A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stupid Atheists and Irreligious Libertines

A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law, and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine.[i]
The above statement from the first of the Old Charges is, undoubtedly, rather tough and to the point – especially to those not of the Craft of Freemasonry. Bearing in mind that it was written over two hundred and eighty seven years ago, it was probably a rather tame comment for the time. But what does this statement really mean? Let us examine it piece by piece.

A Mason is obliged…:

This one is easy to understand. The phrase could be slightly reworded to read, “A Mason is ‘obligated’” and it would still mean basically the same thing.

…by his tenure…:

This refers to while the Mason is just that – a Mason.

…to obey the moral law…:

Moral law should not be confused with civil law. Moral law resides within a man’s heart and is not mandated by the laws of the nation in which he resides. This moral law that resides in the heart does not exist within a vacuum, however. What is in a man’s heart is influenced by outside forces. For most men, the primary outside force is the moral teachings of their respective religious faiths. Moral law is that which makes men choose between right and wrong. It is what determines if a man is honorable or not. A man reacts according to his moral law because it is what he feels to be the right thing to do and he does it because he wants to not because he has to. Civil law exists only because there are men who do not have a valid moral law. Those types of men must be forced to do the right thing under the threat of some sort of material punishment.

…rightly understands the art…:

The Society of Freemasons, as any studious Freemason knows, contains an art. The Mason that understands this art will also understand this charge in its entirety.

…a stupid atheist…:

The addition of the word “stupid” in front of “atheist” is important. This phrase implies that an atheist is stupid due his lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Digging in between the lines, it tells us that an atheist is incapable of understanding faith. An atheist can only understand what he can touch, see, hear, taste, and smell. An atheist is incapable of using a sixth sense and, therefore, he is stupid – he is handicapped.

…an irreligious libertine.

This may be the most confusing of the phases due to the fact that the use and intent of the word “libertine” has changed very much over the years. Using the intent of the words in the 1720s; an irreligious libertine is a person who does not believe that he is responsible for his own moral – or immoral – behavior. He is morally irresponsible.

So let us now put this sentence from the first Old Charge into more modern words.

A Mason is obligated, while he remains a Mason, to be a man of good morals, and if he truly comprehends the teachings of Freemasonry, he will not be handicapped by subscribing to atheism and he will not be morally irresponsible.

[i] Charges of a Freemason, Grand Lodge of England, 1722.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Trip Worth Taking

After spending approximately seventeen hours behind the wheel during the roundtrip, I am back home from Alexandria, Virginia – site of the 2009 AMD Masonic Week. I am glad that I sacrificed those seventeen hours as the payoff was well worth it.

As has already been reported on Freemasons for Dummies, the First Circle banquet and meeting of The Masonic Society was a great success. Yasha Beresiner, the First Circle guest speaker, displayed a wonderful demeanor and wealth of knowledge and it was a pleasure to make his acquaintance. I also enjoyed listening to Arturo de Hoyos – another researcher of great Masonic knowledge – during the Scottish Rite Research Society luncheon.

In addition to the fine food and guest speakers at the scheduled events, I enjoyed the unanticipated and informal fellowship that took place behind the scenes. I met men that hailed from all points of the compass. It was truly wonderful to be able to shake hands and hold conversations with men that I had previously only corresponded with via the Internet or telephone.

The collective Masonic knowledge and experience contained within The Masonic Society’s hospitality room was vast and diverse and some of the conversations lasted into the wee hours of the morning. But these were not just old boring conversations about Freemasonry. We were having fun as we talked.

As I had hoped, I also got to visit the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The photograph contained in this post was taken by me from the observation deck of the Memorial.

I am looking forward to being able to make the next trip. It will be worth taking.

PS: Make sure you check out the newly reformated web site for the GWMM. A "Cajun" that I met at Masonic Week did that quality work.