of this Column may be interested to know that Candide recently visited the
Pantheon in Paris and there to honour the last resting place of Brother
Voltaire, Brother Rousseau and other Enlightenment Brethren. Yes, a most moving
experience. It is also the location of Foucault’s Pendulum; Umberto Eco’s
book of the same name is, it is respectfully suggested, essential reading for
to another Masonic read, under the entry Ethics
and morality in Mackey’s Encyclopaedia,
is not a system of morality……and was never intended to be but is a
fraternity of which the grand idea is work…….never
intended to be an ethical cultural society, nor one devoted to moral reform; it
requires that any work of moral reform shall have been completed (if needed) (sic!)
in the petitioner as a qualification for his candidacy. Also, to describe
Freemasonry as a system of morality….makes it appear that it may have one to
itself whereas there is no datum….to show that in any grand lodge …..the
question of forming a system of morality has ever been raised.”
many, this claim will fly in the face of the ritual with which they made their
entry and progression into, and through, the degrees of Freemasonry. Yet, it is
clear why this was written and for whose benefit. It certainly addressed
problems at the faultlines of Masonic theory and practice. However, in so doing,
it opened a fissure that is wider and into which any rational basis for
Freemasonry seemingly disappears into the fiery mantle below.
Not so much a body without a soul; but rather, a language without a
grammar: that by definition cannot be possible.
pragmatic could be dismissed by suggesting that any organisation, with a
constitution, creates a system which states, what is to be done, how it is to be
done and safeguards against contrary practice; in so doing it must be understood
as a cultural and ethical entity. That is to say, a system that defines
“what” and “how” and “what not” and “how not” must provide a
moral imperative for those who join of their own freewill and accord.
However, please permit me to dilate.
claim that any moral reform will have been completed (“if necessary”!) in a petitioner entails the question - reform from
what and to what? What is the moral position that qualifies a petitioner for
admission? Whatever it is, it must equate with that of the particular grand
lodge’s own concept of morality. That in turn must identify that particular
grand lodge with a moral position; whether or not, that was its intention, or if
“the question ever been raised”!
reason why Mackey wished to dismiss the idea of Freemasonry as being a discrete
system of morality follows precisely along the lines of Anderson’s own
pragmatism wanting to be, “all things to all (the right) men”, without
incurring a tectonic collision with the plates of the established systems of
morality in general; and, with the leaderships’ of the communities of revealed
faiths in particular.
all is not lost; far from it. On one point Mackey is so correct and in so being,
the rest of his comments dissolve. Yes, “Freemasonry’s….grand idea is work”. That being the case,
Freemasonry has created its own distinctive system of morality.
the Autumn 2007 edition of Pietre Stones review, Candide’s
Column, written with Dr. Judith Rasoletti, it was suggested that:- “What
may be a unique feature of Freemasonry is that the source of its system of
morality is found in the places of work and labour and from there applied to
life rather than the other way around. That
is to say, the virtues of integrity, cooperation, accuracy (honesty) and
assiduity that combine to produce quality outcomes arise from the workplace, the
Masonic Lodge, and are then applied to the rest of life.”
it is timely for a development of this concept. However, and by way of setting
an unfamiliar scene, the suggestion is made that the designation, “a peculiar
system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” so fully,
stunningly and breathtakingly, describes any and all religions that one could be
persuaded that it is a definition made in heaven. The revealed religions are
thus called as they claim an extraterrestrial inspiration for a text written,
edited, interpreted and disseminated by terrestrials. These texts include the
“what” and “how and the “what not” and “how not” as indicated
is with great relief that I indicate my unawareness of any GL claiming an
extra-terrestrially inspired text as being the basis of its constitution. As
Mackey correctly says, “the grand idea
is work”. Or perhaps even
better, the grand idea is the work-place and the values that originate and
emanate there from.
are very clear that without food, clothing and shelter, existence for humans is
not possible. And, perhaps it is the case that without a surplus of these
primary material goods, human existence in anything like its fullness is not
possible. These primary social goods have to be produced, albeit by the sweat of
the brow (or stress of the mind in the case on non-manual operatives).
It is in the process of producing and distributing these primary goods
and the activities of the operatives involved – labour - is to which we must
turn our attention in order to seek and identify the source of the Masonic
system of morality.
and given Freemasonry as known and loved, we are drawn to the building site as
being the paradigm workplace. However, what are the requirements that are both
necessary and sufficient to ensure the construction of a building fit for
purpose? Firstly, there has to be a purpose and it will necessarily inform the
design of the building. This will be followed by an action plan to sub-divide
the design proposal into a series of deliverable operations; and finally,
resources of labour, materials and the implements of labour with which to
execute the action plan. What is it that is required of the labour force to
ensure that the outcome will be fit for purpose? The only possible answer is,
the identification of, and adherence to, a system of workplace values – a
system of morality that identifies and defines the “what” and “how” and
the “what not” and “how not” - otherwise known as the work ethic.
Obviously this will include being trained in workplace practice to ensure the
production of an acceptable quality and quantity of output. It is not good that
man should dwell alone; therefore, all good human work is teamwork and this
entails operations that provide self and mutual respect.
values are necessary to deliver outcomes that are fit for purpose – good work.
Freemasonry is an identification of, and engagement with, good work. That is to
say, a oneness with what is required to achieve it, taking these values and
applying them to the rest of life. A
person, on first joining the workplace is unaware of these values and is without
them; they are taught by degrees! It
is by progressing through these degrees, in the workplace, that the person’s
character is thereby improved – built up.
is reinforced by Freemasonry. Therefore, Mackey is surely incorrect to suggest
that a petitioner is reformed (if necessary – oh dear!) as a prior
qualification for initiation. There
are testimonies of masons to the effect that it was through their practice of
Freemasonry that the work ethic was acquired and/or reinforced.
is through working the degrees in the workplace of the lodge that a person is
formed, a better person and more able to be of service to humankind; that is to
say, an improving person and one who thereby contributes to building a better
world - that, it is respectfully suggested, is Freemasonry’s peculiar system
of morality. However, as it emanates from the workplace and not
extra-terrestrially, it does enjoy being proscribed by large sectors of the