obedience takes a specific name that once had a meaning: for example, an Orient has a geographical connotation; normally there should be only one grand orient per nation; a lodge has a specificity and therefore a grand lodge should correspond to the same specificity for several lodges; but today, all this fades away behind ambition and competition! The first known obedience was the Grand Lodge of England created in June 1717.
It is not insignificant to recall that the term obedience contains a notion of obedience (cf. the definition); it is clear that today this notion is "outdated"!
The first French obedience was the Grand Lodge of France created in 1738 and will take the name of Grand Orient de France in 1773.
The obediential swarming was mainly based on quarrels secondary to interpersonal conflicts, self-interested ambitions or different practices.
Today, the number of French obediences amounts to more than forty-five.
It is difficult to understand and justify the aberrant number of obediences and the difficulty of relations between Freemasons throughout the world in today's highly reactive world.
Everything happens as if the pleasure of being "among oneself" prevailed over the implementation of a functional international organization that allows the lodges to work and implement the training necessary for Masonic education.
While Europe appears as a framework that goes beyond national egoism, the obediences remain fixed on their own development.
By agreeing to initiate women, Le Grand Orient de France (GODF) opened itself to a new sociological reality full of potentialities; this obedience which is the most important could very well regroup other obediences by guaranteeing them the freedom to exercise their rites and by accepting a greater "ecumenism".
Gathering the obediences could be a beautiful goal but from the creation of the Grand Lodge of England, the Masonic obedience is positioned in a relationship with the state power either in support or in opposition. It is possible to deduce from history that this relationship of proximity has greatly influenced the life of the obediences to the point of causing divisions and ruptures.
The multiplication of obediences,
symptom of a crisis in functioning
lodges and obediences
If one considers that the minimum that can be required of a Masonic lodge and obedience is to allow the exercise of freedom of conscience, to apply tolerance and mutual respect and to guarantee the possibility of being free in a free lodge, it is incomprehensible to imagine that the multiplication of obediences has a Masonic justification.
Wanting to find oneself in a community of thought, flattering the ego of candidates for great mastery, obeying international political considerations and settling scores in interpersonal conflicts are the most common secular reasons encountered!
It is truly distressing to see the unconsciousness and irresponsibility of all those who contribute in this way to undermine the credibility of the Masonic order.
The Order and the Obediences
Text borrowed from the Masonic.ch website
Freemasonry is not a society of thought, nor a worldly club, nor a fraternal mutual aid, nor a charitable association. It is an initiatory Order, one manifestation among others of the primordial Tradition. As such, it is rooted in the practice of appropriate rituals based on the carefully orchestrated putting into action of symbolic acts in a sacred space-time.
Masonic rituals, contrary to the Tradition they convey, are however rooted in History. They refer to the Royal Art, which is the art of building, and the symbolism of construction naturally occupies a predominant place in it. In addition to these references, there are borrowings from other manifestations of Tradition, of a hermetic, Gnostic and alchemical nature. Freemasonry thus appears as a mosaic of components of various natures that constitute Rites, each of which carries its own coherence.
The initiatory transmission of the Masonic manifestation of the Tradition rests on the dramaturgy of the rituals, of which the "catechisms" certainly give an account with relative precision, but which requires, in order to acquire a status of efficiency, the active participation of the initiates in a sacred space and place and according to perfectly defined rules and customs.
The Masonic Order is one thing, the Obedience is another, but the Order can only endure through the Obediences in their role as groupings of Lodges.
Each Obedience presents a specific colouring through its administrative structure, the Rites it federates, the mix or non-mix of members, the place it intends to give to the absolute freedom of conscience and the principle of recognition. It is a regulatory power, capable of issuing patents and constituting an administrative framework, but it can in no way claim to identify itself with the Masonic Order, of which it is ultimately only a simple transmission belt. By definition, and the History of Freemasonry largely testifies to this, the Obediences are infinitely divisible. By definition in the same way, and the perpetuity of the initiatory transmission of Freemasonry bears witness to this just as widely, the Order is indivisible.
The Obediences in question
Can we today in all serenity question the role of obediences?
This seems indispensable to us if we do not want to see the Masonic question confined to an endless justification of their existence!
Of course, they play a significant organizational role. Apart from the Federation of Free and Sovereign Lodges, the great majority of lodges operate thanks to obediential logistic support; another positive aspect is that interobediential agreements facilitate inter-lodge visits. All this also explains why the obediences have become essentially management centres where one makes sure that the financial balance sheets are positive!
But today it must be noted that they do not manage to constitute a moral authority capable of carrying Masonic values outside the field of conflicts of interest!
Everything happens as if obedient power became confidential and reserved to a minority of members of a seraglio of "well-meaning" people who function according to appearances without putting "their souls" in it!
It is of course not a question of wishing them to disappear, but Masonic thought can open itself to other experiences without the need for an obedient reference.
Even if the great majority of the lodges are rather timid, we see some of them accepting to assume more prerogatives.
The web also offers a freedom of expression that is conducive to the presentation of different points of view.
The Masonic edition is gradually leaving its usual domain, history and symbolism, to explore other territories.
The lodge remains the place of excellence for a stimulating Masonic practice but unfortunately not all lodges are in phase with what they exist for; archaisms, sclerotic attitudes and deviances sometimes throw a discredit that leads to an early end of the course!
There is not yet an alternative to the Masonic Lodge, but it is possible that it too will see other modes of operation appear.