Illustrious Tom Davis, 33°, Personal Representative - Livingston Valley
For all of us the year 2020 has certainly challenged our senses, sensitivities and sensibilities to a point of doubt, if not total disbelief. As a race, humanity has certainly come a long way. And yet, we have to ask ourselves if indeed we have achieved a degree of civility which qualifies us to claim the ideal of an "enlightened" civilization. Considering all that we have encountered in the past year, are we yet capable of raising ourselves to a level of balance . . . a balance which allows us to analyze and adapt, while accepting and understanding? Can we recognize Truth where Truth exists, and reject falsehood for its own sake, all while acknowledging that both exist? Can we overcome adversity and prejudice, both collectively and personally, in order shape change in a positive way?
There have often occurred, in the course of human events, societal and political disruptions. In the history of the world we have experienced epidemics, challenges to the governance of ourselves and others, adverse changes of an immense scale in the course of our human progress, and always a testing of our core instincts and beliefs. But as we are taught, there is a Light guiding us on our journey. Freemasonry!
In the teachings of Freemasonry, if we are wise in their interpretation, we learn that adversity and challenge can be surmounted by our Faith and adherence to Duty - Faith in our Deity, and Duty to the service of mankind. Is there any informed Freemason who does not seek to better the circumstance of his brothers through enlightenment? And if this has all happened before, have we then learned from it and endeavored to affect such a change?
Some 150 years ago Albert Pike, in Morals and Dogma, addressed what he referred to as the then ". . . natural state of society . . ." in his interpretation of the XXVII Degree, Knight Commander of the Temple (the XXVIII Degree in the current revised rituals). Harkening back to the Middle Ages, Pike creates a metaphor for a "war of life" in which the chivalric Knights are compared to soldiers of Honor, Loyalty and Duty.
In his description of times eerily reminiscent of our present turmoils he writes: "Truth, in act, profession, and opinion, is rarer now than in the days of chivalry. Falsehood has become a current coin, and circulates with a certain degree of respectability; because it has an actual value. It is indeed the great Vice of the Age - it, and its twin-sister, Dishonesty. Men, for political preferment, profess whatever principles are expedient and profitable. At the bar [courts of law], in the pulpit, and in the halls of legislation, men argue against their own convictions, and, with what they term logic, prove to the satisfaction of others, that which they do not themselves believe. Insincerity and duplicity are valuable to their possessors, like estates in stocks, that yield a certain revenue: and it is no longer truth of an opinion or a principle, but the net profit that may be realized from it, which is the measure of its value."
Pike goes on to state: "The Press is the great sower of falsehood. To slander a political antagonist, to misrepresent all that he says, and if that be impossible, to invent for him what he does not say; to put in circulation whatever baseless calumnies against him are necessary to defeat him, - these are habits so common as to have ceased to excite notice or comment, much less surprise or disgust."
Referring to calamities of a more ominous nature, they, too, are nothing new. Pike's revelations are again, almost prophetic as he continues: "When a fearful epidemic ravages a city, and death is inhaled with the air men breathe; when the living scarcely suffice to bury the dead, - most men flee in abject terror, to return and live, respectable and influential, when the danger has passed away. But the old Knightly spirit of devotion and disinterestedness and contempt of death still lives, and is not extinct in the human heart."
Remember, brethren, that these words were penned a century and a half ago! Pike reminds us that we survived the vicissitudes and vagaries of that earlier time by simple acts of heroism and the performance of duty. Thus it follows that by applying and living the principles and doctrines of our beloved Fraternity we will fulfill our obligation to work toward the betterment of all mankind, under the Fatherhood of God.
Wherever your civic proclivities may point you, use as your compass the age tested tenets of our Fraternity. However fate may have visited you in your journey throughout a life of uncertainty, know that in abiding by the obligations to yourself, your brethren and your God, you have an eternal Light leading you along the way. And, remember that whatever laws of men you may be asked to obey, let your obedience be guided by the One True Law, the Law of Love!
So Mote It Be.