Aristotle was by profession a naturalist specializing in zoology who by offering payment for specimens turned Greece's whole merchant marine into a collecting agency, and who was able through his family and political connections to persuade scores of his friends to maintain private zoological and botanical gardens for him and who because lie was a famous college professor was able to commandeer hundreds of students to conduct experiments and make notes for him. These notes he published, acres of them; and his must have been one of the best organizations ever devised because after 2500 years, so Professor Singer tells us, he has been found out in only four or five important errors. The secret of this amazing success in keeping thousands of individuals at work on one thing and of his being able to coordinate tens of thousands of findings was a system of classification which if he did not invent it he at least perfected it. He divided everything into kinds, animal, vegetable, mineral; animals and vegetables he divided into orders, families, genera, species, and varieties; it was a sort of vast filing system like the one employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for filing finger prints. To find any given plant or animal in it you only had to have the key.
This key was furnished by his system of classification which was built on the theory that each group of plants or animals has a set of properties or attributes peculiar to itself, animals with attributes A, B, C, D, E were put into the same group, or class, and this class was given a name. Those with attributes WV, X, Y, Z were put into another class, etc. If within a class a number of animals had a set of special attributes peculiar to themselves they were a species or variety and given a secondary name. Any given specimen was identified and described by giving its family, genus, species, and variety.
It one day occurred to Aristotle in a blinding flash of imagination that the same system of classification could be applied to every kind of thing, even to our thoughts; the result was his preparation of that "organon," or system, to which he gave the name of logic; and by the time he died Aristotle had become convinced that he had hit upon the very system by which the mind itself works; he had found out, he was sure, "the science of thought"; since then, in Europe first and then in America, billions have agreed with him, because until a half century ago almost every man believed in Aristotle's logic as a matter of course, and the majority continue to do so. The theology of the Roman Catholic Church is one-half St. Augustine, and one-half Aristotle.
The largest and most illuminating fact about political theorizing from scholasticism until a few years ago was the almost unanimous use by the theorizers of Aristotle's method. Aristotle himself had taught them how to use the method when he and his students collected some hundreds of what he named "political constitutions" and analyzed and classified them as a naturalist would classify plants and animals; he and his colleagues believed that the largest and most important attributes of the politics of any people consisted of the form taken by its sovereignty; how, or by what means, does it enact its laws? how does it enforce them? how does it try criminals? how does it bring its laws home to its citizens? Where he found a number of states doing this in the same way, or at least approximately the same way, he put them into one class, and gave it one name. By use of this device he and his disciples after him produced a method of theorizing and of nomenclature which appeared to be impersonal, scientific, and almost infallible, and in consequence it has charmed generations of political thinkers ever since. How simple, how complete, it appeared to be! Such states as have kings he put into the class called monarchy; if a king inherits his crown, as in Great Britain, he belongs to the variety called hereditary monarchy, if he is elected as Poland once practiced it, he belongs to an elective monarchy; etc.
Thus it was that the old and familiar usage became fixed upon us. If a state is composed of a number of states, each with its own rules, it is an empire, and its head is an emperor. If its sovereignty is wielded by a small group of rulers it is an oligarchy. If it is ruled by its few richest or wealthiest men it is a plutocracy. If its citizens make their laws at first hand, while assembled for that purpose, as they did in Athens and as later was done by the Anglo-Saxons, it is a democracy. If they select representatives or delegates to make the laws it is a republic. If a people is divided into families or clans, if a woman is the ruler of each, and if there is a woman ruling those chieftainesses, it is a matriarchate. If one man seizes rule and holds it by violence he is a tyrant, or dictator. If a state is ruled by an hereditary ruling class (as in Medieval France) it is an aristocracy. If nobody rules because everybody rules, and one as much as another, and do so by an organization rather than by men, it is a commune, or is communistic. If it is ruled by a pope, or by its priests or preachers (as among the Aztecs), it is a theocracy. If it employs several methods at once it is a political syncretism.
Aristotelianism has been battered to pieces, bit by bit, until now nothing is left except the habit of it. Protestantism proved that it cannot be true in theology. Copernicus, Galileo, and Francis Bacon proved it false in the physical sciences, and whatever pieces remained were exposed in our own generation by Einstein, and the logicians and mathematicians in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, after Kant, Hegel, Bradley, and the French mathematico-logicians and the non-Euclideans, tore it to shreds. And we ourselves, slowly and painfully but surely, are showing that it is as false in government as it was in physics and logic. In spite of ourselves, and oftentimes very much against the grain of ancient habits, we are becoming non-Aristotelians.
An entire book is needed to show why and in what way this is true, but for the purpose here one out of the many facts which such a book would show will suffice: Aristotelianism does not work. The governments of peoples are not plants and animals, and no so-called logical classification of them in the terms of kinds, families, genera, and species can possibly be true. They cannot be classified; and the behavior of any given people proves this to be true, because no people ever knows exactly what it is, according to the Aristotelian classification.
Their inability to do so is thrown into gigantic relief whenever they are in a war and must confront their foes, and court their allies. This has been true of ourselves. Before our Spanish-American War we presented to Latin-American republics the face of a dictatorship, the President, using the Department of State as his weapon, being the dictator. During that war we turned to Cubans and Filipinos the face of a democracy, and while doing it represented ourselves to Europe as a republic. In World War II Great Britain was a democracy while appealing to us, a monarchy while appealing to Greece and Italy, an aristocracy at Munich, the home of the Labor Party when appealing to Russia, an empire when governing India, and at home it was a United Kingdom. Germany had an extreme dictatorship, but called it nationalist and yet at the same time called it socialist. And so it went. from country to country. The notion that there are in nature of necessity a certain fixed number of classes or kinds of "political systems" was reduced to absurdity in that War, not because the peoples concerned were stupid or hypocritical but because Aristotelianism is so wholly false, and Aristotelian nomenclature is so wholly meaningless. We ourselves have a "political system" consisting of a teeter-totter of two political parties, each one organized and authorized by law, and it ought therefore to be called everywhere bipartisanism, but instead we call ourselves either democrats or republicans. Could an Englishman stand in court under oath and declare what he is? how could he, when he is imperialist, aristocrat, monarchist, republican, democrat, and a socialist together!
The world of man is divided not into areas of land or into so-called "political units," but into peoples. There is in each people a general and almost uniform way in which they organize and manage their homes, do their work, carry on their sports, and amusements, dress, speak, eat, and by which they conduct their community affairs. This is not a fixed and inalterable entity, it is difficult to describe and even more difficult to name, but every man knows that there is an "American way of doing things," a "Mexican way of doing things," a German way, a French way, and so on forth, therefore it may for the sake of convenience be described as a people's way of life. It is this way of life, and not political theories, or doctrines, or "principles," which determine how any given people will find, declare, and promulgate its laws and select men to hold office in its government. Since a people's way of life is its own, since it is not duplicated anywhere else in the world and could not be duplicated out of history, it is unique, their very own; and since their way of government belongs to their way of life it necessarily also is unique. Therefore instead of describing governments as democratic, or monarchic, or communistic, etc., we should think and speak of them as the American's government, the Englishman's government, the Russian's government, etc.
From about the time of Jackson's Administration until the present generation we had a way of life which we may describe with satisfactory accuracy by the word "Committee." The father of a family was not a god, king, dictator, chieftain ruling over it but was its spokesman, its representative, he acted for it. The teachers to whom his children went to school were employed by a School Board which acted as delegates from the school district. Banks, business corporations, etc., were administered by Boards of Directors. A City Council was a body of legislators chosen to represent the citizens. A State Government or the Federal Government was a body of representatives or delegates. Churches were governed by boards of stewards, trustees, etc. Almost everything, from the largest to the smallest, even a picnic, was governed or administered, or managed by representatives, or delegates, or spokesmen, acting as a committee. If we employed this committee method in government, local, state, and national, it was not because the founders of our nation chose it, or because the Constitution compelled it, but because it was of a piece of our way of life. There are evidences on every side which prove that this way of life, a century old, has broken down, or is in process of doing so, and that somewhere within our midst a new way of life is taking shape; it is doing so slowly, and almost invisibly, as a new way of life always does; we cannot see as yet what form it will take, but we can be certain beforehand that it will differ greatly from the old one and a man would waste his time as much to attempt to cling to the old as he would to attempt to control the new, because no way of life is ever invented by one man, or one group of men, or thought out, or theorized into existence, but comes as a vast and only half-conscious act of a whole people. Once we have a new way of life (perhaps thirty years hence) we shall have a method in government which will belong to it.
If these things be true the problem of Masonry and politics, or of Masonry's own "political system," or of Masonry and political parties, is solved before we take it up. During the Eighteenth and (the now almost equally remote) Nineteenth Centuries when men everywhere were using Aristotle's system of classification ("polity") and labeling governments by his names, hundreds of attempts were made to show to which of Aristotle's classifications a Lodge belonged. After the Mother Grand Lodge had become "Modernized" a large number of its members insisted that a Lodge is a monarchy and that the Master is its monarch. After the French and American Revolutionary wars the theorists began to declare that a Lodge is a republic, and that its officers are delegates of its membership. Since about 1920 A.D. many Masonic theorists have argued that a Lodge is a democracy. Scarcely one of Aristotle's many classifications but has had its champion, and if the Fraternity had listened to them no Mason would now know what he is in the eyes of political theory his political clothing would have as many colors as Joseph's coat, and many more patches; it would be all patches!
The Fraternity has never paid any heed to these theorists, partly because it would not and partly because it could not. It would not now be in existence if it had. It preserved its Landmarks and its rules and regulations and its own work and teachings through centuries in which England changed its ways of life and therefore of "politics" four or five times, and in America it has preserved its identity unaltered through two such changes. It is at the present at work in forty or fifty countries (even in Japan!), each with its own way of life and ways of government. Manifestly there has never been a period in its history when it was identified with any one way of politics else it would have perished with it; it is equally certain that it could not now be identified with one, else it could not work in so many countries which have among themselves so many ways of government. In the Aristotelian sense it has no "politics," and could not have, and therefore is not monarchic, aristocratic, dictatorial, republican, democratic, socialist, or communistic, nor could it support any "political party" outside itself which could be called by any one of those names.
There has never been a time when the Fraternity has not had in it something which can be described, non-technically, as government; and this has never been altered in its principles or fundamentals, nor could it be without destroying Freemasonry itself. Lodges and Grand Lodges act as legislative bodies. Lodge and Grand Lodge officers, certain of them, act as magistrates. It has a jurisprudence, in which are Landmarks, Constitutions, statutes, edicts, decisions, courts, rules, regulations, customs, usages, parliamentary law, and much in its etiquette is backed or implemented by its jurisprudence; and Lodges and Grand Lodges have a set of installed officers, the "installed" meaning that each office has a fixed jurisdiction with a prescribed and defined number of powers, duties and prerogatives. Together the whole of it comprises a government; but it is impossible to see where it is at any point a political government if "political" is used as the newspapers use it, because Masons as Lodges do not divide up on two sides, or adopt platforms, or participate in campaigns.
It is also impossible to see how any of
the accustomary political labels can be applied to it, because
it fits into no class or category; it is unique. The only true
description of it (if it is necessary to use the word) is the
formula: "Freemasonic Politics are freemasonic politics,"
which is not a repetition of words but is a recognition of the
fact that the Fraternity's government is exclusively and uniquely
its own, and therefore not to be described or defined in any other
form or way of government. Why do Masons have these particular
ways of government? Because they were necessary, because the nature
of their work dictated them, because they are called for by the
Craft's form of fellowship, because they were called forth by
experience and practice. At no time in the Fraternity's history
have its members ever been converted to any political gospel,
or accepted any political creed, or espoused any political theory,
or used any political watchword, because such matters have always
lain outside its own province; and because within itself it has
always adopted such rules and regulations as were needed by it
to go on with its own work.
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