An Introduction to Bro Albert Pikes Morals and Dogma

By Bro. Jay Halpern

My acquaintance with Pike's work, "Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry", was a matter of chance. I happened upon it in an antique center and was immediately drawn to its erudition, its scope and its willingness to portray the sort of symbolism and arcana that drew me to Freemasonry in the first place.

I determined to let his words speak for themselves, and play upon my own knowledge of American and world history, philosophy and political theory to make their point. What I found, much to my delight, was how far Pike's work took me beyond the parameters of pure Masonic lore and into the realm of political and economic theory that had been trod by the greatest minds of the past, like Plato, Plutarch, and the philosophical synthesizers of all ages.

It became clear to me, in this regard, that M&D was far more than a Masonic tract. Pike placed Freemasonry and its structure and symbols within two very broad contexts: the religious and spiritual history of the world, stretching far beyond even the building of Solomon's Temple; and the human drama of vanquished peoples coping with the oppressive moral and political climate of defeat in war. For I think it's impossible to understand the significance of M&D without perceiving Pike's spiritual and philosophical outcry against the predations made against the former Confederacy of the American South by the conquering armies and politicians of the United States federal government.

Albert Pike was a Confederate general of high moral principles, as is evident throughout M&D. We in the North have been schooled in the history of the victor; the story of the origins of the conflict between the states would, of course, have been written very differently had the fortunes of war gone differently. Having been taught the principle of loyalty to one's national government from childhood, we in the north find it difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of the Confederate rebellion as anything other than an act of betrayal of national principles, a breaking of the most sacred trust that had been forged between states by blood spilled during our mutual revolution from England. Pike writes in the very beginning of M&D: "The nations are not bodies-politic alone, but also souls-politic; and woe to that people which, seeking the material only, forgets that it has a soul. A free people, forgetting that it has a soul to be cared for, devotes all its energies to its material advancement. If it make war, it is to subserve its commercial interests. The citizens copy after the State, and regard wealth, pomp, and luxury as the great goods of life. Such a nation creates wealth rapidly, and distributes it badly. Thence the two extremes, of monstrous opulence and monstrous misery; all the enjoyment to a few, all the privations to the rest, that is to say, to the people; Privilege, Exception, Monopoly, Feudality, springing up from Labor itself: a false and dangerous situation, which, making Labor a blinded and chained Cyclops, in the mine, at the forge, in the workshop, at the loom, in the field, over poisonous fumes, in miasmatic cells, in unventilated factories, founds public power upon private misery, and plants the greatness of the State in the suffering of the individual. It is a greatness ill constituted, in which all the material elements are combined, and into which no moral element enters. If a people, like a star, has the right of eclipse, the light ought to return. The eclipse should not degenerate into night."

To Pike's way of thinking, the Southern agrarian economy had purposefully eschewed the ways of industrialization and the market forces that had been so warmly embraced by the North. What Albert Pike saw in his own time was the forced encrustation of an agrarian, democratic dream by an imposed industrial capitalism from the North, and he saw himself as spokesman for a free people, now under tyranny, clutching to save its soul.

Pike regarded Masonry as a potential framework upon which to retain the noblest and highest ideals once held by the defeated South. Hear his words, then, written in occupation and defeat, regarding this Brotherhood: "And Masonry, like History and Philosophy, has eternal duties - eternal, and, at the same time, simple. The people that would be Free and Independent, must possess Sagacity, Forethought, foresight, and careful Circumspection, all which are included in the meaning of the word Prudence. It must be temperate in asserting its rights, temperate in its councils, economical in its expenses; it must be bold, brave, courageous, patient under reverses, undismayed by disasters, hopeful amid calamities. She must, above all things, be just, not truckling to the strong and warring on or plundering the weak; she must act on the square with all nations, and the feeblest tribes; always keeping her faith, honest in her legislation, upright in all her dealings. Whenever such a Republic exists, it will be immortal: for rashness, injustice, intemperance and luxury in prosperity, and despair and disorder in adversity, are the causes of the decay and dilapidation of nations."

Albert Pike was a man of broad scholarship, comfortably familiar with the great documents of history, and familiar with the reports of human anthropology and sociology written, with varying degrees of insight and accuracy, by scholars and historians from all times and places. There isn't an indigenous culture, whether primitive or advanced, that Pike doesn't applaud to the degree that its native peoples adhere to the tenets of yeoman culture, of honesty and brotherhood from soul to soul. Indeed, Pike quite clearly states that Masonic ideals transcend all eras and peoples. In his chapter on the Royal Arch of Solomon, he writes, "Even Blue Masonry cannot trace back its authentic history, with its present Degrees, further than the year 1700, if so far. But, by whatever name it was known in this or the other country, Masonry existed as it now exists, the same in spirit and at heart, not only when Solomon built the temple, but centuries before - before even the first colonies emigrated into Southern India, Persia, and Egypt, from the cradle of the human race." (Italics the author)

0 0

Post a comment