The Drama - Damon and Pythias
John Banim, Irish poet and dramatist, wrote a play based on this friendship, which was first produced in London in 1821, and has since been staged many hundreds of times.
Familiarity with the Banim play encouraged Justus H. Rathbone to organize a fraternal order on the basis of such friendship. Its first small group of members took the vows of the new order with their hands placed upon a pocket Bible that had been given Mr. Rathbone by his mother. This Bible is still cherished as a treasured relic of the Order, and many thousands of others have been privileged to become members in what is known as "Rathbone Bible Classes" the original Bible being used to obligate them.
Abraham Lincoln and Our Ritual
The Order began, of course, during the Civil War, and its founder believed that it might do much to heal the wounds and allay the hatred of civil conflict. President Abraham Lincoln, being advised of the contents of the ritual and its teaching, said: "The purposes of your organization are most wonderful. If we could but bring its spirit to all our citizenry, what a wonderful thing it would be. It breathes the spirit of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence. It is one of the best agencies conceived for the upholding of government, honoring the flag, for the reuniting of our brethren of the North and of the South, for teaching the people to love one another, and portraying the sanctity of the home and loved ones. I would suggest that these great principles by perpetuated and that you go to the Congress of the United States and ask for a charter, and so organize on a great scale throughout this nation, and disseminate this wonderful work that you have so nobly started. I will do all in my power to assist you in this application and with your work."
The suggestion made by the President was adopted. An application was made to Congress for a charter, and the Order of Knights of Pythias was the first American Order ever chartered by an Act of the Congress of the United States.
In the Order's ritualistic work, every sentence has a meaning and every paragraph a beautiful and inspiring lesson. The flag of the country has an honored place at every meeting and the Holy Bible is the supreme Book of Law. The Order does not seek to shape any man's creed, but Pythianism is the practical application of religious and charitable principles to every day life. We have a heritage of which we are proud and our precepts and teachings lead men to higher ideals of life. We invite like minded men of good character to join us in making these ideals the dominant factor in modern living.
- << Prev