THE BUILDER JANUARY 1918
THE GRAND ORIENT OF FRANCE AND THE THREE GREAT LIGHTS
BY BRO. J. H. RAMSEY, IOWA
The grouping of England, America and France as "Allies" in the present war has furnished civilization with many peculiar situations, in which Masonry shares. Believing that our Members will be deeply interested in knowing the facts surrounding the non-intercourse of English-speaking branches of the Fraternity with the French, we announce a series of articles, of which this is the first, dealing with various aspects of the situation.
The first, distinctly historical in its scope, is a paper which was prepared by Brother Ramsey in response to a question proposed at a Study Club meeting of Anamosa Lodge No. 46, in which the sole effort was to present the reasons why the Grand Orient took the position it did regarding the use of the Bible, and the subsequent action of American Grand Lodges. At the Lodge discussion when this paper was read, two ministers of the Gospel were present. One of them had travelled in France, and was familiar with the subject, which caused him to take a most sympathetic attitude toward the French viewpoint.
The second contribution on this subject comes from the pen of Brother R.E. Kellett, Grand Master of Manitoba, and though it bears the title "Internationalism and Freemasonry," its dominant theme is the position which the Grand Orient of France occupies in the Masonic category. The essay was written before the entrance of America into the war. It has been read before the Masters' and Past Masters' Lodge of Christchurch, New Zealand, bringing out a discussion which we hope to be able to digest for our readers in due time. This discussion, occurring in a Lodge most intimately associated with the Mother Grand Lodge, revealed a wide diversity of opinion on the subject, as it will undoubtedly do among our own members. We mention this particularly, not only because it reveals the broadmindedness and temperate spirit of our New Zealand brethren, but because the very fact that a whole session of the Masters' and Past Masters' Lodge was devoted to it is in itself significant of the scholarly qualities of the paper.
The third essay, "Freemasonry in France," has been written at our request by Brother Geo. W. Baird, 33d, P.G.M., of the District of Columbia, whose name is already a familiar one to our readers, and who was made a Mason in Portugal in a French Lodge. Through his position as Fraternal Correspondent of his Grand Lodge, Brother Baird has had an exceptional opportunity to keep himself in touch with world movements. This article will appear in an early number of THE BUILDER.
All of these contributions evidence an eagerness on the part of the writers that some way shall be found by which the nonintercourse of nearly forty years shall be eliminated. Justification for a careful research of the facts, if needed, may be found in the recent action of the Grand Lodges of New York, California and Kentucky, permitting their soldier members to visit Lodges in France.
The Question Box and Correspondence columns of THE BUILDER are open to you, Brethren. We wish to hear both sides, and know that there are many who will not be slow to take up the cudgels in support of the historic position heretofore taken by our Grand Lodges. If this discussion shall be the means of ultimately acquainting our members with the facts, it may also give French members of the Society an up-to-date expression of the American position--a result which may perhaps be of influence to both sides, in the future. EDITOR
JUST forty years ago, or to be exact, on September 14th, 1877, the Grand Orient of France voted to eliminate from its ancient constitution the following article: "Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the solidarity of mankind." It adopted in lieu thereof, the following:
"Whereas Freemasonry is not a religion and has therefore no doctrine or dogma to affirm in its constitution, this Assembly has decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article 1, of the Constitution (above quoted) shall be erased, and that for the words of the said article the following shall be substituted:
1. Being an Institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic, and progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth, study of universal morality, science and arts, and the practice of benevolence. It has for its principles absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no person on account of his belief, and its motto is 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity."'
At the next annual session of the Grand Body in 1878 a move was made to conform the ritual to the change of the constitution and a committee directed to make report and recommendation for consideration at the following session.
Accordingly in September, 1879, upon report of the committee, a new ritual was adopted wherein all reference to the name and idea of God was eliminated, but liberty was given to the Lodges to adopt the new or old rituals as they should see fit. We are told, and can easily believe, that this action was taken in the Grand Lodge session amidst great excitement and in spite of a vigorous and determined opposition of the minority. Naturally, and as a matter of course, the change in the Constitution and ritual permitted the removal of the Bible from the Altar.
It is not too much to say that the Masonic world stood shocked and astounded at this radical departure taken by the French Masons. Probably nothing in Masonic affairs with the exception of the Morgan episode ever excited such widespread interest and apprehension. The Masonic press in every country was filled with vigorous discussion and many felt that it foreshadowed the division of the Craft into two great sections--one believers in Deity and non-political, and the other atheistic and democratic.
Grand Lodges especially in all English-speaking countries lost no time in condemning in bitterest terms the action of the Grand Orient and in severing fraternal relations. In our own State (Iowa) in the Grand Lodge session of 1878, the Grand Master said:
"The Grand Orient of France having obliterated from its constitution the paragraph which asserted a belief in the existence of Deity, and by such action placed itself in antagonism to the traditions, practice and feelings of all true and genuine Masons in this jurisdiction and the world, deserves no longer a recognition as a Masonic body from this Grand Lodge. Some years ago that Grand Orient persisted in an invasion of the American doctrine of Grand Lodge sovereignty, to the extent of organizing lodges in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana and other states. We then cut loose for a time from all fraternal intercourse with French Masons rendering obedience to that Grand Orient. Having not only set at naught the supreme authority of American Grand Lodges over their respective jurisdictions, but that of God over men and Masons, we should wipe our hands of all such bogus Masonry."
The deep concern with which the Grand Lodge of Iowa viewed this matter was but an indication of the sentiment prevailing in Grand Lodges of all English speaking countries at that time and in order that we may realize something of this let us read the resolution of our Grand Lodge in 1878:
To the M. W. Grand Lodge of Iowa:
"The special committee to whom the committee on the M. W. Grand Master's address referred so much of the same as relates to the Grand Orient of France, submit the following report:
"While we cordially agree with and endorse all of the views of our M.W. Grand Master and the Committee on this subject, yet we consider that its importance requires more than a mere resolution. If the course of the Grand Orient of France is allowed to go unrebuked and become the recognized law, we may well say farewell to Masonry. It is the glory of our Institution that we do not interfere with any man's religious or political opinions. At the same time we discountenance atheism and doubt, disloyalty and rebellion. No atheist can be made a Mason; and the first inquiry made of a candidate, after entering the lodge is, in whom does he put his trust? These are the essential requisites, and the cornerstone on which our Masonic edifice is erected. Remove them, and the structure falls. What is the course that the Grand Orient of France takes ? They have entirely blotted out this necessary qualification, and leave it to the "ipse dixit" of each initiate to decide as he prefers, thus entirely ignoring the imperative belief in God and His attributes, as understood in all enlightened countries. American Masons will not submit to such a monstrous proposition, and the mere thought of it is well calculated to arouse our indignation and dissent. We protest against such an innovation, and "wipe our hands" of it. Let such sentiments prevail, and our enemies will desire no better argument with which to destroy us. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and England have set noble examples to the Masonic world, by remonstrating, and breaking off all intercourse with these iconoclasts. Several of our Grand Lodges have followed their example, and others will doubtless soon join their ranks. We feel that we speak the sentiments of the Masons of Iowa when we say that we disapprove and condemn the course of the Grand Orient of France, and we desire to express these opinions still more emphatically by the resolution hereunto appended:
"RESOLVED, That the Grand Lodge of Iowa, having learned with surprise and regret that the Grand Orient of France has departed from the ancient landmarks, by blotting from the constitution and ignoring the name of God, and not making a belief in Deity a prerequisite for initiates, does hereby express its indignation at the course she has taken, and herewith severs all relations heretofore existing between us.
"RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution be sent to the Grand Orient of France, and to each of the Masonic jurisdictions with which we are in amicable relation."
With both friends and enemies of Masonry unreservedly condemning the action of the French Brethren it would seem that there must be little justification or defense. But as is usually the case there were two sides to the issue. There were some peculiar circumstances including such a radical departure, and the most interesting part of this discussion will be to learn the motives and objects which actuated those responsible for it. Do not forget, that if allowed to exist at all in Catholic countries, as frequently they could not, Masonic Lodges necessarily had to he much different in character than are ours in this "land of the free and home of the brave." France and the French people had been under the dominion of the Catholic Church from time immemorial and at that period a large majority of the population were its members. The Church controlled all affairs of the State. Of course Masons were struggling for liberty, justice and equality in order to accomplish the separation of the Church and State and to loosen the hold of the Church on the school system and public affairs, it was essential that the reformers should be united and that none should be excluded by reason of his belief. Thus the Grand Orient stood as the logical nucleus around which an organization might be effected. They needed the support of all men of every shade of religious belief, hence the declaration of absolute freedom of thought and the elimination of all dogma, always,--as they expressed it--"the starting point of narrowness and persecution." This was in 1877. In 1907--thirty years later--France accomplished the division of the Church and State and Catholicism no longer remained "The Religion of France."
There was another factor in the controversy-- The Scottish Rite body of Masonry, with which the Grand Orient had been in continual controversy for many years over matters of jurisdiction and the right to confer certain degrees. The Grand Orient Masons have always resented the accusation that they promulgated unbelief and atheism. In fact, and in support of an opposite contention, they cite the circumstance, that when the amendment to change the constitution was proposed, at a meeting of the Council, preliminary to the Grand Session, a Protestant minister, M. Desmons, drew the report in support of the resolution in which he argued that the disappearance of the original article of belief would not imply a profession of atheism, but merely an admission into the Craft of men of all opinions, and that Masonry should welcome men of all doctrines and every shade of thought.
Here is the idea of a member of the Grand Orient, expressed only a few weeks since:
"The Grand Orient of France, while it respects all philosophical beliefs, insists upon absolute liberty of belief. This does not mean that we banish from our lodges the belief in God. The United Grand Lodge of England on the contrary desires to make a belief in God in some manner compulsory. The Grand Orient of France is much more liberal, since in proclaiming the absolute liberty of belief it permits to each one of its members the liberty to believe or not to believe in God, and by so doing desires to respect its members in their convictions, their doctrines and their beliefs.
"This is the reason why fraternal relations do not exist between the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Orient of France. We regret this exceedingly. England has always been considered, rightly in other respects, a country of liberty. It is difficult to understand under the circumstances why the Freemasons of this great and noble nation should want to deprive their brothers of France of this same liberty."
Brother J. G. Findel, the well known scholar, historian and journalist, in writing to the London Freemason in 1878, ably stated the contentions of the French body in these words:
"But it is not my intention to give such general declarations on the true meaning of the Royal Art, as it seems more necessary to help to a right understanding of the resolution of the Grand Orient of France. Our French brethren have not deserted the belief in the existence of God and immortality of the human soul, in striking out the discussed words of the first article of the constitutions, but they have only declared that such a profession of faith does not belong to Masonic law. The Grand Orient has only voted for liberty of conscience, not against any religious faith. Therefore, the true meaning of the French constitution is now only, that each brother Mason may believe in God or not, and that each French Lodge may judge for itself which candidate shall be initiated or not. The French vote is only an affirmative of liberty of conscience, and not a negation of faith.
"The excommunication of the Grand Orient of France by the Masonic Grand Lodges, is therefore an intolerant act of Popery, the negation of the true principles of the Craft, the beginning of the end of cosmopolitan Freemasonry. The excommunication of the Grand Orient of France only proves the sectarian mind of the excommunicating Grand Lodges, which have forgotten that Masonry has for its purpose to unite all good men of all denominations and professions: they profess the separating element, and destroy the Craft, and waste the heritage of our more liberal and more tolerant forefathers. The Masonic union will in future be a mere illusion, if the AngloSaxon Masons condemn the French, German, Italian Masons, &c., and vice versa."
The great questions of recognition, invasion of jurisdiction, establishment of irregular lodges and many other matters which grew out of this movement can hardly be followed here. They are worthy of further discussion.
What we started to tell was "Why the French Grand Orient removed the Bible from its altar." It has been noted in a very brief way how they did it and under the exigency of the situation "got by with it" with a good conscience. That they were actuated by high purposes few will deny, but most Grand Lodges then held and still aver that Masonry can not be Masonry without strict adherence to the requirement of a belief in God. Few of the Grand Lodges severing relations have ever resumed them. Such action is still within the range of future possibilities. Who can tell ?
THE BUILDER FEBRUARY 1915
INTERNATIONALISM AND FREEMASONRY BY BRO. P. E. KELLETT, GRAND MASTER, MANITOBA
Owing to lack of space, we have, with Brother Kellett's permission, divided his article into two parts. In the present issue he summarizes for us the attitude and activities of the Grand Orient of France. He uses official sources, and, while at first blush it may appear that the Grand Orient has encroached upon political preserves, it will be well for us to hear Brother Kellett through, before rendering ourselves a decision. In the second installment will be presented the point of cleavage between Anglo-Saxon Masonry and the Masonry of France. PART I.
With meteoric suddenness the present war has ruthlessly cut off many lines of communication and channels of intercourse between nations and peoples. Freemasonry has suffered with the rest. This catastrophe has so jarred the mechanism of our daily lives and impaired the development of the human race as to make us realize more than ever before the distinct advantage to be obtained from international co-operation. To attain the highest efficiency, socially, morally, commercially and otherwise, the cooperation of one people with another is necessary. We are interdependent one upon the other. The organization of the relations among men on a universal basis, embracing the whole of the inhabited world, has been demonstrated to tend to the greatest good.
When each of the peoples of the earth lived unto themselves alone little progress was made, especially along the higher ethical lines that tend to the broadest development of a nation. Love of self reigned supreme; the law of the jungle prevailed, and might proved right. The evolution of the years modified these ideas, as peoples came to know one another better through the intercourse of trade. Old prejudices gradually broke down, and civilization took a wider meaning. International conventions were called to consider the betterment of relations between people and people. These gave birth to international services, all tending to unite the civilized world in common action for general progress, and to assure to human activity the fullness of its powers. We had reached the point where we were dreaming of a better life, universal peace, harmony and progress. The masses today are uttering a cry of hope that the present barbaric struggle may not be in vain, but may prove to be but a stepping stone to even better things. May their hopes come to fruition.
No association exists which more naturally tends towards internationalism than Freemasonry. Anderson's Masonic Constitution, promulgated in 1723, said the following:--"Ye shall cultivate brotherly love, which is the foundation and the master stone, the cement and the glory of this ancient confraternity, for we as Masons are of all races, nations and languages." An eminent present-day writer on Freemasonry has said of it: "High above all dogmas that bind, all bigotries that blind, all bitterness that divides, it will write the eternal verities of the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man." Its origin, past history, organization and philosophy all lead in that direction, and have no other goal than universal brotherhood.
A great deal of good can be accomplished by a world-wide fraternal connection between Freemasons of all countries. Masonry's aim is the Fraternity of men and the spread of the principles of Tolerance, Justice and Peace. How better can this be accomplished than by mutual understanding ? If we continue to hold ourselves aloof, will we ever attain the object we seek? Is it not astounding that Freemasonry should still be divided, and so far from being united? Would it not seem that every Mason should use his influence to help weld the chain of the international fraternity for the accomplishment of universal unity, peace, tolerance and mutual goodwill.
It is my purpose to point out to what extent the Freemasons of the world are disunited, and what the main lines of cleavage are. In particular, I desire to give some information about the Grand Orient of France, which is a representative institution of that class of Freemasonry towards which Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry has had particular antipathy.
According to the latest available statistics, there are approximately 2,100,000 adherents to Freemasonry scattered through all countries in the world. These have been divided into three distinct groups. Authorities say they do not differ materially in customs, principles, or traditions. In what then can they rightly differ? The divisions are made because of the greater or less importance given to religious ideas.
To quote the International Bureau of Masonic Affairs, established in Switzerland with the aim of completing an arrangement whereby Freemasons of all countries may mingle with one another in the Lodges, visit one another, and learn to know one another, these divisions may be given as follows:
"(1) The first group regards as-being of absolute necessity the adoption of what are called the 'Landmarks,' and in particular these two, viz., a belief in the G.A. of the U. and the presence of the Bible on the altar. Some of this group decline to receive into its Lodges Masons who belong to groups which do not admit these two landmarks. Others of this group also revere the G.A. of the U., and possess the symbol of the Bible, but they do not close their doors to any visitor who proves himself to be a Mason, even when his obedience admits neither the formula of the G.A. of the U. nor the Bible. Our brethren of the Grand Orient of France are welcomed with pleasure by them.
"(2) The second group which comprises part of Latin Masonry, leaves to its adepts the right to believe in God, even in the esoteric God of the religions, and imposes on them no act of faith, which does not hinder it from admitting to its Lodges all visiting brethren, to whatever obedience they may belong, and without any other proof than their title as regular Masons. This group holds the principle of mutual tolerance, the respect of others and one's self, and absolute liberty of conscience; it does not allow of any dogmatic affirmation.
"(3) The third group comprises purely Christian Masonry," Very much of interest could be said in giving an account of the effort made by the International Bureau of Masonic Affairs to the furtherance of mutual friendship and brotherhood among the Freemasons of all lands. Considerable progress was made, and particularly on the Continent of Europe, it developed considerable enthusiasm for the fraternal object aimed at. The war for the present has brought their peace activities to a close. In one of their later official Bulletins they say regarding it:
"If we were pessimists we should once for all give up our plans, our endeavours and our work in behalf of an improvement in the relations among men. But we know that in spite of everything our cause is the best, and that nothing, not even the most overwhelming upheavals, must discourage us.... It will behoove the friends of peace and of fraternity to proclaim to the world that the ideas of which they are the guardians may be defeated, but that they never die and never surrender."
Many times in commenting on the progress of their work in their official Bulletin this Bureau has deplored the fact that antagonism still exists between certain Masonic bodies because brethren too readily believe all the evil that is propagated about the Masonry of another country without taking the trouble to ascertain facts by making enquiries at a reliable source. They say credence is too readily given to hateful affirmations, which are adopted without examination, and they make the plea that brethren make the necessary enquiries from the proper source. They add further: "It would suffice to see one another in order to know, to love, and to appreciate one another."
Not wishing to lay myself open to any charge of unfairness, acting upon this suggestion I wrote the following letter:
"Winnipeg, July 24, 1916. "Grand Secretary, Grand Orient of France, "Rue Cadet 9, Paris. "Dear Sir and Brother:
"Freemasonry, being a so-called universal institution, one of whose main tenets is the universal brotherhood of man, occupies a somewhat anomalous position today, at least in so far as France and English-speaking countries are concerned. Masonically we do not recognize one another.
"United as we are in the great titanic struggle now going on in Europe, it would seem that we should also be fraternally united. At any rate, the present would be a most opportune time for considering the matter, as it would surely get sympathetic consideration.
"The organization which I represent is a Masonic organization, in that its members are Past Masters of regular Lodges in this jurisdiction, but it is not affiliated as an organization with the Grand Lodge of Manitoba, A. F. and A. M. We purposely have not sought such affiliation because we want more freedom of subjects for discussion than organized Masonry here would allow. All of our members are members of the Grand Lodge, so that the thought and decisions of our Association have a certain indirect effect on the action of the Grand Lodge.
"I make this explanation to make it clear to you that I am at present making no overtures from the Grand Lodge, and have no authority to do so. I simply want to find out from you information with regard to the Grand Orient of France, with the view, if possible, through our Association, of breaking down the barriers between Masonry here and Masonry in France. I am therefore going to be perfectly frank in my questions, and trust that you will think them more pertinent than impertinent, for impertinence is not intended. I am actuated by a sincere desire to secure mutual recognition, if possible.
"It may be said frankly at the outset that the Grand Orient of France is generally looked upon by the rank and file here as an absolutely impossible organization for us to recognize in any way. You are generally considered to have departed from the ancient traditions of the Order, to be frankly atheistic, and to be in a great measure a political organization. I have heard it said by some here that you have mixed Lodges of men and women, and that you have made numerous innovations in Masonry that are not in accord with the ancient tenets of the Order.
"These are charges which I can neither endorse nor deny, not having the necessary knowledge. As your organization is the largest Masonic organization in France, I can hardly imagine though that it can be so 'terrible' as some would have us believe. Will you enlighten me ?
"I believe you were at one time in friendly intercourse with the Grand Lodge of England. Why was this cut off? I presume there was some argument in connection with it; if so, what was your side of the contention ? Does the Grand Orient of France control only the first three degrees, or these and the higher degrees as well ?
"There are other questions I might ask, but I have probably asked enough to lead you to give me complete information as to your claim for recognition. I hope you can find time to answer this by letter, and if you have any printed matter that would give fuller information I would be pleased to receive it.
"It would be a great pleasure to me if this would result in the barriers between us being pulled down, so that we can grasp one another with fraternal grip and work together for the general good. "Yours sincerely, "P. E. KELLETT, "President Past Masters' Association, A. F. and A. M., Winnipeg."
In due course I received the following reply:
"Paris, October 6, 1916. "To Very Dear Bro. Kellett, Winnipeg.
"Very Dear Brother,--I have the honour to inform you that your letter, dated July 24th last, has been duly received by the Grand Orient of France. Some time before its receipt, and at the request of our Bro. Quartier-le-Tente of Switzerland, copies of our Constitution and of our General Regulations were mailed to you. Today I am mailing you a copy of the pamphlet, 'The Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of France.' The perusal of these two pamphlets will be sufficient to demonstrate to you exactly what the Grand Orient of France really is. I also desire to reply to the questions which you have asked me.
"It is easy to say that the Grand Orient of France has abandoned the ancient traditions of the Order, but it is very difficult to prove it. To state that we are frankly atheistic is to commit the greatest error. It will be sufficient that you read the second paragraph of the first article of our Constitution, which reads as follows:
"'Freemasonry has for its basic principles mutual tolerance, respect for others and for oneself, and liberty of conscience.'
"I can affirm that the Grand Orient of France is neither deist, atheist, nor positivist. All philosophical conceptions are represented within its body.
"In what manner is the Grand Orient of France a political organisation? It includes among its members (it must not be forgotten that France is a Republic) citizens belonging to all the various phases of political opinion. You will thus see that the Grand Orient of France is not bound to any party, and cannot in consequence be considered a political organisation. All philosophical questions are discussed in our Lodges, including political and social economy, and each member may, during the course of these discussions, express freely his personal opinions in a fraternal and friendly manner suitable to Masonic re-unions.
"The Grand Orient of France consists of: Lodges which confer the first degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason); Chapters which work up to the Eighteenth Deg. (Rose Croix), Philosophical Councils or Aeropages, which work up to the Thirtieth Deg. (Kadosh); and the Grand Lodge of Rites (Supreme Council of the Grand Orient of France). This confers the Thirty-first, Thirty-second and Thirty-third Degrees. The Grand Orient of France, which was founded in 1736, includes at present 472 Lodges, 75 Chapters, and 31 Philosophical Councils or Aeropagei. Contrary to the information that has been given you, we have not under our jurisdiction mixed Lodges of men and women, nor Lodges of women only. We do not even recognise such Lodges.
"As you may have seen in our Constitution, and as I have stated previously, the Grand Orient of France, while it respects all philosophical beliefs, insists upon absolute liberty of belief. This does not mean that we banish from our Lodges the belief in God. The United Grand Lodge of England, on the contrary, desires to make a belief in God in some manner compulsory. The Grand Orient of France is much more liberal, since in proclaiming the absolute liberty of belief it permits to each one of its members the liberty to believe or not to believe in God, and by so doing desires to respect its members in their convictions, their doctrines and their beliefs.
"This is the reason why- fraternal relations do not exist between the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Orient of France. We regret this exceedingly. Is it not painful to contemplate that these two Masonic bodies continue to ignore one another, even at the moment when England and France are so closely and cordially united for the defence of Right, Justice and Civilization? Do the English and French soldiers, who are fighting side by side and giving freely of their blood for the triumph of this just cause, trouble themselves about the philosophical beliefs of one another? Nevertheless, an intimate fraternity exists between them, which excites the admiration of the civilized world.
"England has always been considered, rightly in other respects, a country of liberty. It is difficult to understand, under the circumstances, why the Freemasons of this great and noble nation should want to deprive their brothers of France this same liberty.
"I ardently desire to see these difficulties, which appear to me to be based upon mutual misunderstanding, removed. As a Freemason and as a Frenchman this is my fervent wish. I ask you to accept, very dear brother, the assurance of my most fraternal sentiments. "G. CORNEAU, "The President of the Council of the Order."
The information received may, therefore, be regarded as authentic, and what I have to say regarding the Grand Orient of France will not be based on mere hearsay. A careful reading of the letter quoted above, the Constitution and the pamphlet referred to, cannot but impress one with the-earnestness and the whole souled fraternal spirit of the Grand Orient. Their methods are different from ours, but this is due to the circumstances of their environment, which has influenced them quite materially. One cannot help but notice that they have the same aims and possess the same aspirations as we have, and that they seem, if anything, more earnest than we are in working towards the desired end--the advancement and good of mankind. They seem to direct most of their activity along
external and social lines. The ideal ever before them seems to be the moral and intellectual improvement of their members.
Their whole Lodge life is aimed to train their members for a life of activity in the interests of humanity. It has been said that Masons who live in Protestant countries can hardly realise the privilege they enjoy. Authorities say the Freemasons of France have been subjected to narrow-minded intolerance and prejudice; that they have been excommunicated, persecuted, insulted and detested; and that their benevolent activities have been met by all the hindrances, calumnies, slanders and active opposition pitiless clericalism could invent. By the very force of events Masonry in France became the directing force of the democracy. Masonic Lodges became centres where liberal minds could gather for exchange of views. Even there they had to be discreet, for the police were on the watch. Circumstances in France have been such that it would have been, as one has expressed it, "a crime against the Masonic idea for the members to shut themselves up in classic Masonry."
This condition existed in the years following the establishment of the third Republic after 1870. For a number of years, though, they have not been seriously threatened by their old enemies. The aspect of affairs has changed. That period of intolerance--intolerance from a Clerical source is responsible for the stand the French Masons took with regard to "God and Religion" and "Politics." But I will say more later on those two topics. They may have committed errors, but in my opinion have done nothing for which they should be punished today.
They regret being separated from the brethren of other countries, and, as we have seen from the letter quoted, they would welcome the fraternal hand from us. Separation is, I believe, due to misunderstanding.
French Masons seem to regard the institution as still in its infancy, not yet definitely formed, a progressive institution. They are not averse to trying out-reforms. They do not consider the institution is such as they should be satisfied with and refuse to change in any respect. They believe it should be changed, in anything but principle, if it will help to realize the dream of a world at peace and civilized in a truly Masonic sense. Their programme is entirely philosophical. Their Lodges are schools, existing to mould independent thinkers, free from prejudice and intolerance to take their part in the citizenship of the nation.
Stated briefly, their principles, etc., as set forth in their official pamphlet, "The Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of France," are somewhat as follows:
They recognise no truths save those based on reason and science, and combat particularly the "superstitions and presumptions" of French Clericalism. Their primordial law is Toleration, respect for all creeds, all ideas, and all opinions. They impose no dogma on their adherents. They encourage free research for truths-- scientific, moral, political and social. Their work among members is to develop their faculties and to augment their knowledge by study and discussion. Men of all classes are taken into their Lodges to work in common "for the emancipation of the human spirit, for the independence of the people, and for the social welfare of humanity."
Their system of morality is based on the teaching that to be happier one has to be better. The scientific study of the human heart establishes for them the fact that social life is the most indispensable weapon in the struggle for existence. Those who live a common life and band themselves together endure, while those who isolate themselves succumb. The association of individuals develops love and expands in the heart desire for the welfare of all. They particularly point out that morality can be attained outside of religious superstitions or philosophical theories.
French Freemasonry, in addition to striving to emancipate its members and separate morality from religious superstition and theory, recognises its mission to make citizens free and equal before the law--to develop the idea of brotherhood and equality. She enunciates the principle that it is the primitive heritage of man, his individual right, to enjoy fully the fruit of his work; to say and to write that which he thinks; to join himself to his fellows when he sees fit; to make that which seems good to him; to associate for common purposes of any kind, material or intellectual; to put into practice, his ideas and his opinions; to teach that which he learns in the course of experience and study, and to demand from society respect for the liberties for each and all.
This may sound very socialistic, but the conditions of the country may have required a declaration of that kind from Masonry. I cannot help regarding this as simply a distinct protest against the encroachments of Clericalism.
This pamphlet further declares that Masonry works for the assuring of the triumph of democracy, so that citizens can take "a direct part, as considerable as possible, in carrying on of public affairs, and in exercising the greatest possible part of that national sovereignty towards which the people of France have marched for a century without being able to attain."
French Freemasonry interests herself in social laws because she believes that through them men will realize the simultaneous welfare of the individual, the family and general society. History bears witness to the necessity of so moulding these laws as to overcome the rivalry of selfish interests from whence spring the miseries, the sufferings and hatreds of society. Social problems they, therefore, consider legitimate Masonic problems if Masonry is to fulfil its mission in its broadest sense. They believe the things that menace the progress of human society should be discussed, so that indirectly they may be drawn to the attention of public opinion, and through that laws will be demanded to remedy them. Under this heading they cite particularly that they aim at legislation to combat misery which is the most active cause of degeneracy, bad morals and crimes; legislation to protect the child gainst moral, intellectual and physical atrophy; legislation to lighten the burden of the woman in the family and in society; legislation to recognize the dignity of abour, to ensure the safety of the labourer, and to help n solving the strifes of labour. They realize fully the vastness of the task they set themselves in intellectual, moral and social development, but Freemasonry, being a permanent institution, has the time for it, and does not therefore allow herself to be deterred because of the size of the task; a step at a time finally succeeds.
They describe their Lodges as being ateliers, in the sense of being study classes or schools. Their membership is recruited by voluntary impulse, as with us, the only condition of membership being that of being free, as we Masonically understand it, and of having good morals.
No dogma, religious, political or social, is imposed on their members. Each member has absolute liberty of thought, which he is led to modify or change along the lines of progression as his own sense may dictate when, by discussion, more extended knowledge and more numerous facts present themselves.
The condition that every free man of good morals, whatever his ideas may be, can introduce into the discussions of the Lodge principles and aspirations of the more diverse kind as to political and social conditions has the result of educating and moulding opinion in the best possible way. As when one stone is struck upon another a jet of light is produced, so when ideas clash, enlightenment likewise follows.
By virtue of a well-balanced scheme, to the centre of which these incongruous thoughts move from the absolute order maintained in the discussion, they understand themselves and criticise themselves. They analyse and refine the one, the other, and evolve a common reflected opinion.
The result is every French Freemason goes from Lodge, if not transformed, at least better informed, improved in every way. The truth which the Masonic study has created percolates indirectly into profane society, with manifest results.
French Freemasonry thus offers its initiates a means of re-union where they can inspect their efforts and their researches. She places them in the centre of human researches. "By the framework, by the symbols, by the custom, she makes them develop, without knowing it, the best that is in them, intellectually and morally, besides realizing the fruitful union of heart and spirit." She elevates individuals by inciting them to make themselves strong, desirable and true, just and good. She protects her members at the same time against excess by maintaining internal discipline.
By conducting these studies the Grand Orient of France keeps before her members, and indirectly before the people generally, the most practical model and the most ideal. She has already exerted a powerful influence on the different institutions of the people. Her task is to inculcate, more and more; true order for the betterment of humanity. In specifying more and more this ideal she works to the end of bringing about the most favourable conditions, and at the same time the most legitimate conditions, of happiness.
This "elevated school of intellectual and moral nobility" shines not to lose itself in mere abstraction, but studies what would seem to be of practical benefit to humanity. She gives her force, trained by intelligence, to the service of Light and of the Spirit. With study and research always going on and never interrupted, the Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of France cannot therefore become dogma. New thought and reason is ever being evolved. Further investigation is forever upsetting proven theories.
As to their methods of working to these ends, the pamphlet gives some very interesting information. Their annual Convention, composed of delegates from all the Lodges, meets in Paris every year in the month of September. One of the most important functions of this Convention is to fix the questions which ought to be referred, for the consideration of the Lodges during the ensuing year. The programme is discussed, added to and taken from, and finally adopted and sent out to the Lodges. By this method the General Convention condenses the thought of Masonry throughout all the Lodges, and members are kept in touch with all the studies pursued in other Lodges than their own. The Masonic thought of the whole country is systematized and crystallized.
Aside from the Convention programme, each Lodge keeps a teacher to study problems of philosophy, morality, socialism, and history, and bring before the Lodge what he considers worthy of discussion. The Lodges work, therefore, largely on their own initiative, and these new discussions are reported at the next Convention, and may perhaps be put on the general programme for the following year. To us these discussions might seem to lead on to dangerous ground and have bad effects. With reference to this they say:
"The discussions which these problems provoke are always conducted courteously and amicably. Tolerance is the first rule of the Masonic Association. It is thus that men belonging to philosophical or political schools, of the most diverse kind, may find harmoniously, without noise and without vain agitations, the solution of the problems which interest the prosperity of the nation and the progress of humanity."
Among the principal questions examined in the Conventions and in the Lodges for some years back are the following, taken from a list they give:
SOCIOLOGICAL-- The status of women and children in modern society. The struggle against alcoholism. The struggle against crime, more especially juvenile crime. The means of combating prostitution, vagabondage, and mendicancy.
LEGISLATIVE-- The reform and simplification of legal procedure. Reform of the Magistracy. Civil Service administration. Public instruction, the taking it out of the hands of the clergy. Betterings of methods of taxation.
ECONOMIC-- Condition of the working man and how it may be bettered. Co-operation. Cheap dwelling houses. Agricultural credits. Working men's credits. Means of encouraging the apprentice system. Homes for working women.
PHILOSOPHIC-- Study of morality outside of all religious dogma. The finding of a morality, lay and scientific. Study of the various philosophical systems.
What I have just given is but a brief synopsis of what is contained in their pamphlet, "The Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of France," which, being an official publication for the purpose of setting forth their aims, aspirations and reasons for being, may be regarded as a fair statement.
What might also be called hereditary objections are hard to overcome, and some of you may now be disposed to think their philosophy and work mere socialism, to be scoffed at and carefully avoided by Masonry. The Sermon on the Mount was equally, if not more, socialistic, yet you do not think of putting it aside on account of that. A great English scholar once said that Christ's Sermon on the Mount may be justly regarded as the charter of Christian Socialism.
Objection may be raised that this kind of thought, working in French Masonic Lodges, would inevitably lead to the Masonic institution in France becoming a mere political organization. Such I do not believe to be the case, and in rebuttal of your thoughts, if they lean that way, I would refer you again to the statement in the letter I have quoted, that their membership is made up of men from all political parties in France. Along the same line I will quote paragraph 15 of their Constitution, which says:
"Lodges have the right of discipline over all their members and over all Masons present at their working.
"They prohibit all debates on the acts of Civil authority, and all Masonic intervention in the struggles of political parties.
"The presiding officer rules the meeting."
The Grand Orient of France has also at various times issued instructions enforcing the above rules. To quote:
"If, as citizens, the members of the Federation are free in their political actions, as Freemasons they must abstain from bringing the name and the flag of Freemasonry into election conflicts and the competition of parties."--Circular 1885.
"All political debates at Masonic meetings are strictly forbidden."--Circular 1885.
If French Masonry has a political influence, and no doubt it has, it is an indirect influence which we in this jurisdiction might do worse than emulate. The latest political influence they are credited with exerting is that which established secular schools in place of monastic schools. A few facts in connection with this will indicate why the French people, non-Masons as well as Masons, demanded this separation. In France in 1897 there were fourteen convictions in the Courts against monastic teachers for "outrages on decency." In 1898 there were thirteen more convictions for similar offences. Severe sentences were imposed in each case by Catholic judges.
Is it any wonder that the monasteries were abolished and secular schools established? Masonry has been blamed in magazine articles for bringing this change about. No official action was taken. Some informers may have been Masons, but not all of them. Who would not inform? I have not been able to find any evidence to substantiate the charge made against Masonry, but if similar conditions existed in this country I should be sorry if the Masonic institution here were not red-blooded enough to exert an influence to right such a wrong. If that would condemn us to being called a political institution, I for one would rejoice in the name.
The Grand Orient of France is not a political organization, nor does it aim to be. It does aim to be an influence in moulding the opinions of its members, so that when they are called upon to act and vote as citizens they may do so with a view to the general good. We might well copy much from their Masonic educational system, to the profit of our Masonic institution, both individually and collectively. Our interest in public questions is largely material. Only where the financial interests are directly affected do we as a people seem to bring ourselves to the point of investigating, criticizing, and demanding the correction of faults in our public government. We overlook altogether the by far greater problems of government--sociological questions, moral reforms, and other phases of public betterment which French Masons make a study of. If there were the possibility of a Boodling Scandal in connection with these other questions they might be more live topics of interest with us. (To be continued)
THE BUILDER MARCH 1918
INTERNATIONALISM AND FREEMASONRY BY BRO. P. E. KELLETT, GRAND MASTER, MANITOBA
LET us now briefly consider the great point of cleavage between Anglo-Saxon Masonry and the Masonry of the Grand Orient of France. This cleavage is based largely on the suspicion, if not on the definite charge that French Masonry is atheistic in its practices or in its tendencies.
The Grand Orient of France was organized in Paris in 1736. Its constitution was of the model of Anderson's original Constitution 1723. The Grand Orient was recognized as legitimate Masonry by the Grand Lodge of England, and in fact by all legitimate Masons throughout the world. At that time in all Masonic Constitutions there was an absolute absence of dogma concerning in which all men agree; that is to be good men and true, men of God and religion, and Masons were bound only to that religion in which all men agree; that is to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty. The aim of the fraternity was purely humanitarian, its principles broad enough for men of every diverse opinion. The desire was simply to unite them, whatever their private religious beliefs, in uplift work for themselves and for humanity.
Changes came first in England. About the middle of the eighteenth century, the so-called Landmarks regarding a declaration of belief in the G. A. of the U. and the placing of the Bible on the Altar, were adopted. Following this, for the greater part of a century the French Constitution adhered strictly to the original plan of the fraternity and did not contain that formula which has since, in some places, come to be regarded as essential. During this time neither the Grand Lodge of England nor any other recognized Grand Lodge took any exception to this notable omission. French Masons were considered neither "Godless" nor "Atheistic." As time went on, the French Constitution was changed to conform to that of the Grand Lodge of England. One writer has said this was co-incident with a closer political approach of the two nations, England and France. The constitution of the Grand Orient of France followed the English copy until shortly after the Franco Prussian war, when they reverted back to what it had been originally. Co-incident with this change, history records political estrangement between France and England which continued until recent years. When France reverted back to her original constitution, the Grand Lodge of England immediately afterwards severed relations with France, and generally speaking, Masonry of English speaking countries followed suit, claiming that the change made by the Grand Orient of France was Atheistic in tendency.
Can French Masonry be said to be atheistical ? Atheism is the doctrine that there is no God. It is no longer considered reasonable for anyone to dogmatically assert that there is no God, and it is a question if such a being as an atheist exists today.
There is no unbelief. Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod, And waits to see it push away the clod, He trusts in God.
Whoever says, when clouds are in the sky, "Be patient, heart; light breaketh by-and-by," Trusts the Most High
Whoever sees, 'neath winter's fields of snow, The silent harvest of the future grow, God's power must know.
Whoever lies down on his couch to sleep, Content to lock each sense in slumber deep, Knows God will keep.
Whoever says, "Tomorrow," "The Unknown," "The Future," trusts the Power alone He dares disown.
The heart that looks on when the eyelids close, And dares to live when life has only woes, God's comfort knows
There is no unbelief; And day by day, and night unconsciously, The heart lives by that faith the lips deny-- God knoweth why!
To be atheistic, French Masonry would need to have made the dogmatic assertion, "There is no God." This it has never done. It neither affirms nor denies anything relative to God. To suppose that French Masons deny the existence of God is to totally misunderstand them. They are as much averse to a dogmatic assertion of that kind as to one of the opposite kind. They are simply against a dogmatic assertion of any kind, as Masons, believing that Masonry is antidogmatic. Many, and possibly all, of their members would doubtless declare a belief in God at the proper time; but not as Masons in a Masonic Lodge.
The French Masons found their attitude on the first edition of the Constitution, which obliges Masons only to that religion in which all men agree; that is, to be good and true, or men of honour and honesty.
Let us briefly examine what ground there is for their stand, and see whether or not we are justified in condemning it. For this purpose I want to direct your attention to:
ANDERSON'S CONSTITUTION, 1723
Concerning God and Religion.
A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understands the Art he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country, or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their peculiar opinions to themselves; that is to be good men and true men of Honour and Honesty by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the centre of union and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.
OUR OWN CONSTITUTION Concerning God and Religion.
A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understands the Art he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. He, of all men, should best understand that God seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh to the heart! A Mason is therefore particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his conscience. Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believe in the Architect of Heaven and Earth, and practice the sacred duties of Morality. Masons unite with the virtuous of every persuasion, in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love; they are taught to view the errors of mankind with compassion, and to strive by the purity of their own conduct to demonstrate the superior excellence of the faith they may profess. Thus Masonry is the centre of union between good men and true, and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
CONSTITUTION OF GRAND ORIENT OF FRANCE
Freemasonry, an essentially philanthropical and progressive institution, has for its object the pursuit of truth, the study of morality, and the practice of solidarity; its efforts are directed to the material and moral improvement and the intellectual and social advancement of humanity. It has for its principles, mutual tolerance, respect for others and for one's self, and absolute liberty of conscience. Considering metaphysical conceptions as belonging exclusively to the individual judgment of its members, it refuses to accept any dogmatic affirmation. Its motto is: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
As to whether the Grand Orient of France has departed farther from the spirit and the letter of Anderson's original Constitution than we have is not open to much controversy. The change they made in 1877 rather reverted back to it than went farther away from it. To show the real misunderstanding that has occurred with regard to their position let me quote from the minutes of their General Conventions when the change was made. We can then understand what the real meaning of their action was.
At the French Masonic Convention of 1876, on the proposal of a Lodge in the department of the Rhone, a Committee was appointed to consider the question of suppressing the second paragraph of the first article of the Constitution, concerning God and Religion. The Committee recommended that the proposition be postponed, and in recommending this the reporter of the Committee, Bro. Maricault, made the following statement:
"Your Commission has recognized that bad faith alone could interpret the suppression demanded as a denial of the existence of God and the immortality of-the soul; human solidarity and freedom of conscience, which would be henceforth the exclusive basis of Freemasonry, imply quite as strongly belief in God and in an immortal soul as they do materialism, positivism, or any other philosophic doctrine."
Postponement met with opposition. Bro. Andre Roussell, in advocating immediate action, among other statements made the following:
"I am anxious to recognize with my brother, the reporter of the Commission, that Freemasonry is neither deistic, atheistic, or even positivist. In so far as it is an institution affirming and practicing human solidarity, it is a stranger to every religious dogma and to every religious Order. Its only principle is an absolute respect for freedom of conscience. In matters of faith it confirms nothing and it denies nothing. It respects in an equal degree all sincere convictions and beliefs. Thus the doors of our temples open to admit Catholics as well as Protestants, to admit the atheist as well as the deist, provided they are conscientious and honourable. After the debate in which we are at present taking part, no intelligent and honourable man will be able to seriously state that the Grand Orient of France has acted from a desire to banish from its Lodges belief in God and in the immortality of the soul, but, on the contrary, that in the name of absolute freedom of conscience it proclaims solemnly its respect for the convictions, teachings, and beliefs of our ancestors. We refrain, moreover, as much from denying as from affirming any dogma, in order that we may remain faithful to our principles and practice of human solidarity."
Bro. Minot, in speaking on the same subject, said: "The Constitution of 1865 had realized a transitory progress. The work must be completed and purified by suppressing dogma and by rendering Masonry once again universal, by the proclamation of the principle of absolute freedom of conscience. Let no one be mistaken in this. It is not our aim to serve the interest of any philosophic conception in particular by our action in laying aside all distinction between doctrines. We have in view only one thing: Freedom for each and respect for all."
The recommendation of the Committee prevailed, and action was postponed. In 1877, after a year's study by the Lodges, the change was adopted by an almost unanimous vote. The reporter of the Committee at the time said: "Who is not aware, at this moment, that in advocating this suppression no one among us understands himself as making a profession of atheism and materialism. In regard to this matter every misunderstanding must disappear from our minds, and, if in any Lodge there should remain any doubt in reference to this point, let them know that the Commission declares without reservation that by acceding to the wish of Lodge No. 9 it sets before it no other object than the proclamation of absolute liberty of conscience."
When the proposition of the Committee had been adopted by the General Assembly, the President proposed, as an amendment, the insertion of these words: "Masonry excludes no one on account of his beliefs." Many regarded this as superfluous, but the President was insistent, in order that it might be clearly established in the eyes of all that Masonry is a neutral territory, in which all beliefs are admitted and treated with equal respect. The suggestion was adopted.
It may be interesting to note that the original proposer that the Grand Orient of France should suppress the formula of the G. A. of the U. was a clergyman of the Protestant Church, and he stated, in justification, as follows:
"In suppressing the formula respecting the G. A. of the U. we did not mean to replace it by a materialistic formula. None among us in proposing this suppression, thought of professing atheism or materialism, and we declare formally and emphatically that we had no other end in view than to proclaim absolute liberty of conscience."
I have given the words and opinions of those responsible for the change in the Constitution so that there may be no room for misunderstandings. The Grand Orient of France, in making the change, has done no more than was done by the Government of Great Britain when she admitted members to seats in the House of Commons by allowing them to make an affirmation only when their convictions would not allow them to take a religious oath. The same custom prevails in our Courts of Justice.
Their position will bear a little further examination to make clear its consistency. The story, as depicted by our Ritual, tells of a great loss and a life-long search for this something, which was lost. Masonry ends at the point when something else is substituted to temporarily make good that loss, and at the point where Masonry ends we are expected to begin the search.
Various explanations have been given as to what this is that was lost, and which all Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, Christian and Pagan, are seeking for. The simplest and clearest explanation of this that was lost is that it was "the way back to God."
"The way back to God." That is the door then to which Masonry leads. Cannot any of us go as far as that door with any, be he Agnostic, Deist, Buddhist, or any other, so long as he conforms to Anderson's original specifications, and is a good man and true, a man of honour and honesty? At the door, of course, we would separate, each to follow on his own way. But happily we can come back to the Lodge again and again for mutual encouragement, and for strength for a fresh start on our several paths, all of which are alike dark and obscure.
It is not the function of Masonry to solve the riddle of life but to propound it and stimulate and encourage each of her initiates to search for his own solution. It takes each man so far, and there leaves him to find the answer for himself. By the very fact that Masonry itself gives no answer, it demonstrates clearly that the answer is not the same to every man. All this would seem to lead to freedom from dogma of all kind and justify France and Belgium in the stand they take.
I do not wish to be understood to say that it is wrong for a Mason in Lodge to declare belief in God. But I would like to be able to accept as brethren any good men and true, men of honour and honesty, who are earnest searchers after the same truth as we are, even though they do not insist in Lodge on a declaration of belief in God. French Masons appear to be worthy men, doing a wonderful work for the cause of progress and enlightenment.
Another so-called grievance against the Grand Orient of France is that they have taken the Bible off the altar. Many of us have imagined that because the Bible is one of the Great Lights according to our Ritual and usage that its place has been in Masonic Lodges from time immemorial. To most the presence of the Bible on the altar is in some way a landmark. Surprising it may be, but the Bible was not even mentioned in Masonic Rituals until 1724, and it was in 1760 that Preston moved that it be made one of the Great Lights of Masonry. One might properly question whether Anglo-Saxon Masonry did not violate a landmark when she introduced religious dogmatism into Masonry in the middle of the Eighteenth Century.
As Masons, we have before us the great object of the fraternal brotherhood of man. This will carry with it peace and prosperity. Is not the attainment of this worth the abolition of narrow intolerance ? Let us maintain, if we wish, our own principles concerning God and religion, but forever banish all dogmatism as to what others shall do in this connection, so long as they are earnestly working to attain the great principles of Masonry. Does not the situation demand the serious thought of every Master Mason?
Should not Tolerance and Fraternity prevail ? France is holding out the brotherly hand to us, saying: "Let by-gones be by-gones, and let us look solely to the future." Should we as Masons hold at more than arm's length an institution which consistently devotes itself to those lofty aims and pursuits which we preach better than we practice?
Even as the Arts, Sciences, and other phases of human activity have benefited by international discussion and concord, so also can Masonry benefit. If Masonry is to sustain in the future its splendid record, and attain the object she seeks, is not world-wide international co-operation necessary? How else can we attain a Universal Brotherhood?
With the present world crisis the time has come when Freemasonry should stand forth, free from all entrammelling influences, in its grand simplicity. Our Lodges should be centres of thought, influence and effort, holding no task alien that will advance the cause of righteousness on earth. To this end we could learn much by confraternity with such an organization as the Grand Orient of France. Is "Brotherly Love" to be nothing more than a label which we carry but which does not properly belong to the goods at all ?
THE BUILDER APRIL 1918 FREEMASONRY IN FRANCE BY BRO. GEORGE W. BAIRD, P. G. M., DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
There are two "Obediences" in France, and three in Germany. They are as separate and distinct as is the Grand Lodge of the ' District of Columbia and the Negro Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, but it is not easy to make all of our people understand this.
The Grand Orient (1) is the older of the French bodies: The Grand Lodge of France separated from the Scottish Rite in 1804 but its Lodges still meet in the same building with the A.A.S.R. and the personnel in the Rites is almost identical. We have always been on terms of intimacy with the A.A.S.R. in France and in all South American countries, and with them the Scottish Rite is often mentioned as "Universal Masonry," though the writer knows of no friction between the Scottish Rite and Symbolic Masonry in any part of the world. Symbolic Lodges have separated from the A.A.S.R. in order to conform to the English and American system for the purpose of securing fraternal intercourse.
Formerly (and properly) a Mason who could prove himself, was a welcome visitor in any Lodge in any part of the world, unless the jurisdiction from whence he came had been interdicted and any change from this plan is modern and is an innovation.
The writer was made a Mason in a Lodge in Portugal, in 1867, in the French Rite, and in the French language. The obligation was taken on a Holy Bible of the King James edition, the Bible which was translated out of the original tongues. This Bible is used by Protestants, Jews and Mohammedans, and being from the original tongues it is reasonable to believe it has less errors and less changes than the Douay edition which is translated out of the Latin vulgate. The personnel of the Lodge that gave us light was made up of nominal Roman Catholics, about 70 per cent; Jews about 20 per cent and Protestants about 10 per cent. When asked what our religion was, we replied "The Constitution of the United States and the Ten Commandments" which seemed to satisfy the Lodge. They were liberal, tolerant men.
The Lodge books recorded no living man's name, as in all other priest-ridden countries each man was required to take a sobriquet, or a nom-de-guerre as they said, for the reason that it was a penal offense to be a member of the Masonic Fraternity in Portugal and when the priests finally did discover the Lodge and caused its destruction, there was not the name of a living man on any record. The members went to and from that Lodge singly or in pairs, each lighting himself up the long flights of stairs with his wax taper (a rolino).
It is not generally known that the Mohammedans believe in and read our Bible. Mohammed himself believed in Jesus Christ and all his followers do. One of the most bigoted sects of Islam is the "followers of Jesus," and its see is on the north coast of Africa. The Musselman believes more in the Koran than in the Bible and it has the advantage or recommendation of containing no words which would shock the mind of a child. The Koran is in the Arabic, and there has never been a translation except an English edition, but neither Arabs, nor Turks nor Egyptians ever read that edition; if they cannot read Arabic they are dependent on others to read for them.
In English Lodges a Mohammedan is obligated on the Koran and a Christian on the Holy Bible. The purpose of the obligation is to bind the postulant and for this reason he is obligated on what he believes to be most binding. This is recognized generally, but where we know only one book of sacred literature we are too apt to believe there should be no other. We are taught that the Holy Bible is the divine revelation of the mind and will of God to man but others differ with us in that, but if we can impose an obligation that will bind any and all, our principal purpose will have been accomplished.
Freemasonry has been defined as "a system of morals, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." It has never been claimed to be a religion, though the priests call it a "sect." In the Entered Apprentice degree we are taught that Masonry unites men of every country, sect and opinion and conciliates true friendship among those who might have remained at a perpetual distance. This, the French believe, is the acme of tolerance and they take it literally. We claim no "apostolic succession" nor do we essay to administer extreme unction, give absolution nor offer any assurance of admission to the Holy of Holies above, but we do strive to make better men of our members.
We have no idea of the slings and arrows hurled constantly at Masons, in priest-ridden countries until we have been there. The long years of peace and harmony we have enjoyed have spoiled us and unfitted us for sympathy with our stricken brethren abroad. Lodges in Italy and France have been raided. The Lodge was interrupted by police at Voltaire's funeral. The writer was once detained at Mentone, on the border between Italy and Monaco, and witnessed the seizure of a Bible which an English-speaking woman was carrying into Italy. The guard acting under orders, would not permit it to be carried into the country, but held the Bible for her until she should pass out of Italy.
There have come to us from abroad many appeals for a more intimate fraternalism. An invitation to an International Masonic Congress was sent to more than two hundred "Masonic Powers" about 1901, including the Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter, etc., of the District of Columbia, and the writer moved in Grand Lodge that a delegate be sent but there was not even a second to the motion, so lightly did they regard it.
"Masonic Powers" with European Masons means all Masonic organizations, as Grand Lodges, Grand Chapters, Grand Commanderies, Consistories, etc., and these invitations went to all the addresses the Swiss Masonic Bureau could obtain. It was stated it was a congress, not a conclave; so that the doors were not tiled nor were the esoteric sections to be discussed as the writer understood it and as it turned out to be. The proceedings of that Congress were printed, and to my surprise (and maybe amusement) I found the following report of what took place at the banquet.
"Dr. Watts, (Washington)--W. President and Brethren: I have the honor of presenting to this distinguished body of Freemasons in Congress assembled, greeting from the Most Worshipful Grand Master and Brethren of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, United States of America.
"I have to say that the Grand Master is full of sympathy with the object of the Congress as outlined in the several explanatory circulars received from Monsieur Paul-Emile Bonjour, the Grand Secretary.
"Permit me further to say that we are of the opinion that any movement in keeping with the sublime principles of the Order and that does not in the least degree conflict with the ancient landmarks, has our approval and fraternal co-operation.
"Thanking the projectors for their kind invitation to participate in the deliberations of this present Congress, I beg leave also personally to express my appreciation for the courteous attention I have received during the time I have been in the city.
"On behalf of my Grand Lodge we wish the Congress success and desire that beneficial results may follow its labor-- which shall prove a blessing to all -- especially the brethren."
Had I not written very soon after this an essay on Negro Masonry for the International Bulletin (2) the delegates who heard that very creditable address would have supposed that the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia had sent that negro delegate.
The speech of Dr. Watts was in English but the others were in French. The writer made a full report on the above, which was printed in the 1902 report of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia and may be found on page 339 et seq.
And now we come to the Grand Lodge of France! Why should we not at once accord it recognition? It may be asked what French Masons have done to merit this. Their Masonry was received from England and the writer believes the French are now working more in accord with the first constitution of the Grand Lodge of England (Anderson's) than are many American Lodges, which should be sufficient.
Owing to the espionage of the "Holy Fathers" the French history of Masonry has been greatly abridged and often suppressed, so that we have not the volumes to draw on that we would wish but there are enough for this purpose.
During the War for American Independence, called "The Revolution," there existed in Paris a Lodge "Les Neuf Soeurs" of which the American Commissioner, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, the peerless Naval Captain, Houdon, the unmatched sculptor, Voltaire, the fearless, the great Helvidius and many other eminent men were members. At that time there were atrocious oppressions of the people not only by the rich and influential, but by the priests.
In the Lodge Neuf Soeurs there was Elie Dumont, a young lawyer, with a score of followers who took up the people's cause against oppression. For a verification we beg leave to invite reference to Les Memoires Secretes, Vol. XXI, and to Ed. Tachereau, Vol. XXI, and Besuchet Precis Historique, Vol. II.
One example is that of Jean Calas, a Hugenot who had been sentenced to punishment "on the wheel" by the tribunal of Toulouse, and he was thus executed. His offense was that he had assaulted his son who had been perverted to Romanism. His widow and his children were despoiled of their property and belongings by confiscation and they finally took refuge in Geneva and were sheltered by Voltaire. Their cause was espoused by Voltaire who advocated it by printed memorials, which he widely distributed. Elie Dumont defended the Calas family in the French Courts without fee or reward and after three years of labor, succeeded in having the judgment arrested and the widow's property returned to her.
In the same tribunal in 1746, a man and his wife named Siren, were condemned to death for an assault on their son who had been perverted to Romanism and who had forbidden the son from continuing his acquaintance with the men who had proselyted him. The rest of the family took refuge in Geneva and their case was appealed by Elie Dumont, who, after five years succeeded in having the judgment reversed, so far as the confiscation went, and the family of Siren was permitted to return to France and take possession of their property. We could multiply these examples indefinitely if it were needed, but it is not.
That Masonic Lodge became the target for Romish persecution and accusation. It was charged with atheism. Masonry was branded as a society of atheists in general but Voltaire was the central figure of their atrocious attack. Dumont and his followers persisted in the defense of the inherent rights of the people and lighted a fire of indignation, which kindled in the people a consciousness of their inherent rights and was closely interwoven in the French Revolution which followed and which history has so vividly recorded. Voltaire was obliged to leave Paris to escape assassination. He took up his home in Ferney, near Geneva in Switzerland, where he was held in high esteem. Napoleon I, who was a Mason, had held the Pope of Rome a prisoner and this added to the anger of the priests who believed and still believe that the Pope is the "Father of Princes, the ruler of the Christian world and the Vicar of Jesus Christ" and that there can be no proper government without his sanction.
If a man goes on the street and cries "mad dog, mad dog," he will jeopardize the life of every dog in sight, though there may be no mad dog at all. And if a mob, believing a priest carries the keys of Heaven and Hell in his girdle, hears his cries and accusations, they will give respectful and obedient attention to his utterances without further consideration. This is practically the condition which existed in Paris when the priests began to denounce Freemasonry in general, and Voltaire in particular. As they made Voltaire the central figure of attack it may be proper to examine his case. Take the twenty-four volumes of Voltaire which have been printed in English and there cannot be found in them a word to justify the accusation that he was atheistic. He was without doubt, a Deist. In the little town of Ferney a chapel was built by Voltaire for his neighbors to worship in. A marble tablet over the door has engraved on it these words:
DEO EREXIT VOLTAIRE. MDCCLVIII
which is, "Erected to God, by Voltaire, 1758." When asked why he dedicated his chapel to God he replied: "In London they erected their Temple to Saint Paul, in Paris to Saint Genevieve, but I erect mine to God."
When dying he said "I die worshipping God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, but despising superstition." (Vide Appleton's New American Cyclopedia.) His accusers were the priests and the same frocked fraternity is still accusing Masonry.
The Anti-Masonic Congress which was convened at Trent in 1896, was attended by more than 200 Bishops of the Romish Church and many times that number of priests and zealous laymen. That Congress was
"Called together with the concurrence and favor of Pope Leo XIII who in a special brief, bestowed his benediction and approval on its aims and purposes. Twenty-two influential Cardinals, over two hundred Bishops, the most important clerical associations, the whole of the clerical press, sent their adhesions to this Tridentine Council. Over five hundred ecclesiastics from the highest to the lowest were present and all European States, England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United States of America, the South American Republics were more or less numerously and influentially represented."
"General and particular aim: To wage war on Masonry as an institution; on Masons as individuals; in all countries and places where the order exists; to wage war on Masonry as a body by collecting supposed documents and facts; assertions of perjured Masons as evidence and thus bring to light, or rather coin, by means of the press or special publications all the misdeeds of the fatal institution; all the demoralizing influences it exercises; through obscene or sacrilegious rites, corruption and occult conspiracies on man and civilization; to wage war on individual Masons by opposing them in every phase of their existence, in their individual homes, in their industries, in their commerce, in their professional avocations, in all their endeavors to participate in public life, local or general, etc."
A French reporter, Mr. Leo Taxil, had been employed to ferret out and report on the vagaries of Masonry, and in his report he gave them an account of a smithery in a cave under the Rock of Gibraltar where iron tools were fashioned for use in devil worship.
The speeches of the "Holy Fathers" on that occasion were drastic, atrocious and anything but Christian-like. This Congress was as late as 1896, and must still be fresh in the memories of Masonic students. And from it, we draw the lesson that the purpose of those people has not changed with time. So it is but fair to ask shall we accept the testimony of these prejudiced, fanatical sorcerers against the French Freemasons ?
The Grand Orient of France by giving countenance to a spurious body of Scottish Rite Masons in Louisiana, in 1858, caused English-speaking Masons, generally to suspend relations with that Orient, one after another until such time as the Orient should revoke its sanction of that spurious body. (Vide Report of Grand Lodge of D. C. for 1870, pages 6 and 7.) It was not an interdiction, but a tentative suspension of relations which the Orient was at liberty to automatically heal by the revocation of its sanction of that spurious A.A.S.R. body of New Orleans.
That spurious body has long since gone out of existence but the Grand Orient has never made any overtures to the Grand Lodge of District of Columbia nor any other American Grand Lodge so far as the writer has been able to discover.
But in 1878, the Report of the Grand Lodge of District of Columbia (p. 20) says:
"The action of the Grand Orient of France in expunging from its constitution the necessity for a firm belief in Deity and the immortality of the soul was called up as unfinished business and on motion, it was ordered that the resolutions accompanying the report be considered separately.
"Resolved, That the action of the Grand Orient of France in ignoring the foundation principles of Masonry--that of a firm belief in God and in the immortality of the soul--meets with unqualified disapproval of this Grand Lodge."
This is the last entry we can find in our reports of the Grand Orient.
Now (as the priests say) "let us consider this beautiful mystery." It is certainly not an interdiction. There is no intimation of clandestinism, nor of irregularity nor threat of permanent breaking off of relations.
We Protestants disapprove of their failure to exact a firm belief in the existence of God and of the immortality of the soul, more I think because we are Christians than for any other reason. We believe even more we teach the "resurrection of the body through faith in the merits of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah," though the Jews among us cannot agree with that, but it is there, and it cannot be found in the Anderson Constitutions, under which the Grand Lodge of France is working today. We are perhaps unconsciously, gradually blending our Christian faith with Freemasonry, while we believe or teach that the latter unites men of every Nation, sect and opinion and concilates friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
The writer happens to know that there is a Lodge in Swansea, Wales, under the obedience of the Grand Orient of France which has the Bible on its altar on which it obligates. The Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orient assured us that they dedicate their Lodges to the Great Architect of the Universe, and that they permit the sacred writings to be kept on the altar of any and every Lodge that wants it. And this they regard as becoming tolerance.
The Grand Lodge of France, however, has never offended us in any way. It has not been even charged of having committed the infractions which have strained our relations with the Grand Orient.
The Grand Lodge of France is a separate, distinct and sovereign body recognized as such by the Supreme Grand Council from which it was separated. It is in fraternal amity with many sovereign Grand Lodges and has never, until now, asked formal recognition of any American Grand Lodge. At the beginning of this European war the Grand Lodge of France started a line of auto-ambulances, opened soup-houses and lunch rooms, and equipped a hospital for the use of wounded soldiers and for the aid of the indigent and needy of all nations without regard to "race, creed, or previous condition of servitude."
We are now sending about 30,000 soldiers a month to Europe, most of whom go to France; among these are many Masons. They naturally want to visit and as our relations are strained with the Orient we should make it possible for them to visit the Lodges of the Grand Lodge of France.
Personally we have advised our soldier-Masons of the District of Columbia that they are at liberty to visit the Lodges of the Grand Lodge of France, but as relations are strained with the Grand Orient we have advised that its Lodges be not, at present, visited.
(1) Orient means East. (2) Printed in three languages.