The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
By: Roger Dachez and Alain Bauer
It is natural that Freemasons are influenced in their view of Freemasonry – what it is, what it does, what it represents – by membership of their own lodge, their own province and their own constitution. For many Masons Freemasonry is only their own lodge and perhaps the few other lodges in the area which they might visit. They are unaware and uninterested in anything beyond this. They think that what is done in their lodges is what is done everywhere and that the kind of people in their lodge are representative of Freemasons everywhere. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Thus, in this year when Freemasonry celebrates 300 years it should be noted that Freemasonry around the world can be very different. The Square has already shown this in a number of articles. This book represents Freemasonic history in France. The Craft started there very quickly after 1717 and many of the innovations, degrees and customs were imported from France thereafter. English Freemasonry quickly became establishment and indeed sought to attract senior members of the establishment and aristocracy. What this book reveals is that French Freemasonry was very different. Essentially in the two areas anathema to English Masons – politics and religion – the French Masons have been actively involved and further have seen Freemasonry as a necessary vehicle to achieve political and religious aims. For example, the largest French Grand Lodge does not require a belief in a supreme being and there are at least four other Grand Lodges with varying religious inclinations. The hiccup a few years ago with UGLE recognition of the GLNF was centred on the Grand Master’s involvement and commitment to certain politicians. Thus, the authors of this book argue that we should not speak of Freemasonry but of Freemasonries in the plural. Freemasonry is unique to each country – indeed to each Grand Lodge. However, the French have always prided themselves on their Masonic scholarship. Masonic writers in France are philosophers as well as historians. Alain Bauer is a professor of criminology in Paris and past GM of the Grand Orient. Roger Dachez is Secretary General of the Masonic Institute of France. Both are regular speakers at conferences and indeed have been reported in the Square at such as the Paris conferences. The French see philosophical debate and overt action as fundamental to the purpose of Freemasonry – just see the vast range of books available to French Masons. This book charts the history and development of French Freemasonry from its beginnings and thus will provide a markedly different view to what English Masons will hear from UGLE and the recognized Grand Lodges elsewhere. The chapters indicate this with titles such as ‘Freemasonry and Religion’, ‘Freemasonry and Society’, ‘Masonic Humanism’, ‘Secular Spirituality’.
The foreword is by Paul Rich, an American Mason and scholar who has edited his own book for the 300th on Getting the third degree – Fraternalism, Freemasonry and History. The contributors to that book are also well known Masonic writers both in the UK and Europe. This is an interesting read which may come as a surprise to many English readers. It is clear and well written and well worth getting a copy.