I had the privilege to participate in a number of philosophical discussions between brothers, inside and outside the Temple, where we attempted to define the term “Conscience” and its relationship with the moral development of an individual.
It happened by accident to come to my possession, part of the research performed by one of the most notable psychologists of the 20th century, Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987), dealing with the Stages of Moral Development of the humans.
I am fully aware, my dear brother, that my analyses have made you fall asleep on many occasions, especially during our notorious philosophical nights accompanied with something quite stronger than water. The combination of my boring and monotonous voice with hard liquor can be devastating. However, certain reference points must be established, if we want to determine the social behavior and moral development of our fellow humans, therefore, please pretend you are interested in what I say and hide your yawns, because I am constantly afraid that half of your head will plunge on the floor and roll under the couch.
Our pal, the late L. Kohlberg (who committed suicide in 1987, following bouts of severe depression caused by a tropical disease he contracted in Africa), explained to the rest of us, who cannot tell schizophrenia from runny nose, that there are six (6) distinct Stages of moral development and sense of Justice and each of us makes it up to a certain stage during his adult life.
- The first Stage is defined by the behavior of infants. They have not developed any sense of justice and their decision-making mechanisms are fueled solely by their basic biological needs. The only inhibitive factors in existence are those of the negative stimuli (when an infant is burned by the candle flame once, he won’t touch it ever again).
- In the Second Stage, the little child acquires a basic knowledge of what is “good” or “bad” entirely based on the reaction of his guardians and the possible punishment bestowed upon him.
- The Third Stage personality shows a blind obedience to certain Rules. He follows orders, unquestionably, just because these orders were given to him by certain authority figures (parents, teachers, officers, supervisors, priests, holy books, etc.). I suppose that most of the Auschwitz guards, the Stalin-era NKVD executioners, the blind followers of a TV-evangelist or the Islamic Jihad bombers belong to that Stage and their motto to each accusation is always “I did it because I was ordered so”.
- A Stage-4 personality continues to follow rules; however he becomes conscious of the opinion of the Majority. Such a person is easily distinguished by holding torches or nooses in a Pogrom, asking for a vote to expel Jews, immigrants, coloreds or commies out of their neighborhood and in general by defining Good or Bad by the general consensus of his peers. Whatever may be regarded as “good” by his community it becomes good enough for him.
- People belonging to the 5th Stage of Moral Development strive for the good of the entire population. They are aware of what may be unjust in the society and they try to make it better by introducing new rules and laws. They do not attempt to protect only their social class but they extend this protection to all their fellow citizens, regardless of social, racial or religious status. Such types become successful human rights lawyers and idealistic politicians.
- The 6th Stage defines humans who transcend the legal system and the various social acceptances and define Justice on a much larger scale, which is above any racial, national or religious norms, in order to achieve their moral standards. They are the moral leaders of our society, such as Dr. M. L. King, the great philosophers of humanity, the visionaries of dramatic political changes and some notable br.: Masons, whose wisdom opened new roads of thought for the rest of us.
Later in his research, L. Kohlberg defined two more stages, Stage-0 and Stage-7.
Stage-0 personalities are rare, and are characterized by a total lack of moral development. They are the psychopaths and sociopaths among us, those who are capable of killing a newborn baby, or a thousand of them, with the same ease and lack of emotion that they would pick their nose.
On the 7th stage, Kohlberg put those extremely rare people whose sense of Justice responds only on a Universal level, such as Jesus Christ, M. Gandhi, Buddha or Muhammad. The problem with those super-humans has always been that their teachings are finally interpreted by people belonging to much lower moral Stages than them and eventually they are distorted beyond recognition, by time, to fit the ideas of those disciples.
Since the people belonging to the 0-Stage (do not think of your mother in law, I see the gleam in your eyes), as well as those of the 7th Stage are rarities and statistically inconsequential, I suggest we forget about them and try to understand some things about the other 6 stages that represent the 7 billions of humanity.
Let us recognize, to begin with, that the final Stage of Moral Development that will be achieved by a human being (and they are not only the 6 distinct stages I was telling you, while you were nodding off, but intermediate ones, as well), is a combination of hereditary and acquired capacities.
It goes without saying that we cannot do anything on the hereditary part of the equation, if we do not aspire to be called Little Hitlers. Furthermore, it would be quite stupid to act on that, knowing that some people who defined Western Civilization with their work, (e.g. L.V. Beethoven), were genetically compromised.
However, I hope you agree with me, when I support that a society can do a lot of things, with regard to the Education of its young members. With the term Education (with a capital E) I refer to the teaching process, sometimes by example, which will lead to the real moral development of the student and not only to the reproduction of dry knowledge that is not connected to his personality and his character.
Teaching is an initiation process, which cannot have any relationship to mediocre and lazy teachers. It is an Art, which unfortunately has been forgotten by the 3- and 4-Stage halfwits who abuse our system of education and our children and lead to a homogenized society that acts as a huge lawnmower, cutting anything that springs above the rest.
You see, my dearest and only reader, in essence it is not envy of the Have-not’s against the Have’s that will drive a fight between Classes, as Carl Marx wrote. Sometimes it is the insecurity of a less morally developed person against an individual with strong and advanced moral status that causes this clash. These are the hidden parameters of the equation which render the whole “Struggle of the Classes” issue erratic and thus obsolete, as Jesus Christ or Socrates can testify.
As you very well understand, my brother, the process of the perfection of our stone calls for us to reach a high stage of moral development and this is not based on some obscure theory but on some very strong scientific studies and data; and Freemasonry is an institution that is fully capable to offer such development to people who have completed their formal educational process and look for something more substantial in their lives.
Listen, Look and Learn and you will not lose..