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Philosophy of Freemasonry

Lectures on the Philosophy of Freemasonry, by Roscoe Pound, former Dean of the Law School, Harvard University, presents the philosophy of Freemasonry in the form of a series of chapters on each of four typical Masonic thinkers: William Preston, Karl C. F. Krause, the Rev. George Oliver, and Albert Pike; and concludes with a chapter in which he develops a theory of his own in the terms of Pragmatism. His method is to reduce the problem to "three fundamental questions . . . What is the end (purpose or goal) of Masonry? How does Masonry seek to achieve its end? What are the fundamental principles by which Masonry is governed in achieving its task?" These four Masonic philosophies, he makes clear, are typical only and not exhaustive of the line of thinkers who belong to the succession of Masonic philosophers, and the list could have included such names as Calcott, Albert G. .NIackey, Simon Greenleaf, H. J. Whymper, Charles Broekwell, William Hutchinson, H. P. Bromwell, Jethre Inwood. A. E. Waite, W. L. Wilmshurst, J. F. Newton, etc.

A work which discusses the contents of Masonic philosophy in non-technical form, entitled The Great Teachings of Masonry, by H. L. Haywood, suggests that to the schools of philosophy expounded by Pound should be added at least two others: the historical school, which holds "that the unfolding story of Masonry is a gradual revelation of the nature of Masonry " and the school of Masonic mysticism according to which " our Order is an instituted form of mysticism, in the ceremonies and symbols of which men may find, if they care to follow them, the roads that lead to a direct and firsthand experience of God."

One of the difficult questions to answer about Freemasonry is, Where is it? In what particular thing do you find it? It is very old, because as the Old Charges prove present day Lodges have descended in an unbroken line from Fourteenth Century Lodges and those Lodges in turn (their members were very conscious of Masonry's antiquity) had descended from the Twelfth Century. As it spread from one country to another Freemasonry diversified itself, so that the Freemasonry of Sweden differs from that of France which in turn differs from that of America, and so forth. At the end of the Eighteenth Century the Fraternity further diversified itself by expanding from within in the form of four new and independent branches: Capitular Masonry, Cryptic Masonry, Templarism, and the Scottish Rite.

These Rites, in turn, are divided into some forty Degrees, each Degree is divided into sections in each section are rites, symbols, charges, obligations, etc. Meanwhile, there are in the United States forty-nine Grand Lodges, each sovereign and sole within its jurisdiction; each of these has Constitutions and Statutes in the form of a printed Code, and governs itself according to a set of unwritten laws called Ancient Landmarks. In no time or place does this world-wide Fraternity publish or propound a written creed or set of doctrines; Freemasonry does not define itself. The answer to the question, What is Freemasonry? can therefore be found only by grasping the whole of this great complex of men and activities, extending through centuries in time and over many countries in space; to have the ability thus to grasp and to understand it requires that a man shall possess such a mass of knowledge of history, laws, rites, symbols, Landmarks, literature as is possible to a few men only. The endeavor to answer the question, What is Freemasonry? by the use of those means is Masonic Philosophy.

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