23.9.09

Freemasons


As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to stay in my area (Batignolles, Paris 17) during the Heritage Days, hoping to avoid the longest queues. I was a bit curious about the freemasonry and took the opportunity to visit the “Grand Loge de France” (rue Puteaux). As you can see, I could not quite avoid the queuing and it took a small hour to get in.

The building dates from the end of the 19th century and was first a monastery, then, after the separation of the State and the Church in 1905, a cabaret, until the freemasons bought the building in 1910. During WW II, the building was confiscated by the occupants.

The visit was very well organised and we got some very qualified guides who took us through the library, the “temples” (a smaller one and a bigger one, the old monastery chapel having been cut in two) and some other places.
We got thus some qualified explanations of the freemasonry movement and I also read through a bit of documentation. I’m not a freemason and had everything to learn. Maybe some of you would be interested to learn a bit of what I have gathered?

The origin of the freemasons is rather unclear. There are different tendencies linking it to some very ancient traditions, but you may conclude that there are links to guilds (or lodges) of the Middle Ages and possibly also to the Knight Templars who were executed or fled to Scotland around 1300. The word “free mason” may be linked to “franc maçon” (masons, church builders, who were free of taxation). The freemasons pretended to be builders, not of churches, but of more moral issues.

The foundation of today’s masonry rules seems to have its origins from 1717 – in London – and the constitution rules were published by a Scotsman, James Anderson, in 1723. One of the (two?) still existing copies of this document was shown during our visit.
Freemasons have played significant roles in society during especially the 18th, 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, basically in favour of the Revolutions, in the separation of Church and State, against fascism...

There have been and are today different tendencies of freemasonry, of more traditional obedience (ancients or “antients”) or referring to a more “modern” version. There is a certain separation between the Anglo-Saxon / American lodges and the European ones (often referred to as “orients”). Some are more neutral, like the one I visited, “Grand Loge de France”.

Today most lodges pretend to be in favour of free thinking, are not religious or clearly political, just open to free discussion and personal development, interpreting their mason symbols....

There seem totally to be some 5 million adherents in the world, whereof some 2 millions in the US and some 150 thousand in France, the biggest one, “Grand Orient de France” having some 47 thousand, the “Grand Loge de France” some 28 thousand.

I found a list of famous freemasons, which include most US presidents, until Gerald Ford and also an impressive list of personalities like: Christopher Wren, Bartholdi (Statue of Liberty), Eiffel, Chagall, Mucha, Citroën, J-H Dunant (Red Cross), Churchill, Conan Doyle, Goethe, Kipling, Walter Scott, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, PG Woodhouse, Nelson, Wellington, Alexander Fleming (penicillin), Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, Schiller, Darwin, Allende, Bolivar, Garibaldi, King George VI, Napoleon, Franklin, La Fayette, Buffalo Bill (Cody), David Crocket, Henry Ford, Gilette, Hoover, DeMille, Al Johnson, Harpo Marx, John Wayne, Mark Twain, McArthur, Irving Berlin, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller, Jack Dempsey, Arnold Palmer...

48 comments:

GMG said...

I have some friends who are freemasons (I think, as it is a secret society...), but I've never visited the "Grand Oriente Lusitano"!

Claudia said...

The freemasonry fascinates me and I like its concept of the Great Architect. Wonderful research and photos, Peter.

Karen said...

Just the other day I watched a documentary on them. They say they are not a "secret" society, but they do have some secret rituals. I think my oldest son recently joined them.
Very informative post, Peter. Thank you.

Virginia said...

Peter,
My grandfather in Little Rock , Arkansas was a Mason. Is that the same thing? All I can remember is he said they had a secret handshake which he would pretend to show me. It changed every time and I soon caught on that I was NOT being let in on the secret Mason's handshake. I probably fell for it for years before I wised up. I'd be curious if it was the same group. Interesting post as always. You're our fountain of information, (Poseidon?) ! :)
V

Virginia said...

Actually I also came to check and see if Blogger had eaten your Followers. I see we've all been gobbled here as well. Maybe they'll figure it out. I certainly can't!
V

Wania said...

Hi, Peter

It’s very intersting your research.
I enjoyed the history and the pictures.

Congratulations,
Kisses

krystyna said...

In my country there is also movement of Freemasonry. This is an exclusive movement.
Good that you put Translator, to me it is useful.
Thanks for the beautiful post and beautiful pictures.

Have a wonderful day!

Thérèse said...

A very nice tour of what has been, is and will be probably...
Very interesting as always.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

For some reason I find the Masons a bunch of very mysterious people, who remain secretive and very well knit only among themselves......

Here in India too, there are many Freemason 'clubs; as they are popularly known, but they are viewed with an eye of suspicion!

Interesting pictures Sir! Thanks very much for the write-up too!

Lara said...

thanks for sharing this!

Olivier said...

ben il y avait moins de monde à mon exposition......je vais me plaindre à la mairie ;o))Je crois que j'aurais pas le courage de faire la queue comme ça

lyliane said...

Depuis ma visite en juin des châ teaux des templiers, j'ai lu 2 livres sur le sujet, la franc maçonnerie dériverait de ces temps là, mais c'est bien compliqué, ce n'est pas une secte secrète pour rien! en tous cas j'aurai bien aimé visiter cet endroit, merci pour tes explications.

hpy said...

J'avais un oncle qui était franc maçon. A son enterrement il y avait les enseignes de la loge, et un représentant s'était déplacé pour dire quelques mots. D'après le peu que j'ai entendu par et surtout sur lui, c'était qu'il aidait beaucoup les gens en détresse d'une manière ou d'une autre.

ALAIN said...

Merci frère Peter pour cette visite guidée. Ce que j'aime bien, c'est le roi barbu, avec son fouet, qui étouffe un lion.

Cergie said...

Mozart aussi dont la flûte enchantée fait des clins d'oeil à la loge maçonnique...
Il y en avait du monde par chez toi, plus que sur les Champs Elysées où j'étais...

Cergie said...

[Quand j'aurai emménagé dans mon appart de Belleville, tu me mettras en link sur le coté ?]
:)

Nathalie said...

La file d'attente montre que la franc-maçonnerie intrigue et fascine toujours autant de monde !

Faut-il ajouter le très discret Peter O. à la liste des franc-maçons célèbres ?

Merci pour ton commentaire sur ma nouvelle photo. On me voit mieux? Toi tu as fait l'inverse : une silhouette en ombre chinoise, tu restes très mystérieux!

Nathalie again said...

Pas eu le temps de commenter mais j'ai beaucoup aimé ton billet sur tout le travail d'animation fait autour de Victor Jacquemont, les saynètes de théatre, les danses indiennes.... c'est vraiment formidable de voir tous ces gens se mobiliser pour ça.

Tes photos sont vraiment intéressantes.

Nathalie toujours said...

PS - pour ma photo de raisin, je l'a posé sur un miroir, dehors. Le miroir reflétait le ciel... c'est aussi simple que ça.

Adam said...

I find it hard to imagine Oscar Wilde as a freemason!

I think it is curious to see that there seems to be a greater desire for openess from this organisation today, but finally what we see on the inside is that it is just another version of a gentlemen's club!

Interestingly enough, another 'grand loge', this time in the 9th arrondissement, was damaged by a fire on Sunday night!

Cezar and Léia said...

Very interesting! Nice to see that you enjoyed this visit after all stress to get in! :) Thanks for that dear Peter!
God bless you
Léia

Buffalo Bill said...

Nice post and pictures. There are one or two errors in it however. Only 14 US presidents have been members not most as you stated.
Most scholars who have researched Freemasonry's origins have concluded that the form we see today most likely sprang from the stone masons guilds of the middle ages. Much speculation as to more ancient connections have been debated almost from the time of the Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717.
Most people who view Freemasonry with 'suspicion' as one poster said, do so because they meet in private, not in secret. Many organizations hold meetings in private not just Freemasons.
In the end most find it hard to understand, but it comes down to this; yes we do hold a secret(s), but it is for each individual Mason to discover in his own heart. The archaic language, symbols and allegories used are from a time when men of deep thought found a place to meet and discuss ideas in a time when discussing those ideas could land you in prison or worse. So from todays perspective it seems strange but not so from the perspective of an 17th or 18th century "free thinker". In a time of religious persecution and absolute monarchs, not to mention the Church's complete hold over people it is no wonder that thinking men who discussed new secular ideas (scientific knowledge or natural law) and practiced an early form of democracy and had the absurd notion that men could meet as equals regardless of religion or station in life in a lodge, was considered seditious by many leaders and the Church.
We need more of this thinking not less.

Cheryl said...

I've always been curious about Freemasons - as I suppose many people are considering the long line you had to wait in! The interior of the building looks really interesting, I love the library! I want one just like it one day.

And, wow! feedback from an actual freemason, too!

Patrick Olson said...

You are now ready to understand the new Dan Brown's book...

Patrick Olson said...

Question for freemason if any reading:
Freemason are considered as free thinker.
Why it seems to be so difficult to get into a Loge?
Why in our moder time, some are still using some ancient and "frightening" rites to become a member?
Why, except some liberal "recent" Loges (for women and mixed starting in France), free thinkers are only men?

from cali said...

I too have been curious about freemasons. This post and the comments are very informative. I am so glad you were able to share these photos with us. Thank you!

claude said...

Ils ont un beau siège, les Freemasons. Je ne me suis jamais penchée sur le sujet de la freemasonry. Je devrais, peut-être....

arabesque said...

truth is, i've only heard of freemasons when i read da vinci code, though half-fiction, it gave you a partial idea as to what's it about, the explanation on this post was more detailed.
As secretive as they are, i guess you'll never know the truth till you've been convert to one. ^-^

delphinium said...

attention, mon commentaire va être très bête mais c'est parce que je suis en train de boire du champagne avec dame hpy sur mon blog et les petites bulles montent très vite au cerveau.

Je connais un franc-maçon. Il fait du beau boulot de maçonnerie et il ne raconte jamais de mensonges.

Ruth said...

From the photos I was thinking you had joined. :)

The list of freemasons is impressive. Even though I don't object or condone the group (I don't know enough, but thanks for the info here), I am happy to see some non-white men there toward the end. That surprised me.

hpy said...

Skål! On t'attend, ne tarde pas trop ou il n'y en aura plus pour toi.

Nisha said...

Never went in deep about them, so my knowledge is limited. :-)

Marie-Noyale said...

Always glad to ameliorate my poor knowledge,from your great work AND illustrations
and from the comments left by others too!
And you are right 1 hour wait is not much on that day, I've seen (but not wait...) 3 to 4 hours and may be more!!!

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

It was nice of you to visit my blog, Peter. I spend most of the time I have just returning visits, like this one, to those who visit my blogs. I have four or five of them on the go with emphasis upon large photos and hopefully, better writing. I still have the lung problems and that sometimes puts a damper on what I would prefer doing out of doors.

I did enjoy reading your post about
Free Masons around the world. My neighbor was one until he passed away some years back. We talked a lot of world events, religion and things that happened to interest both of us.

There was also a Dan Brown-like program on television recently related to the Templars and before that one about Free Masonary. I enjoyed them both though I liked the Templars best about their quest for the Holy Grail.

I understood that it is in Ethiopia and they admit it is there but ordinary mortals are not permitted to see it.

Thanks for helping me to make history.
Pick a Peck of Pixels

Peter said...

GMG:
Of course, our "guides" pretended that there not so many secrets, if any. I don't know. :-)

Claudia:
I was also curious to learn a bit more! :-)

Karen:
Of course he hasn't confirmed? :-)

Peter said...

Virginia:
I suppose he must have meant the freemasons. :-)

Wania:
Nice that I was not the only one who was interested! Kisses as well!

Krystyna:
The google translator makes a rather good job! Surprised! :-)

Peter said...

Thérèse:
Yess probably, but maybe less now than some 100 years ago. :-)

Rakesh:
I think you find them almost everywhere! :-)

Lara:
It was a pleasure! :-)

Peter said...

Olivier:
J'ai hésité quand j'ai vu la queue, mais il faisait beau et on a un peu bavardé... :-)

Lyliane:
Tout ça est un peu compliqué... mais intéressant! :-)

hpy:
Je ne connais personne dans ma famille ou entre mes amis, mais on ne peut pas être sur! :-)

Peter said...

Frère Alain:
Donc, tu fais partie? :-))

Cergie:
Mozart était dans ma liste; oui c'est bien connu! Il a même composé de la musique maçonnique (Die Mauerfreude, Maurerische Trauermusik...). "La Flute..." est plein de symboles maçonniques.

Cergie (bis):
Oui, tu as des bonnes chances! :-)

Peter said...

Nathalie:
Ni franc-maçon, ni célèbre! :-)

Nathalie bis:
Oui, nous avons des volontaires formidables dans le quartier! :-)

Nathalie ter:
Simple, mais il fallait avoir l'idée! Bravo! :-)

Peter said...

Adam:
Yes, I read that in the newspaper!

Léia:
I did not regret that I waited for a while; it was worth it! :-)

Buffalo Bill:
Happy that you, a freemason, didn't find too many errors! It was not easy to make a rather short text on this complicated matter!

I agree, 14 out of 44 doesn't make a majority, but still...! :-)

Cheryl:
Yes, it was nice to get some kind of confrimation that most of what I told was fairly correct! :-)

Peter said...

Patrick O:
So, I obviously have to read it! I guess I can borrow it from you? :-)

Patrick 0 bis:
The question was asked and we were told that women would be accepted in the lodge I visited, if 2/3 of the members voted for it. Maybe one day! I understand that the major female lodges don't accept men. :-)

From Cali:
I have a feeling that many of us learnt something! :-)

Peter said...

Claude:
Tu sais peut-être assez après avoir lu ce post? :-)

Ararbesque:
Maybe then we will have to live with just knowing a bit? :-)

Delphinium:
Toujours le mêmes... et j'arrive tard! :-)

Peter said...

Ruth:
I believe that the freemasons made a lot against slavery, at least some lodges. They may on many matters have been in advance on the evolution (although they still seem to be rather closed to mixed sexes in the lodges). :-)

hpy bis:
J'arrive! :-)

Nisha:
Hopefully you know a little bit more now then! :-)

Peter said...

Marie-Noyale:
The first one to learn something from my posts is Peter himself! :-)

Abraham:
Well, several places pretend to have the Holy Grail ... several Spanish churches, of course the Rosslyn Chapel...

The most striking is perhaps the theory that Jesus never died on the cross, wed Mary Magdalene ... and that she's the "grail", the "receptacle of Jesus' bloodline". :-)

Virginia said...

Peter,
LOTS of theories out there and how wonderful that we all have the opportunity to decide for ouselves what we believe. I too thought of Brown's book when you mentioned the Templars. Very interesting.
V

Peter said...

Virginia:
Yes, we must decide for ourselves, but to which extent are we influenced? :-)

karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking