XXVII. KNIGHT COMMANDER OF THE EMPIRE
THIS is the first of the really Chivalric Degrees of the
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. It occupies this place in the
Calendar of the Degrees between the 26th and the last of the
Philosophical Degrees, in order, by breaking the continuity of
these, to relieve what might otherwise become wearisome; and also to
remind that, while engaged with the speculations and abstractions of
philosophy and creeds, the Mason is also to continue engaged in
active duties of this great warfare of life. He is not only a
Moralist and Philosopher, but a Soldier, the Successor of those
Knights of the Middle Age, who, while they wore the Cross, also
wielded the Sword, and were the Soldiers of Honor, Loyalty, and
Times change, and circumstances; but Virtue and Duty
remain the same. The Evils to be warred against but take another
shape and are developed in a different form.
There is the
same need now of truth and loyalty as in the days of Frederic
The characters, religious and military, attention
to the sick and wounded in the Hospital, and war against the Infidel
in the field are no longer blended; but the same duties, to be
performed in another shape, continue to exist and to environ us
The innocent virgin is no longer at the mercy of the
brutal Baron or licentious man-at-arms; but purity and innocence
still need protectors.
War is no longer the apparently
natural State of Society; and for most men it is an empty obligation
to assume, that they will not recede before the enemy; but the same
high duty and obligation still rest upon all men.
act, profession, and opinion, is rarer now than in days of chivalry.
Falsehood has become a current coin, and circulates with a certain
degree of respectability; because it has an actual value. It is
indeed the great Vice of the Age--it, and its twin-sister,
Dishonesty. Men, for political preferment, profess whatever
principles are expedient and profitable. At the bar, in the pulpit,
and in the halls of legislation, men argue against their own
convictions, and, with what they term logic, prove to the
satisfaction of others that which they do not themselves believe.
Insincerity and duplicity are valuable to their possessors, like
estates in stocks, that yield a certain revenue: and it is no longer
the truth of an opinion or a principle, but the net profit that may
be realized from it, which is the measure of its value.
Press is the great sower of falsehood. To slander a political
antagonist, to misrepresent all that he says, and, if that be
impossible, to invent for him what he does not say; to put in
circulation whatever baseless calumnies against him are necessary to
defeat him,--these are habits so common as to have ceased to notice
or comment, much less surprise or disgust.
There was a time
when a Knight would die rather than utter a lie or break his
Knightly word. The Knight Commander of the Temple revives the old
Knightly spirit; and devotes himself to the Knightly worship of
Truth. No profession of an opinion not his own, for expediency's
sake or profit, or through fear of the world's disfavor; no slander
of even an enemy; no coloring or perversion of the sayings or acts
of other men; no insincere speech and argument for any purpose, or
under any pretext, must soil his fair escutcheon. Out of the
Chapter, as well as in it, he must speak the Truth, and all the
Truth, no more and no less; or else speak not at all.
purity and innocence everywhere, the Knight Commander owes
protection, as of old; against bold violence, or those, more guilty
than murderers, who by art and treachery seek to slay the soul; and
against that want and destitution that drive too many to sell their
honor and innocence for food.
In no age of the world has man
had better opportunity than now to display those lofty virtues and
that noble heroism that so distinguished the three great military
and religious Orders, in their youth, before they became corrupt and
vitiated by prosperity and power.
When a fearful epidemic
ravages a city, and death is inhaled with the air men breathe; when
the living scarcely suffice to bury the dead--most men flee in
abject terror, to return and live, respectable and influential, when
the danger has passed away. But the old Knightly spirit of devotion
and disinterestedness and contempt of death still lives, and is not
extinct in the human heart. Everywhere a few are found to stand
firmly and unflinchingly at their posts, to front and defy the
danger, not for money, or to be honored for it, or to protect their
own household; but from mere humanity, and to obey the unerring
dictates of duty. They nurse the sick, breathing the pestilential
atmosphere of the hospital. They explore the abodes of want and
misery. With the gentlenes of woman, they soften the pains of the
dying, and feed the lamp of life in the convalescent. They perform
the last sad offices the dead; and they seek no other reward than
the approval their own consciences.
These are the true
Knights of the present age: these, and captain who remains at his
post on board his shattered ship un the last boat, loaded to the
water's edge with passengers and crew, has parted from her side; and
then goes calmly down with her into the mysterious depths of the
ocean:--the pilot who stands at the wheel while the swift flames
eddy round him and scorch away his life:--the fireman who ascends
the blazing walls, and plunges amid the flames to save the property
or lives of those who have upon him no claim by tie of blood, or
friendship, or even of ordinary acquaintance:--these, and others
like these:--all men, who, set at the post of duty, stand there
manfully; to die, if need be, but not to desert their post: for
these, too, are sworn not to recede before the enemy.
performance of duties and of acts of heroism like these, you have
devoted yourself, my Brother, by becoming a Knight Commander of the
Temple. Soldier of the Truth and of Loyalty! Protector of Purity and
Innocence ! Defier of Plague and Pestilence ! Nurser of the Sick and
Burier of the Dead ! Knight, preferring Death to abandonment of the
Post of Duty! Welcome the bosom of this Order !
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