THE MEANING OF WORDS.
The following article signed by Bro Charles and posted by Brother Sully appeared yesterday on Neuilly-Bineau blog. Arturusrex enjoyed it and has attempted to do it into English for the benefit of English-speaking brethren who might sometimes find themselves bemused by the idiosyncrasies of French vocabulary and be interested in a French brother’s view of Masonic history and present day problems, especially those of the GLNF!. Arturusrex.
Brother Charles proposes in the following text to look at the words we use in our everyday masonic situation and parlance, and he reveals how wrong usage of these words has led to the evils that now beset the GLNF and caused total confusion in our minds.
Words, when distorted, are worse. And that is not just a play on words! In linguistics, a word is a short-cut pointing to a signification, i.e. a concept that the word encapsulates. To communicate and understand each other, it is not sufficient that we know the words used be we must also share common knowledge of what they imply. When the context in which words are used is inappropriate, it is our actual perception of their objective reality that becomes distorted. Such distortion is notably less perceptible in as much as it occurs gradually while the original signification undergoes a process of erosion.
So, before we start to think about re-founding our “obedience”, it would seem essential that we set about putting the proper words in their proper places and come to an agreement as to the concepts that are associated with them. That will help us in future to avoid creating further such confusions.
The text is a little long and dense, but worth a careful reading.
Lodge, Grand Lodge, Obedience, Order...the Obedience is not an Order !!!
From studying the statutes and regulations of “obediences” (translator’s note: French for Craft Masonry bodies and a term we will continue to use in this text) in amity with us, and comparing them with those of the GLNF, we note that there is one occurrence of the word “Order” (“ordre”) in the “ordinal” sense of the word, in the documents of the Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium (in the wording of an Obligation), whereas more than twenty occurrences of it are to be found in the 1980 statutes and regulations of the GLNF and over fifty in those of 2009!
This discovery is perplexing, and calls for analysis both in terms of the difference between countries and of the rate of inflation..
The problems facing the GLNF derive from a slow degradation of a semantic nature, linked to an equivalent degradation at the moral level, which crept in to our French Masonic scene a long time ago, while hardly existing in other countries.
This degradation contaminates all the vocabulary used when designating the nature or very essence of our association.
Let us take a look at the history and the meanings or significations of the words “Lodge”, “Grand Lodge” ,”Obedience” and “Order”… and try to put a little “order” into all that!
Our essay makes no pretence at exhaustiveness. It seeks merely to open up lines of thought for an awareness of what we are and the problems that confront us.
Masonic lodges were in existence before obediences.
On June 24th 1717, four lodges of London, meeting respectively at the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house, in Saint Paul’s Church Yard, at the Crown Ale-house, in Parker’s Lane, near Drury Lane, at the Apple-Tree Tavern, in Charles Street, Covent Garden and at the Rummer and Grapes Tavern, in Channel Row, Westminster, met together and (subsequently) a premier Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster, was founded.
Lodges existed before Grand Lodges and “Obediences” and this point is of the utmost importance, because it clearly shows that the reality of a Grand Lodge emanated from the actual substance of the lodges and their wishes, and nothing more.
No higher will or entity existed before the lodges.
This fundamental tradition has perdured throughout most countries…. except France.
The term “Grand Lodge” universally designates a group of several lodges and workings.
In the early 18th century in France, it referred exclusively to meetings of the Masters of the Lodges, i.e. the moments when such were in meeting together.
“Grand Lodge” closed on the closing of the meeting.
Thus there existed no permanent masonic institution (‘Obedience’) as such in the present usage of the term.
“Grand Lodge” eventually came to refer to a body elected by the lodges in charge of defending, and especially, the spread, of lodges. By so doing, it allowed Freemasonry to grow.
The term Grand Lodge is used universally to designate a body that unites or federates the lodges. There is, in principle, one Grand Lodge per country.
Let it be remarked that the present-day notion of “Provincial Grand Lodges” condones the use of the word “Grand”. That, in terms of international logic as applied regionally throughout the various masonic jurisdictions, means that each region or Province designated as “Grand” should be autonomous, as if it were a State or Country. Obviously, that is not the law anywhere! (* See following note: What are known in France as ”provinces” are not “regions” They are vestiges of the old Kingdoim of France. As for the present-day “regions” they are in no way independant of the Republic and so, are quite different from the States of America or Canada.)
Later on, in France and only in France, the term “Grand Orient” came to be used to designate the place where Lodges gathered for “Grand” meetings.
This term ‘Grand Orient » did not exist in other countries.
Progressively, its usage extended from the place of a “Grand meeting” to cover its participants and the direction from which came the Light.
Probably, this is where the gradual tendency towards take-over bids and power-mongering began.
The Light coming from a so-called “Grand” Orient had to be greater than that from the Orient (East) of a simple lodge!
As if the quality of Light could be greater! Hallucination? Perchance the stuff of dreams (ay, there’s the rub….)
Here we are probably in the presence of what is a form of deviationism inherent in French culture, handed down from the French kings, a certain lust for glitter and desire to dazzle them all, to boost ones importance and take over power.
Subsequently, “Grand Orient” became the name of an “Obedience” that was founded and distanced itself from the older Grand Lodge of France.
The “Grand Orient” notion achieved somewhat limited expansion throughout the masonic world and that much only under the sway of French influence.
(Today there exist two internationally recognized regular Grand Orients)
( Addition by Translator : I believe Bro Charles refers to the Grand Orients of Italy and Brazil. Please correct me if I am wrong.)
From the Grand Orient of France, a second Grand Lodge of France (Grande Loge de France) was to emerge and break away. It is“obedience” and not the Grand Lodge of France, because it is merely a “Grand Lodge in France”.
A Latin etymology (ob-audire), “to hear” evolved to mean “to hearken to one’s superior,” and then “to obey” and lies at the origin of the word “obedience”.
Used masonically, to refer to a masonic body, it is especially French and rarely found among the Grand Lodges of other countries.
In France, lodges are grouped by “obediences” which may also be groupings according to specific rites.
The incredible number of successive schisms that have affected French masonry is probably behind the need to choose a word, “Obédience”, revealing the tendency chosen by the lodge, to whom it hearkened, and who it obeyed.
Most countries have between three and five “obediences”, based on a general breakdown of one male only, one female only, one mixed and one or two splinter groups, depending usually on the civil background of the country.
Today in France there are more than thirty “Obediences”, mostly splinter groups resulting from power struggles.
Over a third of these obediences have, in the period since 1917, been seeded by or are splinters of the GLNF. We could also mention that there are or have also been a certain number of “free-lance” Grand Masters floating around in the nebula…)
This leaves one wondering what can possibly be the priorities of those reputed and supposed to be engaged in reuniting what has been set asunder. French masonry in general and the GLNF in particular have for long been demonstrating their predilection for power, and, consequently, division.
It is probably from all these antics that the now traditional term of “the French bordel” was born.
The word has several acceptations. The GLNF uses and mixes them all, intentionally. We will examine the facts and background intentions.
In French, the word “Order” may pertain to one of various lexical domains: religious, military, professional, honorific.
The religious Orders of the Benedictines, the Franciscans, and so on, originated from a Rule decreed by each of their corresponding founder Saints. These Rules were rules for living and general behaviour in a context centered on religious practice and physical work, and in communities set apart from the mundane world. As Freemasonry forbids religious discussion and reference, and as freemasons are men involved in the world, this acceptation of the word can not apply to masonry.
Some of our brothers have even imagined that they were directly inspired by the GAOTU in the way the Saints were inspired by Him, whereas they should know that masons transmit an initiatory tradition handed down to them from time immemorial by their predecessors.
Derived from the Middle Ages, these are a sort of Christian license to kill, and therefore inapplicable to an organization deemed to promote brotherly love.
It is a domain that implies fighting postures and religion.
In a sense frequently employed recently, it could account for the harsh and un-fraternal attitudes of some “brothers”.
Orders of a professional nature:
Lawyers, architects, chartered accountants…
The main roles of professional orders are: to regulate entrance, provide training, represent the profession at government level, media promotion, organisation and control of competition between adherents, disciplinary matters, arbitration….
It is easy to see how this can all be attractive for those whose minds and ambitions are still in the “outer world”.
Orders of an honorific nature :
These include various orders of Merit and Knighthood. The Masonic craft degrees do not include any form of knighthood.
The GLNF has made an amalgamation of its rites, rituals and honours, in its 2009 Constitutions, article 12, page 21:
- A sub-article of 15 lines refers to Rites and Rituals, which gives an indication of the importance accorded to the subject. There is no reference to the Order, whereas only initiation conferred by the ritual leads to a hierarchical position in the Traditional Esoteric Initiatory Masonic Order.
- Two sub-articles of one half page are consecrated to masonic honours and distinctions and mentions the Masonic Order of Merit.
This “Order” is inspired by the honorific orders, such as the Order of Merit and has its own hierarchical progression. The brightest ribbons go only to an élite having “provided eminent and exceptional services to the Obedience”.
All the GLNF texts and decrees over the last few years have been moving the goal posts as they go. The Chiefs play at being “spiritual gurus” with powers handed down from THE GURU. Their talk refers to discipline, flattery, honours.
There is also considerable evidence of words being used to impose the notion of what is supposed to be “normal” or conservative, aimed at preserving the established order that must not be questioned. But the truth is that our Craft has undergone terrible deviations these last thirty years.
The greater the difficulty the SYSTEM finds itself in, the louder proclaimed, the higher upheld, is the word “ORDER”, brandished alternately as an arm of attack or a shield of defense.
The principal preoccupation of the Constitutions of our Obedience (with all their modifications) has been for a long time now the progressive, imperceptible, but nevertheless definite confiscation of the authority of the lodges.
Freemasonry is a Traditional Esoteric Initiatory Order.
Neither the Obedience nor the Grand Lodge are Orders.
The expression “Masonic Order” signifies an ideal, that of Universal Free Masonry.
Cette notion transcende chaque Grande Loge individuellement et ne peut être appropriée exclusivement par aucune.
ORDER signifies a spiritual hierarchy (from the Greek “hieros”, sacred, and “arche”, command)
This hierarchy is organized in degrees of initiation and knowledge ascended successively by the Freemason who seeks and labours. This “labour” is a question of personal work on self. It takes place within the person, accompanied by the learning of the knowledge taught specifically by each degree of whatever Rite, the transmission of which has been obligatorily handed down by freemasons themselves of a higher degree. Under this system, it follows that without personal work and guidance from a more highly advanced brother, no progress can be achieved along the path leading to Truth.
There can be no hierarchy of such knowledge and Order outside the framework of the three degrees of the Craft lodges, and the jurisdiction of the other orders beyond the Craft.
Certain “higher ” or “side degrees” do not fall under a specific Jurisdiction. What they have to do being housed under the Craft is bemusing.
Many craft-masonry bodies in times past have had to restructure themselves in depth to rid themselves of the interference of the “higher degrees”. Is it right that there should still persist certain “side degrees” within the Craft?
Freemasonry is an initiatory order within the lodges.
Through a tradition uninterrupted since its origins, the lodge has the spiritual powers to initiate: this tradition consists essentially of rituals and instructions for the inferring of each degree. When, in a just and perfect lodge, the WM and his officers receive a candidate, the latter undergoes the influence of a form of spiritual energy that makes of him an initiate and opens up to him the path that he shall have to follow if he will and if and so long as he can.
The hierarchy that enacts the initiation ceremony therein and thereby wields the only power that exists in masonry.
That same hierarchy is responsible to a great extent for granting and guaranteeing the liberty of the new initiate. No one holds any power over-ruling that of the WM when he transmits the light of initiation.
Freemasonry is an esoteric initiatory Order.
Esoteric, from the Greek root meaning « interior » refers to inner knowledge which, by nature, lies hidden within oneself and is not accessible to all. Such knowledge is reserved for a certain “élite” and dispensed by those who have already been deemed to have attained that level. It is only accessible within the depths of oneself. The opposite of esoteric is exoteric, from the Greek root “exo” meaning outer., and which applies to such knowledge which is, by nature, available to all without distinction, election or examination.
Freemasonry is a universal, traditional esoteric initiatory Order
All the traditional esoteric initiatory Orders descend from the Primæval Trzadition.
The esoteric forms of initiation they propose to their adepts are all equivalent and converge and lead the zelator back to his central point, at harmony with the universal principal of One.
An obedience has no initiatory power. An obedience is not an Order. . An obedience is at the service of the lodges.
The tracing board was scratched in the dust or the earth of an outer room or space, called the “lodge”.
In respect, humility, simplicity and fraternity, a canny return to the Traditional spiritual sense is required.
To make Freemasonry once more what it should never have ceased to be, the White Book (link : Le Livre Blanc) pays careful attention to the correct use of the vocabulary.
Deviations have caused too much harm by their senselessness!
Charles, a brother who, once, somewhere , long ago read, “Vigilance, Perseverance”