[Square & Compasses]

George Oliver: Aphorisms on Freemasonry

Selected aphorisms from The Book of the Lodge by George Oliver (1782-1867)

I: Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

II: If you remain silent when Freemasonry is attacked, you condemn by your actions what your conscience approves.

III: As you are a Christian Mason, you must on all occasions study to perform the duties of Christian morality, which are comprehended under the triple category of God, your neighbour and yourself.

IV: The benefits to be derived from Masonry are well described by Ovid and Horace, when they say, -"Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes emollit mores. Asperitatis et invidiae corrector et irae; " which may be translated thus: "To have learnt the liberal arts faithfully, softens the manners and operates as a fine corrector of ill-nature, envy, and anger.

V: To subdue the passions has been the universal aim of all mankind. All have placed their hopes upon it; and hence sprang the first idea of the Γνωθι Σηαυτον, which was inscribed on the portal of heathen temples, that it might prove a stimulus to virtue, of which it was the first lesson, and lead to the desirable consummation, in which all excellence was blended, of subduing the passions.

VI: If you intend to pursue the study of Masonry to any beneficial result, it is indispensable that you attend the Lodge regularly. This is your apprenticeship, and without it you will never become a bright Mason. There is no royal road to science.

VII: A Lodge is not to be understood simply as a place where Masons assemble for the dispatch of business, but of the aggregate body of its members. The latter is, strictly speaking, the Lodge; the former is only the Lodge-room.

VIII: An incompetent person in the chair of the Lodge, is like a hawk on the wing, from which all the inferior birds hasten to escape, and leave him the sole tenant of the sky. In the same manner, such a Master will cause the Lodge to be deserted by its best Members, and be left alone in his glory.

IX: If you mean to attend your Lodge, be there at the hour mentioned in the summons. Whoever is late, disturbs the Brethren, and interrupts the business of the Lodge.

X: When seated, recollect your situation. If you are an Officer, do your duty, and nothing more. If you are simply a Brother, your business is to hear, and not to speak. An officious interference is unbecoming in a Mason: it may do harm, and cannot, by any possibility, be productive of good.

XI: Be always obedient to the Chair. Obedience is a virtue of the greatest importance to your own character as a Mason, and to the general welfare of the Lodge. Without obedience Wisdom would be inoperative, Strength would lose its power, and Beauty its grace; and confusion and discord would soon banish the occupants of the holy ground.

XII: Never by any chance or persuasion suffer yourself to be inveigled into a party hostile to the Officers in charge of the Lodge. If you do, you will be a marked man, and your progress in Masonry will be rendered doubtful, if not altogether prevented.

XIII: During the period when serious business occupies the attention of the Brethren, you must not leave your seat, or engage in conversation with your neighbours, not even in whispers; neither should you move the chair or bench on which you are seated, or make any other noise to disturb the Master or his Officers in the orderly execution of their respective duties. Silence is the leading characteristic of a well-regulated Lodge. I have known many good Lodges spoiled for want of a due attention to these trifling particulars.

XXV: Never enter into a dispute with a cowan. Like the deaf adder he will stop his ears, and refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely. No matter how clear are your facts, or how convincing your arguments, still he will turn an incredulous ear to your reasoning. Though you anxiously cry out, Oh, Baal, hear us, and even cut yourself with knives and lancets to bespeak his attention, there will be neither voice nor any answer, nor any that regardeth. You may as well endeavour to extinguish the sun by pelting it with snowballs, or to cut rocks in pieces with a razor, as to make any genial impression on the mind of a professed cowan.

XXVI: What is the reason Bro. ____ makes so little progress in Masonry? -Indolence. Why did Bro. ____ fail to establish a good character as the Master of his Lodge? -Because he was not an industrious person. Do you inquire why Bro. ____ never passed to the Second Degree? -I answer, because he was constitutionally idle. Indolence is the prolific parent of numerous other vices. Bad habits may be subdued, selfishness may be reformed, and passion held in check, but indolence is rarely, if ever, conquered.

XXX. Silence, secrecy, and calmness of temper, are the unmistakable marks of a genuine Mason. If you hear any one make an incessant boast of his knowledge, you may set him down as an empty chatterer. Noise is not wisdom. Those who ostentatiously proclaim their own merits may for a time enjoy the satisfaction of deceit, yet in the end their pretensions are sure to be unmasked.

XXXII. Do you hear a man boast of his abilities, his attainments, his dignity, or his position in life? Intrust him not with your secrets.

XXXIV. When in the Lodge, beware of contentions brethren. Truth is as little an object with them as brotherly love. They will wrangle against truth as freely as against error, whether defeated or victorious, they will still argue and quarrel, question and dispute, until they have banished every right-minded Brother from the Lodge.

LVII: How many disputes arise out of trifles! And how greatly would they be diminished if every one would deliberately ask himself this question -- whether is it better to sacrifice a point which is of no value, or to lose a friend more precious than rubies?

LIX: Before you pronounce a man to be a good Mason, let him pass the Chair. That is the test which will infallibly display both virtues and failing, mental imbecility and moral strength. If he pass through his year of apparent honour, but real trial, creditably, he will have nobly earned the character of a worthy and intelligent Mason.

LXII: When a cowan critises the science, answer him not, but listen attentively to his words. They may perchance recall some point, part, or secret to your recollection, which has escaped your notice, for the castigations of the cowan are not without their use and benefit; "Like the toad -- ugly and venomous, Which wears a precious jewel in its head."

LXV: Esteem the Brother who takes a pleasure in acts of charity, and never babbles about it; take him to your bosom, and cherish him as a credit to Masonry and an honour to mankind.

LXIX: Be very cautious whom you recommend as a candidate for initiation; one false step on this point may be fatal. If you introduce a disputatious person, confusion will be produced, which may end in the dissolution of the Lodge. If you have a good Lodge, keep it select. Great numbers are not always beneficial.

LXXI: He is a wise Brother who knows how to conclude a speech when he has said all that is pertinent to the subject.

XCIII: The great secret for improving the memory, may be found in exercise, practice, and labour. Nothing is so much improved by care, or injured by neglect, as the memory.

XCVII: As the Lodge is opened with the rising sun, in the name of T.G.A.O.T.U., and closed at its setting in peace, harmony, and brotherly love, so, if you have any animosity against a Brother Mason, let not the sun sink in the West without being witness to your reconciliation. Early explanations prevent long-continued enmities.


Oliver, George (1782-1867); The Book of the Lodge; reprint of third edition by Aquarian Press (Masonic Classics Series), of Thorsons Publishing Group, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England; ISBN 0-85030-535-7

My thanks to Bro. Michael Munro <Michael.Munro@online.rednet.co.uk> for his kind efforts of diligently transcribing and forwarding this selection of Oliver's aphorisms.


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