Thursday, May 8, 2008

McMorals and McDogma

Just how many of YOU have read 'Morals and Dogma' from cover to cover? Oh come now. Do you have it in your Masonic library sitting next to 'Born in Blood' or 'The Hiram Key?' Have you thumbed through your Grandfather's edition...the one with the unusually crisp pages that look like good ol granddad didnt pay much attention to it either?

Yes. It IS 800 pages long and is at times ambiguous to the laymen, wordy, and something of a Tome. Yes. It is a hard read.

It is also a Treasury of Masonic Knowledge.

First published in 1872, 'Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry' (already a mouthful) was sourced, compiled and written by the Illustrious Grandmaster of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, Albert Pike.

Over the years, the book has been the subject of several revisions, a good deal of criticism and continues even today to stand at the epicenter of modern Freemasonic controversy. For decades, Scottish Rite candidates were presented the book upon their obligations to the Order. 'Morals and Dogma' contains the synopsis of the 29 additional Scottish Rite degrees (not taking into account the honorary 33rd) and expounds at length upon the first three Masonic degrees and the tools, signs and philosophy of Freemasonry in general (without giving the specifics away to outsiders). I surmise that those Scottish Rite masons that gave out the book to the candidates actually intended for them to read it. I wonder, however, how many actually have.

Today, Scottish Rite masons, myself included, are provided a copy of the much less intimidating (dare I say watered down) version of Pike's effort, 'A Bridge to Light.' It's Lite all right. Any shorter in comparison to 'Morals and Dogma' and 'A Bridge to Light' would be a pamphlet. I'm not knocking it entirely. For the most part 'A Bridge to Light' does a more than adequate job of recalling and analyzing the working of the degrees. A new Scottish Rite mason would be much poorer for not reading it as well. Still, 'Morals and Dogma' it isnt.

So what is 'Morals and Dogma?' Essentially, it represents the work of its erudite and academic father, Albert Pike, to delve into the Freemasonic knowledge as he knew it with the tools and probes of 19th century philosophy, religion and science. Whatever else can be said of Albert Pike, he was a Seeker. Like so many of us Freemasons, Pike was not content with the patent ceremonies and rituals of the Order. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know Why.

'Morals and Dogma' is not a perfect book. One of its more infamous shortfalls rests upon Pikes uses of latin verbiage (lucifer or lux fer) from an Academic standpoint when so many people outside of Academia had already formed their own religious connotations of the latin word for Venus, the Morning Star. A simple trip through the Google database will reveal to the aspirant two sides of debate on what Pike meant by these passages in the book. Or you can rest here with the knowledge that he wasnt talking about the devil.

In fact, 'Morals and Dogma' is wonderfully philosophical, wildly scientific for its time, and actually provides a rather large amount of information on comparative religion. This should be welcome knowledge for the Freemason who truly understands what the 'G' stands for and why any man, so long as he believes in a Supreme Being, may become a Brother.

All too often, I speak with Masons who resent the 'esoteric' aspects of the Order. These men would content themselves with their own beliefs entirely. Some of them, I have found, would rather see their beliefs within Masonry...exclusively. I contend, with the contempt for this attitude befitting any good Templar or Bostonian Tea Partier, that Freemasonry is just that...Free. Indeed, Masons must defend the rights of all to delve as Albert did.

I suggest you delve into 'Morals and Dogma' if you, in fact, have not yet done so. For truths are self evident and ideas are only what we think of them. That means we can always accept or reject ideas...and truths (those that are) will only set us free.


Freestyle said...

I received the following query on the Ruffians Myspace site from an earnest brother. I am including it here because I think that his question is highly relevant.

Dear Brother,

I have just read the artical on your web site about Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma. I do own this book, though in two seperate volumes, the first being EA through MM, and the larger portion obviously being the rest of the degrees.

I found Pike to be a very exciting writer. However, as I have not yet taken the Scottish Rite degrees, (hopefully this fall) I found what I read of those degrees to be largly irrelevent to my experience, and I will have to wait to read the rest of the book.

I am deeply disappointed in the lack of general interest in this ever important work, but moreso in the fact that since it is a scholarly book many of those Brothers who do attempt the read, put it down so quickly if they run into difficulties.

I am a member of a small lodge but one which seems to emphasize Masonic Education. Do you have any suggestions as to how I can encourage the others to try again with this book?


Brother Jesse Gross,

My reply followed:

Greetings Brother.

I'm glad to hear that you have a copy of 'Morals and Dogma' in your keeping. It is a marvelous book.

Depending upon where you receive your Scottish Rite degrees you will likely find them to be beautiful, theatrical interpretations of the degree work found in Pikes opus. I am a member of the Scottish Rite as well as the York. While I enjoy both of them greatly, I have to say that the last few degrees of the Scottish Rite are simply powerful.

I am so happy to see so many Masons taking more interest in 'Morals' rather than simply letting it intimidate them. Many Masons have been drawn to the Order through books such as 'The Secret Teaching of All Ages' by Manly Palmer Hall. Those so esoterically inclined are certainly missing a lot if they dont look into Pike's work.

As far as involving the members of your lodge in 'Morals and Dogma' I think there are some things to consider first.
Take into account whether your fellows are Scottish Rite Masons or how interested in the SR they may be. I'm still a traditionalist when it comes to the order of degree work and the material involved and many others may be as well.

Additionally, 'Morals and Dogma' is a philosophical work and deals a good bit with comparative religion. If some of your lodge members are thus inclined, it should be a simple matter to spark their interest in something of that nature that is specifically Masonic.

Really, the best way to interest your fellows in 'Morals and Dogma' is by getting them more involved with the Scottish Rite. The Rite is entertaining and leaves you wanting more Light. 'Morals and Dogma' is the Scottish Rite.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Brother Free

Traveling Man said...

I have Morals and Dogma in electronic format. It's available at Project Guetenberg.

So far, I have only read the chapters dealing with the first 3 degrees. Once I am through with the chairs in my Lodge, I plan on joining the Scottish Rite and picking up where I left off.

Traveling Man

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