The Philosophy of the
MW Bro. Harry E. Howard
Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Alberta
In the first place I must
express my appreciation of the honor which was given to my Grand Lodge of
Alberta and myself in being invited to prepare an address to this highly
selective body of distinguished Freemasons, representing as it does such a
large number of brethren who have at some time requested a petition for
admission to this most ancient and honorable institution. During my
peregrinations over the length and breadth of my jurisdiction, stretching
fourteen hundred miles north of the boundary to the Arctic Circle and four
hundred miles east from the Rocky Mountains to the westerly boundary of our
neighboring jurisdiction to the east, I have endeavored to emphasize the
universality of the science and ever present need for the brethren to
practice outside of the Lodge those precepts of virtue which are so
beautifully inculcated within it. I have been conscious of the wishes, nay
the heartfelt appeal, of many of our brethren who are away from centres
where Masonic education is more readily available, for some enlightenment on
the significance of the symbols and work and lectures and charges.
Hitchcock in his Alchemy and
Alchemist, written in 1857, quotes an old Hermetic philosopher as saying
"although a man be poor, yet may he very well attain to perfection" and on
commenting on this be says, "That is, every man, no matter how humble his
vocation, may do the best he can in his place - may love mercy, do justly
and walk humbly with God; and what more doth God require of any man." It
would appear, therefore that even the symbols of the Alchemist have an
affinity with the symbols of the spiritual temple of Freemasonry.
In all my work in Lodge I
have always been impressed with the deep spiritual and ethical value of the
lessons portrayed in the First Degree. I agree that the three degrees supply
a well rounded and abiding series of principles which should carry one
through all the vissicitudes of life, but the first degree, as is proper,
packs a punch which brings a man up smart to realize that here is something
steeped in fundamentals for a definite "way of life."
The dictionary defines
philosophy as 'the general principles, laws or causes that furnish the
rational explanation of anything - practical wisdom." This being so I feel
that I cannot do better than to use as a basis for my subject, the procedure
which is provided in order to become an Entered Apprentice. Voltaire, one of
the great philosophers and a Freemason, said "the discovery of that which is
true and the practice of that which is good are the two most. important
objects of philosophy."
When one has asked for and
receives a "petition" and this, vouched for by two brethren, is presented in
open Lodge, then other brethren are assigned, to assure themselves of the
worthiness of the petitioner. Certain attributes should be looked for here,
such as the likelihood of keeping confidences the tendency towards fidelity
and loyalty and whether or not there would be a risk of the petitioner to
balk at the need for obedience. There should also be given some idea of the
need, on the part of the petitioner, for a spiritual atmosphere in his
attitude, having in mind the questions which will be asked of him if he
should be so fortunate as to be admitted, and it is the nature of these
questions which point out the basic principles inherent in the Masonic
The question requiring a
declaration of freedom of approach, of being of an age of responsibility and
of a genuine desire for knowledge and a sincere wish to become more
extensively serviceable to mankind, illustrate one of the basic philosophies
of Freemasonry, "The brotherhood of man".
There are also certain
questions regarding ones belief in God and the immortality of the soul to
which an unequivocal answer in the affirmative is essential, thus
emphasizing another basic philosophy, "The fatherhood of God".
We have not yet secured
admission but have been challenged with the type of organization we are
about to be admitted into and when we do gain admission into the Lodge,
erected to God and dedicated to the Holy Saints John, an intercession is
made to God for our assistance to so dedicate and devote our lives to His
service that we may be enabled to display the beauties of true godliness.
After this, when an admission has been made of our trust in God in times of
difficulty, we are assured of the safety in following the guide.
This point is surely one
where the 133rd Psalm is applicable "Behold how good and how pleasant it is
for brethren to dwell together in unity; It is like the precious ointment
upon the head that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went
down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon and as the dew that
descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the
blessing, even life for evermore," and should be used as an example of the
relationship of the "brotherhood of man" to the "Fatherhood of God".
After the preliminary
perambulations, the charge of the Master, which puts the whole matter
squarely up to the candidate and outlines in a different way, the design of
the institution, to make its votaries wiser, better and consequently
happier, never weary in well doing; naturally seeking each others welfare
and happiness equally with their own, would almost seem to give the real
summary of the lessons portrayed in the first degree, but we have only
started, because we are admonished in connection with the wearing of the
apron, "to let its pure and spotless surface be to you an ever present
reminder of purity of life and rectitude of conduct, a never ending argument
of nobler deeds, for higher thoughts, for greater achievements," until when
we stand before the Throne of God we shall have earned the judgment, "Well
done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things.
I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy
Then comes the great lesson
on Charity, beautifully taught in a never forgettable manner, calling for
that lovely verse:
We give thee but thine
What ere the gift may be
All that we have is thine alone
A trust, O Lord, from Thee
To comfort and to bless,
To find a balm for woe
To tend the lone and fatherless,
Is Angels' work below.
In various parts of this
degree we are taught the universality of Freemasonry and that a Mason's
charity should know no bounds save prudence.
"The Lodge represents the
world and includes both Heaven and Earth. Ancient Temple formations
consisted of a double square end to end, one representing Heaven and the
other representing Earth. In the middle were three cubes, one above the
other representing a primary Trinity. Here the mortal soul is blended with
the immortal spirit. The initiate has his eyes opened to a new world and he
will not pass out of the Lodge as quite the same man as he entered it. Hence
the term "Universality."
Charity being linked up in
the same paragraph as Universality has a very deep significance because it
illustrates the limitless area which this virtue of all virtues covers. I
think this was the principle intended to be inculcated. There would appear
to be a cororally in the expression later on with reference to initiation
wherein it is stated that a Mason is instructed in proper exercise of
UNIVERSAL BENEFICENCE AND CHARITY and to seek solace of his own distress by
extending relief and consolation to his Fellow Creatures in the hours of
their affliction. Notice the emphasis on the UNIVERSALITY. In other words
the reference to a "Mason's Charity knowing no bounds" refers not only to
the extent but the area.
The golden rule "To do unto
others as you would wish they should do unto you" takes on a new meaning
when applied to the lessons herein contained.
It would be well at this
point to deal with the quality of Charity and to consider what it consists
of. To give money to the poor is a beautiful act but hardly as important as
to give love, un stinted, without hope of gain or reward - this indeed may
well extend to the very feet of the Great White Throne. If we read what St.
Paul says about Charity we will still see that it is limitless in degree. In
the King James version of the Holy Bible the word of "love" was substituted
for the word "Charity".
"Though I speak with the
tongues of men and angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding
brass, or a tinkling symbol.
And though I have the
gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and
though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and not have
love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all
my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and
have not love, it profiteth me nothing.
Love suffereth long, and
is kind; Love envieth not: Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
Doth not behave itself
unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.
Rejoiceth not in
iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
Beareth all things,
believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth; but
whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues,
they shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and
we prophesy in part.
But when that which is
perfected has come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I
spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but
when I became a man, I put away my childish things.
For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall
I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith,
hope, love these three; but the greatest of these is love.
It is of such charity that a
Mason's faith is made. He is, indeed, taught the beauty of giving that which
is material; the Rite of Destitution shows forth the tender lesson in the
first degree; Masonic Homes, Schools, Foundations, Orphanages, Hospitals,
are the living exponents of the charity which means to give from a plenty to
those who have but a paucity.
The first of the principal
tenets of our profession and the third round of Jacob's ladder are really
one; brotherly love is "the greatest of these" and only when a Mason takes
to his heart the reading of charity to be more than alms, does he see the
glory of that moral structure the door to which Freemasonry so gently, but
so widely opens.
Charity of thought for an
erring Brother; charity which lays a brotherly hand on a troubled shoulder
in comfort; charity which exults with the happy and finds joy in his
success; charity which sorrows with the grieving, and drops a tear in
sympathy; charity which opens the heart as well as the pocket book; charity
which stretches forth a hand of hope to the hopeless, which brings a new
faith to the crushed ... aye, these, indeed, may "extend through the
boundless realms of eternity."
Man is never so close to the
divine as when he loves; it is because of that fact that charity, (meaning
love), rather than faith or hope, is truly, "the greatest of these."
Even if the foregoing were
not enough, we have the admonition to so divide our time as to leave a
goodly portion to the service of God and a distressed brother, also to
divest our hearts and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of
life, thereby fitting our minds as living stones for that spiritual building
- that house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. All of this, being
as it is a summary of God's work, surely emphasizes that in Freemasonry we
embark on a "Way of life" in tune with and applied to the practical work of
God. There is no place in the life of a Freemason when he has any right to
be idle because there is always something to do. The Preacher in
Ecclesiastes III. says "To everything there is a season and a time for every
purpose under Heaven," and you will notice as he goes on to illustrate the
various allotments of time, he never indicates a situation where time can be
wasted. Albert Pike made himself a learned scholar by his constant use of
all his time, so did Abraham Lincoln.
The one great jewel in our
Masonic fraternity is the Holy Bible or the volume of the Sacred Law. It is
the Great Light which illustrates the will of God for mankind in whatever
situation he may find himself. The true "way of life" is depicted herein and
it is the revelation to all truth. The Golden Rule originates here and so
does the Commandment "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." The Golden
Rule in our first degree is included in the following "to your neighbor in
acting upon the square and doing unto him as you would wish he should do
The expression "acting upon
the square" is a very significant expression because the square is the
symbol most commonly associated with Freemasonry. From most ancient times it
has been the emblem of correctness and uprightness. Even at the building of
the Pyramids in their endeavor to have the placements arranged so that
certain points, corners or openings might face the sun or a star at a
particular time, the builder laid down a cross axis at a right angle to the
main axis. Mencius nearly 300 B.C. taught in one chapter "that just as the
most skilled artificers are unable without square and compasses to produce
perfect rectangles or perfect circles, so must all men apply these tools
figuratively to their lives, with the level marking line besides, if they
would walk in the straight and even paths of wisdom, and keep themselves
within the bounds of honour and virtue." The nature of the square is as
unchanging as truth and it is in its very antiquity that we have a deep
lesson. The operative Masons symbolized it as their base for right building
and right living.
The Compasses, the points of
which are thus far hidden from view, indicate the need for us to
circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds with all
mankind. Here again our symbol is steeped in antiquity in keeping with the
From age to age they have
always represented heavenly things and may justly be called the spiritual
working tools. The Perfect Square is a figure which can be drawn in or about
a circle and so the earthly life of man moves and is built in and about the
Divine Circle of life and law and love which surrounds and sustains and
explains it. To know ourselves is the first principle of Wisdom, without
which we may lose self respect and thus lose the respect for others which is
disastrous. The Compasses, rightly used teach us about Liberty based on law.
Most of our life is based on habit and ruled by opinion and custom but the
realm of desire, emotion and motive need circumscription. Properly
instructed the Mason will rest the point in the centre of his innermost
being and draw a circle beyond the bounds of which he will not go until
ready to go further; then he will draw another and another until he attains
a full, balanced and finely poised life. We must apply the Compasses if we
would have our own faith fulfill itself in fellowship.
So too the Ornaments, Lights
and Jewels emphasize the practice of every virtue and, in the situation of a
Lodge - E. to W., reference is made to three divine offerings which met with
divine approbation of unselfishness and service. In every symbol there is a
lesson pertaining to and illustrating some characteristic of Brotherly Love
and the Fatherhood of God.
In one of the charges in the
first degree we are enjoined to be exemplary in the discharge of our civil
duties by never performing or even countenancing any act which might tend to
subvert the peace and good order of society, but to pay due obedience to the
laws of any state in which we reside. This admonition is a clear manifesto
to all who are admitted that they must be good loyal citizens always alert
to the needs of our local authority, (be it either a hamlet of a metroplis)
to our State and to our Federal Government; and ready to do anything or make
any sacrifice to maintain its honour and further its development,
economically, socially, administratively, educationally or in any other
manner as will best conduce to the preservation of our democratic way of
The turbulence of the state
of affairs today only emphasizes my previous statement that a Mason has no
right to be idle and as it is the duty of the Master to afford light and
instruction and to show him how to practice outside of the Lodge the great
moral precepts which are ever inculcated within it, and thus keep him from
We are beset by so many and
great dangers through the machinations of those who have set themselves as
leaders of groups by sheer brutality and by holding them in a state of fear
even of themselves, refusing any acknowledgment of the existence of God and
liquidating those who do so believe, particularly Freemasons, knowing full
well that they would only hinder and oppose the vicious practices they wish
to force upon the subjective groups. By an open denial of God they are not
obligated to the truth nor to the other fine characteristics outlined in the
Holy Bible and man is a mere cog in the wheel of the State instead of, as is
the case with us, of the State existing for the benefit of the people by the
people and for the people. The blandishments of this type of oligarchy hold
out temptations to people who would otherwise be content and this gullible
type is preyed upon to infiltrate the society of States which could
otherwise be happy. The propaganda is vicious and I would again emphasize
that Freemasons should be ever alert and never idle in upholding the
precepts of the fraternity, by endeavoring to reclaim the faltering and
aiding to stamp out the incorrigible, thus preserving the harmony and good
fellowship of our democratic and God-loving way of life.
The philosophy seems to me to
be the teaching of the practical application of the Brotherhood of man and
that this is attained when we are conscious of being the Children or Sons of
It teaches us the efficacy of
prayer and the value of the Eternal Word of God, from which we are exhorted
to eschew those things which blight the soul such as Pride, the deadliest
sin which binds the eyes to truth; Envy, which can envelope the whole person
like a fog, sears what it touches; Anger, which prevents straight thought,
produces unhappiness and is sometimes an explosion against frustration;
Covetousness, the veritable lust for things and the instigator of crime;
Gluttony, which smothers the soul; Lust, the perverter of a God-given
Instead of all these we are
taught to improve ourselves and to cultivate hospitality, a true Masonic
virtue; kind services, graceful courtesies; cheerful assistance and relief;
integrity; sincerity; citizen ship; and finally that virtue which from its
beginnings Freemasonry has tried to develop - Character; which is described
by Macduff as follows:
"Character is the product of
daily, hourly, actions, words and thoughts:-
sacrifices for the good of others
struggles against temptation
submissiveness under trial.
It is like the blending of
colors in a picture, or the blending notes of music, which constitute the
And TRUE CULTURE as
The highest culture is to speak no ill
The best reformer is the man whose eyes
Are quick to see all beauty and all worth
And by his own descreet, well ordered life
Alone reproves the erring.
When thy gaze
Turns in on thine own soul, be most severe,
But when it falls upon a fellow man
Let kindliness control it, and refrain
From that belitting censure that springs forth,
From common lips like weeds from marshy soil.
In other words we should,
with St. Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians, "Put on the whole armour of
God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil. For we
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against
powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual
wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God,
that we may be able to withstand in the evil day and, having done all, to
stand. Stand, therefore, having our loins girt about with TRUTH and having
on the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS; and your feet shod with preparation of
the GOSPEL OF PEACE; above all, taking the shield of FAITH; wherewith ye
shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet
of SALVATION and the sword of the SPIRIT, which is the word of God; praying
always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching
thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
Paper Delivered at
the Conference of Grand Masters of North America
24th February 1953.