Thursday, June 12, 2014

French Rite: Lodges

In North America, one of the biggest obstacles to communication across Masonic borders is ignorance of the other. The USA is large enough that we have a habit of forgetting the rest of the world exists, or trying to do so. However, other parts of the world have played a role in making the US what it is today. Freemasons in the US view the rest of the Masonic world with ambivilence when they don't treat it with outright hostility. That makes so little sense. The Freemasonry of France has an important place in Masonic history and when viewed as "the enemy" all we gain is ignorance. It played a real role in the development of Masonry in this country and apart from old dusty legends of it as a threat, the reality was more constructive than not. It's time to put aside antiquated animosities and take a look with the intent of learning something.
 Loge Maçonnique Le Réveil de l'orient

One very unthreatening step that people can take is to see, quite literally, the presence of Freemasonry there. There's a rich history and a lot of beautiful material culture associated with Freemasonry in France. When we look at photographs of Masonic Lodges in France, apart from seeing some nice architecture, we also see the common heritage. There is more that is common between French and American Freemasonry than there are differences. So in this post, along with a very small taste of history, some photos from the other side are presented.  Open the eyes, and maybe minds will follow.


Saint-Hilaire-Petitville
According to traditional wisdom, the first Masonic lodge in France was founded in 1688 by the Royal Irish Regiment, which followed James II into exile. It was known as "La Parfaite Égalité" and was located in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Historians think such an event is likely, despite a lack of surviving documents.  The same can be said of the first lodge of "English" origin, "Amitié et Fraternité", founded in 1721 at Dunkerque. The first lodge whose existence for which contemporary documents exist was founded in Paris, circa 1725. It met at the house of the traiteur Huré on rue des Boucheries. It brought together Irishmen and Jacobite exiles. It is quite probable that it was this lodge that in 1732 received official patents from the Grand Lodge of London under the lodge-name "Saint Thomas", meeting at the sign of the "Louis d'Argent", still on the rue des Boucheries.

Lodgeroom in Porrentruy
In 1728, Philip Wharton, 1st Duke of Wharton was recognized as "grand-master of the Freemasons in France. Wharton lived in Paris and Lyon from 1728 to 1729, and in 1723 had already become grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of London. His nomination as French grandmaster, prior to the transformation of the "Grand Lodge of London" into the "Grand Lodge of England in 1738, was an important event for French Freemasonry and its independence from British Freemasonry. He was succeeded as grandmaster of the French Freemasons by the Jacobites James Hector MacLean and later Charles Radcliffe, Earl of Derwentwater.

Dinant - Breizh
In December 1736, the chevalier de Ramsay pronounced a discourse in which he suggested a chivalric origin for Freemasonry. This idea later influenced the creation within French Freemasonry in the last half of the 18th Century of a large number of Masonic Upper Degrees, which later regrouped around different Masonic Rites.



Chamber of reflection, Lilles
In France today, there are at least 11 Grand Lodges, few of which recognize the legitimacy of the others. In June 2005, the Grande Loge Nationale Française and the Grande Loge de France took steps to improve their fraternal working relations by signing an administrative protocol to cooperate with each other at a level below official recognition.





This last point is a practical one. There are ways to approach dealing with things which will allow the bureaucrats at Grand Lodge levels, who usually are more hindrance than help, to
Temple in Royan
get out of everyone's way and begin using some common sense. When looking at the politics surround Grand Lodge Freemasonry, I am reminded of a quote I read, attributed to Henry Kissinger, who is not someone I would otherwise quote. He was referring to his experience in the academic world prior to his appointment by Nixon as Secretary of State. He said, "The bloodiest battles always occur in academia, precisely because so little rides on the outcome." In the context of Freemasonry, the outcome might just be more light than heat. For once.

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