Justice – One of the Four Cardinal Virtues

by Midnight Freemason Contributor

WB Gregory J Knott

     The Entered Apprentice learns in the first degree lecture about the four cardinal virtues; Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.   Some brethren and I recently have been having a discussion about the topic of Justice, so I wanted to explore what it means in the Masonic sense.
In Duncan’s Masonic Ritual the EA lecture states:
Justice is that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man without distinction his just due. 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 real good man, so should it be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof. The charge you received while standing in the northeast corner of the Lodge, your feet forming a right angle, was an allusion to the pedal.

     So what does this mean in the Masonic Lodge?  Our ritual frequently uses the phrase “in every well governed lodge”.  This makes reference to a set of principles of how lodges conduct their business, how the brethren interact with each other and how problems that arise within the lodge are ultimately dealt with.

     A lodge is created with the granting of a charter from a Grand Lodge.  The Grand Lodge has issued this charter based upon the rules of its own constitution and by-laws.  This constitution and by-laws were created by a group of men – Masons, who agreed to utilize these common principles in the execution of the fraternal business.

    Men become Masons through a process outlined within this constitution and by-laws via the ritual of our fraternity.  The ritual illustrates through an allegorical story the important principals and lessons that serve as the basis for masonry.

     Justice thus forms the very basis of our organization, it guides how we conduct our business, how we deal with issues that face us and provide the guidance in carrying out the actions necessary to keep peace and harmony within the institution.

     The obligations outline a code of conduct in how we strive to live and interact with our brethren.  The Charge in the Fellowcraft degree further explains to us:
Our laws and regulations you are strenuously to support, and be always ready to assist in seeing them duly executed. You are not to palliate, or aggravate, the offences of your brethren; but, in the decision of every trespass against our rules, you are to judge with candor, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with justice. (Duncan)

    We are thus taught not only the importance of our obligation, but also an approach to which it should be carried out.

     What does this mean within the local lodge?  As brethren we have an obligation, a responsibility and a duty to help each other in the seeing that our common goals, rules and high standards are maintained.
This can lead to some difficult choices at times, especially when you must “in the decision of every trespass against our rules, you are to judge with candor, admonish with friendship, and reprehend with justice”.

     These tasks are not to be taken lightly, but are often necessary to maintain harmony within the lodge, sustain our high moral standards and ultimately fulfill our obligations to each other.


WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

1 comment:

  1. To understand the first speculative understanding of justice I find it best to look at it from the philosophical views that would have influenced them, which it is reasonable to assume would be Kantian ethics.

    Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
    —Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)

    Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.
    —Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)

    A rational being must always regard himself as giving laws either as member or as sovereign in a kingdom of ends which is rendered possible by the freedom of will.
    —Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, (1785)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.