|| It is a great honor to
be your guest at this 2002 California Masonic Symposium. I want, first of
all, to thank the Most Worshipful C. Ray Whitaker, Grand Master of Masons in
California, for his very fraternal invitation.
In prior communications the leadership of the Grand Lodge of
California asked me to speak about "The Great Divide: The Grand Orient of
France and Dogmatic Freemasonry." Let me say here to you that this was a
very great... surprise! After all, we do not think that such freemasonry
exists. James Anderson was very clear about this at the beginning. We
respect and welcome in the Lodges of the Grand Orient of France those who
believe or do not believe. Neither Atheist, nor extremist, there is nothing
in the Grand Orient that gives us as Masons the right to determine a
definitive approach to advancement, or a specific stream, that leads to our
individual accomplishments and personal growth through the Craft.
First, I want to acknowledge that critical parts of my speech have
been prepared in collaboration with my very close friend and brother, Grand
Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of France, Alain de Keghel.
The time now has come to engage fraternally in a deep and sustained
analysis of the Masonic landscape, as it is, not as we imagine it to be. All
Brethren of good will are now looking toward a more open-minded, more
tolerant, and more Masonic approach to our Brotherhood.
To that end, increasing numbers of Masons from around the world are
making the necessary efforts to build a bridge of Light which does not end
at national borders or within the limits of individual Masonic bodies. It is
time to open eyes, minds, and hearts, to the inherited legacies of our
diverse and rich traditions.
It is indeed a great privilege to have the opportunity to open more
widely the doors of understanding. So let us attempt in our time together to
overcome the friction of difference that far too often marks the realities
of the profane world, and tarnishes our Masonic world.
The Masonic Order has endured through the vicissitudes of time,
culture, civilizations and society. However, it has survived through the
centuries not by following passively the movements of society, but rather it
often has been at the forefront of important change within society. In those
moments of leadership it has been at its strongest.
As one important illustration, simply being here in the United States
of America, brings to mind the major role American Masons, and some of their
French Brethren, played in establishing modern democratic society.
We can all give our deepest thanks to George Washington, Benjamin
Franklin (Who I can tell you with great pride was the Worshipful Master of a
Grand Orient of France Lodge in Paris.), to the Marquis de Lafayette, and to
many others who worked so strenuously for freedom that time will not permit
us to list all of their names today.
In point of fact, there have been important and fruitful moments of
deep contact between French and American Masons going back even before the
time of the American Revolution. Nevertheless, we know from history and
personal experience, that there are different traditions in America and
France. Because French Masons realize fairly well how difficult it is for
some of our Brethren on this side of the Atlantic to understand how it came
to pass in France that there is such a great variety of Masonic bodies and
Masonic streams, or traditions, it would be of value to discuss France to
With your permission, let us consider together some historical facts
but also some issues that may be regarded as premature in the emerging
transatlantic dialogue, or even hazardous. In order to do this to full
mutual benefit, it is obvious that we first need to know each other much
better than we do.
To be direct and to the point, I will first offer a few words
concerning the Grand Orient of France: It has not relinquished the
dedication to The Great Architect of the Universe and it has never initiated
women. It is the oldest traditional Masonic body in France. This fact was
just confirmed a few weeks ago by the United Grand Lodge of England to the
Minnesota Grand Lodge here in America. And as I briefly mentioned earlier,
the fact that there was a very strong commitment by the Grand Orient of
France to the establishment of Freemasonry in the early years of the United
States of America is well documented.
The Grand Orient of France is a federation of Lodges using different
workings where every single Lodge has the freedom to choose a Ritual
belonging either to the French Rite (a legacy of the old English Rite), the
Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, the Rectified Scottish Rite, as well as the
Royal Arch, Mark Masonry, Memphis-Misraim, and the Emulation Working. Our
lodges, which are free to choose their working are also free to work to the
The Grand Orient with more than 44,000 Brethren is the largest French
Masonic organization in a country which counts a total of roughly 130,000
members working in a Lodge. This is a number which may sound ridiculous by
comparison with some 2 million Freemasons in America, but you must consider
the size of the French nation which totals sixty-million people (compared to
288 million Americans).
Of course this number is approaching less than a half of the amount of
Freemasons in the United Kingdom. However, like the USA (of course, we do
not ignore the dark times of the Morgan affair in your country), Great
Britain is the only country in Europe where Freemasons were never persecuted
and where our Masonic Order had a chance to develop without the negative
interference of the churches, and politics. This situation, by the way, is
changing in the U.K. with a Catholic Prime Minister strongly challenging the
role of Freemasonry in British society.
This history explains why continental Europe does not total today much
more than some 250,000 Freemasons. Out of this number, nearly half are
French. To be more complete in this presentation, it should be added that
France has benefited from an additional important feminine Masonic and
mixed-gender Masonry development since the early 20th
It can be noted with interest that the first recorded Masonic Lodge
was created in France in 1688. The first Masonic Order in 1728 was named
"Grande Loge" before changing its name into the "Grand Orient de France" in
1771-1773. That same year a new "Grande Loge de France" was created by
dissident members, who then in 1799 joined yet once again the "Grand Orient
de France." Finally, a new "Grande Loge de France," our friend and sister
obedience, was created in 1894. The Grande Lodge de France still exists
today with more than 20,000 members and is an outgrowth of the same Masonic
In overall percentages, French Lodges can be broken down into the
following numbers: 69% male, 20% belong to mixed-gender masonry and 11% are
for women only. One may consider also that 75% of French Masons are men, but
that over the last 30 years, the relative percentage of women has more than
doubled rising from 10% to nearly 25%.
As many of you will know, a great turmoil began in 1877 as the
Delegates of the Lodges of the Grand Orient of France while attending the
annual General Assembly, and after fierce debate, made a decision and voted
to lift the mandatory obligation to refer to T.G.A.O.T.U. in Lodge rituals.
It is interesting to note that the motion to introduce this dramatic change
was introduced by a Protestant Minister and Brother, Frederic Desmons. One
must today realize that this happened in the context of French
post-revolutionary society which had fought successfully for a separation of
the State from the Catholic Church. I can bear witness today to the liberty
given earlier by the French Lodges for those non Roman Catholics that were
persecuted in subsequent years and decades after the Revocation of the Edict
of Nantes in 1685.Lodges of the Grand Orient were the places of refuge of
free thought and liberty against the great darkness of this period.
In earlier times under the Kingdom there was no desire to accept any
level of ecumenism by established religion. There simply was no tolerance of
different beliefs in established religion. After the French Revolution of
1789, the Catholic Church as an institution which tried desperately to
regain the temporal power it had lost. It was in this context that the
signature of the Concordat of 1801 had as its first consequence for
French Freemasons their effective excommunication. This occurred as a result
of the Encyclical "In Eminenti Apostolatus Speculae." The immediate
effect of this was to produce a radicalization of the relationships between
the conservative Catholic Church and the Grand Orient. Remember that the
Grand Orient was at this time deist in its majority but still supportive of
the gains of the Revolution: Freedom of speech, freedom of conscience,
freedom of religion, were, and still are, our motto. We also wanted to
become free from English Masonic colonization. Does this not ring a bell?
The Masons in 1877 believed their decision expressed in a democratic
vote was a way to return to the original and very liberal spirit of the
Constitution of James Anderson. That was the heart of the matter. That is
what was in their thinking. The focus was on Anderson's Constitution as it
had been written in 1723, before the changes made in 1738. In fact, Masons
before 1717 were officially "Catholics," they became "Christians" and then "Noachites."
The Grand Orient of France merely climbed an additional step, asking them to
refer to the "Universal Moral Law," as specified by the 1723 Constitutions.
This would mean, as well, a focus on Anderson's Constitution well
before the extensive changes undertaken in 1813, and before the 1929
modifications with the so-called "eight fundamental obligations." These are
the later obligations necessary in order to attain recognition from the
United Grand Lodge of England.
It is not the purpose here to place too much emphasis on this most
sensitive and controversial issue, which all too easily pollute Masonic
relations and discussion. Unfortunately, there is not much substantive
reasoning at all on the topic today.For example, there is very little
examination of the historical facts as a necessary background to the
The matter has sadly poisoned the relations between different Masonic
streams. It has produced a Masonic reaction which many Masons around
the world still do not understand: a kind of Masonic equivalent to the Pope
has emerged with established rules of excommunication and a kind of "new
In France, most Brethren simply did not care about this break in the
Masonic family. They regarded this evolution in the breakdown of relations
with regret and sadness, nevertheless, they lived their lives as Free Masons
and they went their own way. This is how it was in the past, and it is still
However, in the course of affairs, one Masonic body did decide in 1913
to work the "regular" way. This was the origin of the Grand Loge
Nationale Française (GLNF), which today claims more than 20,000 members.
You must realize that despite differences this Grand Lodge often
shares the same Temples with other Masons outside of Paris. This occurs even
though Brethren belonging to other streams do not work together with the
GLNF in closed tiled Lodges. Nevertheless, substantive relations do exist.
In very recent times, the respective Grand Masters of GLNF and GODF have
worked to establish a new kind of relationship and signed agreements on the
recognized quality of the initiation process, on disciplinary issues and on
We meet regularly, we accept transfers from one Body to another, we
respect our mutual differences. This offers some hope for a brighter Masonic
future, at least in France.
One has to realize that Freemasonry developed in a different way in
France as well as in several other continental European, Latin American and
African countries. It is something we have to deal with. It is an issue we
would be wise to address and not ignore. There is no need to lock ourselves
into unnecessary compartments and singular ways of thinking. We need to be
concerned about the weakness that results from unnecessary divisions. We
would be much wiser to prefer a universal perspective.
After all, our way of thinking is in part a legacy of the great
philosophers and writers of the time of the Enlightenment: Voltaire,
Rousseau, Montesquieu, Diderot, and so many others.
Part of the task at the moment is to now pass on the rich heritage of
our humanist and Enlightenment values to future generations. In the cause of
freedom, and more, this tradition was fought and died for in France and
America in the Eighteenth-Century. This must not be lost.
The essential point is that our Masonic message is still of
considerable value. The great, generous and original ideal of Freemasonry to
"unite people who otherwise would have remained at perpetual distance" is
also a modern and vital message to our contemporary society endangered by
egoism, ethnocentrism and crude materialism. At this time, everyone is
speaking of globalization. But where are we as Freemasons in the
contemporary world? Are we not at risk in our current situation? Is it not
possible that the world will pass us by in the new millennium if we do not
actively engage with humanity once again and give the message that is
expected from us?
Of course, in your great country, in the U.S.A, you have been
fortunate in having a series of prestigious heads of state as members of our
Brotherhood. But even here does this not belong to the past?
Do we not have to stop and ask ourselves why the winding down is
developing in this fashion? What can we do to return to a greater
effectiveness, relevance, and visibility in our respective societies? Social
meetings and charities are good, but they cannot be our main and only goal.
In a modern society where every person is solicited for something, we have
to become more attractive to those people having something to contribute to
society. We all agree that Lodges do not have to interfere in politics. But
does it mean that we, as Brethren, as individuals, need to stay silent as
mere spectators in the profane world?
Always working in reference to our ethical values as Masons, we should
be more sensitive to the important issues confronting modern society:
education, discrimination, the preservation of individual rights in a
computerized society, rules of ethics in biotechnology, the proper and
careful management of genetic modified organisms and of modern medicine,
problems of environment, as well as of aging people, youth violence,
challenges like drugs, tobacco and alcohol abuses. Young people will expect
this from each one of us before they join our Lodges. They will not join if
we neglect the vital issues of our respective nations, or of the world as a
If Freemasons do not engage the world in front of them, they will,
without doubt, lose the best and brightest of our youth. Fraternal relations
as you and I have practiced them are not enough. The youth of our respective
societies have many opportunities for socializing elsewhere more in keeping
with the social and cultural interests of modern times and their own
expectations. Nevertheless, how can there be Freemasonry without the most
talented of our youth petitioning to join with us in service?
Furthermore, is it really necessary, because of revisiting the very
fluid idea of Landmarks in this century, to destroy relations between
each other, between the different Masonic traditions?
Are we to act like churches, which knowingly defend dogmas, who
represent both temporal and spiritual powers, and thus could be imagined to
be less tolerant as a result? On this matter, we are not performing very
well at all as Masons. The churches, in fact, are much more successful in
the practice of basic human tolerance as they work to improve their
Let us take the example of the Roman Catholic Church, which today
extends the metaphorical hands of the Pope all around the world even to
non-Christian churches and communities. Each day the Roman Catholic Church
reaches out to other denominations, including Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
How does it come to pass that Freemasons remain at the turn of this century
unable to conduct, or even begin, some kind of similar Masonic dialogue on a
large scale? This would by no means necessarily require of any Mason that
they change anything about their Masonry. It simply means they could speak
respectfully to each other about Masonry, about the joys of being alive, and
about the serious issues of modern times.
It could mean they sit and discuss how best to get rid of self-imposed
rules of recognition, exclusive jurisdiction, regularity, and so forth, none
of which are in the slightest bit relevant anymore.
It is precisely these Rules and Regulations, which make a universal
dialogue among all Freemasons virtually impossible. Is it not a kind of a
paradox that today the Roman Catholic Church has almost lifted the
excommunication of Freemasons that I spoke about earlier but that Freemasons
of different disciplines in fact excommunicate each other? Is it a sane and
normal situation where Masonic representatives may, in most cases, meet
easier with a clergyman than with a fellow Mason belonging to a so-called
"irregular" Grand Lodge?
In the United States, Grand Lodges did not, in fact, break relations
with the Grand Orient de France in 1877, which is the popular but
historically unfounded myth. Most of them did continue relations for a long
time after 1877. During the 1st World War, for example, we
received in our lodges numerous American Masons. And we did the same after
our Liberation by the Allies, mostly by courageous American soldiers, in
World War II. U.S. Grand Lodges that Recognised or Approved
Intervisitations with the Grande Loge of France and/or the Grand Orient de
France during the 1900's were :
GLDF and GODF
intervisitations GLDF & GODF
intervisitations with GLDF
intervisitations with GLDF
intervisitations with GLDF
GLDF and GODF
intervisitations GLDF & GODF
GLDF and GODF
GLDF and GODF
1918 & 1919
GLDF and GODF
intervisitations GLDF & GODF
GLDF and GODF
GLDF and GODF
intervisitations GLDF & GODF
I quote an American Mason and scholar Paul Bessel on the general
topic. He has written, quote: "It will probably surprise most
American masons to find out that during the 1900s the Grande Loge of France
was recognized, or mutual visitations by members were approved, by
twenty-three -- almost half -- of all United States grand lodges. Since the
Grand Orient of France is said to be totally outside the pale of freemasonry
and "flagrantly irregular" since the 1870's, it is even more surprising to
find that twelve -- more than a quarter -- of United States grand lodges
recognized or approved mutual visitations by members with the Grand Orient
of France during the twentieth century.
Both the Grande Loge of France and the Grand Orient of France were
fully recognized by eight grand lodges starting at the time of World War I.
This could have been the result of the War and the desire to support strong
allies in the war, as that is mentioned in a July 20, 1917, letter from four
Grande Loge of France officials to United States grand lodges. In that
letter it states the purpose of writing was "to extend to your Grand Lodge
an invitation to enter into official relations with us and to cement those
relations by an exchange of representatives." However, many American grand
lodges considered and rejected recognition, and many that granted
recognition did so only after detailed study and careful consideration. It
is clear that grand lodges in the United States made thoughtful and serious
decisions on this subject.
Appropriately, in the early twentieth-century, Louisiana led American
grand lodges in recognizing the Grande Loge of France and re-recognizing the
Grand Orient of France. Louisiana had caused the other American grand lodges
to break their ties with the Grand Orient of France fifty years earlier.
In brief, Grand lodges in the United States began to withdraw their
recognitions of the Grand Orient after 1868, when the Grand Orient
recognized a Masonic group called the "Supreme Council of the Accepted and
Ancient Scottish Rite of the State of Louisiana," which was not recognized
by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana. The Louisiana Grand Master called this act
a "strange perversion" by the Grand Orient. The Grand Lodge of Louisiana
considered this an invasion of its territory, withdrew its recognition of
the Grand Orient, and called on other grand lodges in America to do the
same. It is very significant, when we remember the historical period in
which this action took place (And, I have to add, considering the very
special relations between France and Lousiana).
The Grand Orient decree and report, as printed in the Louisiana
Proceedings, states that one of the reasons the Grand Orient recognised
this "Supreme Council of Louisiana" is because that group allowed the
initiation of men "without regard to nationality, race, or colour."
The Grand Orient report mentioned the significance of "civil and
political equality … between the white and coloured races," opposition to
slavery, and the necessity of its abolition. The split of French Masonry
with that of America actually came in 1869 when the Grand Orient passed a
resolution that "neither colour, race, nor religion should disqualify a man
Since Louisiana had caused other United States grand lodges to sever
their relations with the Grand Orient of France in 1868, it was especially
significant that the Grand Lodge of Louisiana enthusiastically recognized
the GLDF and re-recognised the GODF on February 5, 1918.
The adoption of the resolutions restoring fraternal relations with the
Grand Orient of France and recognizing the Grand Lodge of France was
followed by an outburst of applause, the national colours of the United
States and France being displayed, one on each side of the station of the
Grand Master, and national airs of each of the countries pealed forth from
the Cathedral organ. End quote
Nevertheless, it must be clear here today that the Grand Orient of
France is not seeking recognition by the rules of the United Grand Lodge of
England. We had good relations with the United States Grand Lodges before
1877 and after 1877. We can all remember with interest the breaking between
Grand Orient of France and English Masonic Bodies in 1776, just 10 years
after a 1766 agreement among Masons. You see, as a matter of historical
fact, one of the reasons for the real "Great Divide" between Masonry
in France and England was our support of the American Revolution and the
financing of it by French Freemasons, like Brother La Fayette. This is an
important part of the real history of Freemasonry. It is an important part
of what actually happened.
We respect your independence because we were a part of it and because
you were, twice in our history, the forceful weapon and working tool of our
own freedom. Allies forever, do we really care about the English Masonic
bureaucracy? It may be time for a Masonic Tea Party.
Being supportive of constructive change, I notice in this regard that
some significant changes are beginning to occur. Even in London, pragmatism
and common sense seems to be slowly gaining ground. We see a greater
reaching out than in the past to Masons from different traditions. Step by
step, we shall make progress. We are patient. Let's hope that society may be
as patient as us. Clearly, Freemasonry is not yet Mister Rodger's
Of course, none of us today has a miraculous "ready-made" solution to
suggest. We can only work to find a solution step by step. That is how we
can all be pragmatic and helpful. The first step is simply to take into
consideration the simple truth that there are different Masonic streams.
This is the way we might want to work, freely, and very respectful of living
traditions. If you are for sure the mainstream, let us hope that we are the
Your American Constitution says; "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Let us all
hear the stunning, eloquent, and clear voice from the founding fathers.
Since then you have gone on to construct the most powerful Nation in the
world, and you have always relied on these earlier foundational values in
doing so. These are the same values we share in my own country, in France.
There are a little more than 3.2 million freemasons in the world, at
this time. The world we all share is dangerous, complex, and often savage.
It needs the values and principles that we share together as Masons to
protect and develop real democracy and genuine freedom.
Let us quote an anonymous writer at this time: "Listen to the words of
the ritual. The true secret of Freemasonry is that its ideas are
revolutionary, radical, and dangerous to those who would deny human dignity
and promote injustice. As an institution we are non-political, and rightly
so. But as individuals, we can take action to apply the ideas of Freemasonry
in everyday life, Listen to the words of the ritual and go forth and resolve
practice them everyday. Only then can we each improve ourselves in
Freemasonry, and in so doing improve the world". Welcome to the Grand
Orient, Joel Springer, Philalethes Society President.
As Freemasons of different lineages, why could we not act together? It
is time indeed. Don't you think it is time, again, as it was in 1776, for
A few notes are in order about this
Alain Bauer is the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France. The
Grand Orient of France is a Masonic group in France that is not recognized
by any of the U.S. mainstream Grand Lodges, any of the Prince Hall Grand
Lodges nor any of the other major Grand Lodges of the world.
The main objection to the Grand Orient is that they do NOT
require a belief in a “Supreme Being” and they do not require that a “Volume
of Sacred Law” is to be on the Alter. They do allow
individual lodges to have those requirements, but that is left up to the
local lodge. Their reasoning and explanation of this of course is covered in
Brother Bauer’s talk.
The California Masonic Symposium is an annual meeting sponsored by the
Grand Lodge of California for the purpose of Masonic Research. The 2003
meeting will be at UCLA this summer and the are planning on having speakers
on a wide range of Masonic subjects, including Prince Hall recognition and