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the plumb - a tool for self analysis
by Michael Ross
Every Mason should undergo a frank and honest self-estimation of his vices and virtues. This inventory must be thorough, but impersonal. When you are able to see the debits and credits of your character before you, you are then able to balance your spiritual budget.
This self-evaluation should not result in despair or an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Shortcomings require no more than a well-defined program of correction. A man full of the realization of his own vices is as far from the Truth as a man filled with realization of his virtues. The old theological tradition that there is a certain virtue in stewing in one's own remorse has no place in a metaphysical philosophy like Freemasonry.
Remember that perfection is reserved for the gods. It is not expected that the average Mason should live without fault or error, but it is most desirable that he profits by his mistakes. A Mason must learn to never permit the mistakes of the past to overshadow his present effort. The past must be transmuted into soul power through understanding. Do not bring forward separate incidents to plague the present purposes. Bring forward the sum of experience and understanding in the form of tolerance, patience, and virtue.
From the past we too often inherit a body of prejudices and inhibitions. Habits of thinking and living are not quickly changed, nor are prejudices of a lifetime easily dispelled. There is no use trying to go forward toward light and truth as long as we cherish destructive attitudes in our personal lives.
Nearly everyone nurses some grievance or delinquency with loving care. Other faults are quickly remedied, other virtues are cultivated, but this one soft, sore spot is a sacred privilege that the gods must overlook.
When you get your faults and failings all classified and your virtues arranged neatly in their most flattering pattern, examine each of these products of your own consciousness with discriminating care and perceive wherein your own mind does not think straight. Observe carefully where the biases are, why the intemperance have been permitted, and most of all how these may be corrected justly and permanently. In examining the chart of your own ups and downs, be particularly observant of the extremes. One virtue rising majestically from the midst of numberless faults or one vice holding forth tyrannically over many petty virtues is the usual pattern.
It is far better to be moderately good in all things than to be outstanding in one thing and deficient in all the other virtues. Man is most nearly balanced when all his attitudes, ideals and opinions are equally developed. An extreme imbalance will serve to confound the soul. One exaggerated virtue is the worst vice a person can have.
As you review your own life you may attempt to excuse your faults on the grounds of circumstances, feeling that conditions beyond your control are the true causes of mistakes made; much more in life would have been accomplished had fortune smiled.
Success and integrity are not matters of opportunity, but evolved in character. The noblest, wises, and most virtuous of human beings are not those who have the greatest opportunities. Those whose difficulties are numerous frequently develop the best philosophies of life; those whose problems are petty lament their fate the loudest.
The accomplishment of the greatest good is the fundamental purpose of life. This accomplishment is hindered and frustrated by attachment to personalities and things. The moment we overestimate the value of material things we become incapable of a philosophical administration of the affairs of physical life. The moment we develop an undue attachment to persons we become incapable of serving them intelligently. It is a common, almost universal fault to develop undue attachments based upon the conceit that we are capable of possessing anything.
The Taoist monk has made the pleasant discovery that he owns nothing; the Buddha taught that possession was one of the cardinal sins and fatal to spiritual growth. The wise Mason is attached to Principle, Universal Truth behind all things and he seeks only Truth. This does not mean he is selfish or inconsiderate of others. He serves all men impersonally because to him there is no distinction of family, nation or race.
Pythagoras said all relationships are based upon wisdom and "He who is wiser than I is my father. He whose wisdom is equal to my own is my brother. And he who is of wisdom less than myself is my son."
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Last modified: March 22, 2014