The EA degree introduces candidates to seven moral principles, which we group into three tenets and four Cardinal Virtues. The tenets are brotherly love, relief, and truth. [Portuguese brethren should know this by heart because is one of the points that they may be cross-examined by the Deacon when visiting a anglo-saxon Lodge; it is presumed to be know by instinct] These tenets are key to any organization, but especially to our fraternity. Relief is practiced through our Masonic charities as an expression of brotherly love. If we are to become better men, we seek truth and enlightenment. These tenets are supplemented with four Cardinal Virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice.The idea of four Cardinal Virtues comes from Plato. 'Cardinal' is derived from the Latin word cardo, which is a hinge on which a thing turns. All moral virtues hinge on these four virtues. Plato writes in The Laws, (Book I, 631): "Wisdom is the chief and leader: next follows temperance; and from the union of these two with courage springs justice." Our present-day four Cardinal Virtues map directly into Plato's quartet with wisdom (or Sophia) being associated with prudence, courage with fortitude, and the other two being kept intact.
Although all seven moral principles deserve our full consideration, let us concentrate on fortitude. Fortitude is a virtue to which we aspire. Perhaps we should assess where we currently stand in terms of having fortitude. Social scientists use questionnaires to measure beliefs, attributes, and preferences. To measure our response to the statement,"I have fortitude," they would use a seven-point Likert scale. What number from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest) do you give yourself using the following scale?
Very Strongly Disagree...............Neutral....................Very Strongly Agree
To be a better man, we would want to improve in several dimensions: fortitude is just one dimension. The image of a limited amount of fortitude is inappropriate, as we have untapped fortitude that only becomes necessary in times of great trial. Nevertheless, we may find ourselves saying we are only a "4" or a "5" on the scale of having fortitude. It should be one of our goals to achieve a greater reservoir of fortitude for when we will need it.
Why Fortitude and Not Other Virtues?
Fortitude is clearly an important virtue, but we may well ask why this moral principle was included in the four Cardinal Virtues and not others? There are many valuable moral principles in life. Some biblical virtues include compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, patience, righteousness, and long-suffering.
Biblical virtues are often viewed as gifts or fruits given to us.Fortitude is not listed as a gift of the Spirit; indeed fortitude does not appear in the Bible at all. On deeper introspection, it appears that some virtues are learnable and capable of being improved. As we seek to become better men, fortitude is a manly virtue that we should work to inculcate. It is not given as an inherent quality, but one that a lifetime of practice can perfect.