Part 6 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.
It may be said that Truth is the Column of Wisdom, whose rays penetrate and enlighten the inmost recesses of our Lodge. (Mackey, 1878)
There is more to truth than just the idea of searching for it in the intellectual sense. Truth is taught to us from the very beginning of our Masonic life, used as a base in which other teachings are derived from. As Freemasons our character and actions must be truthful at all times. We have to be dependable and honorable, faithful and reliable; otherwise our brotherhood will not endure. Indeed, truth is a vital requirement in becoming a Freemason:
A divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true, is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us; sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us; and the heart and the tongue join in promoting each other’s welfare, and rejoicing in each other’s prosperity. (Sickels, 1868)
In several Volumes of Sacred Law we read that The Great Architect of the Universe represents truth, as all of His attributes are eternal and absolute. Therefore truth, being divine, is the foundation of “that temple not built with hands”, from where all other virtues are built upon.
As we go through Freemasonry we are taught that being true and seeking truth are good objectives, but to go even further we must be true to ourselves. In other words we should take the advice that is inscribed on the Tyler’s chair all throughout the world – “know thyself.” In better understanding ourselves we better understand our relation to the Deity, partly constituting “divine truth” – the other part being the nature of that Deity. As we are only human we cannot fully comprehend this divine truth until we “pass through the gateway of death and stand in the court of life”, but as Freemasons we are taught to search for that truth right up to the day we are raised to the celestial lodge above:
While we know that the search must be as fruitless as it must be endless, we find joy and usefulness in the effort, not in the results. Important to the Freemason is not the comprehension of the idea of the Absolute, but that he seeks it in his conception of the Most High. (Claudy, 1932)
The basis of a stable lodge is truth and mutual respect of each other’s opinions. We can still disagree with each other, but instead of being confrontational we try to understand one another so we’ll be better enabled to work together. The one truth all Freemasons share is the belief in a Supreme Being, as we always open and close lodge meetings in His name.
When we are initiated we are assured that having trust in God will keep us from harm during any praiseworthy undertaking. We are also recommended to consider the Volume of the Sacred Law as the “unerring standard of truth and justice” and to regulate our actions by the “divine precepts it contains” with respect to our duties to God, our neighbors and to ourselves. In order to receive truth and wisdom from these divine precepts, we are taught to first purify our hearts “of every baneful and malignant passion”. We cannot “be true” unless we first “subdue our passions”; therefore every Master of a lodge must be true and also have an interest in truth seeking:
Truth, which is called a “Divine Attribute, the foundation of every virtue,” is synonymous with Sincerity, honesty of expression, and plain dealing. The higher idea of truth which pervades the whole Masonic system, and which is symbolized by the Word, is that which is properly expressed to a knowledge of God. (Mackey, 1878)
Not only do we look within ourselves for truth, but as Freemasons we also strive for truth in our dealings with others. We have high moral standards and try our best to uphold those principles in both our public and our private lives. Truth is the highest virtue of Freemasonry because it is considered divine and is where all other virtues stem from. To be true is to act with fidelity to the standard of these virtues. Instead of trying to fulfill our own goals, we should be sincere when dealing with others and stand for truthfulness. Men who are good and true, who have strength and integrity, are the ones who bring harmony.
This is one of the first lessons taught in Freemasonry. If someone can’t be considered good and true, he cannot be admitted into our order. In order to be a good citizen one has to be truthful, and without truth there is no foundation for trust and friendship. It has to start with truth:
In this sense Truth really is the foundation of every virtue. There is no justice without truth; there is no philanthropy without truth; there can be no self-sacrifice, no bravery, no rectitude – no virtue of any kind – without a foundation in that which is sincere and honest, as opposed to that which is lying and deceitful. (Claudy, 1932)
There are times in and outwith the lodge when there are heated discussions among the brethren. The outcome must always be determined by the circumstances surrounding each individual case. We should never deliberately misrepresent the views from opposing sides, and condemn any and all who use half-truths and falsehoods, especially those who accuse others of bigotry and intolerance as a means of attack. Such actions cloud the issues and only serve to confuse everyone. As good and true men, we need the calmness to see and the honesty to say what an opposing brother’s opinions really are. This doesn’t mean exaggerating their opinions to discredit them, but at the same time we shouldn’t hold back any information that might support them.
When we have a civilized discussion, the only result can be “further light” as we get closer to truth. This can be applied not only in lodge, but anywhere. Schisms in lodge can be avoided by searching for “light” in a manner that is courteous and fair. As masons we are taught that “hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain-dealing distinguish us, and with heart and tongue we join in promoting each other’s welfare and rejoice in each other‘s prosperity.” In a place where truth prevails, everyone will come together to offer their service and help each other. In order to accomplish this we must all be good and true men and assist those who would falter, as we are only improved by each individual’s success.
Truth creates harmony and falsehood creates discord. It’s our responsibility as Freemasons to practice being good and true among ourselves and in society as well. Men join the craft because they have a favorable opinion of our honorable institution, therefore we must lead by example in how we act towards others:
Truth is the foundation of all Masonic virtues; it is one of our grand principles; for to be good men and true, is a part of the first lesson we are taught; and at the commencement of our freedom we are exhorted to be fervent and zealous in the pursuit of truth and goodness. It is not sufficient that we walk in the light, unless we do so in the truth also. All hypocrisy and deceit must be banished from among us. Sincerity and plain dealing complete the harmony of a Lodge, and render us acceptable in the sight of Him unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid. There is a charm in truth, which draws and attracts the mind continually towards it. The more we discover, the more we desire; and the great reward is wisdom, virtue, and happiness. This is an edifice founded on a rock, which malice cannot shake or time destroy. (Sickels, 1868)
As Freemasons, we often refer to honest dealings as “acting upon the square”.
The Square, as used in Freemasonry, is an instrument with two legs that intersect at a right angle. Though there is debate regarding the exact instrument envisioned in the early rituals, there is no doubt that the square was used to measure the accuracy of angles, to ensure that they were indeed right angles. As such, it is natural for the Square to be an emblem of accuracy, integrity, and rightness. As building materials are cut to fit the building in the proper dimensions, we must also build our character, which must be tested by a moral and ethical standard represented by the Square.
– The Grand Lodge of Texas
The square has always been considered right and true. To Freemasons, it represents morality and ethical conduct that all our actions will stem from. A real Freemason is recognized not by the ring on his finger, but by how he acts towards others:
The real Freemason is distinguished from the rest of Mankind by the uniform unrestrained rectitude of his conduct. Other men are honest in fear of punishment which the law might inflect; they are religious in expectation of being rewarded, or in dread of the devil, in the next world. A Freemason would be just if there were no laws, human or divine except those written in his heart by the finger of his Creator. In every climate, under every system of religion, he is the same. He kneels before the Universal Throne of God in gratitude for the blessings he has received and humble solicitation for his future protection. He venerates the good men of all religions. He disturbs not the religion of others. He restrains his passions, because they cannot be indulged without injuring his neighbor or himself. He gives no offense, because he does not choose to be offended. He contracts no debts which he is certain he cannot discharge, because he is honest upon principle.
– The Farmer’s Almanac, 1823
One of Freemasonry’s aims is to always search for “more light”. This is a never ending search, as the universality of the lodge has no confining walls. In this sense truth cannot be taught much the same way ritual and secrets are, it must be self-taught as the life-long search for divine truth is something very personal to each and every brother. It’s interpreted differently by everyone, always taking into consideration the teachings of the craft as they progress through life. When a new member is initiated, parts of the ritual seem strange to him. He is a “poor blind candidate” seeking light. In a Masonic lodge the East is a source of light and also represents the “origin of intellectual light” and the “symbol of spiritual light” as well. Each candidate must discover that light on his own, “stumbling over the stony ground” in front of him; to be in darkness is to be ignorant and unaware. Nothing exists within Freemasonry itself that gives an ultimate truth, however it does inspire individuals to search for knowledge on their own:
The search, then, after this truth, I suppose to constitute the end and design of Speculative Masonry. From the very commencement of his career, the aspirant is by significant symbols and expressive instructions directed to the acquisition of this divine truth; and the whole lesson, if not completed in its full extent, is at least well developed in the myths and legends of the Master’s degree. God and the soul–the unity of the one and the immortality of the other–are the great truths, the search for which is to constitute the constant occupation of every Mason, and which, when found, are to become the chief corner-stone, or the stone of foundation, of the spiritual temple–“the house not made with hands”–which he is engaged in erecting. (Mackey, 1882)
As Freemasons we are taught to question things that those outwith the temple wouldn’t normally question. Those seeking truth have more influence in the world, applying what they learn to their jobs, their families, and how they evaluate things.
Someone must believe in truthfulness if they are to use intellect to promote morality. To say it but not to actually do it is dishonorable, and will cause you to question yourself and create discord in your mind – thereby rendering yourself unable to take part in the light that Freemasonry has to offer:
The aspirant enters on this search after truth, as an Entered Apprentice, in darkness, seeking for light–the light of wisdom, the light of truth, the light symbolized by the Word. For this important task, upon which he starts forth gropingly, falteringly, doubtingly, in want and in weakness, he is prepared by a purification of the heart, and is invested with a first substitute for the true Word, which, like the pillar that went before the Israelites in the wilderness, is to guide him onwards in his weary journey. He is directed to take, as a staff and scrip for his journey, all those virtues which expand the heart and dignify the soul. Secrecy, obedience, humility, trust in God, purity of conscience, economy of time, are all inculcated by impressive types and symbols, which connect the first degree with the period of youth. (Mackey, 1882)
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