This webpage -- and all others that start with http://bessel.org/russo/ -- were written entirely by Jason C. Russo 32°, as his personal summary of the book, Morals and Dogma, written by Albert Pike in the 1800s. The credit for the content of these summaries belongs exclusively to Bro. Russo, and compliments, comments, and questions can be emailed to him at email@example.com
The emphasis for this degree demands we inculcate justice, working to ensure it prevails in all things. Foremost we are to exercise justice in all of our dealings with mankind. As is our right, each man and Mason may be called to perform our duty as a juror in a trial to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. We have no choice but to accept the weighty responsibility of our calling; the nature of our character will determine the nobility of our decisions. Those entrusted with the power and authority to judge others must be fair and impartial in their decisions to dole out both punishment and reward. They must be incorruptible; rich or poor, affluent or modest, powerful or destitute, all have an equal claim upon the rights of justice.
Impartiality requires freedom from prejudicial preconceptions for any individual or group of individuals. Regardless of stereotypes that my have arisen and clouds our mind with the desire to judge a person based upon a notion of ingrained bias, we must rely solely upon factual information to base our decisions. We should never rush to a conclusion, or rush to an interpretation of events to satiate an angry mob, or to expedite our responsibilities for selfish gain. All arguments must be heard, weighed and contemplated in order to formulate the basis for our final decisions. It is our responsibility to listen vigilantly, recall events and evidence precisely, and weigh carefully the balance of evidence to formulate a decision absent rancor, prejudice or presumptions.
In our dealings with others and considering personal injustices there are two major forms of injustice against an individual. There are those who cause the injury to another, those who wield the knife that cuts thereby committing the fraud that disenfranchises another. Direct injustice is predatory in nature against which the guilt is plain and easily assigned. The second is worse because a coward or weasel in an indirect fashion commits it. Indirect crimes are those that an individual knows of and fails to prevent or warn against. Those who know of a crime about to be committed and yet do nothing to prevent it are socially detestable and repugnant in the eyes of all decent men. Wrongs committed either by direct or indirect means are offenses against the laws of justice whether they are against those laws written in the canons of legal codes or a grievance against moral law.
Wrongs and injustice once committed can never be undone. Once an error is made, once any action is committed, it effects every other action in a continual cycle of events. Nothing can revoke an action once carried out. The lingering consequences of every action and decision are far reaching. Each wrong committed must be accounted for and atoned; the consequence of an injustice carries its own retribution against the soul. There is no safe harbor against the consequences of evil or unjust deeds, regardless of any atonement and forgiveness for whatever grievance was committed. There still is a causal relationship between action and reaction; forgiveness, apologies and atonement can never erase the action and therefore can never erase the causal relationship that action will have caused. All actions have a life of their own seeking a balance and a natural path to an end once begun. Efforts may be made for redemption after the fact to make amends for misdeeds, much effort must be expended on the soul to right a wrong in order to regain the holiness lost through injustice.
There is a great disparity between those who attempt to refrain from negative influences by learning from experience and then atoning for their actions, and those who avoid pitfalls by carefully observing the life lessons of others. Those who carefully scrutinize the lives and mistakes others have made glean the knowledge and benefit of the past transgressions already made; they invoke wisdom by realizing even unintentional transgressions must bear the consequences of their actions and are thus more selective in their dealings expeditiously utilizing sound judgment. When we grieve another we may be genuinely apologetic, we may attempt to make amends and even may be forgiven—but the deed done can never be revoked and no earthly power can undo any act once committed. To repent and make amends may serve to purify the heart and alleviate guilt but the harm caused cannot be undone, it is forever locked in the annals of time as an addition to the permanent history that is forever recorded. Irrevocable actions reverberate through time and forever cast an eternal imprint upon the soul. This does not nullify the validity or the importance of repentance; rather it reinforces its validity and necessity. Though a transgression may have transpired, repentance and atonement seek balance and serves to protect against similar future transgressions.
The act of requesting forgiveness and by seeking atonement we issue a promise, the words of which may be forgotten by us but not there meaning. After speaking our words the breath of our voices dissipate upon the air becoming inaudible to the human ear—yet they remain riding the infinitesimal currents of the air to join with others. The collective voices of humanity seeking forgiveness and begging atonement are like a great wind of voices rising up to make a continuous wind of supplication before God.
Nothing we do is ever completely forgotten; God is keenly aware of all of our actions, thoughts and deeds. He knows our will and our hearts; even the silent promises that remain unuttered. No act of injustice is ever forgotten because it impacts the life, memory and future actions of those who have been affected by it. Masonry seeks to utilize the greater wisdom to implore our actions so that the commission of injustice is prevented by our keen consciences. Masonry does not do this by attempting to replace the religious tenets of the Holy Bible, or by the usurpation of the laws of the several municipalities in which we may reside. Masonic law is merely the moral obligation to do right; it is the acknowledgement of the causal relationship that our actions will have by reverberating throughout time. The lingering and lasting effects on an individual who had been wronged, even if no written law had been broken will change views and perceptions, and serve to negatively reflect upon future transactions, thereby leaving an indelible mark upon the wronged individual's soul and psyche.
It is the endeavor of Masonry to uplift the morality and ethics of mankind through restraint and the prevention of injustice. Masonry has the ability to reprimand those who commit a moral wrong where there is no governmental or religious law to prevent it. How is this so? Should a brother inhibit the progress and advancement of a candidate because the time required to educate the apprentice is viewed as an inconvenience to his daily routine, this is a Masonic wrong. In this scenario no Law had been broken written by any governmental municipality, yet a moral injustice had been committed. Masonry sees beyond things that are written and enforces what is right, moral, and ethical. Where one Mason may place his own desires and pursuits above the genuine needs of a fellow brother, he has committed a Masonic offense.
Should an individual coerce, coax, or through influence of opinion convince others to abandon their moral or Masonic obligations, what can the possible outcome be? Even if the individual had repented for their own selfishness, what recourse is there for the brothers whom he has led astray through improper influence? What then of the youngest Entered Apprentice who falls victim to un-Masonic conduct through the example of an elder brother? What of the consequences for disenchanting the Entered Apprentice causing him to view our fraternal society as lackluster and no different than any other social organization?
The sin for leading another astray is one that cannot be erased and cannot be undone. Sorrowful repentance and the anguish of a tortured soul cannot restore the nobility of our craft in the eyes of those who have been disenchanted by the un-Masonic conduct of one of our numbers. What forgiveness can there be should a good and moral man be cubed before the lodge and barred entry into our Masonic fraternity? How can these sins be righted if the young brother or potential brother has forever been led astray?
"Masonry by its teachings endeavors to restrain men from the commission of injustice and acts of wrong and outrage…it condemns and punishes offenses which neither that law punishes nor public opinion condemns. In Masonic law, to cheat and overreach in trade, at the bar, in politics, are deemed no more venial than theft; nor a deliberate lie than perjury; or slander than robbery; or seduction than murder.
Especially it condemns those wrongs of which the doer induces another to partake. He may repent; he may, after agonizing struggles, regain the path of virtue; his spirit may re-achieve its purity through much anguish, after many strife's; but the weaker fellow-creature whom he led astray, whom he made a sharer in his guilt, but whom he cannot make a sharer in his repentance and amendment, whose downward course he cannot check, but is compelled to witness—what forgiveness of sins can avail him there?" Morals and Dogma, pp. 129-130.
Moderation must be in our view and the weight of the totality of the circumstances we must consider lest we judge others too harshly. Everyone has contemplated sin and wrongdoing and therefore we must be mindful and accountable for our own weaknesses when considering the judgments of others. We must weigh the circumstances and ask ourselves if under similar arrangements or under a more dire situation could we have befallen a similar lapse of our better judgment? Each man bears his own sins; some sins are public and earn public repudiation and scorn. The individual who may appear upright before his neighbors may indeed be guiltier in his private sins when presented before an equal throne of judgment. Although we may identify whose guilt is more evident before the law of man by presentation of public facts, we cannot make the determination when considering whose soul is cleanest before the judgment of God who sees the sins committed in the light as in the dark.
In the condemnation of another for their sins, can we know what level of self-contest preceded that sin and what grief and repentance followed? Can we truly know how we may have acted in a similar circumstance? Is it possible that we ourselves may have yielded more quickly to temptation under similar circumstances? Could it be our own conscience may have conceded to sin well before the individual we are judging? With this in mind we must concentrate on the fairness of our judgment. It very well may be that we did not commit a similar sin because we were not enough tempted, or that the individual whom we are in judgment of may at heart be as noble as we ourselves and yet be the victim of circumstance. Therefore each man must search his own heart and become intimate with his own failings and weakness. Though we may be asked or required to serve as judge or jury to the laws of man, we must do so to the best of our ability, without rancor, malice or prejudice. Even a gross sinner may atone and repent before God, as David was forgiven for his grave sins. We cannot judge the soul or the heart of a man, but only the deeds committed by definition of the laws given to us by man. In the service of the law we cannot attempt to judge the soul or the heart, nor can we determine if the individual is beyond forgiveness. We must do well in the performance of our duties to be honest in our assessment and the review of facts and circumstances to make our determination of guilt or innocence.
Due to the serious nature of judging others, and the fallibility of all men, we should never be eager to volunteer our services as judge or jury due to the consequences of any error on our part. We should be fair and equitable, well versed in the factual information presented for our review and fairly consider the totality of the circumstances involved. All men judge each other to one degree or another, and it is also true we judge others by a harsher standard than we judge ourselves; we must strive to be charitable in our judgments and be ever vigilant never to wrongly judge another or condemn them in error. The consequences of any error we may make will adversely affect that individual and will result in our own sin and error.
We should also guard ourselves against becoming callous to common crimes, lest their frequency affect our moral discipline for what is, and what is not acceptable. Never forget it is the responsibility of every Mason to elevate humanity. If we allow indifference to creep into our conscience we may become numb to social evils. Good men should take pride in their dedication and wear it as a badge of honor even when society at large is at odds with our moral convictions. Even though we may have risen above common baseness and share no commonality with the denizens who surround us, we must not be aloof and unapproachable. Where our moral uprightness should be the example for emulation, those same peaks of ethical and moral standards should never seem to appear beyond reach, but rather an attainable goal for all men to attempt to duplicate in their own lives. We should never allow haughtiness to become our sin; heirs of superiority will be a disservice to our moral uprightness. Conversely, humility is inviting and thus provides attainability for all who seek self-improvement.
The afflictions of human nature befall us all; we must be wary not to think too highly of ourselves by comparing our virtues to the vices of others. Even the most just and upright Mason must battle his own sins, just because his sins may be more secret or out of public view does not make him more virtuous. Haughtiness is a sin; to revel in the failings of another to support self-elevation is reprehensible. Who are we to assume we can compare our heart and soul to that of our neighbor? We must remind ourselves to be gentle and kind; the heart of our neighbor though battling sins may still find favor with God for having repented with soulful and mournful regret, while our own haughtiness may remain unredeemed for lack of shame and reconciliation. We are not God's emissaries to judge our neighbors with contempt and scorn. While we should not castigate the sinner too harshly, we must always hold the individual sin with disdain.
When our brother fails and commits a wrongdoing we must remind ourselves of our obligation, and in the most friendly manner remind him of his error and aid a reformation. Too often we are quick to remind him of his error but abandon him while he is in need of assistance to aid his reformation. Each individual suffers similar passions, propensities and exposures, however experiences from the past may have altered the propensity for certain sins making them more susceptible to those base behaviors. Although the sins committed should be condemned, the individual should be pitied. It is not becoming for our own sinful nature to be vindictive towards others in the commission of their sins; we owe more to God's good graces for creating within us a more favorable virtue. Who can say that under similar circumstances, similar temptations, that we ourselves would not have succumbed or would we have succumbed with yet less temptation? Unspoken sympathy and regret should commiserate with our abhorrence of the crime committed. The hardened criminal is as human as you or I, however the impressions upon the soul have been corrupted. Divorced parents, lack of discipline, abuse, bad associations, vulnerability-easily giving sway to peer pressures, substance abuse and other factors may have contributed to the deterioration of the soul making that same man as your or I, a repeat offender and a violent felon. As compassionate creatures we are required to pity these individuals even though we hold their actions with the deepest contempt. It may be that when God weighs the scales of judgment he may factor the experiences and adverse circumstances that produced such a blighted soul and be judged lighter on account of them. So too might we be judged more harshly by a similar standard.
Therefore on every occasion in life, at work and at home, within the Lodge and without, every Mason should observe care and circumspection in judgment. Avoid judgment if possible; when judgment is necessary do so reluctantly and with the full weight of the circumstances and factual evidence. Judge the actions and crimes committed and not the individual. Never attempt to judge the heart of soul of another; it is not in our capabilities to do so—that is God's realm. Be compassionate to others, and pity those less fortunate and those whose circumstances have marred their being. Remember that we too are not without our faults; our private sins are kept and accounted for awaiting our own judgment; how we will fare still hangs in the balance. These are the lessons imparted to the Provost and Judge.
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