Prejudices are partial judgments in favour of, or against certain persons or things, and, for convenience sake, may be ranged in two categories—those which are, comparatively speaking, harmless, and those which are harmful.
Under the former category we include those which, be they favourable or the reverse, people exhibit towards one of their fellows, for a particular line of conduct, the observance of certain customs, the adoption of certain theories, or the use of certain things.
Among the latter are numbered class or caste prejudices, as well as national, political, social, and religious prejudices.
As regards the former, they are, as we have said, for the most part in-nocuous.
We are prejudiced, for instance, against a person whom we know but slightly or not at all, because he is taciturn or loquacious, reserved or forward, or, in short, for any one or more of an infinite variety of reasons.
But accident brings us into closer acquaintance with him, and we find that his taciturnity is merely a natural and very proper reserve; his reserve, a native modesty, which for-bids him to be over curious about other people, or what concerns them; or his forwardness merely a kindly readiness to help whenever and whomsoever he can.
These prejudices, we say, are comparatively harmless, easily overcome by closer intercourse, or even if they are permitted to remain, the effect is trivial.
It is the other class of prejudice which is so offensive and so difficult to deal with.
These are scrupulously observed by some, by some even religiously worshipped, nor will any amount of sense, common or un-common, avail to overcome them.
Of course, those we exhibit towards others are perfectly orthodox, while those are heterodox which others exhibit towards us.
We cling like grim death to the former; no condemnation is strong enough for the latter.
Occasionally, when others prove loyal to the prejudices they have inherited or formed, we leaven our condemnation of their conduct with a certain amount of cynical good nature.
We call them deluded beings, more or less wilful, whom a little of our own enlightenment will soon undeceive.
But should they be bold enough to regard or describe us as deluded, we at once reject the imputation with the most intense scorn.
But to consider more minutely sundry of these more dangerous prejudices.
Nations, both in ancient and modern times, have often regarded each other with the bitterest prejudices.
No allowance is made for any differences of habit or of sentiment such as may be naturally engendered by differences of nationality.
Thus, for ages, and indeed till quite recently, all but a few enlightened Englishmen looked upon all Frenchmen as their natural foes, and Frenchmen were not behindhand in returning the compliment.
Had not Kings of England carried fire and sword through some of the finest provinces of France? Did they not owe their glory to the victories they had won over French armies? Did we not hold Calais for over two centuries, and when-ever a war prevailed in Europe in which France seemed disposed to take part, was it not our bounden duty as a nation to take the opposite side, the merits of the quarrel which had induced the war being a matter of secondary consideration altogether? We are wiser in this generation than we were formerly.
We fully believe it possible for England and France to co-exist without jealousy of each other’s fame and influence.
We find we can march together along the path of civilization; that, while one country may possess certain admirable qualities, the other also possesses certain other qualities equally admirable of their kind, we recognise that both nations have the good of humanity ever before them, though the means which each employs in promoting that good may vary considerably.
But it has taken us centuries to arrive at this knowledge, and it is sad to think how much blood and treasure has been expended ere the conviction dawned upon both that a hearty co-operation of the two peoples was more desirable than a constant antagonism, the result of mutual distrust and prejudice.
Then there is the prejudice of caste, exemplified often in the course of our history.
Many generations passed away before the Norman and the Saxon, the conqueror and the conquered became one people.
The former despised and the latter hated the other.
It was, of course, natural that at the outset the former should do their utmost to secure their conquest, and that the latter should eagerly seize every opportunity of throwing off the yolk.
But it was not till long after the Norman Henry I had set his subjects an excellent example, by marrying a Saxon Princess, that the two races found they could live together in peace and harmony; that each possessed many eminent qualities, and that together they would form a strong and powerful people, able to hold their own against even excessive odds.
The Cedric the Saxon, and Front-de-Boeufof Sir Walter Scott, are but typical of the caste feeling which long prevailed under the Norman and earlier Plantagenet sovereigns of England.
Class jealousies are similarly strong, and equally difficult to allay.
It may almost be said, indeed, that these rarely, if eyer, die out.
The aristocrat, in the common, not in the refined and proper sense of the word, looks down upon the hoi-polloi, the latter hate, if they do not fear the former.
There is no sort of sympathy between the two, and unhappily less now than formerly.
We are not speaking of the true aristocrat, the man of patrician birth and of exalted mind, who would forfeit his life ere he would be guilty of any petty vulgar act, or entertain any petty vulgar thought.
Nor have we in our mind the patrician by nature, who, though ignoble by birth, possesses a mind of the very highest order.
We refer, rather, to the ‘parvenu, the mushroom aristocrat, the man who is patrician in name perhaps, yet exhibits none of those grand and noble qualities we naturally associate with men in high places.
Numerous instances of such have we before us, of men who have thought themselves greater, the more they affected a lofty contempt for their inferiors in position.
It is these who perpetuate class prejudices, who widen more and more the gulf that separates the more fortunately from the less fortunately placed, and whose wilful perversity not seldom leads to a temporary subversion of the political and social status quo.
Then there is political, or, as we more commonly call it, party prejudice.
Conservatives and Radicals, the Right and the Left, alike believe that nothing good can emanate from their opponents.
A conservative must be inherently bad in the eyes of a radical; the right can do no good in the eyes of the left.
But all measures are not wholly bad, as all men are not wholly despicable.
The impartial, the unprejudiced man recognises this; the prejudiced ignore it.
Hence, often times, the course of politics is as proverbially unsmooth as the course of true love, and, worse still, there is no renewal of the old ties which bound men together in the earlier times their party politics were heard of.
Men serve their party as the rank and file of an army serve their general, with an abject obedience to all his commands, and with a genuine hostility to the foe.
This unreasoning obedience to the general, this stern hostility to the foe, are admirable qualities in the subordinate soldier, but in the party-man obedience is desirable, and hostile feeling towards the opposite party is uncalled for.
We may differ in politics without hating each other.
But the worst of all prejudices, infinitely more terrible in their consequences than all the national, political and social prejudices that have ever been exhibited are those originating in differences of religious faith.
All religions lay it down that men shall love each other, shall do their best to promote the common good.
But difference of creed, whether it be as wide as that which distinguishes Buddhism from Christianity, or merely sectarianism, invariably results in the most intense hatred.
That others may be influenced by conscientious motives seems incredible to the followers of this or that creed, the members of this or that sect.
The most terrible wars, whether internal or external, the most violent animosities, and those attended with the most fearful consequences, have been the outcome of religious prejudices.
In France, the wars of the League and the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s, in Germany the terrible Thirty Years’ War, in the Netherlands the wars of Independence induced by Philip II.’s bigoted attachment to the Inquisition, at home the Smithfield Burnings, the Gunpowder Plot, the so-called Popish Plot in Charles II.’s reign, and the Gordon Riots, all these owed their origin to violent religions partiality for a particular form of Christian worship.
At the present moment the Pope himself, the head of Roman Catholicism, is illustrating his extreme bigotry by his condemnation of Freemasonry, on the ground that it recognises all religious faiths.
It is prejudiced in favour of no one creed, but leaves it to men to adopt that which they deem most worthy of belief.
The section of the Roman Catholic Church to which the Pope belongs denies to men their inherent right to honestly worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience.
We do not of course dwell upon this question, which has already attracted so much attention both here and abroad.
It shows, however, into what extremes prejudice will lead men who, in all other respects, are bent only on the most conscientious performance of their duties.
The point to which the foregoing remarks tend will probably have suggested itself long since to the minds of our readers.
It is the special aim of Freemasonry to over-come prejudice of every degree and kind, as far as possible.
Men of diverse views, both religious and political, meet together in the same Lodge.
All political and religious discussions are strictly forbidden, yet Masons are enjoined to be political so far as obedience to the laws of the country in ‘which they live is essential to the welfare of the body politic, and to be religions so far as it is the duty of every man to acknowledge one Supreme Being, the Creator of the Universe.
But apart from these general charges, none may be monarchical or republican, Christian or Mohammedan; so long as they are good citizens and worship God conscientiously, they are safe Masonic examples to take pattern by.
In a body of men thus constituted, we necessarily attain the minimum of prejudice.
As regards personal likes and dislikes, we are enjoined not to meet in the same Lodge any brother from whom we are, momentarily perhaps, estranged, but as regards the more dangerous class of prejudice, if the laws of Masonry are properly observed, there is no fear of any of those terrible dissensions breaking out which have so often endangered the progress and even the very existence of Christianity and other faiths.
The Freemasons Chronicle, a weekly record of masonic intelligence, was first published 2nd January 1875 London, England as an independent weekly journal of masonic interest and continued for 27 years.
It should be the business of a journal devoted to the interests of the Order to attempt the removal of prejudices such as these, which, though they may have little perceptible influence upon the prosperity of the Fraternity, yet have the effect of preventing timid or ill-informed persons from enlisting under its banner.
It will not only attempt to keep pace with the growing literary requirements of the day, but it will seek to exhibit the Order to the non-Masonic world divested of its technical details, and clothed in the garb of Charity and Brotherly Love.
The questions of the hour, which exercise the minds of thoughtful men, will be handled freely and broadly, without any tinge of political or sectarian bias.
The memoranda of Masonic gatherings which will appear from week to week, will be full and accurate; and as free interchange of opinion is one of the best signs of life and vigour in any society, ample scope will be given for Correspondence on topics of interest to the Order.
If we may venture upon a new rendering of words which recent events have made memorable, we will say here, once and for all, that we will be keen men of business, and will spare no effort, consistent with honour, to achieve commercial success; but first, and before all things, we will prove to our brethren and the world that we are FREEMASONS.
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to be a better citizen of the world
share the square with two brothers
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