Law and Order
I presume that any member of the Lodge, or any similar Lodge, should have at any rate in his own mind, a reason for his choice of a subject when submitting a paper to his fellow members. If he can convince his hearers that his reason is sound, he will surely have justified his choice, even though his ability to deal with his subject may be, by reason of the fact that the audience is composed of mature, experience and, in many cases, of learned Masons, well skilled in this, our noble science and themselves both students and scholars in all that pertains to the Craft.
Why then, have I taken the subject of “Law and Order” I this, my contribution to your syllabus? Perhaps the reason may appear as I proceed. I can say at once that this paper does not involve a research of either Masonic history or symbolism. It is not in any way an addition to Masonic knowledge. Nor can it claim to be (as many of your contributions have been) the result of study and investigation. It consists merely of some thoughts and reflections of my own, some of which may not meet with the concurrence of my listeners. At present I merely make the statement that the maintenance of law and order is vitally important at all times, and that in the condition of the world to-day, it is of urgent and paramount importance.’
I must at once explain what I mean by “Law”. I distinguish it from “laws”. By the latter word I mean the body or collection of rules laid down by the Government of a Sovereign State for the guidance and obedience of the subjects of that State. The laws of a country may be comprised in a code. They may be composed of Statutes of the Legislature, and of judicial decisions interpreting those statutes and defining the common law. The laws may be largely contained in a vast number of regulations and proclamations promulgated by the Government, as is the case to-day, not only in our own country, but in Great Britain. In any case, the laws of a country or nation, however enacted, consist of numberless rules laid down and enforced by the State. In the aggregate, these rules (whatever form they may take) are the laws.
Now the “Law” is something much greater and wider, something far more vital and important than laws. It is that conception of authority – of supreme authority – which must be acknowledged, respected and obeyed by all members of the State, even by the Government of the day. It is indeed the State itself. It is supreme. It holds together all the individuals and elements comprising the people, and if it fails to command due respect and acknowledgement, if obedience to it is no longer given, then the result due obedience shall be given to the laws of the State, unless and until those laws are amended or abrogated in a constitutional manner. It is this regard and respect of the Law and this acknowledgement of its authority which gives us good order. Hence the expression “Law and Order.”
Now, Freemasonry recognises the need for law and order very definitely, and its tenets and principles include the necessity for obedience to duly constituted authority. Let me here quote the section (Section II) of the “Charges of a Freemason”, a charge with which we are, of course, all familiar. This is headed, “Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate”, and is as follows:-
“A Mason is a peaceful subject to the civil powers wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against he peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates. He is cheerfully to conform to every lawful authority; to uphold on every occasion the interest of the community; and zealously promote the prosperity of his own country. Masonry has ever flourished in times of peace, and been always injured by war, bloodshed and confusion; so that kings and princes in every age have been much disposed to encourage the craftsmen on account of their peaceableness and loyalty, where by they practically answer the cavils of their adversaries, and promote the honour of the Fraternity. Craftsmen are bound by peculiar ties to promote peace, cultivate harmony, and live in concern and brotherly love.”
Will you pardon me if I again remind you of a passage in that wonderful “Charge after Initiation” which we have heard so often, but which always seems so fresh and inspiring:-
“As a citizen of the world, I am to enjoin you to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties; by never proposing, or at all countenancing any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws of any State which may, from a time, become the place of your residence or afford you its protection; and above all, by never losing sight of the allegiance due to the sovereign of your native land, ever remembering that nature has implanted in your breast a sacred and indissoluble attachment to that country whence you derived your birth and infant nature.”
I think, then, that it can fairly be claimed that it is not only the privilege but also the bounden duty of all members of the Craft to show a proper respect for and submission to Law, and that it is incumbent on us as Freemasons to encourage such respect and submission in the community at large. We should do what lies in our power to counteract all tendencies towards a weakening of the claims of lawful authority and thus join with al men of goodwill, whether within or outside our own ranks, in upholding Law and Order.
I believe it is generally admitted that war, especially a great war, tends to a weakening of moral restraint, the loss of respect for civil authority and a degeneration of the social structure. How great then must be the risk of these evils for the nations engaged in such a war as afflicts the world to-day (1944). We have on all sides unfortunate evidence of the direct and indirect prejudicial effects caused by a state of war which has existed for nearly five years, and we see these effects even in our own Dominion. This aspect of my subject was well dealt with in the leading article of the January number of the “New Zealand Craftsman” (1944).
Whether or not a state of war has caused it, there appears to be a growing tendency for various individuals to seek their own advantage by ignoring and attempting to over-ride the rights of others. I am not going to trespass on political matters and would say at once this tendency does not appear to be confined to any one section of the community. It would seem that in all sections of the people there is a growing temptation to resort to direct action, with a consequent injury to other sections, and a breaking down of respect for lawful authority. In his address to the Senate of the University of New
Zealand, in January last, the Chancellor, the Hon. J. A. Hanan, describes true democracy as ‘seeking to do justice to all men, embodying discipline, order, adequate knowledge and opportunity for spiritual expression.” It is in such a democracy that Law and Order flourish. But democracy must beware of aggressive groups and selfish class interests which seek to manipulate constituted authority for their own profit or preferment, which seek to life on the labour and savings of others to the injury of the people as a whole. Democracy must guard against those individuals and associations which would be a law unto themselves. Again I submit that the whole social structure rests on respect for law and order and that we, as Freemasons, should resist all such downward tendencies as would weaken the processes and ideals of a true democracy.
Brethren, some of you may have previously heard me speak of the conservatism of the Craft; and I say now, as I said then, that I must not be misunderstood. Obviously, I do not use the term “conservatism” in the political sense. Freemasonry is conservative in that it seeks to discover the truth and, having found it, to hold it fast. It enshrines certain principles of morality, of right living, of social and domestic duties and of brotherly love, which in past ages have been found to be elementary and essential. These principles Freemasonry holds to be unalterable; and in our rituals, ceremonies and lectures, and indeed in our whole system, they are laid down as fundamental. These principles we are bound to adhere to and conserve. Thus is Freemasonry conservative.
It must be obvious to all that the world is changing very rapidly, and to some extend drastically, in its conceptions with regard to social order, economic systems, politics, and indeed with regard to government itself. Various changes are bound to come in the necessary reconstruction of the world. Some of these changes ill not be welcome to those who have become accustomed to an established order or living. But the important matter is to insure if possible, that the changes which come are right in essence and based on sound principles. Surely it is not too much to claim that any new order which may be evolved might well and successfully be tested by and based on, the tenets and principles of our beloved Order. In any case, it is vital that, in such new systems and modes of life as may be imposed on society in the future, all that is good and true in past and present systems shall be retained. Freemasons have in their keeping a wonderful system which claims to embody much of what has in the past been tested and proved to be sound and true. It will greatly assist in the retention of law and order in the future of the civilized world if we and all men of goodwill seek to maintain the tenets on which the Craft is based. What is desirable and indeed essential in the future of the nations is Stability. We, with our truly conservative Masonic teaching, can at all times assist in the maintenance of Stability.
King Solomon’s Temple had at its entrance two great pillars, of which we all know the significance. Freemasonry has, or should have the same two pillars. One points to the strength f our Fraternity. The other teaches the need to hold and conserve our philosophy and principles- in other words to “establish” them. Together they mean for us “Stability”. And they show the need for stability.
Our Lodges are said to be supported by three great Pillars, symbolizing respectively Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. I apply these symbolic conceptions to my subject. Surely we may say that the accumulated traditions of Masonic philosophy, its insistence on the need for truth, honour and morality and its regard of the great virtue of charity constitute the Ionic pillar of Wisdom; that the stability which we possess by reason of that Wisdom constitutes the Doric pillar of Strength; and that the perfection of our system, which comes form the Wisdom of Strength so acquired, constitutes the Corinthian pillar of Beauty.
The foregoing remarks, if they are sound and if they are acceptable to my brethren, suggest two spheres in which Stability is necessary and in which law and order must be maintained. In the first place, in Freemasonry; here we must cultivate the virtue of loyalty to our Masonic constitution and to our philosophy. By loyal adherence and obedience to the tenets and principles of the Craft, by due submission to Masonic authority and by the active practice of those virtues inculcated in our teachings, we must promote and maintain law and order within our own teachings, we must promote and maintain law and order within our own Fraternity. And secondly, outside the Craft; the above-mentioned virtues must be cultivated n our civil spheres as members of a particular community, as citizens of our own Dominion, and as members of the world family.
It may be remarked here that in cases where Freemasonry has (as in some countries) adopted teachings and practices subversive and good government, has taken sides in party politics, tot has worked for political ends, the results have usually been disastrous.
I should like also very shortly to refer to the danger to our Fraternity., which always arises where a people disregard the principles of law and order, and where, instead of a sound and stable government, founded on a just and upright basis, there is set up a government of confusion, whether such government be a dictatorship or otherwise. What has happened to the Craft in Europe during the past ten years sufficiently illustrates my contention. Truly, the Charge I quoted in an earlier part of this paper is right when it affirms that Masonry has been always injure by war, bloodshed and confusion.
In conclusion, and in order to give some practical applications to what ahs been a very general argument, let me suggest to you, my brethren, that the safe-guarding of Law and Order is work well worthy of our zeal, and that it can be assisted to a material degree by the Masonic body. Let Freemasonry as a body, let our Lodges scattered throughout the territory, and let us ourselves, as individual Craftsmen, set our faces against the breaking down or weakening of duly constituted authority; let us in our various vocations and walks of life, evince a true loyalty to the State; and let us, in our social life, set forth the value of and need for stability. Let us keep these ideals before us at all times and we as Freemasonry will do much in these days of change and evolution to uphold and maintain the stability of Law and Order. For let us remember that this rule of law is indeed fashioned in the Law and Order of the G.A.O.T.U., who, by his Wisdom, Strength and Beauty has formed, and now rules and supports his vast Creation.
So shall we have a part in the ultimate aim of the Almighty to which Tennyson refers:
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
I presume that any member of the Lodge, or any similar Lodge, should have at any rate in his own mind, a reason for his choice of a subject when submitting a paper to his fellow members. If he can convince his hearers that his reason is sound, he will surely have justified his choice,…