What is Freemasonry?
Dernière mise à jour : 15 juil. 2020
One could say that Freemasonry is at the same time an ideology, an informal organization but also an "institution" in most of the large Western countries;
it is an ideology (or a state of mind) insofar as it is the bearer of philosophical reflection and defends moral values; one can share this ideology without being a "boxed-in" Freemason; this is why one speaks of "mason without an apron";
it's also an informal organization because although it doesn't have a unified structure, many associations claim it.
As an institution, Freemasonry has always been linked to power, whether it be royalty in England or the Republic in France. This link has sometimes been distorted and is often misunderstood.
Freemasons and Freemasons excel in institutions that are essentially philanthropic, philosophical and progressive, which are generally concerned with the search for truth, the study of morals and the practice of solidarity.
Of English origin, Freemasonry exists in most countries of the world.
In France, the best known and most numerous organization (called obedience) is the Grand Orient de France (GODF).
Freemasonry is organized according to three fundamental concepts:
- the Lodges: they are the basic structures in which the essential part of the Masonic approach is carried out; each Lodge includes between 20 to 50 members, sometimes more!
- the Obediences: these are federal structures which group together lodges; historically the obediences have come to give rise to the creation of lodges, which strictly speaking is nonsense! Theoretically, there should only be one obedience per country but internal dissensions and also ambitions have favoured the multiplication of obediences!
- and Masonic rites: the rite can be likened to a working method but the small game of ambitions some have used the rites to control an obedience; there is thus confusion between what is the responsibility of the lodge in terms of rite and the dogmatism of the Supreme Councils who wish to impose their rights of way to the lodges.
Freemasonry is a history of three centuries; we offer you a little historical reminder.
The history of English Freemasonry explains that the Masonic lodges were above all a place of social mixing allowing a meeting between the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. This "alliance" explains the close relationship between the Masonic lodges and the royal power.
The French Freemasonry functioned in the same way until the French Revolution; after it, the French aristocracy has globally deserted the French lodges but the relationship of the lodges with the power has persisted regardless of the regime.
With the 19th century an esoteric interpretation of Masonic initiation appeared, in which occultism, Kabbalah, spiritism, Egyptomania and esoteric Christianity were mixed. This interpretation has never had much influence, but it has given rise to an important literature.
In the 21st century, the development of Freemasonry has stabilised; at world level, Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry is the most important; in France, Freemasonry is relatively confidential and only concerns less than 200,000 members.
It's a more complicated activity than it seems because the titles are enticing!
We offer you a method and a few thoughts!
But above all exercise your own judgement and check the information you are given, even if it comes from members of your lodge!
Compare French and English sources!
A universal vocation
In spite of national particularities or complicated relationships, all over the world, Freemasons and Masons meet in temples decorated in the same way and they use "decorations", i.e. clothing accessories, which are identical or very similar.
This pooling of a way of working, of a common reference to the first English Masonic lodges of the 18th century and of moral values that advocate respect, tolerance and humanism, is exceptional.
Hotel du Grand Orient de France in Paris
How is it organized Freemasonry in France?
Freemasonry is organized in lodges (about 15 to 80 members per lodge) and obediences. The specificity of the obediences does not have precise rules ; In France, the obediences were created from successive divisions of the 1st obedience set up at the beginning of the XVIIIth century (The Grand Lodge of France which will change its name in 1773 to be called the Grand Orient of France) ; click on this link to access a non-exhaustive list of the main obediences .
The obediences can gather members or lodges which have themselves a status of association.
As an example: the Grand Orient de France is an association of lodges but also a federation of rites which has accumulated throughout its history very complex partnership relations.
The lodges are grouped into regions; there are 17 regions in GODF.
Each Lodge appoints a representative to the Annual General Meeting, which is called the convent.
Each Lodge shall also appoint a representative to the Regional Convention.
Each region elects a representative within the different federal structures (the best known being the Council of the Order).
The Council of the Order elects the Grand Master or the Grand Mistress.
Gather the obediences: a beautiful goal for .... ?
In the contemporary world, the multiplication of obediences appears as an unjustifiable anachronism for a Masonic approach that wishes to privilege the essential, that is to say, to promote the moral values of humanism, tolerance and human perfection.
Is it not time to play down the divisions of history and to imagine an organization that respects particularisms while accepting a consensual approach to ethics?
The year 6017 will be the occasion to celebrate the creation of the first Grand Lodge established in London; it could be a fine proof of our common attachment to this historic event to show the public that we are all capable of taking a step towards our brothers and sisters to be able to speak with one voice in great circumstances.
The Great Masters and Great Mistresses have the great responsibility to work towards what would be a beautiful work!
Whatever the specificities of the obediences, none of them is likely to prevent this will to gather together which the majority of brothers and sisters, who are in daily contact with each other, call for!
Daniel Keller showed during his great mastery that thematic rapprochements were possible; other steps are surely necessary to remove the misunderstandings, susceptibilities and other mistrust inherent in a past heavy with schisms and accusations: everything is possible if common sense and the will to progress towards a common desire manage to overcome false trials!
At a time when citizens are worried about the ferment of divisions that undermine societies, the world needs credible and shared benchmarks to control a future compatible with the survival of our species; the Masonic obediences gathered together have men and women of value who could in a united approach to overcome artificial divisions to talk about the essential!
The Masonic approach must remain an ethical approach of understanding and mutual comprehension which can rise above political quarrels: gathered and fraternal, our voices would have only more weight and credibility!
It is up to you Grand Masters and Grand Mistresses to make it possible: it would be great!