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 Duty.
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
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 all.
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.
Truth, in 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.
The 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
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.
To 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.
To the 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 !