True Toleration


One of the greatest things that I have admired about Masonic lectures is their ability to focus on particular single words and present them to the brethren in a new or expanded context. Words such as improvement, when coupled with intellectual, moral, spiritual or perhaps social order. Harmony, when used to describe how it enables us to do everything together, for without harmony there would be discord and ultimate failure. Other words such as Obedience, Zeal, Fidelity, Justice and Enlightenment, all have their own stories to tell. A more accurate description is probably that they present a deeper meaning than one would normally observe.
This, of course, is because many of these words are presented through the ritual, thereby encouraging the participant to think repeatedly about their meaning, so that it can be presented to the brethren in the proper context. It also creates a huge void between those that have performed the ritual and absorbed the meanings and those who have merely listened to the lecture and perhaps forgotten most of it, if even understood in the first place. This is one of the many differences between the involved and the uninvolved, between those who “get the message” and those who do not.

TOLERATION is one of those great words that assist to present many thoughtful lessons about life, how we should try to live it and how we should treat others as they go about living their lives. In Freemasonry, we are taught to war incessantly against intolerance and one would think that the best way to conduct this war would be to practice tolerance, leading by example so to speak.  There are many within our craft that do this and I have been fortunate enough to know and to be able to spend quality time with several of them. However, several is not enough, and we still hear the ugly voice of intolerance whether it be the young among us who are critical of the old ways, the aged who are reluctant to change, or the back benchers who are critical of every movement and word if it was not performed to meet their perception of how it should be done. Freemasonry takes us a step further, it teaches us to be tolerant even of intolerance. We have all been young, we will all be old, and we have all made many errors. We expose our ignorance repeatedly as we strive towards moral and spiritual excellence. This is not a bad thing, but an acceptable and necessary part of our lives. It reminds me of the old axiom “it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all”, because through failure we learn.

True Toleration holds that every man has the same right to his opinion and faith that we have to ours.  We appear to be very good at the “faith” part of this lesson; for I can truly say that during my Masonic career I have never heard any brother voice an adverse comment about another brother’s faith. This statement is particularly apropos to the history being created today, as we are bombarded constantly via the media with opinion and reports of violence amongst warring factions, often related to creed.  Our tolerance over opinion doesn’t seem to fare so well. I am sure that this, to some degree, is inherent in us and many of us feel very strongly sometimes that ours is the true way. This may well be so, and Freemasonry clearly teaches us that everyone has the right to expression, but we must not forget that others have the same right, and what another person who is equally honest and sincere, and firmly and conscientiously believes, is the truth to him.

We are taught to guard the reputations, respect the opinions and be perfectly tolerant of the errors of each other. So let’s give each other a break and offer the helping hand of tolerance that we might improve and grow together in harmony. Let us remember that all actions have consequences, and we must be just, if judging others.

How fortunate we are as Freemasons to have the benefit of the lessons of Toleration and all of the other great lessons that Freemasonry presents to us with such simplicity and passion, leaving no room for error or misunderstanding.  How fortunate we are to belong to a fraternity that offers a common ground upon which to grow, the tools to guide us along the way, and the option to set our own pace. How fortunate we are, not only to be part of such an elite organization, but to have the ability and opportunity to introduce this privilege, observing proper protocol of course, to all men who are searching for improvement, belonging, knowledge and the host of other good things that Freemasonry offers.

Now is the time, and now will always be the time, to practice True Toleration. We should inform each new petitioner that we are indeed a Tolerant Society and upon entering our gates one of the things that will be expected from him is the practice True Toleration.

Wor. Bro. George Moore
District Education Officer
District # 23
British Columbia & Yukon