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“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities

and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready

to do every good work.”

Titus 3:1

Freemasonry holds that one of the worst personifications of the principle of evil is despotism.  That contention is held so strongly that our Scottish Rite Masons eventually vow eternal hostility to tyranny, which is nothing more than the imposition of the selfish desires of one man upon man’s natural-born spirit of freedom.  Masonry defines the despot as a criminal against the laws of nature who reduces the lives of many to his own will, replacing himself for the state and the voice of the people.

Although such vile immorality imposed upon humanity by certain governmental leaders is worthy of hostility, the Craft does not intend that Masons should rise in armed conflict every time a despot emerges.  Neither does the fraternity wish to limit a Mason’s understanding about who, or what is, or may become a despot.  Heads of state, religious leaders, proponents of a particular school of philosophical thought, or even the bully down the street may fit the Masonic definition of a despot.  The Masonic principles of positive thinking and positive emotion are more often Masonry’s recommended weapons as opposed to guns and bullets.

Though the individual despot may vary from head of state to the bully down the street, it is not difficult to discern the character traits common to all despots.  The tyrannical ruler of nations has left his indelible mark upon the pages of history: the people he or she governed suffered repression of freedoms, humiliation, outrage and often became the victims of murderous rages.  The religious despot has also littered the historical landscape with such obscenities as warfare waged against innocent human beings in the name of God.  Philosophical tyrants frequently have resorted to the demeaning tactic of unfairly marginalizing thought that differs in any material respect with the thought promoted by a particular philosophy.  Equally agonizing, the bully down the street threatens to physically beat anyone who does not pay him or her the respect he or she demands.

Revolutions have been fought to stop some of these examples of despotic power.  Yet, in the long term it is neither war nor revolution that will prevent the future emergence of other despots.  If freedom is to permanently replace repression, the principles of Freemasonry must be put into practice by people and nations.            In other words, as with most other matters upon which Masonry weighs in, it is more important that each individual is armed with the tools necessary to resist arbitrary power and rule than it is to arm the masses with weapons of human destruction.  Freemasonry is about building the Temple; it is not about tearing it down.

From time immemorial, Masonry has offered lessons that are intended to improve how men think, feel and act.  It is these to which we turn for a more enlightened understanding about how best to deal with the despots we encounter in our lives.  For example, the First Degree of Masonry offers instructions about the four cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice.  During the ritual in the Second Degree, candidates are introduced to the power of Pythagorean geometry – the true beauty of morality.  And, in the Third Degree, Masonry reaches out to impress upon our minds the fact that true immortality cannot be based upon anything other than honor and virtue.  While these three degrees principally reach out to each individual Mason and seek to affect his thoughts and feelings, the principles derived from those lessons are equally valuable to the worldwide community.

Because everyone cannot become a Mason, the world may only experience the benefit of those Masonic principles when they are put into action by Masons.  Every faithful Mason who does so changes not only the environment where he lives, he also contributes to changing the environment of the entire world.  To prove our point, consider the possibilities of the dramatic impact the lessons from the three Masonic degrees may have upon society.

To be temperate, one must constantly keep guard over his passions.  This does not mean that Masons are expected to become monks.  Rather, when living life to its fullest extent, a Mason is expected not to do anything that brings shame on himself, or the fraternity.  No hard and fast rules are set forth – the Mason knows what that means: everything in moderation.  In other words, temperance teaches one not to be extreme in his or her points of view about matters relating to politics and religion.  Do you think the world today could benefit from a broader practice of this virtue?  If so, faithfully incorporate it into your daily life and miracles will happen – despots will be vanquished.

When exercising fortitude, one must necessarily act courageously and not unreasonably permit fear to alter the course of his or her conduct.  If any one emotion has caused more pain and suffering throughout history, it is without question the emotion of fear – fear of humiliation, fear of being laughed at, fear of losing, fear of being wrong, fear of rejection, and so on and so forth.  Fear can cause a person to actually adopt extremism in place of temperance or tolerance.  Fear can also cause one to support an immoral purpose, to embrace the hatred of others, or to even regard God with disdain and suspicion rather than with unfailing love.  In short, fear can become the despot’s greatest weapon against those who seek his removal.

Prudence teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeable to that which is reasonable.  Undeniably that which is reasonable will vary from circumstance to circumstance, as well as from time to time.  Yet, if one presented with a choice of action will simply pause to reflect upon the consequences of each choice, the more reasonable of the two will become obvious.  Despots prefer that their subject behave impetuously and give little thought to the consequences of poor choices.  Masonry asks us to weigh carefully the choices life presents and to do the best we can to consistently select the more reasonable option.  Do you believe that there is too little evidence that prudence is alive and well in our world today?  If so, be a force for change – resolve not to act impetuously in any matter that is significant to the welfare of others.

Justice is that standard that requires us to render unto every man his just due without consideration to such things as race, color, religion, or creed.  Masonry does not merely demand that we are fair with our friends – we are also expected to be fair with our enemies, as well.  But, justice also requires that men act with mercy, which is not commonly found among depots.  Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find very many examples from the past when despots have behaved justly toward anyone other than themselves.  True justice first requires the setting aside of self interest.  Masonry teaches that it is impossible for man to act in the in the best interest of others when he first insists upon protecting his own interest.

While focusing upon geometry during the Second Degree, Masonry does not intend to merely the mathematics taught in schools.  Rather, the geometry taught in Masonry instructs upon the beauties that flow from Pythagorean philosophy.  One extraordinarily important maxim from that philosophy is that life is a law of nature and, as a consequence, it is in man’s nature to always be free.  Pythagoras believed that it was essential for mankind to comprehend the laws of all nature, including the laws pertaining to the heavens and the stars.  From a study of nature, Pythagoras believed that man would eventually come to understand that for every act there is a consequence; for each cause a predictable effect will follow.  The wise Mason understands that lesson and by virtue of his own experience has learned what conditions must exist in the world around him before he may enjoy true peace and freedom – before all men can live in a world without despots.

Those conditions are best exemplified by the lessons about immortality drawn from the Third Degree.  Masonry embraces the truth that life as created by God never ends.  It changes, as every human being should know, but it never terminates.  Since the despot’s greatest weapon is fear, once all men also embrace the truth about immortality fear’s grip on the soul of all societies is seriously weakened.  If you will change, but never die, of what is there to fear?  Perhaps one will answer that even if I shall live forever, there is still the chance that I can lose prestige, standing, respect, a job, money or valued possessions, if I do not act as the despot demands.  Yet, that proposition assumes a life without God – a life without the warm touch of His grace.  Masonry does not teach such an assumption.  To the contrary, Masonry boldly acknowledges that the history of man is a history about human beings ever evolving spiritually to enable all mankind to be regarded by the Great Architect as his best, closest and dearest friends.

It is that to which Masonry aspires.  It is that condition in the world that the despot most fears.  It is to that end that you have been called into existence, my brethren.  Embrace the knowledge and live it in the world – despots will vanish before your very eyes.