but the book Masonic Traveler is available now at MasonicTraveler.com – look for more soon!