Whither Temperance | My Freemasonry
In an earlier post (Whither Prudence) I laid out a very short summary of Virtue Ethics (VE) and the Cardinal Virtue of Prudence as the mother of all virtues. In this post, I’m going to examine the first of virtues listed in the Texas Monitor for the EA Degree: Temperance. In the Texas Monitor we find:
Temperance is that due restraint upon our affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice. This virtue should be the constant practice of every Mason, as he is thereby taught to avoid excess, or the contracting of any vicious habit, which might lead him to betray his trust, and subject him to the contempt of all good Masons.
I’ve already established (in Whither Prudence) the Prudence is the virtue that helps us make right choices in general. With Temperance, the rubber starts to meet the road and we move from the more general principles governing our choices to the more specific types of choices governed by Temperance: more specifically moderation in those sensate pleasures that might lead us to make poor (or bad) ethical choices (i.e. vice — there isn’t enough space in this short essay to explore this much further).
The way of VE is a way of moderation. A virtuous man will not be so Temparant with alcohol (for example) as to be a teetotaler on extreme, nor will he have the vice of frequent drunkenness (a vice) on the other. A Temparant man will be able to enjoy pleasures such as alcohol (etc.) without losing control most of the time.
There is an adage that was popular in WW II that is particularly relevant to the last part of the monitoral section about Temperance: “Loose lips sink ships.” To wit: be careful of unguarded talk. A Mason given to some excesses might find themselves in a situation where they might become very talkative, and accidentally reveal that which he has promised to keep secret.
Of course, Temperance does not apply to alcohol only, but to other things such as our thoughts, our words, or our feelings. By practicing Temperance we can work on being more moderate in what we say to others. We can work on controlling our anger. In short, Temperance is self-restraint…that use of the compasses whereby we keep our passions within due bounds.