Inculcation of the Noblest Virtues

One word that becomes very familiar to Masons is "Inculcate." It is brought to light by its mention in the first, or Entered Apprentice Degree. What does it mean? It means to learn by repetition. Masons participate in degrees, learn catechisms and listen to lectures many times over. Masons inculcate, and learn by saying things over and over again.¹ And what of these noble virtues? Namely, there are four cardinal virtues that every Mason attempts to perfect in his walk through life. They are the virtues of Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice. These virtues are so essential and important to a Mason that they are described in great detail in the first Degree of Freemasonry.





Fortitude is represented in armour and helmet as a warrior, because it is a manly virtue, though symbolised by a woman. In the iconography of this virtue, it is often shown leaning against a column or tower. Here it kills the dragon of discord in the tower. The tower is damaged by the dragon, but stands, thus symbolizing the triumph of fortitude over vice and disorder. The expression on her face reflects some pain, as if the effort to remove the dragon (evil) from the tower (the Good, the conscience) was not achieved without internal struggle. She recalls the role of the Christian knight in defense of the faith.

For Masons, Fortitude is that noble and steady purpose of the mind, or courage in the face of pain or adversity. It is how we build our character, improve our moral fiber, and strengthen our minds to manage the challenges of life. In the absence of this virtue, no person can perform his duty, either to God, his neighbor, or himself, in an acceptable manner.

Prudence holds in her right hand a compass, a symbol of the extent of any action, and in her left hand a mirror, reflecting every thought back to be contemplated and assessed before the wisdom of the ages. The figure has two faces. At the back is an old man implying the wisdom of the past. At the front is the young woman looking to the future. The mirror is also that of truth: she sees the image of the prince's weaknesses and, knowing herself, can better correct his conduct.

For Masons, Prudence enables us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason. Simply, it is the practice of good judgment, common sense, and the wisdom we acquire in our journey through life. Prudence is among the most exalted objects that demand every Mason's special attention, for it is the rule which governs all other virtues.


Temperance is equipped in her right hand with a horse's bridle, symbol of the control of animal energy by reason: there is a time for everything. Her left hand holds a clock, a symbol of the changing times and seasons one must learn to respect by managing ones passions. It also symbolizes that time must not be wasted on vanity; measure everything to avoid excess. She stands for the fact that the prince must achieve balance. Her almost monastic garb expresses the rejection of the temptations of the flesh that lead to excess.

For Masons, 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. When practiced and perfected, a Mason is able to abstain from actions that may impair his faculties and perceptions. By this self-restraint, he shall not materially err.


Justice has a book in her left hand, representing the Law, illustrated with a balance, representing fairness. In her left hand she holds a sword, imposing but delicately covered with a piece of her scarf; "Deliver justice, but do not destroy the person". The sword punishes, but the balance weighs the gravity of the crime or the weight of the arguments of both parties. The statue wears a crown, recalling that the prince has the role of judge and arbitrator.

For Masons, Justice is that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction. Justice must always dictate fairness, honesty, morality, and neutrality in the treatment of all of mankind, more especially a Brother Mason. The exercise of this virtue incites us to act toward others in a manner that we wish they would act toward us.







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