Thursday, April 5, 2012

Brazil: A Cornucopia of Masonic Diversity

This entry will take a very brief look at Freemasonry in Brazil. Brazil looms as an exotic tropical destination in the minds of many in North America, yet few here know more about the country than that it hosts the largest street party in the world every year. A few older Americans might remember that it is home to the Bossa Nova, although I can hear my younger readers saying "The Bossa what?" However, Brazil is not only the largest nation in South America, covering a land mass nearly as large as that of the United States, much of which is home to the Amazon Rainforest. It hosts a range of climactic zones from tropical or temperate, and while it is not the only South American country whose primary language is not Spanish (for those of you who are counting, there are 3 other nations where Spanish is not spoken and 1 other in which Spanish is a minority language), it is the only nation in the Americas whose national language is Portuguese.

Brazil is culturally very diverse, with a rich tradition developed from the mingling of European, native American, and African origins. It is home to a wide variety of musical styles, traditions, many African inspired religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda, and a rich history of Masonic activity as well. There is even a beautiful city founded by masons - Paraty.
The Grande Oriente do Brazil was founded in Rio de Janeiro, in 1821, as a result of the division of a Lodge at Rio de Janeiro, which had been established under a French warrant in 1815. The Emperor Dom Pedro, banned Freemasonry, presumably because he felt it was dangerous to his rule in 1822. Freemasonry was allowed to operate again after his abdication in 1831. The 1830s and 1840s were decades marked by a burgeoning diversity of masonic forms, rites, and organizations.

Doubtlessly, many felt that at the time that this was a contentious thing, even a problem. Fortunately for Brazil, and the world, such views failed to prevail and diversity was not fended off, as it has been in some other nations. Brazil today is home to perhaps more distinct rites than any other nation. It is possible that I have missed a couple, it would certainly be easy to do so, but I have counted no fewer than six distinct rites currently being practiced to a significant degree in contemporary Brazil. These include rites which are not practiced elsewhere, as well as rites which have become all but extinct in their homelands. Indeed, one rite was reintroduced to Europe recently as it had ceased to be practiced there in its original purity.
We of course can find the usual suspects, but we won't waste time on them here. Suffice it to say that both the York Rite and the Scottish Rite in their modern forms are practiced in Brazil. However, we find that some unique rites, not so common in the rest of the world, have managed to survive and even thrive in the lush cultural environment of Brazil. It might not be much of a surprise to note that the Memphis Mizraim Rite is relatively popular in Brazil. But perhaps the rite of most historic interest is that of Adonhiramite Masonry. Most North American masons assume, if they they even know of this rite, that it died off two hundred years ago. However, it thrives today in Brazil. Similarly shrouded in the mists of masonic history, another rite still practiced in some Lodges in Brazil is the Schroeder Rite. The Schroeder Rite was developed in Germany in the first years of the 19th Century. Schroeder felt that Higher Degree Masonry had gone astray and returned to a three degree system.

Another rite of which few will have heard is the Brazilian Rite. Obviously, this rite was born in Brazil. Re-established in 1968 after years of dormancy - The Brazilian Rite has 33 degrees, admits tradition with evolution, and proclaims the emancipation of Brazilian Masonry.

Grade Distribution
The grades in the Brazilian Rite are distributed over the various liturgical Lodges as follows:

1. Sublime Chapters (Grades 4-18) devoted to Moral Culture
2. Great Philosophical Councils (Chambers of 19-30 degrees-Kadosh) dedicated to culture -artistic, scientific, technological, and philosophical.
3. High Grades (grades 31 and 32) devoted to civic culture
4. Supreme Conclave dedicated to humanistic synthesis.

The degrees of The Brazilian Rite are as follows:

1) Aprendiz (Apprentice)
2) Companheiro (Fellowcraft)
3) Mestre (Master)
4) Mestre da Discrição (Master of Discretion)
5) Mestre da Lealdade (Master of Loyalty)
6) Mestre da Franqueza (Master of Openness)
7) Mestre da Verdade (Master of Truth)
8) Mestre da Coragem (Master of Courage)
9) Mestre da Justiça (Master of Justice)
10) Mestre da Tolerância (Master of Tolerance)
11) Mestre da Prudência (Master of Prudence)
12) Mestre da Temperança (Master of Temperance)
13) Mestre da Probidade (Master of Probity)
14) Mestre da Perseverança (Master of Perseverance)
15) Cavaleiro da Liberdade (Knight of Freedom)
16) Cavaleiro da Igualdade (Knight of Equality)
17) Cavaleiro da Fraternidade (Knight of Fraternity)
18) Cavaleiro Rosa-Cruz ou da Perfeição (Knight Rose Croix or Perfection)
19) Missionário da Agricultura e da Pecuária (Missionary of Agriculture and Livestock)
20) Missionário da Indústria e Comércio (Missionary of Industry and Trade)
21) Missionário do Trabalho (Missionary of Work)
22) Missionário da Economia (Missionary of Economy)
23) Missionário da Educação (Missionary of Education)
24) Missionário da Organização Social (Missionary of Social Organization)
25) Missionário da Justiça Social (Missionary of Social Justice)
26) Missionário da Paz (Missionary of Peace)
27) Missionário da Arte (Missionary of Art)
28) Missionário da Ciência (Missionary of Science)
29) Missionário da Religião (Missionary of Religion)
30) Missionário da Filosofia. Kadosh Filosófico (MIssionary of Philosophy. Kadosh Philosophical)
31) Guardião do Bem Público (Guardian of Public Good)
32) Guardião do Civismo (Guardian of Civility)
33) Servidor da Ordem da Pátria e da Humanidade (Server of the Order of Fatherland and Humanity)

The last major rite practiced in Brazil that we have to mention is the French or Modern Rite. In the 1960s and 70s, several masons such as René Guilly - sought to recapture the original character of the French Rite and made an attempt to reanimate its initiatory and symbolic character. René Guilly was the prime force behind the creation of a chapter of the Traditional French Rite, a chapter which still exists today within the National French Lodge. Research led to Brazil and it was the Supreme Council of the Modern Rite for Brazil which finally accorded the French a patent to establish a French Grand Chapter in 1989 after 150 years' absence, under the name "Traditional French Rite". This is the closest rite to that practiced in France in the second half of the 18th century.


Otavio Martins.'. said...

Thank you for this post, Bro. Ballard! The only reference in English about the rite diversity in Brazil. I'm looking for it to send to the brethren of my Lodge here in Australia but it was hard to find.

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Glad you enjoyed it. Fico feliz em ter sido útil, irmão.

Prudêncio said...

Let me suggest na interesting site about freemasonry in Brazil:
It can be useful to understand the historical perspective of the Order in Brazil and adds many informations to the current article (by the way, a very good article indeed!)