Part 10 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.
Justice holds a scale. The scale assures fairness in all actions. In the marketplace, a businessman gives fair value and a true accounting. But resting by her side is Justice’s sword. Injustice should meet swift and sure punishment.
– Bro. Richard D. Marcus, P.M.
We are taught that justice is “that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction”. We shouldn’t take things that we’re not entitled to, and we should give to others what is rightly theirs. For example, give credit where credit is due – don’t take credit for something you didn’t do, for that is the act of denying justice. As Freemasons, we must never deny justice.
This virtue is not only consistent with divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society; and as justice, in a great measure, constitutes the really good man, so should it be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principle thereof. (Sickels, 1868)
Justice determines what is right and what is wrong. The true Freemason will always do what is right, and act upright towards all others:
The exercise of this principle incites us to act toward others, in all the transactions of life, as we wish they would act toward us; and as, in a great measure, it constitutes real goodness, it is therefore represented as the perpetual study of an accomplished Freemason. Without the influence of justice, universal confusion would ensue; lawless force would overcome the principles of equity, and social intercourse would no longer exist. (Sickels, 1868)
Usually justice is depicted as blind, indicating impartiality. But in Freemasonry her eyes are wide open. In the world of the profane, justice is impartial based on the laws of the land. In Freemasonry however, it always favors righteousness because it is based on divine law. Likewise, we should consciously act in an unselfish manner and be self-sacrificing to do and stand up for what is right, while at the same time acting honorably towards others. A man who demonstrates this virtue is of high moral character:
Justice consists in rendering to every man his due, and is a virtue which gives an especial nobility and excellence to the character. Justice, indeed, is one of the glorious attributes of God himself. (Paton, 1873)
Not only does justice imply a strict interpretation of divine law, but it also reflects the greater good of mankind. For the Freemason justice symbolizes equality. We should govern our actions, be openly judged by others and never lead them into deception. We should do things not because we have to, but because we want to and adopt a selfless attitude.
We must do what is right, fair, appropriate, and deserved – all without prejudice. To give someone another’s due simply because we favor them more is unjust. We also need to remember to always settle our debts. To give something that is deserved, not just in the material sense but also in a moral sense. Equity, honor and fairness should be constantly practiced when dealing with others. It’s easy to look for weaknesses and flaws in others, but rather we should look for the good in everyone and believe that they are honest and sincere in their actions. Justice is balanced, it is not critical nor does it detest evil so much as to disregard man. We should be upright in everything and deal with others in a just manner.
As Freemasons, we’ve all been charged to be upright and act justly towards ourselves, our brethren, and the world – thereby showing others that we and our Fraternity are honorable. Not only that, but justice will also bring about truth and peace – inner peace, communitarian peace, and peace on a much larger scale as well. We need to remember to live by our Masonic obligations and morals in all things, and allow them to guide us within and outwith the lodge.
It’s also important to note that we cannot make sound judgments based on loose information. If justice is truly to prevail, then the truth needs to be brought to light in an appropriate manner:
You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on.
– Bro. Harry S. Truman, date uncertain.
You can’t really make an informed decision about any issue when you only hear one half of the story. As Freemasons, it’s extremely vital that we listen to and understand each other, educating ourselves before reaching a consensus instead of surrounding ourselves only with opinions that we agree with. Truths and solutions always lie somewhere in between two opposing sides.
The black cube is a thorough test of our understanding of the Masonic teaching of the cardinal virtue Justice, which “enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction.” We are taught of justice that “it should be the invariable practice of every Mason, never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof.”
Justice to the lodge requires us to cast the black cube on an applicant we believe to be unfit.
Justice to ourselves requires that we cast the black cube on the application of the man we believe would destroy the harmony of our lodge.
Justice to the applicant–we are taught to render justice to every man, not merely to Masons–requires that no black cube be cast for little reasons, small reasons, mean reasons.
And justice to justice requires that we think carefully, deliberate slowly, and act cautiously. No man will know what we do; no eye will see, save that All Seeing Eye which pervades the innermost recesses of our hearts, and will, so we are taught, reward us according to our merits. Shakespeare said, “O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant!” (Claudy, 1929)
When in deadlock, it’s better to concentrate on what is agreed upon rather than arguing over different opinions in order to move forward. It’s really not all that hard as long as we use some common sense to do what is right and do no harm. If something is questionable, whether it is lawful or not – it’s better to simply just not do it. As Freemasons we are charged to always do right. Our ceremonies and rituals teach several virtues to the candidate who we believe to have basic moral character and whose heart is open to the reception of those lessons.
There are few tools we can use to teach justice and judgement. For example, the gavel reminds us to ever be mindful of knowing what is right and what is wrong:
The Gavel, we are told, represents the force of conscience, which, of course, is the voice of our own soul, or as our ritual puts it “the voice of nature” and the “centre from which we cannot err”. It is this inner voice that is ever ready to warn us when without it we would err. If we let conscience guide us, and are prompt to heed it, we will find its voice becoming stronger and clearer with every day of our lives; but, if we fail to heed it, failure becomes a habit, and its voice will eventually become so weak that it is barely audible, so that finally there is no warning at all and its owner becomes a really evil person.
Conscience, like the Gavel, will “knock off all superfluous knobs and excrescence’s” so that the rough stone of our character will become the Perfect Ashlar fit for the Temple. (Henderson, 1996)
And then there’s the plumb rule, which teaches us to act with integrity in all our dealings:
The Plumb Rule is the emblem of integrity, and with the man of integrity we can entertain no doubt. We know how he will act, and what he will do, because he stoops to nothing mean or petty, a debt of a few cents is just as sure to be paid as one of a thousand dollars; where his attendance is expected there he will be. The man of integrity is ruled by duty and loyalty, and will never take an unfair advantage.
The Plumb Rule consists of a weight hanging freely at the end of a line; the principle that actuates it is the influence of gravity. No matter where it is placed, it always points to the centre of the earth. So it is in the spiritual world, but here it points unerringly to God.
A man of integrity does not envy the wealth, the power, or the intelligence and good fortune of another, nor does he despise those less fortunate than himself. He harbours no avarice, injustice, malice, revenge, nor an envy and contempt of mankind, but holds the scales of justice with equal poise. (Henderson, 1996)
And Also the compasses, which reminds us to have balance in order to secure good judgement:
They are not drawing, but measuring, instruments and their function is proportion and symmetry. By means of the compasses, a distance of one side of a centre-line can be readily marked off on the other side of the line, and thus the designer is enabled to maintain balance and symmetry in his design.
Symbolically, a balanced viewpoint and a sense of proportion are essential attributes of good and sound judgment and of the mature, sterling character which is our Masonic ideal.
We are told in our ritual that the Compasses “remind us of His (God’s) unerring and impartial justice.”
The ideal Master Mason is a well balanced and just man, and one in whom, to quote Shakespeare, “mercy seasons justice.” (Croft, 1974)
Knowing right from wrong and having common sense is naturally inherent in people as divine law that was given to us from the Deity. Freemasonry helps us to understand and put into practice its lessons and precepts. Using common sense and doing what is right should be our constant rule and guide when exercising judgement. In this way we can set good examples for our brothers and inspire them to practice justice as well.
Remember that we are charged to “neither aggravate nor palliate the offenses of our brethren” and to “judge with candour, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with mercy.”
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