Grand Orient de France

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Grand Orient de France
Grand Orient de France (emblem).png
Coat of arms of
the Grand Orient de France
Established 24 June 1773
Jurisdiction France
Location Paris
France
Website godf.org


The Grand Orient de France (GODF) is the largest of several Masonic organizations in France and the oldest in Continental Europe. It was formed out of the older Grand Lodge of France in 1773, and briefly absorbed the rump of the older body in 1799, allowing it to date its foundation to 1728 or 1733. It is generally considered to be the mother lodge of traditional Liberal, or Continental Freemasonry.

History[edit]

Foundation[edit]

In 1777, the Grand Orient de France recognised the antiquity of the Lodge of Perfect Equality, said to have been formed in 1688. This, if it actually existed at that time, was a military lodge attached to the Royal Irish Regiment, formed by Charles II of England in Saint-Germain in 1661, just before his return to England. The regiment remained loyal to the Stuarts, and did not return to France until after the fall of Limerick in 1689. They returned to barracks in Saint-Germain in 1698, surviving to become the 92nd Infantry Regiment after the revolution. With these dates in mind, modern scholars usually regard the 1688 lodge as a folk tale.[1]

An English Lodge is also said to have been founded at Dunkirk in 1721. Another "first Lodge" was organised by exiled Jacobites under the Earl of Derwentwater in Paris about 1725. A lodge was documented at the Louis d'Argent in the Rue des Boucheries, Paris, in 1732.[2] These were English-speaking lodges that happened to be in France. There was also a French lodge listed in the 1723 minutes of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. Meeting at Solomon's Temple, in Hemmings Row (then off St. Martin's Lane in London) the Master was Jean Theophile Desaguliers, then Deputy Grand Master and effective governor of the craft in England. In a list of members, mostly having French names, James Anderson, who compiled the first printed constitutions, is listed as "Jaques Anderson maitre et arts".[3]

The first "deputisations" of lodges in France by the London Grand Lodge occurred in 1732, and the Grand Orient now dates its foundation from 1733, when there started to be a recognisable Grand Lodge of France. It was in 1743 that the English Grand Lodge of France became a French phenomenon, with the Count of Clermont becoming Grand Master until his death in 1771.[4][5] Shortly after his death, a schism occurred, with the larger party becoming the Grand Orient de France in 1773.[6] The ritual of the new Grand Lodge followed that of the Premier Grand Lodge of England.[7]

By the time of the French Revolution, there were some 1250 Masonic Lodges in the country.[8]

French Revolution[edit]

The Lodge Les Neuf Sœurs was a prominent lodge attached to the Grand Orient de France that was particularly influential in organising French support for the American Revolution and later in the intellectual ferment that preceded the French Revolution. Benjamin Franklin was a member of this Lodge when he was serving as liaison in Paris.[9]

Some notable French revolutionaries were Freemasons, including Voltaire,[10] Marquis de Lafayette,[11][12] Marquis de Condorcet,[13] Mirabeau,[14] Georges Danton,[15] the Duke of Orléans,[16] and Hébert.[17]

Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, a leader of the Liberal Aristocracy, was the Grand Master of the Grand Orient at the time of the French Revolution.[16] In some parts of France, the Jacobin Clubs were continuances of Masonic lodges from the Ancien Régime, and according to historian Alan Forrest "some early clubs, indeed, took over both the premises and much of the membership of masonic lodges, before rebadging themselves in the new idiom of the revolution."[18]

The Catholic Encyclopedia alleges that the Masonic book La Franc-Maçonnerie, écrasée in 1746 predicted the program of the French Revolution,[19] and claims to quote documents of the Grand Orient of France where Freemasonry claims credit for the French Revolution.[20] However, the New Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967 says that modern historians see Freemasonry's role in the French Revolution as exaggerated.[21]

In 1804 it merged with the rival Grand Lodge, the Rite Ecossais.[22]

Napoleon III[edit]

In France Napoleon III established a dictatorship over official French Freemasonry, appointing first Prince Lucien Murat and later Marshal Magnan to closely supervise Freemasonry and suppress any hints of opposition to the regime.[23]

The Paris Commune[edit]

According to the Marxist author Ernest Belfort Bax, Freemasons had a considerable involvement in the Paris Commune after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at reconciling the Commune with the French Government.[24]

Schism with the United Grand Lodge of England[edit]

In 1877, at the instigation of the Protestant pastor Frédéric Desmons, it allowed those who had no belief in a Supreme being to be admitted.[25] The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and related Lodges regarded belief in the Supreme Being as a Masonic Landmark.

It was this decision that has been the root cause of the schism between the Grand Orient (and those lodges that followed it), and the rest of Freemasonry. It is a schism in Freemasonry which continues to this day. It is argued that the definition is ambiguous, that Anderson's Landmarks are his own collection and interpretation of the historical landmarks, and that changes in both interpretation and practice have occurred before and since.

The decision was not universally approved in France. By 1894 many lodges had split off in protest and formed the Grande Loge de France (GLdF)[26] In 1910, a few members of the Grand Orient, wishing to re-introduce the concept of God the Great Architect, brought back the Rectified Scottish Rite from Switzerland. In the resulting friction with the national body, they amalgamated with the English lodge of Bordeaux to produce, in 1913, a third grand lodge, la Grande Loge Nationale Indépendante et Régulière pour la France et les Colonies françaises, now the Grande Loge Nationale Française.[27]

Third Republic[edit]

The Grand Orient was instrumental in the founding of the left wing Republican Party.[28][29][30][31]

The Grand Orient was implicated in the Affaire Des Fiches, where it was accused of collecting[32] and holding information on the religious and political affiliation of army officers, passed on by a member of the government,[33] having been collected with the intention of blocking practicing Catholics and non-Republicans from further advancement.[34]

Separation of Church and State[edit]

The Grand Orient advanced the concept of Laïcité, a French concept of the separation of church and state and the absence of religious interference in government affairs.[35] In the 1930s the Grand Orient was still hostile to Church interests, wishing to close private schools (which were predominantly Catholic), or failing that to reintroduce an insistence that only state schools could provide civil servants.[36]

The Grand Orient de France is concerned about a 'silent revolution' of a return of religion in society.[37] It advocates government action against (according to its own terms) an 'offensive of cults in Europe'.[38] In April 2008, when the legitimacy of the anti-cult ministerial group (MIVILUDES) was questioned, the Great Master of the Order Jean-Michel Quillardet intervened personally with the President of the French parliament in order to maintain its activity.[39]

Relationship with other jurisdictions[edit]

The GODF practices Continental style Freemasonry (known to its practitioners as "Liberal Masonry"[40]), the defining features of which are complete freedom of religious conscience and deliberate involvement in politics. This is in antithesis to the "Anglo-American" tradition of Freemasonry, which remains male only and requires a belief in Deity but which otherwise bans discussion of both religion and politics. This difference affects which other Grand Jurisdictions give GODF "recognition" and deem it "regular". Those Grand Lodges and Grand Orients that follow the Continental tradition tend to recognize GODF, while those that follow the Anglo Tradition do not.

Politics and religion[edit]

Unlike Anglo-American Freemasonry, the Grand Orient of France does not require candidates for membership to believe in a supreme being, and allows the discussion of political issues and religion in lodge. It upholds a series of guiding principles or ideals (valeurs), which individuals member are expected to defend, and which the Grand Orient as a corporate body promotes.[41]

  • Democracy - The Grand Orient is committed to the ideals of the Republic.
  • Laicity - The church should restrict its pronouncements to the purely spiritual, and should under no circumstances be allowed to influence the law.
  • Social Solidarity - The state must make provisions for the economically disadvantaged.
  • Citizenship - Liberty, equality and fraternity promoted through respect, tolerance and freedom of conscience.
  • Environment - Humanity has the responsibility to protect the environment for future generations.
  • Human Dignity - All humankind should be guaranteed food, shelter and care.
  • Human Rights - As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In discussions at all levels, up to and including the President, the Grand Orient claims to exert a beneficent influence on the French Government.[42]

Female membership[edit]

When the Grand Orient took shape in 1773, it inherited several Lodges of Adoption attached to its own lodges. These were open to masons and admitted their female relatives in their own set of rituals. They received an implied seal of approval when the Duc de Chartres, then Grand Master of France, became "Grand Master" of a new lodge of adoption in Paris, with the Duchess of Bourbon as "Grand Mistress". Briefly eclipsed by the revolution, they again became fashionable under Napoleon, before being declared unconstitutional in 1808.[43] They were revived in 1901 as a women's society, before a final separation in 1935. The resulting organisation is now the Grande Loge féminine de France.[44]

For many years, the Grand Orient would not allow its lodges to initiate women, but did recognize and receive women who were made Freemasons in other jurisdictions. This changed in 2010, and after some setbacks, the Grand Orient currently allows the initiation of women.[45]

Sexual orientation[edit]

The Grand Orient stated its support for the legalization of same-sex marriage in a press release condemning the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris André Vingt-Trois for his public statements against same-sex marriage; in the statement, the GOdF described the bill as one which seeks to "ensure Republican recognition of free marital choice of individuals who wish it, in the name of equal rights". The statement continues with a call for churches to restrict their activities to the purely spiritual, and not interfere with the democratic process.[46]

GODF lodges outside France[edit]

The GODF currently has direct jurisdiction over the following individual lodges outside of France:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hauts Grades Les loges militaires : Walsh La parfaite égalité, retrieved 30 October 2012
  2. ^ Pietre Stones H. L. Haywood, Various Grand Lodges, part XIII, France, The Builder, June 1924, vol X, No 6, retrieved 18 October 2013
  3. ^ (ed.) William John Songhurst, The Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of England, Quatuor Coronatorum Antigrapha, Vol 10, 1913, p 42
  4. ^ Douglas Knoop, "The Genesis of Freemasonry", Manchester University Press, 1947
  5. ^ Grand Orient de France Histoire, retrieved 9 July 2012
  6. ^ Franc-Maçonnerie Française Le Grand Orient de France, retrieved 8 July 2012
  7. ^ Grand Masonic Orient of Ireland Ritual, retrieved 29 October 2012
  8. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Masonry (Freemasonry)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. , New Catholic Encyclopedia
  9. ^ http://www.fm-fr.org/francais/obediences/les-obediences-liberales/le-grand-orient-de-france "Le Grand Orient de France (GODF)."
  10. ^ "Voltaire on British Columbia Grand Lodge Site". 
  11. ^ http://www.masonicworld.com/education/files/artoct02/where_was_lafayette_made_a_mason.htm "Where was LaFayette Made A Mason?" MasonicWorld.com
  12. ^ http://www.fm-fr.org/francais/obediences/les-obediences-liberales/le-grand-orient-de-france "Le Grand Orient de France (GODF)."
  13. ^ "And it is a fact that most of the authors of that epoch-making Encyclopedia — Diderot, D'Alembert, Condorcet, the famous Swiss philosopher Helvetius, etc. — were Freemasons." History of Freemasonry hosted by Arcadia Lodge#249, Ames, Iowa
  14. ^ "En France, dans les dernières années de l'Ancien Régime, Mirabeau (qui était Maçon, affilié à la loge parisienne "Les Neuf Sœurs") et l'abbé Henri Grégoire (qui était peut-être Maçon)" Transl. "In France, during the final years of the Ancien Régime, Mirabeau (who was a Mason, belonging to the Parisian lodge "The Nine Sisters") and the Abbe Henri Gregoire (who may have been a Mason)" Le Prince de Ligne Franc-Maçon by Paul Delsemme, Volume 10, Bon-A-Tirer
  15. ^ From Denslow, 10,000 Famous Freemasons
  16. ^ a b "Louis Philippe Joseph, Duke of Orleans, better known in history by his revolutionary name of Egalite, meaning Equality, was the fifth Grand Master of the Masonic Order in France." ORLEANS, DUKE OF, Letter O, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FREEMASONRY AND ITS KINDRED SCIENCES, by ALBERT C. MACKEY M. D.
  17. ^ Hebert, Andre Chenier, Camille Desmoulins and many other "Girondins" of the French Revolution were Freemasons. The American Mercury Newspaper, 1941, Sven Lunden
  18. ^ Paris, the Provinces and the French Revolution, By Alan Forrest, 2004, Oxford University Press, page 108
  19. ^ "Already in 1746 in the book La Franc-Maçonnerie, écrasée, an experienced ex-Mason, who, when a Mason, had visited many lodges in France and England, and consulted high Masons in official positions, described as the true Masonic programme one which, according to Boos, the historian of Freemasonry (p. 192), in an astonishing degree coincides with the programme of the great French Revolution of 1789." From Masonry (Freemasonry) in the Catholic Encyclopedia
  20. ^ "Masonry, which prepared the Revolution of 1789, has the duty to continue its work", Circular of the Grand Orient of France,2 April 1889, Cited as Footnote 163 in the article Masonry (Freemasonry) in the Catholic Encyclopedia. The most recent edition (2002) does not contain any article on Freemasonry.
  21. ^ "Modern historians agree that the role of Masonry in the French Revolution has usually been exaggerated." New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967 ed, Volume 6, p. 135, McGraw-Hill, New York.
  22. ^ Page 153, The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society, by Jasper Ridley, 2002
  23. ^ "Emperor Napoleon III nominated him as grand master of the Grand Orient of France, and even though not a Mason, he was installed on February 8, 1862, serving until May 29, 1865." Entry for Bernard Pierre Magnan, Volume III, K - P 10,000 Famous Freemasons, William Denslow
  24. ^ E. Belfort Bax, The Paris Commune, "IX. The Freemasons, the Committee of Public Safety, and Rossel", (1894) www.marxists.org. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  25. ^ The Grand Orient of France and the three great lights
  26. ^ Grande Loge de France website retrieved 12 January 2012
  27. ^ GLNF website Histoire de la GLNF, retrieved 12 January 2013
  28. ^ page 79, The Search for Social Peace: Reform Legislation in France, 1890-1914, Judith F. Stone, 1985, SUNY Press
  29. ^ Adhésion du Grand-Orient a La République from Revue Maçonnique, Tome XI (Lyon: 1848). Available from Google Books [1]
  30. ^ Article, "Freemasonry" by M. L. McIsaac in Patrick H. Hutton (editor), Historical Dictionary of the Third French Republic, 1870-1940, pages 401-402 (London: Aldwych Press, 1986). ISBN 0-86172-046-6. "The commitments of the Freemasons in the Third Republic are revealed in the causes they chose to support. The League of Instruction, designed to promote lay education, was one of the most important of these. They championed a number of political reforms, notably a progressive income tax, child labor laws, and social welfare legislation (particularly measures to aid the orphaned, the infirm, and the elderly), although they were not organized politically and advanced no official political creed, In practice, Freemasons tended to join the Radical party and, after the turn of the twentieth century, the Socialist party. In comparison with its revolutionary origins in the Enlightenment, the Freemasonry of the Third Republic was thoroughly domesticated, but so too was the republican ideal itself. For this reason, the Freemasons' commitment to building an economically prosperous, socially advanced, politically democratic nation reinforced the basic commitmrents of the political leaders of the Third Republic. Without being an official arm of the Republic the Freemasons contributed powerfully to its self-conception."
  31. ^ A. Hamon, H. Hamon, The Political Situation in France, pages 107-128 (The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 11, No. 1 July 1905)
  32. ^ "In 1904, the Affaire des Fiches broke when it became known that the ministry had gathered information on candidates' political and religious views from the Masonic Grand Orient." Page 18, France and the Great War, 1914-1918, By Leonard V. Smith, Stéphane Audoin, Translated by Helen McPhail, Published 2003, Cambridge University Press
  33. ^ Monuments, martyrdom, and the politics of religion in the French third republic
  34. ^ 1905 | Political Events, E Notes
  35. ^ "French Masonry and above all the Grand Orient of France has displayed the most systematic activity as the dominating political element in the French "Kulturkampf" since 1877." PD-icon.svg "Masonry (Freemasonry)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. , it cites as footnote 158 the "Bulletin du Grand Orient de France 1890, 500 sq"
  36. ^ Page 162, Religion, Politics and Preferment in France Since 1890, Maurice Larkin, 1995, Cambridge University Press
  37. ^ [2][dead link]
  38. ^ [3][dead link]
  39. ^ http://www.godf.org/comm_p_detail.asp?num=142[dead link]
  40. ^ Grand Mixed Lodge Delphi of the USA 45 years of CLIPSAS, retrieved 24 October 2013
  41. ^ GOdF Charte des valeurs du Grand Orient de France, retrieved 6 June 2013
  42. ^ Interview of Jean-Michel Quillardet, Great Master of the Grand Orient de France, April 2007
  43. ^ ADOPTIVE FREEMASONRY Entry from Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry
  44. ^ Phoenix Masonry Barbara L. Thames, A History of Women’s Masonry, retrieved 6 June 2013
  45. ^ L'Express News report, 3 September 2010, retrieved 27 May 2013
  46. ^ "Projet de loi sur le mariage pour tous (Bill on marriage for all)". Grand Orient de France. 05/11/12. 
  47. ^ a b c Website of Grand Orient de France, Amérique de Nord (listing lodges in North America as of 2013)
  48. ^ Lodge Hiram's website retrieved 28 October 2013

External links[edit]