Civilization and Freemasonry
Those who investigate in the proper spirit the history of Speculative Freemasonry will be strongly impressed with the peculiar relations that exist between the history of Freemasonry and that of civilization. They will find these facts to be patent: that Freemasonry has ever been the result of civilization ; that in the most ancient times the spirit of Freemasonry and the spirit of civilization have always gone together; that the progress of both has been with equal strides; that where there has been no appearance of civilization there has been no trace of Freemasonry; and, finally, that wherever Freemasonry has existed in any of its forms, there it has been surrounded and sustained by civilization, which social condition it in turn elevated and purified, Speculative Freemasonry, therefore, seems to have been a necessary result of civilization, It is, even in its primitive and most simple forms, to be found among no barbarous or savage people. Such a state of society has never been capable of introducing or maintaining its abstract principles of divine truth. But while Speculative Freemasonry is the result of civilization, existing only, in its bosom and never found among barbarous or savage races, it has, by a reactionary law of sociology, proved the means of extending and elevating the civilization to which it originally owed its birth. Civilization has always been progressive. That of Pelasgic Greece was far behind that which distinguished the Hellenic period of the same country. The civilization of the ancient world was inferior to that of the modern, and every century shows an advancement in the moral, intellectual, and social condition of mankind.
But in this progress from imperfection to perfection the influence of those speculative systems that are identical with Freemasonry has always been seen and felt. Let us, for an example, look at the ancient heathen world and its impure religions. While the people of Paganism bowed, in their ignorance, to a many-headed god, or, rather, worshiped at the shrines of many gods, whose mythological history and character must have exercised a pernicious effect on the moral purity of their worshipers, speculative Philosophy, in the form of the Ancient Mysteries, was exercising its influence upon a large class of neophytes and disciples, by giving this true symbolic interpretation of the old religious myths. In the adyta or secret shrines of their temples in Greece and Rome and Egypt, in the sacred caves of India; and in consecrated groves of Scandinavia and Gaul and Britain, these ancient sages were secretly divesting the Pagan faith of its polytheism and of its anthropomorphic deities, and were establishing a pure monotheism in its place, and illustrating, by a peculiar symbolism, the great dogmas-since taught in Freemasonry--of the unity of God and the immortality of the soul.
And in modern times, when the religious thought of mankind, under a better dispensation, has not required this purification, Freemasonry still, in other ways, exerts its influence in elevating the tone of civilization ; for through its working the social feelings have been strengthened, the amenities and charities of life been refined and extended, and, as we have had recent reason to know and see, the very bitterness of strife and the blood-guiltiness of war have been softened and oftentimes obliterated.
We then arrive at these conclusion, namely, that Speculative Freemasonry is a result of civilization, for it exists in no savage or barbarous state of society, but has always appeared with the advent in any country of a condition of civilization, "grown with its growth and strengthened with its strength" ; and, in return, has proved, by a reactionary influence, a potent instrument in extending, elevating, and refining the civilization which gave it birth, by advancing its moral, intellectual, and religious character.
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