James T. Tresner II, 33°, Grand Cross
Book Review Editor
Pike, Albert, Morals and Dogma, edited by Arturo de Hoyos (Washington: Supreme Council, 2011) hardbound, illustrated, annotated, new index, 1,116 pages, available in two bindings, traditional cloth for $75 or bonded leather with bound-in cloth markers, gilded edges, and decorative stamping for $135 (SRRS discount applies to both volumes). Available from the Supreme Council store at www.scottishritestore.org or 1-866-445-9196.
I’m more grateful than I can express that this new edition of Morals and Dogma has been made available. It is no secret that I love Pike and his writings. I’ve sometimes been accused of taking that to excess, but that is largely by people who do not understand. It is not that I think Pike is inerrant, it’s just that if he says Plato said something, and it turns out Plato didn’t, I assume Plato just didn’t have time.
Brother Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Cross, KYCH, Grand Archivist and Grand Historian, has produced a glorious work in Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma, Annotated Edition. It includes MW Dr. Rex Hutchens 33°, Grand Cross, KYCH, Glossary to Morals and Dogma, which I’ve insisted for years is an indispensable aid. Dr. S. Brent Morris 33°, Grand Cross, created the index, which is the first successful topical index of the book ever produced. Needless to say, a great deal of Masonic knowledge, skill, and raw brainpower went into the creation of this edition.
Be sure not to overlook the introduction. Bro. de Hoyos hath created a masterpiece! His overview of the early history of the “high grades” and the Supreme Council are as excellent as they are concise. His sections dealing with the writing of Morals and Dogma and the revision of the degrees make this information available to large numbers of Brethren for the first time. But I would especially direct your attention to “Pike’s Belief in a Personal God,” “Pike’s Views on Freemasonry and Religion” (which follows this review), and “The Philosophy of Morals and Dogma in the Modern World.” Excellent information here as well as food for thought. And there is much more in the Introduction that will repay reading.
As to the text itself, I can hardly imagine the amount of effort it required, but that effort was repaid by the result. There are added illustrations which help with understanding Pike’s references as well as bringing interest to the text. They are well and carefully chosen. The footnotes and other added materials make it easy to glance down, pick up information, and go on. The text discretely includes the original page numbers, which is very, very helpful. These materials not only correct errors and provide sources, but also give a fine context for the materials. There is little point in my trying to describe the scholarship involved—you will see it as soon as you start to read.
And how nice it is to have a text of Morals and Dogma which is clear, easy to read, and printed on paper which has not yellowed with time.
Appropriately and successfully, the major efforts spent on this edition went to the informational content of Morals and Dogma—but there is another aspect as well, and the republication of the book is important because of it.
The 1800s were times of a great flowering of oratory in the United States—possibly the greatest such flowering since the Classical Age. Albert Pike was one of the greatest of the 19th-century American orators, in constant demand as a speaker. Certain things were expected from an orator. He was expected to entertain; but that word has almost completely changed its meaning in our time. We equate it with amuse while a 19th-century listener would have equated it with engaging the mind. The orator was to paint pictures, evoke mental images, and impress with the richness of his language. It all did not have to be original with him. To “quote well” was perfectly acceptable. It was well if the oration imparted information, but it was, in some ways, incidental. For information, one attended a public lecture. An oration was to engage both the mind and the heart.
While the elements which make up Morals and Dogma were called lectures, they are often orations. Pike provides a great deal of information in the chapters, but the emotional element is important as well. In short, when you read Morals and Dogma, do not look for the facts alone, but look for the truths also.
Many thanks are due for this monumental effort. Thanks to the Sovereign Grand Commander, Ill. Ronald A. Seale, 33°, for supporting the work and seeing it to completion. Thanks to Dr. Rex R. Hutchens, 33°, Grand Cross, KYCH, for his contributions and most especially for the glossary. Thanks to Dr. S. Brent Morris, 33°, Grand Cross, for the index. Thanks to all those who helped make the book a reality, and most especially to Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Cross, KYCH, for conceiving the work and what must have been thousands of hours of labor in bringing it about. You have presented Pike to a new generation of Scottish Rite Masons.
Albert Pike’s MORALS AND DOGMA, Annotated Edition, excerpt, pages 32–34
Arturo de Hoyos, 33°, Grand Cross, Grand Archivist and Grand Historian
Pike’s Views on Freemasonry and Religion
The wide range of philosophical and religious subjects embraced by Morals and Dogma makes it a compendium of human thought. Readers in Pike’s day, as in ours, with sufficient education and maturity to approach the work, have found it to be an engaging and stimulating work. At the 1878 session of the Supreme Council Pike was pleased to relate the response of the Venerable Master of the Lodge of Perfection at Corpus Christi, Texas, to the book: “Its present Master is a Clergyman of the Espiscopal Church [sic] . . . and like a Divine of the same Church in California and one in the Territory of Washington, values next to the holy books of his faith, the Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.”39
The relationship between Freemasonry and religion has sometimes caused confusion, but it actually is one of definition. Some enemies of the Fraternity have either misunderstood or misrepresented several statements in Morals and Dogma, and have asserted that Masonry is itself a unique religion which is incompatible with Christianity. On the contrary, when Pike wrote of Masonry and religion, he did so in light of the only definition of religion found in the Bible: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Pike tried to distinguish between (1) religion as a practice of the good, and (2) the various creeds and/or dogmas of specific faiths. Hence, in one of his clearest statements Pike asserts, “Masonry neither usurps the place of, nor apes religion. . . .” (M&D 1:17); he added that Masonry was not made to settle religious questions (M&D 26:4). Thus, Freemasonry is religious, but it is not itself a religion (similarly, Ben Hur is religious, but is not a religion). Freemasonry has no doctrine to keep pure, and offers no path to salvation; these are issues to be resolved by one’s personal faith. Freemasonry deals with the here and now, and builds brotherhood in a world beset with animosity. Thus, when Pike speaks of Masonry as religion, he asserts that the practice of Masonry is the practice of the noble and virtuous sentiments of the “pure and undefiled religion” defined by St. James.40 Bearing this in mind the following will help us see how Pike viewed the relationship.
Scarcely a Masonic discourse is pronounced, that does not demonstrate the necessity and advantages of this faith, and especially recall the two constitutive principles of religion, that make all religion,—love of God, and love of our neighbor. Masons carry these principles into the bosoms of their families and of society. (M&D 8:7)
Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instruction in religion. For here are inculcated disinterestedness, affection, toleration, devotedness, patriotism, truth, a generous sympathy with those that suffer and mourn, pity for the fallen, mercy for the erring, relief for those in want, Faith, Hope, and Charity. Here we meet as brethren, to learn to know and love each other. Here we greet each other gladly, are lenient to each other’s faults, regardful of each other’s feelings, ready to relieve each other’s wants. This is the true religion revealed to the ancient patriarchs; which Masonry has taught for many centuries and which it will continue to teach as long as time endures. (M&D 13:38)
[Masonry] is the universal, eternal, immutable religion, such as God planted it in the heart of universal humanity. No creed has ever been long-lived that was not built on this foundation. It is the base, and they are the superstructure. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” [ James 1:27]. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” [Isaiah 58:6] The ministers of this religion are all Masons who comprehend it and are devoted to it; its sacrifices to God are good works, the sacrifices of the base and disorderly passions, the offering up of self-interest on the altar of humanity, and perpetual efforts to attain to all the moral perfection of which man is capable. (M&D 14:5)
No one Mason has the right to measure for another, within the walls of a Masonic Temple, the degree of veneration which he shall feel for any Reformer, or the Founder of any Religion. We teach a belief in no particular creed, as we teach unbelief in none. Whatever higher attributes the Founder of the Christian Faith may, in our belief, have had or not have had, none can deny that he taught and practised a pure and elevated morality, even at the risk and to the ultimate loss of his life. He was not only the benefactor of a disinherited people, but a model for mankind. Devotedly he loved the children of Israel. To them he came, and to them alone he preached that Gospel which his disciples afterward carried among foreigners. He would fain have freed the chosen People from their spiritual bondage of ignorance and degradation. As a lover of all mankind, laying down his life for the emancipation of his Brethren, he should be to all, to Christian, to Jew, and to Mahometan, an object of gratitude and veneration. (M&D 18:129)
- Transactions of the Supreme Council, 33°, S.J. (1878), 13.
- Freemasonry has been accused of being a “works religion,” meaning that the fraternity teaches that good works, rather than faith, will secure Christian salvation. To the contrary, the fraternity has no opinion on this religious doctrine whatsoever. However, Freemasons are encouraged to worship the Almighty according to the precepts of their own consciences, and to practice good deeds, because it is the right thing to do. We are also aware that St. James 2:14–18, states that the good Christian demonstrates faith through works, and that faith alone, without works, “is dead.” We believe that ignoring or omitting scriptural support presents an incomplete and inaccurate view of Christianity. For additional evidence, see also Matthew 7:21; 19:16–17; John 14:21; Romans 2:5–8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12–13.