Freemasonry is based on fraternity. This notion is often used in another context. So the Masonic meaning of it must be clarified.
To the regular freemasons the notion of fraternity implies first and foremost that all men are brethren and as such deserve our respect and aid.
Fraternity thus conceived, however, is not different from other generally expressed notions, such as the Christian fraternity, brotherhood in arms, the universal fraternity that found expression during the French Revolution.
For freemasons, fraternity clearly refers to the privileged tie that unites them. But regular freemasons consider this Masonic fraternity an initiated element. Masonic fraternity does not stem from common opinions or interests and is not based on a social convention which would prescribe that the members of the group should behave otherwise and better toward their brethren than toward those who do not belong to the Masonic association. The fraternity rests on the fact that the initiations compel everyone to make an effort on the common path of searching and of spiritual perfection. Thus every freemason is tied to his brethren by the shared experience of forming an initiated association. Thus these freemasons progress to the Light along often different ways. This is their common aspiration. It will not surprise anyone that through this striving, strong personal friendly relations grow and blossom. The Masonic fraternity, however, emanates from the initiation and is not merely the result of a common desire to enter into friendly relations.
What, in fact, does Masonic tolerance mean ? The source of it is also to be found in the initiation. The initiate knows that his Brethren have chosen the same path to the Light, in spite of ideological differences and divergent opinions. They have learned how to recognize and respect their Brethren in many ways. Even if they do not always agree to a Brother's opinion, they love him as a person and as a Brother. And this is not just the questionable tolerance, which is often based only on the passive acceptance of what one cannot or will not reject, prevent or fight, but a constructive attitude based on respect and understanding which has its origins in the initiated fraternity.