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TOLERATION

The grand characteristic of Freemasonry is its toleration in religion and polities. In respect to the latter, its toleration has no limit. The question of a man's political opinions is not permitted to be broached in the Lodge; in reference to the former, it requires only that, to use the language of the Old Charge, Freemasons shall be of "that Religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves" (Constitutions, 17:23, page 63).

The same Old Charges say (page 68), You may enjoy yourselves with innocent Mirth treating one another according to ability, but avoiding all Excess, or forcing any brother to eat or drink beyond his Inclination, or hindering him from going when his Occasions call him, or doing or saying any thing offensive or that may forbid an easy and free Conversation, for that would blast our Harmony, and defeat our laudable Purposes. Therefore no private Piques or Quarrels must be brought within the Door of the Lodge, far less any Quarrels about Religion, or Nations, or State Policy, being only, as Masons, of the Catholic Religion above-mentioned: we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds and Languages, and are resolved against all Politicks, as what never yet conduced to the Welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This Charge has been always strictly enjoined and observed; but especially ever since the Reformation in Britain, or the Dissent and Secession of these Nations from the Communion of Rome.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry


Articles On Toleration On This Page


TOLERATION

By Bro. Wm. F. Kuhn, P.G.M. Missouri

The superficial thinker ascribes all intolerance in the world to religious creeds, and, ignorantly, thinks that the great day of universal toleration will be ushered in, when all creeds are torn down and destroyed. He fails to recognize the fact that it is not so much a question of creeds, but that intolerance is the natural product of a dwarfed and misshapen intellectuality, the adopted child of a sterile spirituality; that toleration is the offspring of a broad and comprehensive intellectual development and the legitimate heir of a virile, active and sympathetic spirituality.

Man is the only animal which has evolved the power of speech; speech implies words, or the sign of an idea; words are the precursors of thought. To think is to reason and to form a judgment; reason and judgment are the basis of a belief. Man is a believing being, because he thinks. Even a disbelief, however paradoxical it may seem, is, when reduced to its ultimate analysis, a belief.

A creed is but a systematized belief, whether such belief or beliefs refer to the physical, intellectual, or moral nature. It is impossible to conceive of a man, with his intellectual nature, without a belief, and it is equally impossible to conceive of a man with his spiritual nature, without a creed. If such a sentient being exists, he is either suffering from an intellectual, or a spiritual vacuity, or both. A man without an intellectual belief would be an intellectual monstrosity, and a man without a religious creed would be a spiritual idiot. It might be well to note the man, or any organization of men, who talk loud and long about dogmas and creeds, who rail at churches for their supposed intolerance, because, if you scratch such a man or such an organization, you will find under the epidermis a most intolerable bigot or bigots, and so full of creeds to bursting. An intellectual belief and a religious creed are a part of man; the two are so intimately interwoven in his two-fold nature that to divorce them would destroy the personality of the man. An intellectual or scientific belief is made up of the same material as a religious creed. If the science of Geology and Palaeontology can borrow millions of years, if the physical sciences demand an ion, if the science of evolution postulates a primordial cell, why should it be thought incredible or unscientific for our spiritual nature to postulate a God? No, it is neither incredible nor unscientific for the pilot-man to use his religious creed as the chart, his intellectual belief as the compass, that will enable him to guide his ship by treacherous shoals, through the narrows, through the darkness and storm, into the sunlit harbor of a well rounded and successful life.

A belief in God and immortality is a great and universal fact; a fact that science and philosophy must recognize. The underlying truth and force of all religions, is man's belief in a God and a hope of eternal life. Religion did not give birth to this faith and hope, but this creed of a belief in God and a hope of eternal life gave birth to religion. That man is a religious being, is a universal phenomenon. This religious sentiment is "Like the finger of God writing upon the soul, age by age a new and ever renewing destiny." It is ever reaching out and endeavoring to comprehend a Supreme Intelligence, an Infinite Creator, a just, holy and benevolent Father. This effort of our spiritual nature is not derived from any of our physical senses; for no physical sensation can be transformed into hope, love, or faith. Man knows that his spiritual nature and the phenomena of his spiritual nature can not be described in the terms of the physical universe. A thought can not be measured by a rule. Spiritual pain or joy can not be weighed in a balance. Hope and love can not be solved by the binomial theorem, nor can our soul's desire be revealed by mystical numbers.

This belief in God and hope in eternal life has its root deep in the heart of humanity. The wise sage and the untutored savage have alike pondered the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The cradle asks the question, "Whence came I," and the coffin asks, "Whither go I?" Man is conscious of his duality, although he may be unacquainted with the simplest philosophical or metaphysical speculation. Primitive and childlike man, in the early history of the race, grasped in his feeble way that there is a God and that he was immortal. Even the barbarian may cry:--

"Whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire
This longing after immortality ?
Or whence this secret dread
And inward horror of falling into naught?
Why shrinks the soul back on herself
And startles at destruction?
'Tis the Divinity that stirs within us,
'Tis Heaven itself that points an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man."

Man, therefore, as he stands in the presence of his intellectual and spiritual nature, worships, and builds for himself a creed. Whether the creed that he erects is tolerant or intolerant depends, absolutely, on his conception of Deity. It might be said, as a man's God is, so is he. The early Hebraic creed considered God as a God of terror, of vengeance, and of wrath; that he was a tribal, racial, or national God only. About such a belief was built a self centered, intolerant creed. Intolerant because it was selfish, for selfishness is the mother of intolerance. But the belief as taught, especially, by the Prophet Isaiah, and which today shines with such an effulgent splendor in the life and teachings of Christ, is far different. It teaches that God is a God of love, a God of forgiveness; that the Kingdom of God is not an empty ceremonial or outward display, but it is in the hearts of men; that its fruits are justice, mercy and service; a kingdom not established by the sword and by race prejudice, but a kingdom of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood man. Such a creed is free of selfishness; it is altogether altruistic. It is tolerant, because it bears within the Gospel of Love.

"Teach me to feel each other's woes,
Each other's burdens bear."

The Gospel of Love is the world's panacea for intolerance. Freemasonry has such a creed. It is even dogmatic and unchangeable. It is, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty." This does not mean a belief in some notion of a God, some abstract formula, some metaphysical or geometrical demonstration, but it means the God as revealed in the sacred volume on our Altar, as taught in that "Inestimable gift of God to an."

Freemasonry in this short creed has no quarrel, or is it intolerant to Jew, Gentile, Mohammedan or Hindu for their faith and trust as revealed in their Sacred Books. Freemasonry has no quarrel with the an who has no conception of Deity and who has no sacred Book from which to draw his inspiration and hope; but Freemasonry believes in God, the Father, and he who can not accept this simple creed must remain outside of our portals.

This simple dogmatic creed is the very fundamental principle of Freemasonry. It is the cleavage between belief and unbelief; upon it we build our beautiful system of morals; upon it we base our belief in the brotherhood of man. Freemasonry without its belief in God, the Father, and its imperative corollary, the Brotherhood of man, would be a sham and a sacrilegious pretense. Upon this creed Freemasonry must stand. If we can not accept it, then let us take down our Charters, close the sacred Volume on our Altar, lock the doors of our halls and temples, and retire from the world's moral activities as a soulless and spiritless Fraternity.

Freemasonry is not a church. It does not design to establish a universal church, as some would foolishly believe, neither does it purpose to disestablish any church; it makes no war on church-creeds, but is tolerant toward every religious faith and belief; it respects and honors every genuine believer, whatever his individual or his church creed may be. No man who believes in the Fatherhood of God can be other than tolerant.

"There is a wideness in God's mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man's mind
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind."

The most tolerant teacher that ever lived, was presaged by the Prophet when he said: "And his name shall be called Wonderful, the Prince of Peace." Why ? Because "He united love to God, with love to man; courage to caution, perfect freedom from form, and reverence for the substance in all forms, hatred for sin and love for the sinner." He turned duty into happiness, wrote the laws into the heart, helped us to walk in the spirit of love; for love begets toleration, and by it lifts the world to the highest plane of peace and good will. Listen to the great moral code that he gave to man :--

"Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye also unto them."

Hear his dogmatic creed which amounts to a positive command:--

"Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself."

"This commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another."

The following are the graces that flow from obedience to this creed:--

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend."

"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."

"Neither do I condemn you, go, sin no more."

"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Are these intolerant words ? They are old and may even sound trite, but they are the very soul of toleration, welling up from a deep, profound spirituality, and are ringing clearer, stronger, deeper and fuller as years roll into thousands of centuries.

This self same spirit of toleration should be the crowning glory of Freemasonry. To the critics of Freemasonry, the religious zealot, on the one hand, who denounces Freemasonry as Godless, and, on the other hand, to the dwarfed intellectual and spiritual concept that declares Freemasonry is intolerant because it demands a belief in "The one living and true God," we can but quote the words of the peace-loving Whittier:

"Who fathoms the eternal thought ?
Who talks of schemes and plans ?
The Lord is God. He needeth not
The poor device of man
I walk with bare, hushed feet the ground
Ye tread with boldness shod,
I dare not fix with mete and bound
The love and power of God."

Toleration should be written deep in the soul of every member of our Fraternity. For Freemasonry is out of necessity an aid to every agency that has for its end the amelioration of the human family. While it is not a church, it draws its inspiration from the same source and walks hand in hand with the church in the broad field of humanity's need. It can not from its very inception antagonize religion, because it stands today as the proud champion of religion and religious liberty; the foe of irreligion and irreligious liberty; for freedom, but not license; for tolerance, but not anarchy; for civil liberty, but not tyranny; for purity, but not shame; for patriotism, but not treason; for sobriety, but not intemperance; for hope, but not despair; for love, but not hate. Freemasonry knows no nationality, but its kingdom is in the hearts of men. Its power lies not in the sword on the field of battle, but in the silent, yet potent, force of the individuality of its members. It has a foundation, tolerant, solid, eternal. Upon it we erect our moral temple and adorn it with the foliage and flowers of a life whose feet are swift to run on missions of love, whose knees are ever humble in the recognition of Divine favors, whose heart is expanding in charity, whose hand will raise the fallen, and whose lips will bring joy and gladness. It is altruistic, not egotistic. The spirit of Freemasonry is preeminently progressive, and while it not only inculcates moral truths, it also demands advancement along the line of scholastic development. It is the promoter and encourager of every art and science that has for its end the uplifting of man. It would appeal to the aesthetic, to the philosophic, and would surround the mind and heart with everything that can beautify and adorn man.

The spirit of Freemasonry is that which tuned the harp for the immortal strains of a Handel; a Haydn, and a Mendelssohn; that touched the deep and majestic tone of a Milton, the spiritual sweetness of a David, the genius of an Addison, a Whittier, a Longfellow, and a Tennyson; that sounded the depths of unlimited space and brought forth the music of countless worlds to the enchanted ear of a Kepler and a Newton; that descended into the earth and unfolded its pages, penned in the rocks of centuries, to a Gray and Agassiz; that touched the brush of a Raphael and the chisel of an Angelo and made canvas, fresco and rocks speak in living realities. That spirit that came like a gentle wind and dispersed the metaphysical fog of ancient philosophy, dethroned its selfishness and placed it upon the only sure foundation, that "I am my brother's keeper."

From such a creed will bloom into eternal freshness and renewing youth, that all prevading sweetness, that calm reliance, that loving toleration as expressed by Whittier:

"No offering of my own I have,
Nor works my faith to prove;
I can but give the gifts He gave,
And plead his love for love.
And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar,
No harm from Him can come to me,
On ocean or on shore.
I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I can not drift
Beyond his love and care."

-Source: The Builder - September 1916


MASONIC TOLERATION

By Bro. Malcolm W. Bingay, Michigan

Man in his egotism has quarrelled about religion since the first day of recorded history; from the cloud worship of the first Aryan down to our own sadly disturbed times it has been ever the same: martyrs have given up their anguished souls, armies have been massacred, empires have been shattered and civilizations sent to decay - all in the name of God. And yet through all these wars about religion there never has been and there never can be a religious war for a religious war is a contradiction in terms: no one can love God and at the same time hate his brother man.

Religion has been the pretext for war, but for an explanation of the hate which prompts men to fight we must turn from the fields of religion to the study of psychology, and it is a simple fact in psychology that we dislike, even unto hate, those who disagree with us.

The more strongly we feel a thing the more firmly we believe in the merit of our feeling; our logic appeals to us as absolute and we subconsciously justify our attitude often to the exclusion, in our narrow intensity, of possible outstanding facts. It all seems so simple and sane and understandable to us from our own personal viewpoint that we marvel at the inability of others to understand and see as we do. The average man, when filled with the ardor of an idea resents having anybody fail to agree with him in that ardor; the one who refuses to be converted to his attitude is either maddeningly stupid and unworthy of further consideration and sympathy, or he is purposely venal and vicious. The ratio of this resentment depends on the strength of the advocate's ardor, on his narrowness or breadth of mind, and on his inner spiritual qualities or lack of them.

Christ understood and forgave; too many of his followers, or those who devoutly believe they are his followers, scream for the tar and the torch. As Swift said:

"Some men have just enough religion to hate each other and not enough to love one another."

The blame cannot be placed upon religion, but rather upon our failure to understand the three impulses by which man lives, moves and has his being: First, instinct - that something which man shares with the animals, the simple impulse to exist; Second - reason, that something by which he is able to differentiate himself from the animals and through which he has piled up, through the ages, his material wealth; Third - spirit, that indefinable, ineffable Something transcending both instinct and reason and which permits him, in his loftier moods to glimpse faintly a possible answer to those eternal questions which have ever harried his mortal reason, but which leave his immortal soul calm and at peace with the Infinite. But Man is ever the egotist; he is proud that he is a reasoning animal; and he has struggled throughout the ages to gain answer to those questions by reason alone.

By reason he has built the cities of the earth; by reason he has encompassed the globe; by reason he has made the temporal triumphs on which our civilization now exists-and which seems to be crumbling again into the dust. The spirit alone can save mankind from himself and his ruthless reasoning. Terrible as was the World War through which we have just gone, there is one thing more terrible: the state of society which makes such a thing possible. The battles of the Western front in France were but outward manifestations of the war which tore the hearts of men before the guns were unleashed. Peace is a state of mind, and the war was raging in the minds of men long ere the first gun sung its song of death in the year 1914. When a world is bad enough to make war, war follows even as the boil protrudes its ulcerous ugliness when the body is bad enough to make boils!

We have boasted of our Age of Reason, and it has been an age of reason - reason without spirit, without faith in our God and our fellow man, reason like a giant ship rushing in circles driven madly on by powerful engines with no rudder to guide its course.

The first question which stirred the mind of primitive man concerned his God. Since the first shepherd, stretched on the hills at night, wondered, man has asked himself these questions and has tried by reason alone to solve them:

What is the nature of God?
What is the origin of the world?
Whence came we? Whither do we go? And why?

They are the questions on which all the warring theologies of the world have been built; and they cannot be answered by reason alone - they cannot be answered by reason at all, for they take in the realms of the immortal and we are only mortal. As Plotinus, the Alexandrian, said: "I am a finite being; how can I comprehend the infinite? As soon as I comprehend the infinite, I am infinite myself." Human reason is a limited and an erring faculty, unable to grasp "the sorry scheme of things entire" even as the stillest lake fails to reflect the sky as a whole. But reasoning man will not permit of such a thought; he will answer and explain to please himself and applaud his own wisdom.

From Thales, Plato and Aristole to Des Cartes, Fichte and Schelling, man the reasoning animal has run in the revolving squirrel cage of his reason, trying to solve the mystery of immortality on his mortal treadmill; from Copernicus, Galilee, Kepler and Newton to Einstein; from Locke to James; from Pyrrho to Anatole France; from the Sacred Bull Amon of Egypt to the psycho-analysis of Freud; from Apsu and Tiamit of Babylonia to Edisonian incandescence; from the fable of Prometheus unbound to the dream of the arrested energy of the atom - thus man has sought in the stars and in the human brain for answer to the riddle of existence, that answer which is hidden away in his own heart. And always he runs in a circle that runs with him; Hegel is applauded for saying that to which Heraclitus gave utterance two thousand years before, and a modern Pythagoras still stands at the shore of a strange sea, pondering the Whence? the Whither? and the Why?

"There was a door to which I found no key," sang old Omar and for him there was no key and for him who cannot find it within his own soul there will be no key, for the key is the key of faith, the key of the spirit which transcends reason. "Faith," said Tolstoy, "is that by which man lives." That faith is the song in the soul of man when he ceases to run the circles of his reason, when he rises above the earthly passions of greed and lust and hate, and sits him down in meekness and humility, awed by the mightiness of the universe about him - and listens.

The history of human understanding is the history of man's failure to rise above his own being; he cannot by the boot-straps of his reason pull himself above the rim of the bowl of Plato - the Tower of Babel is not the story of ancient days, it is the outstanding fact of our civilization today. The question that begins with a childlike wonderment and a childlike glory in our self-sufficiency ends in an aged doubt. All metaphysics, all philosophy, have swung the circle back to the beginning point. We are circumscribed and kept within due bounds when in our egotism we trust to intellect alone. On the grave of the cynical Montaigne there are engraved his own words in mockery to his dust: "What do I know?"

Primitive man was guided alone by instinct; to eat, to propagate, to exist was the only urge within his being which gave itself expression; dormant within him were reason and spirit. When man began to wonder he began to reason, and when he began to reason his material development started. So not in vain have all the philosophers of all the world pondered on the unknowable; for while they have not found that for which they sought they have developed the cerebral functioning by which man finds his thought processes laid out for him. The squirrel running in its revolving cage has developed itself for the duties inherent to that cage. Seeking answer to the unknowable by the rule of reason, man has been able to grasp and understand the knowable.

Throughout the ages there have been flashes of that spirit which completes the triangle of man's impulses; yet we have but to point to the war, the chaos and anarchy of today, of the hate and suspicion which sweeps the world to know that it has not yet spread its divine effulgence so far over the earth that we have with us a social conscience, a social mysticism, which, when it comes, will be that brotherly love and affection - outward manifestations of the spirit within us - symbolized by the trowel and cement of Masonry.

Instinct without reason leaves man as the beast of the field; reason without conscience is a ruthless Frankenstein which shall destroy mankind; the spirit alone, working through the alembic of man's inner self, must be the censor and control of reason. Our "Age of Reason" has been an age of blind hate, of greed, of horrid fighting and of awful consequence. We stand at the crossroads. We have no alternative. We must go one way or the other. Either we must cooperate or go on fighting until the last battle-axed, bullet-riddled, gas-torn torso writhes to its end and man is no more. We must find understanding, born of the spirit, to bring to this blood-stained globe the peace of God. And as long as we have within our own hearts hatred for our fellow man, and engender that hate in the hearts of others by seeking evil in them rather than purity in ourselves, just so long do we delay the oncoming of the Great Brotherhood.

"The man who has the life of the spirit within him views the love of man and woman, both in himself and others, quite differently from the man who is exclusively dominated by mind," writes Bertrand Russell. "He sees in his moments of insight, that in all human beings there is something deserving of love, something mysterious, something appealing, a cry out of the night, a groping journey and a possible victory. When his instinct loves, he welcomes its help in seeing and feeling the value of the human being whom he loves. Instinct becomes a reinforcement in spiritual insight. What instinct tells him spiritual insight confirms, however much the mind may be aware of littleness, limitations, and the enclosing walls that prevent the spirit from shining forth. His spirit divines in all men what his instinct shows him is the object of his love."

Socrates was the first to discover this truth in the development of his ethies. "Man," he said, "is the measure of all things. Descend deeper into his personality and you will find that underneath all varieties there is a ground for steady truth. Men differ but men also agree; they differ as to what is fleeting; they agree as to what is eternal. Difference is the region of opinion; agreement is the region of truth; let us endeavour to penetrate that region."

It was the aged arguer of Athens who first sensed a universal law of morals, but all thinkers have found it out; each man conquering truth for himself, following, as Socrates did, the inscription at Delphos: "Know Thyself." Plato proved God to exist by the very feeling of affinity to His nature which stirs within our souls. Guizot, Tyler, Frazer, in their studies of primitive culture found that whether in the darkest wilds of Africa, the peasant fields of Europe, or the rushing cities of America, wherever the hearts of men beat in every age and clime: God is. Man feels the spirit of divinity within him and seeks to give outward manifestation to that inner spirit as his capacities permit. His means are determined by his birth and his environment. He may begin by worshipping the sun which warms him and sees him on his way, or as the years pass and he develops a greater knowledge, he may worship Him who made the sun, worshipping God in some temple of gilt and gold, which reflects the glory of that sun and which has been erected as the earthly conception of the glory of Him on high. Well may the proudest Christian gentleman paraphrase the words of John Bunyan, point to the primitive native in his childlike worship, and say: "There but by the grace of God, goes he who bears my name."

The great outstanding fundamental fact of life is that all men, deny as they will with their lips, know in their higher moods that there is a God; not something that can be defined for them, but something that is, the ineffable, the inexpressionable fact of life, symbolized by the Lost Word of Masonry. Only "the fool hath said in his heart there is no God." "God," said Fichte, "must be believed in, not inferred." And St. Thomas a Kempis said: "It is better to love God than to define him." Far easier it would be to explain by what rules of music the deaf Beethoven drew from the song of his soul his divine harmonies, or what rules of oratory went to make up the Gettysburg speech, or what geometrical genius conceived the lowly spider's web.

Yet man the Reasoner crushes aside the spirit and, in his egotism, proclaims himself dictator by intellect alone, and wages war on those who will not agree with him. How unconsciously fitting was the action of those French revolutionists who placed a naked courtesan on an altar and hailed her as the Goddess of Reason!

This to me is me very genius of Masonry: A love of God, simple, pure and undefiled, and a deep and unfeigned friendship for our fellow man with an understanding of his frailties, perhaps sometimes what we may call his narrowness and his devout inability to understand some things in the same spirit that we do - the pure essence of toleration: a recognition of the spirit groping within and not the clumsy reasoning without.

Yet it is a deplorable fact and one not avoidable in any discussion of the subject of Masonic toleration that the greatest message of Christ, "Love thine enemy," has been so misunderstood as to cause quarrels and bitter misunderstandings among Christian peoples. Christianity has been split into three general factions: the Greek church, the Roman Catholic church, and the so-called Protestant churches. Of the Greek church there need be nothing said as it is not the cause of the bitterness that has existed for centuries between the two remaining factions - those who adhere to the Papal authority and those who revolted from its domination at the time of the Reformation.

From the time of Uranus, the first Aryan God - and no doubt ages before - man had sought God in strange and devious ways; hideous were some of his efforts to give expression by outward manifestation to the spirit within him and needless it is here to trace this seeking, down to the cradle of Christianity, borne on the cries of Isaiah, ere the Jehovah of the tent became the God of the altar. Suffice it is to touch upon the darkness that was upon the earth before the Son of Man poured forth His flood of light by His divine axiom: "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you that ye may be sons of your Father in heaven." His words to mankind still mean for us the beginning of time. How long have the years rolled on, and how blood-stained is the calendar!

Rome was ascendant. She ruled the earth and the people bowed down and worshipped the Caesars. As country after country was crushed and the people conquered they adopted the worship of the Romans or gave careless lip service to their own. Isis, Osiris and Horus competed with the gods of the Greeks, now fallen from Olympus, in the temples of Rome - and above all stood the Caesar, god of all; the empire shone externally but it was rotten at the core. There came the cleansing words of Christ; "the blood of the martyrs" became "the seed of the Church."

There was no other civilization but that of Rome and when the Christian faith was brought from the catacombs to its triumph it knew no other form of adaptability than the Roman law; drawing its religious element from Judea, its philosophy from the Greeks, it took its constitutional organization from the Romans. Ranke, the great German Protestant scholar, in his History of the Popes tells eloquently of how Christ gave to the world its moral awakening:

"How obscure and unpretentious was His life!" he exclaims, "His occupation was to heal the sick and to discourse of God in parables with a few fishermen, who did not always understand His words. He knew not where to lay His head. Yet, even from the worldly point of view, whence we consider it, we may safely assert that nothing more guileless or more impressive, more exalted or more holy, has ever been seen on earth than were His life, His whole conversion, and His death. In every word there breathes the pure life of God. They are words, as St. Peter expressed it, of eternal life. The records of humanity present nothing that can be compared however remotely with the life of Jesus.

"If the earlier forms of belief had ever contained an element of true religion, this was now entirely obscured; they no longer, as we have said, could pretend to the slightest significance. In Him who united the nature of man with that of God, there shone forth, in contrast with those shadows, the universal and eternal relation of God to the world, and of man to God."

He continues:

"The church was at first governed according to Republican forms but these disappeared as the new belief rose to pre-eminence and the clergy gradually assumed a position entirely distinct from that of the laity. . . .

"It was imperative on the ecclesiastical body to form their constitution on the model of that of the empire." . . . With the Caesars turned Christian, "Theodosius, the Great, commands that all nations claiming the protection of his grace should receive the faith as propounded by St. Peter to the Romans."

Such was the beginning of the Christian church. When the Lombards, with other barbarians, sought to destroy the church, Pepin the younger, of the Franks, went to the rescue. To gain his aid the bishop of Rome gave the sanction of the church to his title of king. Victorious, he tore from the Lombards lands which they had conquered from the Roman empire, territory known as the Exarchate. This should have been returned to emperor, but Pepin answered, to again quote Ranke, "that for no favour of man had he entered the strife, but from veneration of St. Peter alone, and in the hope of obtaining freedom from his sins." The keys of the conquered towns be placed on altar of St. Peter, and "in this act he laid the foundation of whole temporal power of the popes."

Enough of history. Suffice to show that the spirit of times, the demands of emperors and kings made necessary, seemingly so, a Caesarian form of government for the Christian church. Democracy as we know it today was unknown. The republics of Greece and Rome were Republics of the leisure or propertied classes, with slaves to be bought or sold to do the work. Aristotle argues that without slavery there can be philosophy - the slaves must work that the philosophers may think. Plato's Republic provided slaves to do the work. Democracy came with the awakening of the world following Reformation and the development of the printing press. The church of Rome was the matrix for the faith of the Christian people, built 'tis true in the spirit of its times, when 'twas said: "If you are in doubt appeal to Caesar; when Caesar speaks matter is closed!"

Nor need we dwell long, for our purpose, on the Reformation and the Thirty Years war over dogma, with both sides hating blind bitterness - hating each other over how each should expre his love for God! That the church fell into evil days even Roman Catholic scholar does not deny.

"What," asks the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia, "has the church of today to do with the fact that long vanished generations inflicted, in the name of religion, cruelties with which modern man is disgusted? The children's children cannot held accountable for the misdeeds of their forefathers. Protestants must also take refuge in this principle of justice. However much they endeavour to blink the fact, they have also to regret similar occurrences during the Reformation epoch, when as everybody knows, the Reformers and their successors made free use of the existing penal ordinances and punished with death many inconvenient, and, according to their views, heretical persons. Hundreds of faithful Roman Catholics who fell victims to the Reformation in England are venerated today as the English martyrs. The greater number of executions occurred not under Mary, the Roman Catholic, but under Queen Elizabeth. It is, however, unjust to hold modern Protestantism, in the one instance, and Roman Catholicism in the other, responsible these atrocities."

I think even the most casual student of history will agree that they were rough and ready and passionate folks in those days, with the civil law and the moral law of the land rising higher than to really enjoy frying martyrs over live coals. Both sides did it with freedom and abandon and as to just which side did the most is childish and endless argument. It would be sensible for the French people today with their love of Joan of Arc to hate the English people because English soldiers burned her alive. No church has ever risen above the spirit of the people that go to make up that church; it cannot rise above the spirit of its times; where there are a backward and an ignorant people you will find a backward and an ignorant church, no matter what the denomination.

Let us go not back into the Dark Ages, digging down into the dust of a dead past to find something on which we can hinge a hate for living men, women and children!

Let us look to the present and the future; and what have we?

To begin with, and to get more directly into the subject Masonic toleration, have the opposition of the Roman Catholic church to Masonry. Of what does that opposition consist? It consists of a series of pronouncements directed to the members of the Roman Catholic church against joining the Masonic Order; worded too harshly to sound pleasantly to Protestant ears, but they are not directed to the ears of Protestants but solely to members of the Roman Catholic church.

It is to be assuredly agreed that no member of any other religion would follow as necessary any ruling given by the papal authorities, that only devout Roman Catholics would adhere to his orders. And it is to be further agreed by all Freemasons that there is a fundamental law of the Order that no man shall be asked to join, but shall, of his own free will and accord, make application. Therefore, what harm is done Freemasonry because a certain leader of a certain denomination decrees that his people should not join? The papal edicts against Freemasonry today mean no more than if he were to issue an edict to the effect that no faithful member of the Roman Catholic church should join the Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist or Christian Scientist churches. Everybody would readily exclaim: "Why, certainly not!"- and wonder what it was all about.

The fundamental opposition of the church of Rome to Freemasonry is the fear of indifferentism: "the indifferentism which equalizes all religions and gives equal rights to truth and error," as Cardinal Manning expressed it. Because of the very process of its organization and beginning, as briefly touched upon above, the Roman Catholic Church feels that it has the one true religion. Masonry cannot adhere to any such belief. As our own beloved Dr. Newton says in his eloquent book, "The Builders": "Of no one religion, Masonry finds great truths in all religions. Indeed it holds that truth which is common to all elevating and benign religions, and is the basis of each; that faith which underlies all sects and over-arches all creeds like the sky above and the river bed below the flow of mortal years. It does not undertake to explain or dogmatically to settle those questions or solve those dark mysteries which out-top human knowledge. Beyond the facts of Faith it does not go. With the subtleties of speculation concerning those truths and the unworldly envies growing out of them, it has not to do. There divisions begin, and Masonry was not made to divide men, but to unite them, leaving each man free to think his own thoughts and fashion his own system of ultimate truth."

Now, here we have clearly expressed the two points of opposition between Freemasonry and Roman Catholicism. Pope Leo XIII said of Freemasonry: "By opening their gates to persons of every creed they promote the great modern error of religious indifference and of the parity of all worships, the best way to annihilate every religion, especially the Roman Catholic, which being the one true one, cannot be joined with others without enormous injustice."

Assuredly this should not occasion quarrel. It is a striking fact of our civilization that no matter how low a man may be or how poor his ancestry, common opinion gives that man the right to display vigorous resentment of any aspersions cast on the character of his mother. Almost all of us are born to our religions as we are born to our mothers. We gain our faith as we gain life from a mother's breast; and we should hold it as hallowed and sacred as we do the love of her who bore us - not something to be brawled about and to be hating each other over.

It is regrettable that some should hold that view of Freemasonry, that it leads to indifferentism, not unlike Kipling's: "the more you 'ave known of the others, the less you will settle to one." Freemasons know better. We devoutly believe that our Order holds men close to their individual religious opinions; but the Roman Catholic church leaders feel otherwise and in their judgment those of their faith should not join. As religion is a matter of faith and not of mundane reasoning, as it is something that transcends reason, therefore he who is born of Roman Catholic parentage adheres to the faith of his fathers, and it would be grossly unmasonic to question him in that faith and in his adherence to the edicts of his pope whom he holds to be infallible on all matters of faith and morals. While it may strike strangely on Protestant ears, the doctrines of the Protestant sects, we may rest assured, strike as strangely on his.

"Creeds" says H.Fielding, "are the grammar of religion, they are to religion what grammar is to speech. Words are the expression of our wants; grammar is the theory formed after-wards. Speech never proceeded from grammer but the reverse. As speech progresses and changes from unknown causes, grammer must follow."

William James, the greatest of American philosophers (and certainly no supporter of the Roman faith), expresses thought more in detail, in his masterly volume, "Varieties of Religious Experiences."

"Men need formulas just as much as they need fellowship in worship," writes James. "It enriches our bare piety to carry these exalted and mysterious verbal additions just as it enriches a church to have an organ and old brasses, marbles and frescoes and stained windows. Epithets lend an atmosphere an overtones to our devotion. They are like a hymn of praise an service of glory, and may sound the more sublime for being incomprehensible. . . . Although some persons aim most at intellectual purity and simplification, for others richness is the supreme imaginative requirement. When one's mind is strongly of this type, an individual religion will hardly serve the purpose. The inner need is rather of something institutional and complex, majestic in the hierarchic interrelatedness of its parts with authority descending from stage to stage, and at every stage objects for adjectives of mystery and splendour, derived the last resort from the Godhead who is the fountain and culmination of the system. One feels then as if in the presence of some vast encrusted work of jewelry or architecture; one hears the multitudinous liturgical appeal; one gets the honorific vibration coming from every quarter. Compared with such noble complexity, in which ascending and descending movements seem in no way to jar upon stability, in which no single item, however humble, is insignificant, because so many august institutions hold it in its place, how flat does Evangelical Protestantism appear, how bare the atmosphere of those isolated religious lives whose boast is that 'man in the bush with God may meet.' What a pulverization and levelling of what a gloriously piled-up structure! To an imagination used to the perspective of dignity and glory, the naked gospel seems to offer an almshouse for a palace.

"It is much like the patriotic sentiment of those brought up in ancient empires. How many emotions must be frustrated in their object, when one gives up the titles of dignity, the crimson lights and blare of brass, the gold embroidery, the plumed troops, the fear and trembling, and puts up with a president in a black silk coat who shakes hands with you, and comes, it may be, from a 'home' upon a veldt or prairie with one sitting room and a Bible on its centertable. It pauperizes the monarchial imagination!

"The strength of these aesthetic sentiments makes it rigorously impossible, it seems to me, that Protestantism, however superior in spiritual profundity it may be to Roman Catholicism, should at the present day succeed in making many converts from the more venerable ecclesiasticism. The latter offers so much richer pasturage and shade to the fancy, has so many cells with so many different kinds of honey, is so indulgent in its multiform appeals to human nature, that Protestantism will always show to Roman Catholic eyes the almshouse physiognomy. The bitter negativity of it to the Roman Catholic mind is incomprehensible. To intellectual Roman Catholics many of the antiquated beliefs and practices to which the Roman Catholic church gives countenance are, if taken literally, as childish as they are to Protestants. But they are childish in the pleasing sense of 'childlike' - innocent and amiable and worthy to be smiled on in consideration of the undeveloped condition of the dear people's intellects. To the Protestant on the contrary they are childlike in the sense of being idiotic falsehoods. He must stamp out their delicate and lovable redundancy, leaving the Roman Catholic to shudder at his literalness. He appears to the latter as morose as if he were some hard-eyed, numb, monotonous kind of reptile. The two will never understand each other - their centers of emotional energy are too different. Rigorous truth and human nature's intricacies are always in need of a mutual interpreter. . . . How can any possible judge or critic help being biased in favour of the religion by which his own needs are best met? He aspires to impartiality; but he is too close to the struggle not to be to some degree a participant, and he is sure to approve most warmly those fruits of piety in others which taste most good and prove most nourishing to him.

In other words, that we may grasp it more readily, let us take the Roman Catholic ritual as a symbolism, an eagerness to express the soul within by the outward manifestation of signs and allegories: that is all it is to the devout Roman Catholic. Down, each in his own heart, the devout Roman Catholic and the devout Protestant Freemason, simple and unafraid in his faith, differs in no way, other than in symbolism - and church symbolism is the clothes of religion. Why quarrel about the clothes? Assuredly the narrow and the ill-bred on each side will, but that is something to be regretted and not to be emulated.

The Romanist has his symbols and we of Freemasonry have ours; yet each teaches the fundamental philosophy that these forms shall pass, that the spirit alone keeps step with the march of eternity. The soul of Hiram springs from his grave and cries out, "My name is Acacia!" and down through the endless ages, there comes the voice of Divinity, saying, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." In form we are far apart: "for now we see through a glass darkly": but in spirit, if we but have faith and charity, we are as one. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

"But," someone interrupts, "the Roman Catholic church still adheres to its age-old contention of temporal power and now seeks by its 'invisible empire' to again control the world. It is this that members of the Protestant faiths fear."

Let us examine the menace to see how solid is the ground on which our fears are based; for hatred is born of fear and hate is chiefly what is wrong with our world today. Let us consider statistics for a moment to judge properly the size of the threat which is made against the fruits of the Reformation.

In fact, let us get away from ourselves and our little sphere of life and get to the top of some high mountain and there take in the world as a whole. Our statistics are taken from the World Almanac.

There are, according to the latest estimates, 1,702,520,366 people in the world today.

Of this total, 576,000,000 are of the Christian faith.

Of the Christian faith there are 288,000,000 Romanists and 167,000,000 Protestants. The Greek church has 121,000,000.

One billion and several hundred million are not Christian.

In the United States there are 105,683,000 people. Of these there are but 15,721,815 who are Catholic.

Now, the problem resolves itself down to this: how will a relative handful of 288,000,000 Roman Catholics, scattered over the face of the earth, seize the reins of the world from a billion, seven hundred million people? How will 15,721,815 men, women and children of any denomination control America?

In the fifteenth century, the total population of Europe was estimated at 50 millions. Today it is 464 millions. In the centuries when the pope had temporal power and swayed kingdoms and peoples even as did the Caesars, the human race lived in a static world. Men seldom moved from the towns in which they were born; only a few hardy adventurers blazed the way around the world. Men lived and died without ever knowing what went on perhaps in the next town to them. Kings and lords and churchmen ruled the world and the people were dumb, inert as the beasts in the field: "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die." Even down into our own day and age the world stood almost still. Seventy-five years ago it took three weary months for a message to go across the Atlantic; today it takes three seconds. The ships of John Paul Jones could travel no faster nor were they better manned than were the ships of the Phoenicians; the soldiers of Napoleon could travel no faster than could the soldiers of Hannibal; the messengers of George Washington could carry tidings no faster than could the messengers of Julius Caesar.

All that is changed.

Today we live in a little world, a globe made small by the inventive genius of mankind. The earth is covered by a fine gauze of electrically charged copper wires that tell the story of all the world every twenty-four hours. A century ago a newspaper was a rarity and its news was months old. It was weeks before the press of England heard of the battle Waterloo a few miles away. Today the census shows there more than one and a half billion copies of newspapers publish yearly in the United States alone. We live in a new and a thinking world; if any denomination or sect or order or faith ever again denominates the civilized globe it will be by the triumph the spirit of truth alone and not by external domination. But let us get back again to statistics.

The two largest Roman Catholic nations of the world today are France and Italy. France has a population of 41,500,000 people. No religious census has been taken since 1872 but best non-Roman Catholic authorities estimate that 75 per cent are members of the Roman church. Let us look then into its political being and see how much the church of Rome has had do with the government of that country. For the past quarter of a century its premiers and its government have been non-Roman Catholic: Briand, Viviani, Clemenceau, Millerand now Briand again-all are outside the papal church.

In Italy we find an even more interesting case. It was great political genius, Cavour, who broke the last link of pope's hold an temporal power. The story can be found any standard history on the uniting of Italy. He gave voice his historic utterance, "a free state and a free church," with Mazzini and Garibaldi he brought the warring states of Italy together into a great nation, took from the pope the lands he had held since the days of Pepin, the younger, and made the pope a self-elected "prisoner of the Vatican." In the very shadow of the Vatican the people of Rome, under a plebiscite conducted in 1870, voted by a ballot of 134,000 to 1,500 to join Italy, the new nation. This is still the condition in the land of the ancient Caesars. And yet, of Italy's population of less than 40,000,000 there are 32,983,664 members of the Roman Catholic church.

What, then, is this fear of the Roman Catholic church seeking domination? The people of its own faith have shown in its two largest countries that they stand for a separate church and a separate state.

Japan is the third largest power in the world today. It has a population of 78,263,000 aggressive and progressive citizens of a non-Christian faith. There are more than a billion others who do not come under the banners of the Christian church. Is it not time the followers of the lowly Nazarene ceased their childish bickering with each other, overlooked each other's pettiness, and sought for the spirit of His teachings and not grounds on which to quarrel over how they disagree about the form?

As long ago as 1643, John Milton exclaimed:

"How many other things might be tolerated in peace left to conscience had we but charity and were it not the chief stronghold of our hyprocrisy to be ever judging one another!"

As my favourite Scotch songster sings so well: "We're a going home the same way"; so are we all going in our chosen route to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns. We're all going home - all on our way to Beulah land of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. How shall we go? The modern Pilgrim would take an auto; let us least use the symbolism.

The old gentleman in the big car thinks he is driving in majestic Rolls-Royce and looks down upon the rest in compassion not unmixed with annoyance that "these flivvers" should be scooting along his highway. What the Roman gentleman sese as "flivvers" we see as simple, powerfully built and altogether beautiful cars of our own design which we insist on driving ourselves. He cannot understand how some of "our side," being not all together well-mannered and perhaps out of patience at his insistence on his being the only machine, possess the temerity to yell at him and call his car an "ancient circus wagon." Such scolding and unkindness on the highroad of life is unseemly. It is a violation of the law and the spirit of the highway. Let each forgive the other in the order of his peculiarity. The road is very rough and very long and there are many tempting detours. We, all of us, have all we can do to keep on our own way, without seeking to find faults in the other.

Some little while ago there was a convention of Episcopalian bishops in the city of Detroit and as Cardinal Mercier, the heroic figure of Belgium's struggle against the German army, was in the city the Roman prelate was asked to address the convention. There was considerable curiosity among the laymen present as to how he would first address the Protestant bishops. He held out his long thin hands as though in benediction and in a deep, quiet voice opened his remarks by calling to them:

"Brothers in Christ."

He bespoke the true spirit of Toleration; that toleration which is willing to overlook differences in dogma in seeking for the inward spirit.

Let us turn for a moment to that standard authority of the Roman church, the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia. "The man who is tolerant in every emergency is alone lovable and wins the hearts of his fellow man," it says. "Such tolerance is all the more estimable in one whose royal practice of his own faith wards off all suspicion of unbelief or religious indifference, and whose friendly bearing towards the heterodox, emanates from pure neighbourly charity and a strict sense of justice. It is also an indisputable requisite for the maintenance of friendly intercourse and cooperation among a people composed of different religious denominations, and is the root of religious peace in the state. It should therefore be prized and promoted by the civil authorities as a safeguard to public weal, for a warfare of all against all, destructive of the state itself, must again break out, if citizens be allowed to assail one another on account of religious differences. A person who by extensive travel and large experience has become acquainted with the world and men and with the finer forms of life does not easily develop into a heretic hunter, a sadly incongruous figure in the modern world."

We certainly do not like the wording of some of the papal edicts against the Masonic order; they sound rather rough on us, but we must remember they are not directed to us but to the members of that faith to warn them against what the church fears is indifferentism. The ecclesiastical language is medieval and the bark is worse than the bite. "The ancient expression, 'heretical poison'," says the same encyclopedia, "which has passed from canon law into the set phraseology of the papal chancery and quite naturally sounds hard to the Protestant is not intended to express any offensive slur on the heterodox who adhere to their opinions in good faith and in honest conviction."

But, taking all that the most narrow minded man who happens to be in the Roman Catholic church has to say about and against Masonry, should we not pity him in his plight of being so handicapped by the blinkers he wears? Or should we also don blinkers so that we can only look in one direction - and that straight at him - and reduce ourselves to his limited view? Rather, opening our eyes, seeing the whole glorious world and all its future before us, we gain a the perspective on man's narrowness and go on our way, not in blind anger and hate, but in love and compassion.

I once was asked to write an article on the Roman church as the "enemy" of Freemasonry; my answer was, and is, that Freemasonry in this day of quick spreading of intelligence, in a dawning era of the ready exchange of world ideas and ideals, has no enemy except that which it creates for itself: that enemy being a narrowness of outlook, a refusal to look at facts in co-relation to their true values and a hatred born of fears unfounded. Hate is the child of fear and fear is too often found within us when we lack faith in ourselves. We have nothing to fear if we "have faith that right makes might; and in that faith dare to do our duty as we understand it."

The genius of Freemasonry is that it welcomes, in a spirit of brotherly love and affection, men of all creeds to its altars if they but confess a sincere and an abiding faith in God; nor does it ask them more. Do we not then but vitiate our Masonic birthright by hating a man who by accident of birth, let us say, holds to religious views that are different than ours, religious views that will not permit him to kneel at our altars? Nor need we sneer at his church and his dogmatism, which is as sacred to him as is ours, even though he does hold to views that we think harsh toward us; not by returning malediction for malediction can we keep our spiritual faith and our intellectual freedom. If we seek to ennoble the souls of men, we must look well into our own hearts for the purity that is there, rather than into the hearts of other men for that which we think is evil.

The universal Brotherhood of Man must come through the souls of men: the divine spirit of freedom: and not through that blind and ruthless impulse which we in our egotism as mortal beings are pleased to call reason!

- Source: The Builder - May 1922


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