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THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES TEMPERANCE In the Entered Apprentice

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					                     THE FOUR CARDINAL VIRTUES:
                            TEMPERANCE


      In the Entered Apprentice Degree, we receive instruction about the

Four Cardinal Virtues: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.

      What do we mean when we say that these are “cardinal virtues?” A

virtue has been defined as a particular moral excellence involving integrity of

character in the performance of our duties to ourselves and to others in our

families and in society at large. The word “cardinal” means a “hinge.” Doors

turn on hinges when they are opened or closed. Without the hinge, the door

would be useless, and in fact would not even be a door. The word “cardinal”

therefore means that something is fundamentally important. These four

virtues are the principal or chief virtues according to which Freemasons

should conduct their lives.

      These four virtues are practical principles to leading our everyday lives

and becoming good men and women. The cardinal virtues are perfected or

strengthened by habit. We became members of this Lodge to improve

ourselves in Masonry. The more we practice the piano or our golf game, the

more we will acquire good habits of playing and become more skilled at those

games. The more we practice temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice in

daily life, the better men and Freemasons we become.

      Temperance, we are told in the First Degree, is that due restraint on

the affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and




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frees the mind from the allurements of vice. This virtue should be our

constant practice; it enables us to avoid excess or acquiring bad habits that

might cause us to violate our obligation to keep inviolate the secrets

entrusted to our care. We would then be subject to the contempt of our

Brothers and to the severe symbolic penalty.

      A temperate man practices moderation in all things. He does not allow

himself to lose his balance in life, such as by easily losing his temper when

stuck in a traffic jam. He will not drink excessively, because he knows that it

will impair his judgment when driving or when attending a business meeting.

The old-fashioned “three martini lunch” did not encourage clear thinking or

good health among the men who participated.

      There are all kinds of passions—food, alcohol, love, and even our

personal goals are among them. The temperate man will not let his emotions

or passions control him. He will not devote himself wholly to the pursuit of

pleasure, to the neglect of his duty to himself and to his family. He knows

that being easily angered or excitable can affect his physical health. He also

knows that keeping his emotions too much under control can also affect his

health. This is why temperance requires a “due” or proper or measured

restraint on the passions, and not complete suppression of emotions.

Practicing moderation in all things is difficult, but it is also necessary if the

body is to be fit and healthy and able to enjoy the blessings which God has

given us.




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      Practicing temperance benefits the mind as well as the body.       The

mind is the thinking part of man, and everyday men must be conscious that

they have the choice between doing a good deed or action and temptations to

engage in vice. By vice our ritual does not mean only what we usually think

it means. For Freemasonry, vice is anything that can lead us astray from our

efforts to become better men.

      Vice (for example) includes greed, selfishness, hate, pride, and

gluttony. Martha Stewart was not influenced by the practice of temperance

when she decided to sell that stock on an insider tip; otherwise her mind

would have been free of the temptation to make even more money.

      We are not practicing temperance when we indulge our desire for

pleasure to an extreme. It is very tempting to eat an entire pint of Ben and

Jerry’s ice cream by yourself. A more serious example is the man who drinks

alcohol to excess. He not only harms himself, but also he may lose his job and

be unable to support his family. The mind must be disciplined by the practice

of temperance, to prevent it from choosing to go to such an extreme that can

be harmful to your health and the well being of your family.

      The ritual tells the candidate that by practicing temperance, he will

avoid the contracting of “licentious or vicious habits the indulgence in which

might lead you to disclose” the secrets entrusted to his care. The secrets

entrusted to his care are more important than just the words and grips he

will learn in the degree. The secrets he is warned against disclosing are the




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confidences his Brothers, trusting in his discretion, have whispered in his

ear. The First Degree teaches us to trust our Brother Masons with our

innermost secrets. But a man who is intemperate and abuses drugs or

alcohol may lose his judgment and relax his inhibitions to such an extent that

he will reveal what he has promised his Brother he would conceal.

      Temperance also teaches us not to lose our tempers when dealing with

our Brothers on lodge business. Far too many Lodges have split down the

middle over trivial issues when one side or the other has acted with

intemperance. Hurtful language has often caused individual Brothers never

to return to their mother Lodges. And far too often have Masons one side or

the other of an issue threatened to bring a Brother up on charges of

Unmasonic Conduct. Rather than using the trowel to spread the cement of

Brotherly Love and Affection, there are men in Freemasonry today who

would use the trowel to stab a Brother in the back.

      Temperance is a foundation stone in Freemasonry. The Masons of the

18th century knew this fact. They saw the Lodges as schools for gentlemen,

who would learn civility and practice the domestic and public virtues. These

are the tools for getting along in relationships that overlap class and religious

distinctions. The early English and American Lodges consisted of men from

the nobility and the middle class. The members were of many religions at a

time when not all denominations were recognized under English law. The

members were also of varied political persuasions that could have caused




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severe and violent divisions in a Lodge. This is why our 18th century Brethren

decided early on that politics and religion could not be discussed during a

Lodge meeting, so that peace and harmony might not be disturbed. This is

also why Temperance is the first of the Four Cardinal Virtues.

      If our earliest Brothers, such as George Washington and Benjamin

Franklin, could be aware of the importance of Temperance in a lodge and in

the world, then so should we conduct our lives within our Lodges and in our

every day lives. As we are charged: This virtue should be your constant

practice.




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