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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Scottish Rite Masonry is not for the layperson; it is not for the common Mason. Scottish Rite Masonry is for those who are seeking yet more Light, those who are seeking to diffuse that light into its many parts and study each in depth. Study and circumspection are required to advance in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. This degree is especially for those who are looking beyond the pomp and ceremony of Masonic ritual; it is directly for those who seek to find the hidden meanings and truths that lie beneath the surface of our Masonic symbolisms. The road to knowledge, wisdom and truth found within Masonry is unending; how far each individual Mason desires to travel is limited only by the individual himself. As with all things darkness and light are in a constant struggle, there will be many barriers between those who pursue this journey and their object.
One must be prepared to accept these truths contained within Scottish Rite Masonry. Those who are seeking it shall have been permeated with the morals and ethics of Masonic virtue and have placed that knowledge to the forefront of their actions. Only then, when the morals and ethics have been understood and applied is an individual ready to receive the absolute enormity of Masonic truths by ascending the slopes of philosophy towards the zenith of Masonic light. Each incremental step is advancement toward enlightenment; each degree of the Scottish Rite is meant to aid the realization of those steps. Each step, each degree is meant to inculcate a particular obligation that ennobles enlightenment. Those duties previously assigned have been to indoctrinate a charitable nature and munificence; to epitomize virtue; to identify and correct vices within oneself; and to endeavor to uplift and correct a less informed brother. As in all degrees the purpose of which is the veneration of our God; it is to perpetuate the attributes found desirable by the Supreme Architect of the Universe. To ennoble His infinite greatness and goodness, to embody the virtues that venerate His holy name is the first and foremost Masonic obligation.
During the floor work of this degree the candidate is caused to make five circuits around the lodge, which alludes to the five points of fellowship that govern our actions toward our brother Masons. These five points should remain fixed within our minds and these five circuits are a cause to bring them vividly to the minds eye. That we should be ever ready and willing to attend a brother's relief, even with unshod feet and sharp gravel beneath; to remember our brothers in our prayers before God that his welfare should be considered along with our own; that we should take a brother to our breast, to heed his words, guard his secrets and protect him against malice; to lend him aid and sustain him that he should neither stumble or befall hardship; and to take him into our confidence to discreetly admonish him with honest and friendly advise, and to apprise him of impending danger that he may ward against forthcoming peril.
There are three signs of this degree, the first of which imparts reticence and humility by which we seek to emulate the attributes of Deity; the second expresses the profound admiration and veneration with which we ponder His glory; the third, bestows the profound regret we experience at the knowledge of our own inadequate observance of our duties, and our failings in the adherence of His laws.
It is the highest pursuit of mankind to follow after the truth of the Creator's tenets, to seek knowledge and to ponder the wonders of His creations. In our meditations upon the arrangement of the universe He has created, we attempt to glean knowledge of Him, His wonders, and the obscure facets of His works. Masonry from its inception has held that religious devotion to our particular faiths is paramount, and the fruits of this good work aid our fraternity. Masonry has always supported Religious servitude and recognized that Masonry supplements this devotion by steering our course and enforcing our religious tenets that inculcate love of God and love of neighbor. Masons are not content to take these higher directions to their Lodges, but bring them home to their family and communities. Where sectarian creeds seeks to separate people and divide them by doctrine and dogma, Masonry engulfs all men of all faiths in a universal brotherhood spanning the globe and thereby strengthens our religious ties to our God who finds pleasing Charity and Benevolence.
The Masonic lodge is indeed a beehive, where all Masons from their separate and distinct backgrounds work together for a common good and the elevation of humanity. It is the Lodge's purpose provide solace and charity to the unfortunate; to promote knowledge and virtue toward the aspiration of wisdom; to inculcate devotion to Deity and to promote meditation and philosophy; to assist brothers in the pursuit of fulfillment in this world, happiness and confidence in a future life of immortality; and to aspire for that day when all mankind may join together in devotion to God and be united in the bond of tolerance, and fraternity. Those who are not of like mind; those who desire lofty titles and positions, those who have ulterior motives and are self aggrandizing do not comprehend the far more noble and glorious purposes of our craft. They are anchors that weigh down our higher and nobler pursuits; they detract from our grand purpose by distracting brothers from receiving deeper Masonic understanding and application.
Masonry is not purposed to be extravagant, excessive, or impracticable; those ideals should have been cast aside when one first became a Mason in their heart. The Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft are not expected to perform any great feat, or accomplish some impossible task, rather their duties are simplicity incarnate, and humility realized. The teachings of Masonry are practical in nature and every honest, just and upright man regardless of faith, creed or nationality can easily accomplish its tenets.
Masonry does not delve into religious teachings or dogmatic practices particular to any faith, nor does Masonry seek to define the nature of the immortality of the soul. The teachings of Masonry are only subject to those truths that are imparted by God and inculcated into the hearts of men of all faiths. The philosophies of Masonry are those subject to the precepts of all good men, wise, and incorruptible. Masonry is not dogmatic nor does it perceive any form of zealotry to be attainable. Masonry does not denigrate this world as being a fleeting place corrupted and unworthy of our consideration; it does not cast aside this earthly life as empty and fleeting with sole fixation upon the heavenly realm. This world crafted by the Supreme Architect of the Universe has a noble purpose and design as molded by the Supreme Creator. This world was not brought into being as an imperfection and flaw in creation. Its purpose designed by the Creator is filled with wonder and beauty; the wise man knows this world is valuable and purposeful in its own right. What we do with the wonders and beauty of creation here on earth is recollected; the purposes we assign to the betterment of mankind and humanity are the meaning of life. We are given but a limited time on this planet to make an impression for the betterment of society, improve humanity and appreciate the glories of God's creations. Man does have duties to perform and a purpose to accomplish on this earth; that this world is not merely a rest stop on our way to the heavenly realm. This life is integral and filled with profound meaning. While yet we believe in the immortality of the soul as a Masonic Landmark, it is a source of speculation and trust in the God of our particular faiths. The present is of our primary concern for what we do with this life, with this earth is the development of our soul and the beginning of immortality. Mankind was given the gift of this earth to live our lives and raise our families; we were granted access to the wonders of the earth to study, love, and embellish upon in our own fashion and not to be constantly yearning to rid ourselves of it in deference to another. That this life and this earth are part of our immortality and that this world contributes to the development of our soul.
It is these truths that Masonry teaches, that we must be vigilant in the present in preparation for the future; that the unknown should not hold sway over the present, but to do our duty and accomplish our responsibilities on this earth first and foremost. It is likely for this reason what lies beyond this world remains a mystery; we are given hope, a promise and our trust in the Creator should be enough to satisfy our concern, but not to the extent we neglect our responsibilities here. God has not crafted this world simply for nothing; he has created this world and declared that it is good in his eyes and pleased by its creation. Therefore we too must feel a deep interest in it and work with stark determination for its improvement out of profound respect for his creation and gift. To Masons the object of this world is worth the exertion and we are contented to reside here as having been granted a special favor by the Creator of all things. It is a serious act of disrespect to disregard the whole of this earthly realm and to perceive the wonders of creation as merely a drudgery to endure until life here is concluded. To be discontent with this world and this gift that even the angels are envious of is an affront to Him and the gift of life and creation.
We all love life, in that it holds with all of its evils that life is a blessing filled with wonder and marvels. The lengths we span to cling to life, our home, our city, region and country is proof of our ties to this world; wherever we call home and have spent our years on earth tethers us to society. We recollect misery and agony because happiness is our expectation; it is what we consider normal. Misery and anguish are recollected with powerful memories because they are foreign to our minds; they being alien to us are strange and create a lasting impression. Happiness frequents us, it abounds with us, simple joys surround us and our mind welcomes these as natural aspects of our life. The presence of Joy does not baffle us or excite us because it is an old friend whom we have grown accustomed to. Misery and agony are like a great epoch to the history of our memories; their foreign and alien disturbing impressions linger because they are recognized as not the common course of our thoughts. They are the great earthquakes and storms forever recorded in the history of our memories where the spans of happiness, joy and prosperity are forgotten in between. We recall dark and dreary unpleasantness that has befallen us with vivid memory yet those times of quiet reflection, joy, and affection are stored deep within the unconsciousness of our minds because they were gentle to our senses and did not create a stir to jolt our consciousness.
Life is the wondrous and mystical gift the Creator has presented to us, being created from nothing. Who among us cannot stare at the wondrous presentation of an infant and the knowledge that it's breath of life had spanned the infinite? Who cannot respect the bounding enthusiasm of youth and innocence? Who cannot appreciate the satisfaction maturity brings and the pride of one's children; and when old age creeps in, whom among us cannot respect the quiet wisdom begot by a well spent life? There are indeed a multitude of blessings presented upon an infant upon its mortal existence as its life is spread before it; and when its earthly life is complete there too is hope for an everlasting future. It is for this reason that to all regular and well-made Masons our lives are not viewed as a purgatory existence awaiting a heavenly realm, rather this earth is the gift and the birth of our journey towards immortality. "To the lofty minded, the pure, and the virtuous, this life is the beginning of Heaven, and a part of immortality" (M&D p.144).
Though we may not be capable of controlling the hand we are dealt within this world, whether born to wealthy and noble parents or born to poverty, we each control the perceptions we craft to deal with our lot in life. It is not some alien or exterior force that provides us with good or evil fortunes; we ourselves determine whether our glass is half-full or half-empty. Masons are no longer the wealthy and elite class of society, rather all good men regardless of their station in life have the opportunity to enter within the numbers of our fraternity. It is the precepts of Freemasonry that teaches us to scorn dishonesty more so than death; to perceive bigotry as a worse malady than cancer, and to view pride as yet more sinister and fetid than them both. Poverty is a more noble condition than to suffer avarice, haughtiness and greed; no station in life is evil so long as an individual is content. No man is enslaved to their lot in life unless they have shackled themselves in the pursuit of wealth, the fear of death, epicurean pleasures, or self-pity; to command such worldly passions places us above their nets, free and noble to walk proudly within this world.
When fate seems cruel and we are dealt a weighty hand it does not reap any benefit to sit and complain how woeful our tribulations are. It is of no benefit to the spirit or improvement of our soul should we bemoan the cruelties of misfortune by languishing in self- pity and commiserating our misery with others of like countenance. The true and noble man and Mason will make the best of even the most dire mischance and unfortunate circumstance by seeking the good in any situation or by crafting misfortune in a way so as to reap beneficial results. With equanimity, patience, and determination no situation is so dire it cannot be resolved for our benefit. If we are given to patient reasoning, sound judgment, and humility to develop ourselves in an act of gallant endurance to overcome our situation, it will have improved our soul to a greater benefit than any earthly affliction we may have suffered. It is only with this wisdom that we may overrule any perceived cruelties of fate that may befall us and thereby learn to control our perceptions to be content with our lives regardless of any chance encounter.
We should not be given to self-comparison with those who have what appears to be a better station in life; instead we should secure our blessings by viewing those whom we would never wish to trade fortunes. Do not bemoan the duties now occupied for not being greater or loftier; even the great and lofty have fallen victim to their own avarice. While there are always those who may seem more fortunate by being blessed with riches, wealth or power, there are millions who are yet more downtrodden and in a less fortunate position than in your own comparison. Choose to enjoy the blessings of the day, for there are always blessings to abound in all the natural beauties and wonders of the earth; bear any malevolence we may perceive with equanimity. We should measure our hopes and aspirations in accordance to our present condition and station in life. If we choose to compare our fortune by our lofty desires we will always be disappointed. Though as Masons we must be contented in our own lives, we must not suffer selfishness in our contentedness by being indifferent to the needs of those less fortunate. We should make use of whatever blessings we have to be charitable towards others and to exercise acts of beneficence.
Charitable good will towards others in this world is the extension of God's will and mercy upon mankind. Where there are those in need of relief, the anonymous benefactor is always steered by the Creator's compassion. The absolution of our own sins and transgressions can be absolved to a degree by our willingness and ability to assist, relieve and forgive our fellow creatures. We hope to that on the day of our judgment by the Creator of all things, our charity will serve as a counterbalance to the weight of our own transgressions. The amount of assistance, alms and relief we provide to our neighbor is our ability exercise divine qualities pleasing to God.
These degrees of Freemasonry are intended to impart so much more than simply the moral application of ethical virtues. The symbolism and ritual of Masonry have deeper and more profound meanings than those that appear on the surface, in that to a degree they conceal the deeper aspects of the truths they disclose. They allude to the varied meanings we may obtain and discover only through quiet circumspection, meditation and personal application. Truth as light is not simply the shining ray that illuminates our vision; light can be diffused, divided into its many facets, colors and tones just as truth can be separated into the many shades of its interpretation and meaning. It is the aspiration of Masonry to impart all truths, not simply those that impart morality, but also those that are ethical, political, religious, philosophical and scientific. This is our ambition, to seek these truths not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of our brother Masons, and all of humanity. Those who wish to conceal truth as a means of depriving others of liberty are the enemies of Freemasonry. Wherever dispersed, in whatever country or jurisdiction our enemy is the enemy of all Masons and mankind. Those who seek to disparage light, life and liberties; those who in their own dogma and zealotry employ tyranny to blind their neighbor are our foes, our nemesis and are our archrivals. We must never become complacent in this battle, it will rage so long as the forces of good and evil battle each other upon this earth. Our moment of complacency, our lackadaisical slumber is a victory for our enemies and the foes of all that is good, equitable and charitable in God's good nature. As the degrees of the Scottish Rite progress, this battle will become more profound, more meaningful and more energetic for our own participation. Heed this warning as you continue your pursuit of truth.
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