I am often confronted with the Masonic pundit who enjoys demonstrating his endowed intelligence through the use of Rhetorical Debate. To be honest, I am still puzzled with this contemporary phenomenon. They perhaps learn it through television shows and news broadcasts, which love to use intelligent pundits to throw trash back and forth for the entertainment and enjoyment of its viewers. This may be akin to the Roman gladiators fighting to the death for the joy of the spectators in the Coliseum; sadly, little have we changed as a people. I think in some little way, many people enjoy watching others have their character destroyed; perhaps it makes them feel better about themselves and the lack of standing in society? Who knows for sure?
Yet still, many Freemasons reading this writing may be thinking to themselves that such behavior is OK. Well, I hope to persuade some of them at least that such behavior is unbecoming of a Freemason; and especially the Mason who desires the attainment of Immortality.
So what does Rhetorical mean? Here are but just a few definitions:
- language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable.
- a type or mode of language or speech; also : insincere or grandiloquent language.
Definition of grandiloquence:
- a lofty, extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic style, manner, or quality especially in language.
Definition of pompous:
Definition of bombastic:
- marked by or given to speech or writing that is given exaggerated importance by artificial or empty means.
Furthermore, the word debate can be defined as:
As such, we can see that the two words “rhetorical” and “debate,” especially when put together, can have a negative effect, particularly when one refers to spiritual influences. It has been said that we are the sum total of our experiences, and that they are often demonstrated through our expressions.
Indeed, God has endowed man with the skills to debate issues of importance. However, ask yourself, is such an instance a fight or flight circumstance? You see, we have been built with the abilities to defend ourselves both physically, as well as intellectually. Honestly, if one’s personal safety, either physically and or morally were at stake, I could see a person using his rhetorical skills in defense; but other than such an instance, I sense such an exercise is a futile effort.
Pike confirmed the inflammatory nature of rhetoric, when he wrote:
Speech, also, is grossly abused in Republics; and if the use of speech be glorious, its abuse is the most villainous of vices. Rhetoric, Plato says, is the art of ruling the minds of men. But in democracies it is too common to hide thought in words, to overlay it, to babble nonsense. The gleams and glitter of intellectual soap-and-water bubbles are mistaken for the rainbow-glories of genius. The worthless pyrites is continually mistaken for gold. Even intellect condescends to intellectual jugglery, balancing thoughts as a juggler balances pipes on his chin. In all Congresses we have the inexhaustible flow of babble, and Faction’s clamorous knavery in discussion, until the divine power of speech, that privilege of man and great gift of God, is no better than the screech of parrots or the mimicry of monkeys. The mere talker, however fluent, is barren of deeds in the day of trial (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1872, p. 35).
And with regard to how we should act,
Your debates should be but friendly conversations. You need concord, union, and peace. Why then do you retain among you men who excite rivalries and jealousies; why permit great and violent controversy and ambitious pretensions? How do your own words and acts agree? If your Masonry is a nullity, how can you exercise any influence on others (Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, 1872, p. 137).
Every Fellowcraft Mason learns of the importance of the liberal arts and sciences, of which he is instructed they are seven; namely, Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. Unfortunately few Freemasons today take this instruction with any degree of seriousness and make no further effort to examine the nature of these arts.
Like much of Freemasonry, the liberal arts and sciences come to us from the Medieval period, when they were believed to be the sum total of all knowledge that was worth while to a complete education. They were known as “artes liberales” from the Latin “liber” meaning Free. In this sense they were the subjects available to free men and were a contrast from the “artes illiberales”, which were taught for purely economic reasons that a man may earn a living. These arts were the operative arts of the workmen and were considered less desirable educational pursuits. While we have adopted the seven liberal arts and sciences from the Medieval era, they were known in the Pythagorean and Platonic eras.
The seven liberal arts and sciences were broken into two groups. One concerning language and the other concerning mathematics.
The first was the “Trivium” or road of three paths and included grammar, rhetoric and logic. Grammar is that portion of language that allows us to fine tune our speech like the ashlars and remove all barbarous expressions. Rhetoric is the art, which allows us to persuade and have an effect upon the listener. The last and perhaps most important art of the Trivium is logic, which permits us the gift of reasoning. In a purely Masonic sense it allows us to understand our duties to God and towards each other.
The second was the “Quadrivium” or path of four roads and included arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Arithmetic is the process by which we are able to calculate all weights and measures, but in a speculative and philosophical sense can be best summed up by the following quotation:
“For the Freemason, the application of this science is that he is continually to add to his knowledge, never to subtract anything from the character of his neighbor, to multiply his benevolence to his fellow-creatures, and to divide his means with those in need.” From Mackey’s Masonic Encyclopedia.
Yes my friends, if you are seeking a higher spiritual realm, my recommendation is to run from such activity whenever it presents itself; for “the mere talker, however fluent, is barren of deeds in the day of trial.”
So Mote It Be!