Thursday, November 22, 2007

The French, the Francmaçons and ParisFred

A familiar name around Masonic blogs and forums is ParisFred. On a past trip to Paris, I ran out of time and was unable to meet up with Fred, but he has written to me a couple of times to express his dismay over my comments about another French body, the Grand Orient of France. (Side-note to Fred, I have replied twice before this – I can only presume my notes were swallowed up into the spam filtered universe). Anyhow, I moved his note here from where he posted it under another topic, along with my reply. (Image: Grand Orient de France's Paris Temple)

Hello,
( I originally wanted to post this on the Euclid post where you talked about the GOdF )

I sent you several emails about it, and you never replied to me ( on T3P, on your Blog, on the KoN forum ....),
I know you through the" freemasonry for dummies", both in English and French.
When you visited Paris I had the opportunities to talk to you and I felt that you were an open minded person. So I am surprise to read not for the first but for several time now your disdain or contempt about the GOdF.

First of all I am not a member of the GOdF but a lot of my brethren are. The GOdF is one of the oldest masonic institution in the masonic world with a rich history linked to many historical important events or personage. But what surprise me the most it's that you seem not to know the GO history or the French history where the GOdF have its roots, but anyway you have a very bad opinion about it. An opinion that I am used to read under the pen of anti masons.

You mention a protest, ( in a reply on your blog), it was the celebration of the separation of state and church in 2005, you must understand that this law passed 100 years was the symbol of freedom not only for French Freemasons but also for Jews, Protestant and Freethinkers.

But I don't see why it is ashaming to celebrate freedom ? Do I judge decades of American freemasonry just looking at a Shriners parade ?
I can believe that an intelligent person as you look may think that your masonry is the real thing, but I am sure that you know that each country, each culture, maybe each historical period, have is own masonry.

I don't know exactly where is the origin of your problem with the GOdF, but I think it's maybe because you don't have all the information to make yourself a... fair and balanced opinion.

If you need a "GOdF for dummies" I can ask the competent brothers all the information that you need.

bien fraternellement,
Fred ( ParisFred)


My Brother Fred,
Surely my comments about the GOdF haven't approached anti-masonic levels. Perhaps my abominable fluency in French leaves me with a misunderstanding about what I have read, along with what friends in the Grande Loge de France. and Grand Lodge National Français have said on the subject of the Grand Orient de France. But I don't think so.

I happen to disagree with the concept of making atheists into Freemasons, as does my own Grand Lodge, all mainstream and Prince Hall US Grand Lodges, the United Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge National Français and the Grande Loge de France. The overwhelming majority of the Masonic world regards the basic concept of Anderson's phrase, "that religion in which all men agree" as requiring a personal belief in a Great Architect, regardless of some of the intellectual acrobatics some have tried to use to argue against it. When Anderson warned against being a "stupid atheist," I don't believe he was intending to give "smart atheists" a pass.

The Grand Orient de France has a long history of taking official positions on laws and social topics, including protesting against private schools – principally because Catholics ran the majority of them. I do understand the social forces that resulted in the antagonism between the Catholic Church and continental Freemasonry, and the Grand Orient de France has been at the center of that controversy since before the Revolution. Society has been very different in France than nearly anywhere else in the world, so Masonry developed differently there. It took an alternate developmental path than its Anglo-Saxon brethren, and became so different that it caused the schism in 1894 that resulted in the formation of the Grande Loge de France.

The Grand Orient de France and the other "CLIPSAS" grand orients and grand lodges have a more easygoing attitude about regularity and recognition questions. They call themselves "liberal," and that is very true. Some readily admit atheists, under the explanation that they espouse intellectual and spiritual freedom. They charter or allow visitation with "adoptive" (female) or mixte lodges. That's their prerogative to do so. But it is the policy of the rest of the mainstream Masonic universe to regard them as irregular, and not to recognize them. Modern Freemasonry is largely wrapped around Anderson's writings, and on principal landmarks that we share in common — two of them are a monotheistic belief and no initiation of women. The most ancient landmarks of Freemasonry, from before Pike or Mackey or Anderson, descend from the Old Charges from the 1390s, and those Charges required a belief in God, and that the candidate be free, male and of a mature age. When those are thrown aside, the organization that is left sounds like Freemasonry, but is in fact something quite different — regardless of how satisfying it may be to its members.

Personally, I greet all Masons as brethren, male or female, believer or atheist, regular, irregular and everyone in between, because all of us took an obligation that is essentially the same. As Masons, we all have similar values and are united in the concept of making the world a better place, one person at a time. I don't ask to see a dues card first. And to leak a family secret, my wife would join a female masonic lodge in a heartbeat if there was one close to us — I'd even encourage her to do it. But I won't violate my obligation when it comes to sitting in an unrecognized lodge (unless my Grand Master grants me dispensation), because that's what I gave my word not to do. And I disagree strongly with some of the practices of the Grand Orient of France. Their concept of "laicite" is an admirable concept that individuals should strive to achieve, but not an institution that was founded on faith in a supreme being. Reading the GOdF's material makes it very clear that the official antagonism specifically with the Catholic Church is still an important part of their official position. I realize anti-Catholicism in France is often a big crowd pleaser, and the Grand Orient is the largest, most popular Masonic body in France. I just don't want my Grand Lodge in some kind of officially sanctioned battle with any church — and especially not the church I grew up in. Belief in complete tolerance of faiths is one thing, but declaring philosophical war on individual faiths is something else. If you want to fight the Catholics about their past influence in France, more power to you. Go join some anti-Catholic reform brigade and protest your hearts out. It's just not the role of Freemasonry.

Now, that's not judging them based on one parade. That's assessing them based on their own published information.

However, I do hear ya' about those Shrine parades.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm in a strange situation here - I'm French but I belong to a UGLE lodge (I don't reside in France). I don't really know what GOdF is really all about, to be frank - the Masonry I know and belong to is, once again, UGLE.
The question of Laicite has always been a bone of contention among the French, I guess - but I don't think it's based on atheism. True, the original 1905 law was the product of anti-catholic politicians influenced by Comte's positivism and extreme rationalism...but Laicite is primarily, in 2007, a way of acknowledging all religious beliefs by substracting them from the public sphere. I know that's a pretty big fish to swallow, but that really is the rationale behind it. Of course that's a very complex issue and I can't pretend I can summarise it in a few lines.
In terms of atheism, FM is indeed based on what I'd call a Biblical mythos - Solomon's temple - so being an atheist, although it doesn't mean that one doesn't believe in "anything" is a slight problem if you want to join, for sure. Also, being an atheist necessarily means that you only believe in a rational view of the world, which is fine, but I fail to see how FM is going to affect you in any way if it's the case. Whatever the case may be, it's always sad to have two brothers vehemently arguing about this type of issue. Surely Masonic principles are the same everywhere - give or take a few differences, I guess.
Just a few thoughts,

Olivier
King Edward Lodge EC 3004
South Africa

Anonymous said...

Bro:. Chris,

First of all, I am really, sincerely, touched that you took time to reply to my comment.

As I said I am not a member of the GOdF, all I wrote is, of course, just my personal opinion but I like masonic history and the GOdF played an important part in it.
And it is often misunterpreted by anglo american masons.

Several point in your reply are not exact, not on philosophical point of view, who am I to judge... but on the fact and the reality of the masonic history.

I will try to show it in a more precise reply.

many thanks,
Fraternally,
Fred

Anonymous said...

This is a great dialog. Very well thought out by both Fred and Chris (both whom I admire greatly).

Bravo for you guys talking it out using kindness and tact.

Not everyone will agree with each other all the time. We all have our own feelings about the regular/irregular, Atheist/believer issues (among a ton of other differences) but the bottom line is we all want the best for the craft in our own ways.

It's important to keep an open mind when hearing the other parties point of view because you might be learning something new.

S&F

Cory Sigler

Anonymous said...

It's the same here in Quebec. Laicité is a very big topic and is the only way of being truly multicultural. Of course, the antis accuse us of destroying all morals. Funny how they can't seem to separate religion from anti-masonry...

Elim

Jim Dillman said...

Regarding atheism and Freemasonry, where you stand is where you sit. I believe that Anderson's Constitutions is the very foundation of Freemasonry, at least all regular Freemasonry. You'll never convince a member of the GOdF of that as it would be a tacit admission that what they practice is not Freemasonry.

I'll be the first to admit that there have been numerous innovations in regular Freemasonry and that we typically don't do a very good job of adhering to the Ancient Charges. The GOdF openly and admittedly defies the Ancient Charges. Regular Freemasonry hasn't abandoned the principles laid down in the Ancient Charges, they've just deviated from the practice of them. To me, the difference is crystal clear.

Chris Hodapp said...

Elim, you bring up a point that I'm sure has been yakked to death, in Paris and Quebec. Namely, if Laicité is the only way to be truly multi-cultural, at what point does a nation give up its collective identity and traditions for the goal of achieving "multi-culturalism?"

Should it? If so, why does France continue to police its language with official statements against Franglais? And isn't France continually bedeviled by what it regards as too much commercial influence from America, too many African and Muslim immigrants, and too many cute Polish girls taking all of the good waitress jobs?

Or maybe this is a discussion for a different setting.

Jim, as to the Grand Orient of France not being Masons, I see it as a case of them having the Masonry they required. It suits what is obviously the vast majority of Masons in France — the other dozen or so Grand Lodges there don't come close to the GOdF's size, even when you add the rest of them together. And honestly, they see it as a better way than ours. They are so confident that the GOdF really couldn't care less what the rest of the Masonic world thinks of their innovations. They take what they see as the moral high-road: 'go ahead and call us clandestine all you like, but you can sit in our lodge any time you want.' So do they understand the notion of universal brotherhood better than we do?

Maybe so. I'm still working on that one.

Chris Hodapp said...

BTW, Olivier, you said: Whatever the case may be, it's always sad to have two brothers vehemently arguing about this type of issue.

Fred and I aren't arguing, my brother. We're all here to learn from each other, and I'm still learning.

John Galt said...

Brother Chris,
I am encouraged by the fact that you and Brother Fred can discuss these issues with such openness.

You may have surmised that I think highly of the Grand Orient of France. I do.

Regardless, laïc philosophy does not spell an end to a nation's identity. A nation has no identity. People do. If new ideas and influences destroy that person's identity then so be it, it will not destroy the person. We do need to grow.
I am not saying that culture is not important. We need to appreciate that without turning it into a golden calf.

Fraternally,
Brandt

Anonymous said...

Bro Chris, this is exactly what is happening in Quebec.

Below is a link to our government's response which I think works pretty well:

http://www.accommodements.qc.ca/index-en.html

Elim

Chris Hodapp said...

An old Jesuit friend once described himself as so liberal that he wouldn't even take his own side in an argument. I am reminded of this when I read about laws and commissions assembled to "enforce" or "determine" the direction culture will take. Culture, like language, should be a constantly evolving force, left to seek its own level. I can't help but believe that gets subverted when we set ourselves up as autocratic lifeguards.

I guess it's my inner recoil at what has happened in US society since the 1960's. The Baby Boomers rebelled against all that their parents believed in. Everything that smelled like The Establishment became a target for derision, scorn and destruction. Consequently, all of those things people always seemed to instinctively know not to do (because the neighbors would talk, the minister would find out, or "nice people" just didn't do it) fell by the wayside. Now, we have no manners that are not enforced by law. We have warning signs instead of common sense. And instead of the next door neighbor smacking you in the head for breaking his window, he just sues your parents. We now make all of our most important cultural decisions in a courtroom. A kid can't have aspirin in his locker without risking jail for violating drug laws. Boys can't carry pocket knives because they are undoubtedly terrorists. And the "Land of the Free" has a greater percentage of its population in jail than any other nation on Earth. On and on it goes. What I can't figure out is how the Woodstock, "anything goes," "turn on, tune in, drop out," free love generation turn into the most litigious, nosey, judgmental society on earth, who believes passing more laws and jailing more citizens is the way to create Paradise. How did all the hippies turn into nannies?

So yes, I tense up when some commission assembles to start making pronouncements about what should and should not be an official part of the public culture. It reminds me of the line from (of all things) the movie Demolition Man: "Not good for you, therefore bad for you, therefore illegal."

And it seems to me to have an air of smug superiority to it: We will decide what is the proper amount of religious or ethnic or other cultural influence around here, and we'll let you know. It's a kind of arrogance that only a bureaucrat can grant himself.

Maybe that's just me.

See, you guys have me on a roll, now.

John Galt said...

Brother Chris,
Allow me to prod you a little more. I check to make sure that my wallet is still in my pocket when I hear people tell me what is my "own good."

My liberty ends when it interferes with the liberty of others. On this, I think that we can all agree. Now, we have a society that feels that they can pass a law based upon feelings. Nobody has a right to not be offended. Reason has very little place in our society.

Before my fiancé reads this over my shoulder I will have to say that feelings do matter. My feelings matter to me. They should not be used as club to control you. If all met on the level and worked according to our own needs to achieve what we needed/wanted without theft or restricting other citizens (reason is required for this) then we would have far fewer laws.
(Vote Libertarian)

We are here in a world that believes and feels that they must control me, you and everyone else to make sure that you don't have a thought that may make someone feel bad for being a parasite.

Brandt

Chris Hodapp said...

We've gotten down to the madness of major metropolitan city councils passing laws about what kind of oil our french fries can be cooked in, and what kind of radio talk show host should be on the air. Kids are expelled from school over violating strict "no contact rules" by hugging a friend goodbye for vacations. The Federal Trade Commission actually considered forcing bucket manufacturers to put holes in buckets because ONE TODDLER fell headfirst into a plastic bucket full of water and drowned.

And do NOT get me started on anti-smoking laws that tell apartment dwellers they can't smoke in their homes, drivers that they can't smoke in their own cars and business owners that they can't smoke in their own businesses — while government is more addicted to tobacco tax money than smokers are to their butts. If smokers are being used to balance state and local budgets, shouldn't they have MORE rights? If anti-smoking laws were really about health than about not just having stinky clothes after a night of bar hopping, then have the fortitude to ban cigarette sales in your state. Yet, amazingly, the vaunted "tobacco settlement" several years ago forced tobacco companies to agree not to stop selling their products in signatory states!

So how do you ring a bell, wipe it all clean and start from scratch?

Am I off topic yet?

John Galt said...

Brother Chris,
It seems that the more we talk the more we have in common.

At least a tyranny like Hitler is honest, he just does it. This tyranny for my own good upsets me to a great degree. I smoke. I can still box for ten rounds and run rings around most 18 year olds. I like fried food and pizza. I also spend more to eat well at home than I do going out and eating that garbage.

I don't need a government to look out for my own good. I need a government to provide a police to protect citizens from criminals, to provide a military to protect the body politic from foreign aggression, and to provide a justice system in which parties in dispute can have their differences settled. I don't need anything else other than some roads.
What I don't need is a government to protect me from being offended. Just don't make the mistake of offending me in my home.
Maybe if we reinstated the Codex Duellist we could solve many issues quickly.

Brandt

Chris Hodapp said...

No, no.

You'd put somebody's eye out.

John Galt said...

that would make me right

en garde

Brandt

Tubulcain420 said...

In regards to the GOdF and these political discussions. I am all for these discussions.

If masons are to be the leaders of society, when these men get together in a lodge, why not discuss politics and social issues, so these leaders can go out and implement them?

Young men joining Lodges say they want to join the organisation that geo washington and franklin belonged to. Those men discussed politics and religion within the Lodge room. We are not offering the same masonry of our forefathers and should tell young aspirants so.

The GOdF has remained somewhat true to that form and spirit of masonry. The one that founded America.
IMHO

Jim Dillman said...

I'm opposed to bringing political, social and religious discussions into the lodgeroom. The lodgeroom is a place where harmony and decorum should always prevail. There is no greater threat to harmony than these types of discussions.

One of the goals of Freemasonry is to teach a man to subdue his passions and I suppose that in a perfect world, we could discuss politics in the lodgeroom without threatening the harmony of the lodge. It's a great theory that almost certainly would fail in practice.

Tony said...

Br:. Dillman,
Once you have eliminated political, social and religious discussions from the lodge room, what would you have us discuss?
Tony Melton

Jim Dillman said...

Perhaps this is merely symbolic, but I prefer the lodgeroom to essentially remain a place to confer degrees and conduct our business. I'd prefer that these other conversations be relegated to the dinner table during a festive board or social area outside the lodgeroom.

I'm not opposed to Masonic education being conducted in the lodgeroom while lodge is open as long as it doesn't digress into political or religious discussion which is a definite threat to harmony. There are a multitude of topics that are suitable for the lodgeroom- historical aspects of the fraterity, customs, aspects of the ritual, etc. Anything that has the potential to disrupt the harmony of the lodge should be off-limits to the lodgeroom.