PASSIONS, REASON AND THE ALLEGORY OF THE COMPASSES
One of the first lessons taught to newly Initiated Freemasons is the allegorical lesson of the compasses, in which the compasses teach Masons “…to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions in due bounds toward all men, but more especially our Brethren in Freemasonry….”
Our Masonic ritual dates from the 18th century or earlier and today the meaning of the word “passions” is not taken to mean what it meant in the 18th century.
In the 18th century, and in Masonic ritual which originated in the 18th century, the idea of “passions” was connected to the Cardinal Virtue of Temperance.
Temperance is seen as being linked to Reason – and Intemperance to lack of, or absence, of Reason – and is closely connected to keeping “our passions in due bounds” as taught in the allegorical lesson of the compasses.
To get a clearer idea of what 18th century Freemasons thought of the relationship between “passions”, Reason, Temperance and Intemperance, here are some quotes from three 18th century Freemasons:
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
“It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate passions cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters.”
Here are some links to more information on Edmund Burke:
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
“The ruling passion, be what it will,
The ruling passion conquers reason still.”
Here are some links to more information on Alexander Pope:
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
“When passion rules, it rules badly.”
Here are some links to more information on Benjamin Franklin:
- Benjamin Franklin Historical Society
- Franklin Institute
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