No. 12 -- The newsletter of The Freemasons Chamber -- August 2000

"That a belief in the Supreme Being…." (Part II)

On September 14th 1877, the Grand Orient of France voted to eliminate from its ancient constitution the following article: "Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the solidarity of mankind." The Masonic world was plunged into horror at this "act of atheism". This was certainly the most radical move in modern Freemasonry. Many grand lodges severed fraternal relations with the Grand Orient. However, there were Masonic scholars and bodies who attempted to understand the reasons behind this drastic amendment. They found that there was much to commend it, keeping in view the political and religious environments in France, and the role, which the Grand Orient saw for itself in the Masonic world. The Freemason now has the complete 37-page document compiled by Bro JH Ramsey of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, and published in the journal The Builder, in January 1918. Over the next thee issues we shall publish key excerpts from Bro Ramsey’s exciting account of the event and its effects on the Masonic world. Any Brother who wishes to have the complete set of three discussions, written by three leading Masons of the time, may request an e-mail copy. Editor.

Part II deals with the response of the president of the council of the Grand Orient, and an argument in favour of the Masonic principles of French Freemasonry of the day.

"I ardently desire to see these difficulties, which appear to me to be based upon mutual misunderstanding, removed. As a Freemason and as a Frenchman this is my fervent wish. I ask you to accept, very dear brother, the assurance of my most fraternal sentiments. G. Corneau, The President of the Council of the Order."

The information received may be regarded as authentic, and what I have to say regarding the Grand Orient of France will not be based on mere hearsay. A careful reading of the letter quoted above, the Constitution and the pamphlet referred to, cannot but impress one with the earnestness and the whole souled fraternal spirit of the Grand Orient. Their methods are different from ours, but this is due to the circumstances of their environment, which has influenced them quite materially. One cannot help but notice that they have the same aims and possess the same aspirations as we have, and that they seem, if anything, more earnest than we are in working towards the desired end: The advancement and good of mankind. They seem to direct most of their activity along external and social lines. The ideal ever before them seems to be the moral and intellectual improvement of their members.

Their whole Lodge life is aimed to train their members for a life of activity in the interests of humanity. It has been said that Masons who live in Protestant countries can hardly realise the privilege they enjoy. Authorities say the Freemasons of France have been subjected to narrow-minded intolerance and prejudice; that they have been excommunicated, persecuted, insulted and detested; and that their benevolent activities have been met by all the hindrances, calumnies, slanders and active opposition pitiless clericalism could invent. By the very force of events, Masonry in France became the directing force of the democracy. Masonic Lodges became centres where liberal minds could gather for exchange of views. Even there they had to be discreet, for the police were onthe watch. Circumstances in France have been such that it would have been, as one has expressed it, "a crime against the Masonic idea for the members to shut themselves up in classic Masonry."

This condition existed in the years following the establishment of the third Republic after 1870. For a number of years, though, they have not been seriously threatened by their old enemies. The aspect of affairs has changed. That period of intolerance, intolerance from a Clerical source, is responsible for the stand the French Masons took with regard to "God and Religion" and "Politics." They may have committed errors, but in my opinion have done nothing for which they should be punished today.

They regret being separated from the brethren of other countries, and, as we have seen from the letter quoted, they would welcome the fraternal hand from us. Separation is, I believe, due to misunderstanding.

French Masons seem to regard the institution as still in its infancy, not yet definitely formed, a progressive institution. They are not averse to trying out reforms. They do not consider the institution is such as they should be satisfied with and refuse to change in any respect. They believe it should be changed, in anything but principle, if it will help to realize the dream of a world at peace and civilized in a truly Masonic sense. Their programme is entirely philosophical. Their Lodges are schools, existing to mould independent thinkers, free from prejudice and intolerance to take their part in the citizenship of the nation.

Stated briefly, their principles, etc., as set forth in their official pamphlet, "The Freemasonry of the Grand Orient of France," are somewhat as follows:

They recognise no truths save those based on reason and science, and combat particularly the "superstitions and presumptions" of French Clericalism. Their primordial law is Toleration, respect for all creeds, all ideas, and all opinions. They impose no dogma on their adherents. They encourage free research for truths-- scientific, moral, political and social. Their work among members is to develop their faculties and to augment their knowledge by study and discussion. Men of all classes are taken into their Lodges to work in common "for the emancipation of the human spirit, for the independence of the people, and for the social welfare of humanity."

Their system of morality is based on the teaching that to be happier one has to be better. The scientific study of the human heart establishes for them the fact that social life is the most indispensable weapon in the struggle for existence. Those who live a common life and band themselves together endure, while those who isolate themselves succumb. The association of individuals develops love and expands in the heart desire for the welfare of all. They particularly point out that morality can be attained outside of religious superstitions or philosophical theories.

French Freemasonry, in addition to striving to emancipate its members and separate morality from religious superstition and theory, recognises its mission to make citizens free and equal before the law--to develop the idea of brotherhood and equality.

She enunciates the principle that it is the primitive heritage of man, his individual right, to enjoy fully the fruit of his work; to say and to write that which he thinks; to join himself to his fellows when he sees fit; to make that which seems good to him; to associate for common purposes of any kind, material or intellectual; to put into practice, his ideas and his opinions; to teach that which he learns in the course of experience and study, and to demand from society respect for the liberties for each and all.

This may sound very socialistic, but the conditions of the country may have required a declaration of that kind from Masonry. I cannot help regarding this as simply a distinct protest against the encroachments of Clericalism. (To be continued)

A History Of Scottish Freemasonry In India 1838 – 1999 (Part VI)

(Continued from The Freemason No. 11, with a request for further information and items from Brethren, by the Rt Wor District Grand Master, Bro Bomi S Mehta)

The Steering Committee guiding the formation of the proposed Grand Lodge of India, then proceeded to draw up the details for the establishment of the G LI at New Delhi. The Lodges under the English, Irish and Scottish constitutions were permitted to opt to join the Grand Lodge of India from the aforesaid Constitutions.

However, where Lodges decided not to form part of the new independent Grand Lodge of India, they and their members would continue to enjoy their existing rights and privileges, under their respective Grand Lodges. More or less identical Concordats were drawn up by the three Grand Lodges and signed individually with the Grand Lodge of India soon after its inauguration in 1961.

At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Scotland held in Edinburgh on 30th August 1961, it was decided that for better supervision of those Lodges in India and Ceylon, which had not opted to join the Grand Lodge of India (Constituted on 24th November 1961), two District Grand Lodges should be erected instead of the Grand Lodge of United Scottish Freemasonry in India and Ceylon, to be known as the District Grand Lodge of Western India and the District Grand Lodge of Eastern India. As a general principle, all Lodges west of longitude 76ºE were assigned to the District Grand Lodge of Western India and all those Lodges lying east of longitude 76º E were assigned to the District Grand Lodge of Eastern India.

District Grand Lodge of Western India 1961 - 1992

At an Especial Communication held at Bombay on 16th March 1962, the District Grand Lodge of Western India was consecrated by Bro. Cyrus F. Minwalla, Rt. Wor. District Grand Master of The District Grand Lodge of Pakistan, and Bro. Dr. Sorab M. Khambatta of revered memory, was installed as its first Rt. Wor. District Grand Master. The District had 26 Lodges under its jurisdiction.

(To be continued)

The "G"

The majority of Masonic writers believe that the letter ‘G’ refers to Geometry, and the old catechisms also point that way. Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium, by Bernard E. Jones

Editorial Board: Bro Tofique Fatehi, Bro Ahmed Bharucha, Bro Larry Grant.
Published for The Freemasons Chamber by Larry Grant, Post Box 1610, Mumbai 400001, India
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