Part 11 of a 16 part series regarding morals and conduct.
Freemasonry is probably one of the earliest forms of tolerance, freedom of religion and respect for the opinions of others within society. Mutual tolerance and respect have always been key aspects in Freemasonry’s system of morality. As it is an international order, a brother can go into any regular lodge in the world where beliefs and backgrounds differ and share in the peace and harmony that prevails. In this way, trust and brotherly love begin with respect:
Every person has a basic need for both self-respect and the respect of others. When our friends show, by word or deed, that they hold us in low regard, we may react as strongly as if we were threatened. On the other side, we would do almost anything for a person who holds us in high esteem. Thus, respect is both the least honor that we require and the highest honor that we can hope for in our dealings with our fellow men. It encompasses our words, our actions, our appearance and even our thoughts. Inside the Lodge and outside of it, we should strive to demonstrate in every way our respect for a Brother’s honor, feelings, efforts, hopes and any other part of his life that we may contact.
– Committee on Masonic Research and Education of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota, 1986.
As our members are drawn from every race and from every creed, we commit ourselves to respect one another and work together to achieve common goals. We are even able to become good friends with those who have opposing opinions from us, because we never demand them to conform to our personal beliefs. The only beliefs we don’t condone are those that include intolerance, tyranny and lack of respect. Rather, we promote things that are common, good and true, and accept differences of opinion in all things, including religion and politics. No matter what we believe, we all meet upon the level:
So Masonry teaches us equality of regard. On the floor of the Lodge all men are equal and brothers – equal in our regard, and brothers in the great brotherhood of man. (Henderson, 1996)
Our ritual teaches us that it’s the “internal and not the external qualities that recommend a man to Freemasonry”. That’s because sometimes we may be the same on the outside, but it’s inside that makes us who we are and gives us a nature unique to ourselves. That in itself gives us the right to respect and dignity. In a free society this is essential, as it is that which the rights of humans rest on. We can survive on basic needs, but in order to thrive we need to be able to satisfy our curiosity and spirit. Freemasonry allows for this freedom of growth:
Freemasonry stands and has always stood for freedom of political thought; for freedom of religious thought; for the dignity, importance and worth of the individual. In Freemasonry there is neither high nor low-“We meet upon the level”. (Claudy, 1949)
We are all members of the same human family, under the fatherhood of the Deity. Therefore, as brothers and sisters, we need that entitlement and consideration for our thoughts and feelings. That “temple not built with hands” is a universal theme among humans, and when we see it not only in ourselves but also in others, human dignity becomes not only essential but natural as well.
To give someone the dignity they deserve we need to recognize their freedom to choose their values as they see fit, and also to recognize those values which we have in common that transcend the material world. This lesson is critical if we are to evolve as Freemasons:
Liturgies and creeds, articles of faith and rules of discipline, stain the rubric pages of history, and speculative points of doctrine have occasioned more misery in the world than all the crimes for which nations have been punished and recalled to their duty.
We arraign no man’s political opinions, nor do we interfere with his religious creed.
To himself and his country we leave the one, and to his conscience and his God we commit the other. To the altar of Masonry, all men bring their votive offerings. Around it all men, whether they have received their teachings from Confucius, Moses, Zoroaster, Mahomet, or the Founder of the Christian religion; if they believe in the universality of the Fatherhood of God and of the universality of the brotherhood of man, here meet on a common level.
The rich man, the poor man, the sovereign, the subject, are lost in the common Brother. The Christian returns to his Temple, the Jew to his Synagogue, the Mohammedan to his Mosque, each better prepared to perform the duties of life by the association of this universal brotherhood. It is to this Institution, born of heaven in the gray of the world’s morning, before poets sang or historians wrote, that I am privileged to accord you a Craftsman’s greeting.
– Address by M.* W.*. Edward M. L. Ehlers, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of the State of New York. June 24, 1913.
Chakmakjian, Pauline. (2009). Respect For Freemasonry. University of Wales.
Claudy, Carl. (1949). Why Freemasonry Has Enemies. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.
Committee on Masonic Research and Education of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota. (1986). Standard of Masonic Conduct. Short Talk Bulletin.
Henderson, Kent. (1996). The Nature and Purpose of Freemasonry. Excerpted from “Masonic Education Course.” Victoria, Australia.
Martinez, Carlos A. (2009). Human Dignity and Freemasonry Nowadays. Mexico.
Unknown. (1925). Charity. Short Talk Bulletin. Masonic Service Association of North America.