No. 15 -- The newsletter of The Freemasons Chamber -- Novenber 2000

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

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. This installment deals with the role which French Lodges saw for themselves. Any Brother wishing a complete set of the three discussions by leading Masons, may request an e-mail copy. - Editor.

THE BUILDER MARCH 1918: Internationalism And Freemasonry

By Bro P. E. Kellett, Grand Master, Manitoba

Let us now briefly consider the great point of cleavage between Anglo-Saxon Masonry and the Masonry of the Grand Orient of France. This cleavage is based largely on the suspicion, if not on the definite charge that French Masonry is atheistic in its practices or in its tendencies.

The Grand Orient of France was organized in Paris in 1736. Its constitution was of the model of Anderson's original Constitution 1723. The Grand Orient was recognized as legitimate Masonry by the Grand Lodge of England, and in fact by all legitimate Masons throughout the world. At that time in all Masonic Constitutions there was an absolute absence of dogma concerning in which all men agree; that is to be good men and true, men of God and religion, and Masons were bound only to that religion in which all men agree; that is to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty. The aim of the fraternity was purely humanitarian, its principles broad enough for men of every diverse opinion. The desire was simply to unite them, whatever their private religious beliefs, in uplift work for themselves and for humanity.

Changes came first in England. About the middle of the eighteenth century, the so-called Landmarks regarding a declaration of belief in the G. A. of the U. and the placing of the Bible on the Altar, were adopted. Following this, for the greater part of a century the French Constitution adhered strictly to the original plan of the fraternity and did not contain that formula which has since, in some places, come to be regarded as essential. During this time neither the Grand Lodge of England nor any other recognized Grand Lodge took any exception to this notable omission. French Masons were considered neither "Godless" nor "Atheistic." As time went on, the French Constitution was changed to conform to that of the Grand Lodge of England. One writer has said this was co-incident with a closer political approach of the two nations, England and France. The constitution of the Grand Orient of France followed the English copy until shortly after the Franco Prussian war, when they reverted back to what it had been originally. Co-incident with this change, history records political estrangement between France and England which continued until recent years. When France reverted back to her original constitution, the Grand Lodge of England immediately afterwards severed relations with France, and generally speaking, Masonry of English speaking countries followed suit, claiming that the change made by the Grand Orient of France was Atheistic in tendency.

Can French Masonry be said to be atheistical ? Atheism is the doctrine that there is no God. It is no longer considered reasonable for anyone to dogmatically assert that there is no God, and it is a question if such a being as an atheist exists today.

There is no unbelief. Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod, And waits to see it push away the clod,

He trusts in God.

Whoever says, when clouds are in the sky, "Be patient, heart; light breaketh by-and-by," Trusts the Most High

Whoever sees, 'neath winter's fields of snow, The silent harvest of the future grow, God's power must know.

Whoever lies down on his couch to sleep, Content to lock each sense in slumber deep, Knows God will keep.

Whoever says, "Tomorrow," "The Unknown," "The Future," trusts the Power alone He dares disown.

The heart that looks on when the eyelids close, And dares to live when life has only woes, God's comfort knows

There is no unbelief; And day by day, and night unconsciously, The heart lives by that faith the lips deny--

God knoweth why!

To be atheistic, French Masonry would need to have made the dogmatic assertion, "There is no God." This it has never done. It neither affirms nor denies anything relative to God. To suppose that French Masons deny the existence of God is to totally misunderstand them. They are as much averse to a dogmatic assertion of that kind as to one of the opposite kind. They are simply against a dogmatic assertion of any kind, as Masons, believing that Masonry is antidogmatic. Many, and possibly all, of their members would doubtless declare a belief in God at the proper time; but not as Masons in a Masonic Lodge.

The French Masons found their attitude on the first edition of the Constitution, which obliges Masons only to that religion in which all men agree; that is, to be good and true, or men of honour and honesty. Let us briefly examine what ground there is for their stand, and see whether or not we are justified in condemning it. For this purpose I want to direct your attention to:

Anderson's Constitution, 1723

Concerning God and Religion.

A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understands the Art he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country, or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their peculiar opinions to themselves; that is to be good men and true men of Honour and Honesty by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the centre of union and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.

Our Own Constitution: Concerning God And Religion.

A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the Moral Law, and if he rightly understands the Art he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. He, of all men, should best understand that God seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh to the heart! A Mason is therefore particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his conscience. Let a man's religion or mode of worship be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believe in the Architect of Heaven and Earth, and practice the sacred duties of Morality. Masons unite with the virtuous of every persuasion, in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love; they are taught to view the errors of mankind with compassion, and to strive by the purity of their own conduct to demonstrate the superior excellence of the faith they may profess. Thus Masonry is the centre of union between good men and true, and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

Constitution Of Grand Orient Of France

Freemasonry, an essentially philanthropical and progressive institution, has for its object the pursuit of truth, the study of morality, and the practice of solidarity; its efforts are directed to the material and moral improvement and the intellectual and social advancement of humanity. It has for its principles, mutual tolerance, respect for others and for one's self, and absolute liberty of conscience. Considering metaphysical conceptions as belonging exclusively to the individual judgment of its members, it refuses to accept any dogmatic affirmation. Its motto is: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. (To be continued)

(In the next issue: "The change the French made in 1877 rather reverted back to…Anderson’s Constitution) it than went farther away from it)

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

(Continued from "The Freemason" No. 13, with a request for further information and

items from Brethren, by the Rt Wor District Grand Master, Bro Bomi S Mehta)

District Grand Lodge Of India: 1992 - 2000

In keeping with the changing Masonic scenario in India, and due to lack of adequate support to the three Lodges in Calcutta under the District Grand Lodge of Eastern India, the Grand Lodge of Scotland applied the wisdom it wisely adopted 58 years ago in 1934, and decided in 1992 that it would be desirable to have only one District in India. As the District Grand Lodge of Western India was functioning smoothly with 26 Lodges under it, the Grand Lodge of Scotland decided to merge the Lodges in Calcutta into the District Grand Lodge of Western India, so that there would be only one District, to be named as the District Grand Lodge of India, having jurisdiction covering the entire country. Sadly, Bro Dadachanji, the District Grand Master of Western India who was slated to become the first Rt Wor District Grand Master of India did not live to see the birth of the new District Grand Lodge of India, having passed away on 19th November 1991, and Bro Dhunjishaw D. Karkaria, the Depute District Grand Master took charge of the District.

Bro Dhunjishaw D. Karkaria was installed as the first District Grand Master of India of the newly formed District Grand Lodge of India in November 1992 by Rt Wor Bro Capt Sam B. Aga, Rt Wor Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Ireland in India. The year 1992 brought turmoil amongst Freemasons in India, with the Grand Lodge of India making changes in their Book of Constitution which, amongst others, imposed restrictions on their members having dual membership with Lodges under the three Home Grand Lodges, England, Ireland and Scotland. These changes not being in conformity with the settled terms of the Concordat, resulted in the withdrawal of recognition of the Grand Lodge of India by the three Home Grand Lodges, the Grand Lodge of Scotland doing so in 1993.

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
Phone 91-22-2151001. E-mail
larry@vsnl.com.
Master Masons are welcome to request free copies. Please send full name, name and number of lodge, and address. Copies also available by e-mail.
FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION ONLY


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