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Freedom in lodge, how far?

To be free and to be aware of the attacks on freedom in the lodge

The Masonic approach finds its credibility in the freedom granted to the initiate. This freedom can only be exercised insofar as it is accompanied by respect for that which the other also possesses.

This dialectic is not easy to implement because many factors come into play:

What favors the exercise of freedom in the dressing room:

  • equality

  • mutual respect

  • tolerance and kindness

  • emulation

  • valuing personal work

What thwarts the exercise of freedom in the lodge

  • mediocrity

  • the stupidity of psychorigid

  • obsessive hyper-regulation

  • fear

  • the ambition of honors

Two essential and existential questions:
Why? How?

Whatever the moment of a life, wouldn't our questioning be summed up in these two fundamental questions?

Why do I live? Why am I unhappy? Why is he/she dead?

How to be loved? How to be rich? How to be happy? Etc

Depending on the cultures, the countries of the world where we are, the religion that we have been taught, the training that we have followed, the questions can differ according to the form and the answers can be more or less satisfactory.

There are those who find answers and are satisfied with them and there are also those who are dissatisfied and who flit from answer to answer!

Today, the questions that keep coming up seem to be: why this violence, this insecurity? How to protect yourself? How to be guaranteed? Why this unemployment and this poverty? How to put order?

Couldn't we agree that the Masonic field provides more answers to the "how" than to the "why"?

The Masonic approach, by proposing a method, a rule of the game, principles and an ideal, relies on reason and love to find solutions: this is why it is current and can satisfy a contemporary questioning.

The "Why" is not always found in Masonic reflection and this is perhaps what explains the necessary tolerance and the essential open-mindedness towards the other because everyone can have different answers to these “whys”!

Free in a free box: A "Wirthian" formula

It is Roger Dachez who on his on blog recalls the paternity of Oswald Wirth; famous Masonic author of the 19th century who invented this formula at the time when he frequented a lodge of the Scottish Symbolic Grand Lodge, an obedience known for the presence among its members of many brothers with libertarian fiber.

Nevertheless, the formula is beautiful and sends us back to our own responsibility.

To understand it again, you have to go back to the issue of life in the lodge:

Presentation of the Masonic problem

The usual organization of Masonic life is organized from two organizational levels:

- The lodge: this is the basic structure which includes a variable number of members (between 20 and 100, sometimes more); its operation is very structured and takes place according to a ritual (each lodge is free to choose the ritual that suits it). A dozen officers have defined roles.

- Obediential structures: the lodges are free to group together in a federal structure, the obedience, which generally takes the name of Grand Lodge (other denominations are possible).

For the vast majority of Freemasons, most of the Masonic experience takes place at the lodge level. With seniority and depending on the circumstances, it happens that the Masonic experience also concerns obediential life (i.e. the convent, regional congresses, inter-lodge relations).

At all levels, the functioning of lodges and obediences is not free from problems that should be addressed with lucidity in order to consider credible and realistic solutions.

In the vast majority of cases, the difficulties encountered relate to interpersonal relationships.

There is also the question of the difficult balance between a principle of freedom and therefore of responsibility and obligations of all kinds that do not fail to enamel daily life.

The formula "To be free in a free lodge" or "A free mason in a free lodge" popularized by Oswald Wirth, prolix Masonic author of the end of the XIXth century and the beginning of the XXth, deserves to be specified in a modern and contemporary perspective.

The freedom of the Freemason and the Freemason is a concept that has been added to the Masonic tradition in the context of the development of the reference to the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

This notion of freedom completes the notion of "Masonic duties" which, it must be said, is applied in a very variable way according to the lodges.

Freedom only has meaning within the framework of the Masonic project which aims to improve "Man and Society".

Freedom for the Freemason (and the Freemason) is not easy but for the lodge, it is even more difficult because the obediential constraints lead, in essence, to a limitation of the freedom of the lodges , because these need an obedience that is able to play its role.

To understand, two prerequisites can help:

  • have an overview of the different spaces in which the Freemason is positioned at one time or another,

  • and imbibe the moral dimension that must always prevail, altruism.

The spaces of the Masonic course: 7 and more

When one has some experience of Masonic life, one can differentiate at least seven spaces in which find themselves, at one time or another, the sisters and the brothers:

  • The space of the temples: and first of all the temple of the mother lodge and those that we visit; the temple is the lodge itself with its decoration, the courts, the wet room and for large temples, other rooms. It is naturally the space most frequented by all, the one we discover when we change direction. Each temple has its own personality and there are some that we like more than others.

  • The space of intellectuals: it is first of all the space of Masonic libraries, book fairs, bookstores; there is a universe of generous ideas that flourished during the era of Enlightenment Europe in the 18th century; it is still referred to today because big names in philosophy, science and the arts have taken an interest in it and it is still rewarding. It is an unorganized space frequented by individuals according to personal research; it is in this space that we encounter atheist and anarchist expressions that sometimes clash! One sometimes has the impression today that Masonic intellectuals are more interested in historical and bibliographical research than in other themes.

  • The obedience space: it is a space of an organizational universe: the seats of the obediences, the regional congresses, the convents and the prestigious events where the obedient staff must be present; the obediences function as institutions with regulations, historical references and an indirect elective mode which secrete an intermediate caste; everyone can enter this space, but to have a place there requires time, patience and a good knowledge of the procedures and practices; language holds a very important place because it is a space where the mastery of the verb imposes; as in any institution, there are layers of power: lodges, regions, convent, council of the order and great mastery for some! The mode of operation requires immobility and conservatism and it takes exceptional personalities to be able to impose a change!

  • The space of rites: it is a space parallel to obediences with a logic of their own: the language is a little different there, and the progression is made according to the degrees of each rite to access a more subdued power! Although the rites seek to refer to a certain esotericism, their sociology concerns a different, more traditionalist and pragmatic public.

  • The space of networks : they are diverse and varied both in size and in the subjects that justify them; each network has its specificity: professional, business, political, union, associative, religious, ethnic, mystical or other; networks can be formal or informal, fraternal or informal; the networks often function by reference to a personality so that their vitality is very variable according to times and circumstances; Francafrique is one example among others, certainly not the most rewarding, with a fraternal and other more or less formal organizations! Networks are often the basis of Masonic recruitment: for example, comrades from parties, unions, business clubs, or ministerial cabinets are very often contacted by their "colleagues" to enter a lodge, where their entry is will usually pass without any problems! The space of the networks is very particular because under cover of a Masonic language, the objective is always self-interested: from the constitution of address books to the search for favors through commercial offers, not to mention the search for "sensitive" information!

  • The esoteric space: they concern sisters and brothers interested in a deepening of what are called "traditional sciences" whether, for example, astrology, occultism, the Kabbalah, the tarot, Martinism with its spiritualism or magical practices; for example, Martinism, very popular with the sisters, seems to influence a not insignificant current but which wishes to remain in a certain discretion; in Africa, the esoteric investment in the hope of having the possession of magical practices is a strong motivation for membership.

  • The stewardship space: it is a more intimate space: outside the temple there are the technical rooms, the kitchens, the technical meetings to ensure that everything is put in order; each lodge works a bit like a meeting club with its regulars, its friendly practices and its temperament; in this space, only what concerns the life of the lodge matters! the veneer of Masonic practice is of course present but in fact it is not the most important! This space concerns only a small proportion of brothers or sisters but they are generally the pillars of the lodge: they are the ones who take care of stewardship and practical matters; they ensure the sustainability of the lodge and are among the most diligent!

These spaces obviously interpenetrate according to the periods of the lives and experiences of the brothers and sisters. In the context of an elderly population, the decline in vitality plays a big role and if the obedient space rather attracts the 40-60 year olds, that of the rites concerns rather the upper age groups!

And then, there are surely other spaces we could talk about and in particular:

  • the space of public places, such as bars and cafes run by brothers where it is fun to meet at random for a drink,

  • the space for solitaries: they are not very demanding, are rather discreet and conformist, keeping a certain distance from events; their Masonic initiation is not the essence of their lives and their participation varies according to the circumstances; they constitute the "deep" Freemasonry which is rather legitimist and without passion!

The Masonic approach: an apprenticeship in altruism

To the question “Being initiated what did you get? » the most frequent answers seem to be:

  • I learned to be more tolerant

  • I am more composed when I speak in public

  • I made connections, sincere friends

  • I discovered topics of interest that I did not know about

  • My loved ones find me changed

There is another area that could be highlighted: learning to be altruistic.

Altruism, which is defined as a "benevolent disposition towards others, based on sympathy" is not something innate in a society where, from an early age, we are educated in confrontation, in the "fight for life", in the use of all the "tricks" to extract an advantage or a prebend.

Religions talk about altruism but most often it is only for their members. Learning about altruism in the lodge goes beyond the limits of the temple because it applies to our charism.

Altruism cannot be decreed because it requires many changes in behavior:

  • First, learn to listen to others: it's not so easy, especially if you feel like you're hearing the beginning of a story you've already heard or if what you listening is riddled with obvious errors or misinterpretations. And yet, you have to listen without reacting until the end because it is a mark of respect for the other.

  • Learn not to criticize for the conscious or unconscious pleasure of dismantling an argument: criticism has no interest if it remains at a negative stage; we are not obliged to agree from the moment we agree to share values, an approach, a mode of relationship.

  • Learn not to convince: you think like this, I think otherwise, but that does not prevent us from having a dialogue because neither of us wants to convince our counterpart! No matter the different opinions as long as we all agree to transform this world which in some ways displeases us; whatever the path chosen, if this initiate accepts me with my difference!

  • Learn to understand the suffering of the other: suffering most often hidden, sometimes shameful, but which explains many behaviors and many opinions. An individual is not just a declaration of intention on philosophical subjects; this has its source in a lived experience and Masonic work can help to express this lived experience!

  • Also learn not to want to be right in front of others; this humility is difficult to acquire because we always tend to want to justify ourselves or to revolt in front of what we consider to be ineptitude.

  • Finally, understand that you have to let time do its work, that no deadline justifies wanting to find an answer to everything without delay! OK, let's see that we don't have the same point of view and then we'll talk about it a little later!

All this learning can be done in the dressing room:

  • How many sterile debates could be avoided!

  • How many beginnings of internal quarrels would deflate before doing their sad job!

  • Everything would be easier!

Altruism is of course a virtue of peace but it is even more: it is real brain food that brings powerful stimulation to thought to offer our organic functioning real harmony and real serenity. .

To live altruism is therefore also to ensure a personal return that will help us to live better.

The Masonic approach helps us to develop our altruistic feelings for our sisters and our brothers but also for all the living beings we meet; in this sense, it is exceptional. Without proselytizing, we can bring to others an exemplary testimony of the merits of our approach.

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