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To be free in a free lodge

To be free and to be aware of the infringements of 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 the freedom that the other also possesses.

This dialectic is not easy to implement because many factors intervene:

Which favors the exercise of freedom in the lodge:

  • equality

  • mutual respect

  • tolerance and caring

  • emulation

  • valuing personal work

What impedes the exercise of freedom in the lodge

  • mediocrity

  • the stupidity of psychorigids

  • obsessive hyperregulation

  • fear

  • the ambition of honours

Two essential and existential questions: Why? Why? How?

Whatever the moment in life, wouldn't our questioning boil down to these two fundamental questions?

Why do I live? Why am I unhappy? Why did he (she) die?

How can I be loved? How can I be rich? How can I be happy? Etc.

Depending on the cultures, the countries of the world in which we find ourselves, the religion we have been taught, the formation we have undergone, the questions may differ in form and the answers may be more or less satisfactory.

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

Today, the questions that keep coming up seem to be: why this violence, this insecurity? How can we protect ourselves? How can we guarantee ourselves? Why this unemployment and poverty? How can we put things in order?

Couldn't we agree that the Masonic field brings 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 how it is current and how it 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 indispensable open-mindedness towards the other because each person can have different answers to these "whys"!

Free in a free lodge: A "wirthian" formula

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

Nevertheless, the formula is a beautiful one, and it is one that refers us back to our own responsibility.

In order to understand it, we must return to the problems of life in a lodge:

Presentation of the Masonic problems

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

- The lodge: this is the basic structure which includes a variable number of members (between 20 and 100, sometimes more); its functioning is highly structured and follows a ritual (each lodge is free to choose the ritual that suits it). About ten officers have defined roles.

- Obediential structures: Lodges have the freedom 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, the bulk of the Masonic experience takes place at the lodge level. With the seniority and according to the circumstances, it happens that the Masonic experience also concerns the obediential life (i.e. the convent, the regional congresses, the relations between lodges).

At all levels, the functioning of lodges and obediences is not free of problems that must be approached with lucidity to envisage credible and realistic solutions.

In the vast majority of cases, the difficulties encountered concern interpersonal relations.

There is also the question of the difficult correspondence between a principle of freedom and therefore responsibility and obligations of all kinds that are a feature of everyday life.

The formula "To be free in a free lodge" or "A free mason in a free lodge" popularized by Oswald Wirth, a prolix masonic author of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, deserves to be clarified 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 Human and Citizen's Rights.

This notion of freedom complements the notion of "Masonic duties" which, it must be said, is applied in a very variable way depending on the Lodges.

Freedom only makes sense within the framework of the Masonic project which aims at the improvement of "Man and Society".

Freedom for the Mason (and the Freemason) is not easy, but for the Lodge it is even more difficult because obedience constraints lead, in essence, to a limitation of the freedom of the Lodges, because they 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 mason(s) are positioned at one time or another,

  • and become imbued with 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 sisters and brothers meet at one time or another:

  • 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 forecourt, the wet room and for the large temples, other rooms. It is of course the space most frequented by everyone, the one that you discover when you change orient. Each temple has its own personality and there are some we like more than others.

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

  • The space of the obediences: it is one the space of an organizational universe: the headquarters of the obediences, the regional congresses, the convents and the prestigious events where the obediential staffs must be present; the obediences function as institutions with regulations, historical references and an indirect elective mode that secretes an intermediate caste; everyone can enter this space, but to have a place there requires time, patience and a good knowledge of procedures and practices; language plays a very important role because it is a space where the mastery of the verb imposes some; as in any institution, there are layers of power: lodges, regions, convent, council of order and great mastery for some! The mode of functioning forces immobilism and conservatism and exceptional personalities are needed to be able to impose change!

  • The space of the rites: it is a space parallel to the obediences with a logic which is proper to them: the language is a little different, and the progression is done according to the degrees of each rite to reach a more muffled power! Although the rites seek to refer to a certain esotericism, their sociology concerns a different public, more traditionalist and pragmatic.

  • The space of the networks: they are diverse and varied both in size and in the subjects that justify them; each network has its own specificity: professional, business, political, trade union, associative, religious, ethnic, mystical or other; the networks can be formal or informal, on the basis of fraternal or not; the networks often function by reference to a personality so that their vitality is very variable according to the times and the circumstances; the francafrique is an example among others, certainly not the most rewarding, with a fraternal and other more or less formal organizations! The networks are often the basis of Masonic recruitment: for example, comrades from parties, unions, business clubs, or ministerial offices are often contacted by their "colleagues" to enter a lodge, where their entry will generally occur without any problem! The space of networks is very special because under the cover of a Masonic language, the objective is always interested: from the constitution of address books to the search for passes and rights 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 is called "traditional sciences" whether it be, for example, astrology, occultism, Kabbalah, tarot, Martinism with its spiritism or magical practices; as an example, Martinism, which is very much in demand by the sisters, seems to influence a current that is not negligible but which wishes to remain in a certain discretion; in Africa, esoteric investment in the hope of possessing magical practices is a strong motivation for adherence.

  • The space of the stewardship: it is a more intimate space: outside the temple are the technical rooms, kitchens, technical meetings to ensure that everything is in order; each lodge functions a bit like a club for meetings with its regulars, its friendly practices and temperament; in this space, only what concerns the life of the lodge matters! the varnish of the 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 the stewardship and practical matters.

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 great role and if the obediential space attracts the 40-60 year olds, that of the rites rather concerns the higher 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 cafés run by siblings, where we enjoy meeting up at random for a drink,

  • the space of the solitary: they are not very demanding, are rather discreet and conformist, keeping a certain distance from events; their Masonic initiation is not the essential part of their lives and their participation is variable according to the circumstances; they constitute "deep" Freemasonry which is rather legitimistic and without passion!

The Masonic approach: an apprenticeship in altruism

To the question "What did you get out of being initiated?" the most frequent answers seem to be:

  • I've learned to be more tolerant

  • I'm more relaxed when I speak in public.

  • I've made connections, sincere friends.

  • I discovered topics of interest that I didn't know about.

  • My loved ones find me changed

Another area that could be highlighted is 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 a very young age, we are educated to be confrontational, to "fight for life", to use all the "strings" to extract an advantage or a prebend.

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

Altruism cannot be decreed because it implies many changes in behaviour:

  • First of all, learning to listen to the other person: it's not that easy, especially if you feel like you're hearing the beginning of a story you've already heard or if what you're listening to is full of obvious errors or misinterpretations. And yet, one must 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 is of no interest if it remains at a negative stage; we are not obliged to agree as long as we agree to share values, an approach, a way of relating.

  • Learning not to convince: you think like that, I think differently, but that doesn't prevent us from dialoguing because we don't want to convince the other side! It doesn't matter the different opinions as long as we all accept to transform this world which in some ways displeases us; it doesn't matter the path chosen, if this initiate accepts me with my difference!

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

  • Learn also not to want to be right in front of others; this humility is difficult to acquire because we always tend to want to justify or revolt against what we consider to be nonsense.

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

All this learning, we can do it in the dressing room:

  • How many sterile debates could be avoided!

  • How many incipient intestinal quarrels would deflate before doing their sad work!

  • Everything would be simpler!

Altruism is of course a virtue of peace, but it is more than that: it is a true brain food that brings to the mind a powerful stimulation to offer to our organic functioning a real harmony and serenity.

To live altruistically 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 brothers but also for all the living beings we meet; in this sense, it is exceptional. Without proselytism, we can bring to others an exemplary testimony of the validity of our approach.

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