The Importance Of Rhetoric

By Bro. Sean D. Litsky

Adobe Lodge XLI

To the Greeks and Romans rhetoric meant the theory of oratory. As a pedagogical mechanism it endeavored to teach students to persuade an audience. The content of rhetoric included all that the ancients had learned to be of value in persuasive public speech. It taught how to work up a case by drawing valid inferences from sound evidence, how to organize this material in the most persuasive order, how to compose in clear and harmonious sentences. Thus to the Greeks and Romans rhetoric was defined by its function of discovering means to persuasion and was taught in the schools as something that every free-born man could and should learn.”

-Donald L. Clark

Every Mason in this room possesses the ability to learn on their own the history of Rhetoric and the numerous categories, terms, and ideas, which it encompasses and make it a subject worthy of individual study, but the Profane of this world do too.

While I encourage you to learn the most possible about this subject, I also offer this: Instead of satisfying ourselves with the common ideas, notions, definitions, etc. of Rhetoric, we Masons must consider Rhetoric in the context of our Fraternity and Work. Therefore tonight, Wisdom dictates that we focus on the Masons’ practical application of the Subject and the need for placing it among our most treasured and useful implements of the many provided us by the GAOTU.

With Rhetoric, we Masons may take all our knowledge of the remaining Liberal Arts and affect the change we wish to see in the world. “Cicero’s threefold purpose (of Rhetoric), to teach, to please, and to move” (Clark 600) validate this possibility.

When attempting this, though, we must execute our purpose carefully since anytime change becomes the driving force of a person’s motives, dangers present themselves.

Rhetoric, an implement of change, includes dangers different than those outlined by Saint Augustine in regards to Language causing a barrier between men that leads to conflict (St. Augustine 861) yet similar to what Plato draws attention to when stating, “…there are professors of rhetoric who teach the art of persuading courts and assemblies; and so, partly by persuasion and partly by force,…shall make unlawful gains and not be punished” (Plato 4854).

Despite this danger we must not forget that our possession of Balance allows us to utilize this most Powerful Tool. In addition, our working tools given us in the Entered Apprentice, or First Degree, teach us that we must regulate our Strength or Power. Our Human duties, if not our Masonic duties, require us to exact the aforementioned positive Change in the world. That makes us very powerful people and tools of the GAOTU.

Combining the ideas of Albert G. Mackey, W. L. Wilmshurst, Jean Chevalier, Alain Gheerbrant, and yours truly demonstrates that Rhetoric serves as a key to our positive worldly influence. The first line of Mackey’s definition of Rhetoric calls it Language’s “Ornaments of Construction” (Mackey 646). This idea directly connects Rhetoric to Beauty in our Ritual.

In a previous paper I wrote, I stated that if the Lodge, in fact, represents our Human Self, then the Pillar of Beauty may represent how we Masons interact with the Profane World in order to influence it in a positive manner (Litsky 4). W.L. Wilmshurst calls the Pillar of Beauty “an intelligent and functionally effective instrument (Wilmshurst 157); while under the entry for “Language” in the Dictionary of Symbols, it states that Language may symbolize “Divine Intelligence” (Chevalier 590). So, this Divine Intelligence of the GAOTU permeates our minds and we then find the most appropriate and useful ways to pass the Knowledge or Wisdom on to our Brethren both Profane and Initiated.

In addition to connecting Rhetoric with Beauty, Mackey also claimed that a Rhetorician must acquaint himself with all the Liberal Arts (Mackey 646). That means that Rhetoric represents the apex of the Liberal Arts. This makes perfect sense. The presentation and structure of a quality Argument requires that the author or speaker become intimate with the subject, including how that subject applies in many other fields of study.

I recently found myself in an airport with three University students, all with different Majors. One said he spoke with a woman who claimed that it took only two hours to fly from Vancouver, Canada to Las Vegas, Nevada. After I informed the students that although the distance for the two-hour flight in question covered much more ground than double the distance of the flight from Las Vegas to Tucson, Arizona (this flight took one-hour), it remained plausible that the woman correctly estimated the flight time because the longer travelling flight most likely flies at a much higher altitude than the shorter flight. None of these students chose a math or science for their Major nor needed much of it to graduate, but these young men now understand the importance of subject study outside their own chosen career paths.

Could I have convinced them that the Lady made a plausible statement or that subject study outside their major contains value without my familiarity of Logic, Mathematical principles, etc.? Of course I could not have. With an understanding of Rhetoric and the other Liberal Arts, we teach and spark interest in those things that others normally pay no attention to, no matter their level of importance.

In this paper I used several aspects of Rhetoric to teach the importance of the art. Can you identify them? If not, you must study the topic so that our universal lessons do not stop at the Lodge door, but carry into the Profane world in order to transform it into an even greater place.



Augustine, Saint. City of God. Penguin Classics. London, England. 2003. Page 861.

Chevalier, Jean & Alain Gheerbrant. Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin Books. London, England,

1996. Page 590.


Clark, Donald Lemen. Rhetoric and Poetry in the Renaissance A Study of Rhetorical Terms In

English Renaissance Literary Criticism. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. (2003-11-01)

(Kindle Locations 77, 600).


Litsky, Sean. The Three Pillars of a Masonic Lodge. Sean Litsky. Tucson, AZ. 2011. Page 4.


Mackey, Albert G. Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences Volume 1. Moss &

Company. Philadelphia, PA. 1874. Page 646.


Plato. The Republic. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. (2009-10-04). (Kindle Locations 4854).


Wilmshurst, W.L. The Meaning of Masonry. Plumbstone. San Francisco. 2007. Page 157.

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