“Equality and Tolerance. The Masonic Values that may Fundamentally Define the 21st Century, a Century of Dramatic Changes."
M. W. Bro. _Roggy _Kossi _Paass
Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Togo
The purpose of this reflection is to look at two concepts, tolerance and equality, which appear to be components of F.M. and represent virtues highly valued by our Order.
Tolerance is the opposite of the tendency to say everything, express all, accept everything and allow everything to be said. Symbolically, the esoterism opposes the exoterism meaning that it does not address all, but it is an internal process that calls us to go further in our research and to highlight what is hidden.
According to the philosophical dictionary of Louis-Marie Morfaux, tolerance is an ambiguous term that can indicate a mood or a consisting rule of conduct, either letting everyone the freedom to express opinions that we do not share, either never defend one’s opinions and seeking to impose them by violence, or to think that nobody can consider themselves in religious, moral or political matters as in possession of the absolute truth, or even consider another faith as a contribution to the whole truth.
The term would be low, negative and often banished as passive and contemptuous, while the spirit of tolerance should, in order to become positive, open to the spirit of justice and the respect for the person. It cannot therefore incite to caution as it interests the field of the morals, where good and evil , justice and injustice, and the unbearable and the bearable clash.
Nowadays, it even means indulgence, understanding, will not to prohibit ; thus, it is also marked by the seal of the theological and political power...
This definition seems to understand the concept better. It leads to the acceptance, recognition of the other and it is based on the universal rights of the human person, an essential step towards mutual respect.
Tolerance as a value has not been debated before the modern times. The issue was first raised as a result of the persecution by a monotheistic minority by a temporal power strongly dependant on a particular religion, then spread to the general problem of freedom of expression.
It is the same for the principle of equality, even in our time, despite the entire national and international legal provisions, which did not mark enough all minds.
The world in which we live offers daily images of desolation. Our world is severely fractured by conflicts: religions, instead of being moral authorities, fight amongst themselves, in the name of the same God, in triggering unprecedented violence. Recurring ideologies provide us with visions of an uncertain future where people will have to lose their dignity if nothing is done to stem the tide... this sad reality is a powerful obstacle to all our efforts to "live together" that to those who aspire to recognize to all men the same rights and qualities can do.
Fanaticisms, radicalism, racism which unfortunately these religions themselves deviate from, become their ideal and empty them from their essence. We constantly face ideologies that are an exaltation of false religion, now the man nailed to a "sacred mistake" and rejecting the other violently on grounds that it does not share the same ideas and opinions with them. A heavy hit is thus raised to human dignity. This is regrettable, because no belief should be a source of conflict when the believer does not impose his beliefs on others and does not consider the conversion of the other as a duty dictating his own religion as the only way of accessing the truth.
The temptation of intolerance did not spare the Freemasons: our history is marked to varying degrees with issues of acceptance.
To the Freemason, the requirement of tolerance means recognizing the intrinsic values of the other, a recognition of differences. This is the path that leads to the discovery of what may come good and enriching from the other; that is, a fortiori, the enforcement of the principle of equality.
Tolerance cannot be fully exercised without the meetings and contacts between the antagonistic to promote mutual understanding between various men and women whatever their origin and race.
Tolerance breaks the chains of myths, spiritual easements tearing men and stifies their critical thinking. It enables man to regain his dignity in his/her shared knowledge with others.
Tolerance is the universalism; and universalist is the one who knows how to welcome the thought of the other one without hatred or superiority or prejudice.
Of course, all opinions are not equal and are not easily acceptable; that is why it is necessary to determine tolerance limits. In this sense, personal boundaries will appear, ethical, or legal or collective that the Mason shall master. The FM cannot unleash any proposal or insult or defamation.
Tolerance calls for a fight that we must take every moment of our lives, through constant work on ourselves, work that allows accepting his own shortcomings and the possibility of questioning.
The work in the Lodge and listening carefully to each other will help us understand that our difference with our Brother is enriching, and at the limit, the other is "another self."
Our empathy for tolerance, our willingness to consider every human being as our equal, does not preclude our aversion towards attitudes and inaccurate judgments contrary to the ethical principles of equality, liberty and fraternity. It is also an expression of the symbolism of the Level used by the Freemason.
In its external manifestations, the Masonic tolerance is the radiation of our inner tolerance. We cannot tolerate what we see or know as contemptible or undermining human dignity. Hence the paradox of tolerance: it appeals to individual conscience.
Strongly embedded in tolerance, equality itself is contained in our Landmarks and in our customs and practices it is strictly limited to our Lodges and to our Brothers. The history of our Order made us discover that this virtue enabled us to "erase" all prestige of our ranks, all presence of metals in our temples, thus putting each Brother on the same pedestal.
But is it still relevant in our Lodges? I leave that to your conscience.
The evolution towards true tolerance in the name of equality requires the acceptance of a system of thought and human values of the initiatory process.
The principle of equality, the basis of our Order, and tolerance that necessarily follows, therefore, consists in accepting that those who are not like us, take, in a personal and inner approach, a path as valid as ours way, whatever their direction, towards the search of the Light that is our common goal. This approach calls us to go further in our research and to eradicate the darkness that is hidden and this can only be done by listening to each other and establishing a mutual relationship.
I could refer simply to our Brother ,Antoine de Saint Exupéry who believes that "if you are different from me, my Brother, far from hurting me, you enrich me"; and the poem Mother lodge by our Brother R. Kipling to discuss about the question of equality between men and substitute the term equity, defined as a disposition to respect the rights of everyone. But for us, equality represented by the Level summarizes well all previous progress made by man meaning that it is the purpose and final cause of all our courses.
These are the values of equality, fairness and tolerance that it behooves us to teach our Brothers in our Lodges: this is the challenge ahead for the FM for a bright future.