The word “Freemason” and its derivatives do not belong to anyone in particular, therefore they can be used by anyone, and they are. To this end the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has added a clarification to the existing description of the various types of groups that use the name of Freemasonry. The original terms are: “regular,” which describes Grand Lodges and their respective Lodges that follow the ancient principles and tenets of 17th/18th century Freemasonry, and are in amity with UGLE (or the Grand Lodges of Scotland or Ireland); “irregular” are those that have removed from these ancient tenets and principles the need to believe in God (now that’s optional) and may have a political agenda, these are in amity with the Grande Oriente de France; ‘clandestine’ describes a Lodge operating outside the governance of a regular or irregular Grand Lodge, The additional classification is “pseudo,” to include Grand Lodges and are Grand Lodges and their subsequent Lodges that do not follow any of these ancient tenets and principles of Freemasonry, although many profess or believe that they do. At least four of these are in Lebanon, many are in the USA (and in parts of Europe and the rest of world).
Whilst this article will focus on the ritualistic aims and history of pure regular Freemasonry as practised by UGLE, it is not intended to imply that, apart from belief in God being an option and the acceptance of political ideals of irregular Freemasons, their system, origin and aims are dissimilar to that of Regular Freemasons. However, The Grand Orient of France prides itself in being “rich in the diversity of Rites” which are the French Rite, the Old and Accepted Scottish Rite, the Rectified Scottish Rite and the Rite of Memphis-Misrain, the latter having been originally banned but apparently resurrected. Regular Freemasonry has only three degree, more on this later.
To conclude the above regular/irregular debate, both groups follow the original ritual of the first three degrees, that is Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft (Companion in the French Rite) and Master Mason. The French Rite of irregular Freemasonry continues (it is believed) with another four degrees and the other rites mentioned, whilst a regular Grand Lodge governs only the first three, with further degrees being governed by two other regular Grand/Supreme Lodge/Chapter. Appendant/concordant degrees that regular Freemasons associate themselves with are also separately governed by Grand/Supreme bodies (example the Scottish Rite), but these do not form part of pure Freemasonry per se.
Regular and irregular Freemasons prize integrity, honour and respect, along with Brotherly love, relief (charity) and truth as the central theme. The main intention of both regular and irregular Freemasonry is to guide members to be better members of society, help not just our own brothers but all charitable needs, but “without detriment to ourselves and connections” and to respect the religious and political views of others but, in regular Freemasonry, to refrain from political and religious discussions within the Lodge as this may lead to disharmony.
The above is a brief outline of regular and irregular Freemasonry, which is similar in many ways, different in others. However, clandestine/pseudo Lodges/Grand Lodges do not necessarily follow this path; some have chosen to create their own path, some have tried to follow and simply gone astray, some may identify themselves with a specific religion. Some may even be hiding illegality or simply they are sales or insurance entity. The whole point of our regulated system is to ensure any such illegality, sales, insurance, financial gain is totally eliminated, even down to one brother assisting another in promotion or financial benefit of any kind; Freemasonry is not a business networking society, such pursuits are strictly forbidden. Freemasonry does not associate itself with any religion whatsoever, nor is there any worship involved in Freemasonry, as stated above, for regular Freemasonry, only the belief in God is paramount. Finally, there is a protocol wherein no two regular Grand Lodges are allowed to set up in the same territory.
Whilst there are many clandestine/pseudo Grand lodges worldwide, a few are situated in the Middle East, and at least four, with Internet presence, are in Lebanon. Al-Khabar has chosen to research these but there is no intention to imply any wrong doing in any way at all, results of this research have been derived from their respective web sites entirely and comparison to Masonic facts. Those researched are:
- The Grand Orient of Canaan: https://grandorientdecanaan.com
- The Grand Orient of Lebanon (Grand Orient du Liban) – no active website (under maintenance – see here: http://www.grandorientduliban.org) but has a Facebook page
- The Grand Lodge of the Three Stars: http://grandlodgeofthreestars.com/index.html
- The National Phoenician Grand Lodge of Lebanon and the Middle East: https://glnp.webs.com
The National Phoenician Grand Lodge of Lebanon is affiliated to a group of Grand Lodges, mostly in the USA that contain the word “Regular” in their title, e.g. the Regular Grand Lodge of Virginia, but are by no means in amity with any regular Grand Lodge as described above and the “real” Grand Lodge, A. F & A. M., of Virginia is the regular Grand Lodge in the State of Virginia which is in amity with UGLE. Therefore it can be concluded that this pseudo Phoenician Grand Lodge falls well into the definition of a pseudo Grand lodge.
The Grand Lodge of the Three Stars states that this Grand Lodge was “born” in 1967 under the auspices of the Grand Orient of Lebanon and was recognised by them in 1969. There is also reference to the Grand Lodge of Canaan (but spelt Kanaan) on their web page stating that it was one of the principle founders of this Grand Lodge (Kanaan or Canaan?) in 1979. Although no dates are apparent on the Canaan pages, the Grand Lodge of Canaan states its presence as being over 40 years, which coincides with the above. Therefore, can it be assumed that these three Grand Lodges are connected?
Refreshingly, none of these pseudo Grand Lodges are hiding there presence clandestinely (at least not on their web pages, only they know what they actually do in their meetings). Referring to the web pages of the Grand Lodge of Canaan, which has the most content and openness, there are many articles that do not match Masonic history. In Freemasonry there are two historical paths that can be followed, that of historical hard facts relating to Medieval Stonemasonry and that of Masonic legend leading to our rituals. Unfortunately, many, even in the world of regular Freemasonry, mix these two up, assuming the mythical/legendary as factual. There is even a belief that the Knights Templars were Freemasons and there is a well known ritual based upon this. Whilst it is true that the Templars may have built castles in Medieval times, when Templars existed, Freemasonry didn’t. However, the word Free Mason may have been around at the time of the Templars (14th century) but it would have referred to carving in lime or sand stone, which was often referred to as “free stone,” as it was a softer stone to work with. So the term free mason referred to an expert craftsman who sculptured the ornamental parts of the building design. The term free mason may also be derived from the fact that stone masons were free men (which they were) but it is definitely not derived from “not having to pay a fee” as the Grand Lodge of Canaan’s web site states. This is Canaan’s version of the derivation of the term free mason, that which follows is the currently accepted Masonic historical fact and legend compared to extracts on the Canaan web pages.
The first group are taken from an entry on the site of the Grand Lodge of Canaan called “Getting to know Freemasonry,” find it here: https://grandorientdecanaan.com/about-freemasonry/know-masonry/. In Item 4, “Recognition and Regularity,” these are a few extracts:
“Masons recognise each other as brothers and must help and assist, even at the cost of their life.”
No Freemason would be expected “to assist at the cost of his life.” It is true that in an obligation we state: that my feet will travel through danger and difficulty to unite with his to form a column of mutual defence and support, but this is an explanation of a point of fellowship, it is not meant to be taken literally. The same Masonic piece concludes with “so far as can fairly be done without detriment to myself or connections,,,”
Item 4 also states that to be regular a Lodge must:
“meet together in one place, entry is restricted to masons, men free and of good character, working a traditional ritual inspired by Biblical texts relating to the construction of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and figures who took part.”
Regular Freemasonry is described above.
Another example is the term “time immemorial” and is often quoted by Freemasons, but this phrase refers to the mythological/legendary history and was especially used by the second Grand Lodge of England (1751) when referring to the Royal Arch degree as a means of establishing that the newly created degree (around 1740) was genuinely historical, it does not elude to the formation of the first Grand Lodge of London, formed in 1717 as stated by the Grand Lodge of Canaan:
“Be there from time immemorial, that is to say, since before 1717 or have been created by a patent from a Regular Grand Lodge.”
Canaan also writes:
“In the year 557 AD the Masonic priest Austin came to England to preach Christianity in these parts of the country, he headed the Masonic party and worked with them to spread their teachings so that the Assembly will be flourished in England.”
The name of St Austin originates from the Regius manuscript and it thought actually to refer to St Augustine. Another was St Alban, which is more readily used in Masonic legend, and according to the Historian Bede, Alban served in the Roman army and was converted to Christianity by a renegade priest. Hiding the priest from the Roman army, they exchanged clothes and Alban was taken in place of the priest, and later martyred, becoming the first Christian Martyr in England; the year was around the 3rd or 4th Century, not 557. The Canaan story comes from the Cooke Manuscript which includes the passage:
“And soon after that came Saint Adhabell into England, and converted Saint Alban to Christianity. And Saint Alban loved well masons, and he gave them first their charges and manners first in England.”
This passage in the Cooke Manuscript is also historically inaccurate.
This last referenced entry, regarding Britain, is from the article “Freemasonry published religious principles and morals:” https://grandorientdecanaan.com/about-freemasonry/freemasonry-published-religious-principles-and-moral/ and it states, among many other inaccuracies:
“As year 925 Ad comes every city in England had a Freemasons school. ,,,,,Also Addon had a big degree in the freemason because he had gathered all the left papers in what concern the freemason and he gathered all the Venerable Master from all over the world to reunite them under one jurisdiction. ,,,,,This conference gathered in year 926 AD. under the chairmanship of Addon and wrote a list based on what was their Masonic papers. York City became the center of the world English Freemason free and reference lodges in general.”
Above are just a few extracts from the same entry, the whole Canaan article can be read via the above link. Many readers may be aware that there are various ancient manuscripts from which the above stories are referenced, the historical data in them is inaccurate. Adden (above) might refer to the son of Awleston (according to Canaan) the grandson of King Alfred the Great. The grandson of Alfred was Athelstan (Awleston?), who became King in 925. King Athelstan never married and had no children. However, Athelstan is mentioned partly in the Regius (Halliwell) Manuscript, and the son myth is from the Cooke Manuscript. It is from the Regius manuscript, and later the Cooke Manuscript (a copy of Regius with variations and additions) that depicted the “Old Charges” relating to stonemasons, perhaps the is the list referred to – “wrote a list.” The Regius Manuscript (poem), dated circa 1390, was thought to be a copy of three other writings and compiled by a priest, as it references a reading in the Gospel. The Cooke Manuscript, dated circa 1450, is where the story of St Alban originates. The importance of these manuscripts is that they are believed to be the first version of the “Old Charges” and formed the mythical and legendary, plus Biblical, history of Freemasonry as written in the Anderson Constitutions of 1723, one begins with Adam, the other Noah. Finally, the wording “ to reunite them under one jurisdiction” may refer to the fact that King Athelstan united England into one nation, but that has absolutely nothing at all to do with Freemasonry.
It is easy to see why non historians are mislead by mythical and legendary tales regarding Freemasonry, as its entire history is veiled in mysteries such as the above, but the truth, which is equally as interesting, it that Freemasonry mixes together the “charters (Old Charges)” of the stonemasons companies, the first of which was formed in the 14th century London. The Masons Company, whose first record of regulation is dated 1356, and was formed to regulate the craft of stonemasonry. The subsequent formation of the stonemasons guilds was in major cities only, as the majority of stone masons were like nomads, they travelled, often in groups, from site to site in search of work. Freemasonry see this a the reason why the word ‘Lodge” refers to a body of people and not a fixed place, although it is also believed that places of lodgings were also the meeting place, workshop and potential ‘church.’ The “secrets’ (certain words and signs) are a mixture of a method to “know each other by” and of the degrees, or level of attainment, these craftsmen had achieved as they were mostly illiterate and paper certification was a thing of the future.
As stated earlier, it cannot be known what occurs inside a pseudo or clandestine Lodge, which is why they are frowned upon by regular and irregular Freemasonry. Regular and irregular Freemasons use the Grand Lodge system to govern and police the activities of their Lodges. It is never understood why such clandestine/pseudo Freemasonry exists, especially in Lebanon it is also the home of three regular District Grand Lodges (the District Grand Lodge of Lebanon (under Scotland): https://dgll.org ), the District Grand Lodge of Syria-Lebanon (New York State, USA: https://nymasons.org/site/districts-lodges/district-grand-lodge-syria-lebanon/) and two Lodges under the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, USA: https://www.dcmasonryinlebanon.org)
These are regular Lodges in amity with UGLE. Although some pseudo Masons state they follow regular Masonry and its history is often quoted on their sites, perhaps in the belief that they will be deemed as regular Freemasons by potential members, but choose not to join regular or irregular bodies of Freemasonry and remain independent. If they did join then they would become a trusted Masonic body with worldwide affiliation.
It was noted above that appendant or concordant bodies of Freemasonry exist, one such example referenced was the Scottish Rite. Also mentioned above is the belief in a connection with Knights Templars, hence there are Knights Templar Degrees. In England this Chivalric degree, or series of degrees, is governed by the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons and to join you must be a Master Mason, also a Mark Master Mason and also a Christian; there is a similar Christian requirement for the York (or American) Rite’s Chivalric Degrees in the USA and, as in England, to join in any of these Chivalric Degrees of the York Rite appendant/concordant degrees, you must also first be a Master Mason.
Noting that it is first a requirement within regular Freemasonry to express a belief in a Supreme Being, God, but no specific religion is called for, just any monotheistic religion, this question of which religion is never asked except in connection of the Volume of the Sacred Law, which will be the sacred book pertaining to a candidates particular religion. It is not a requirement to be a Christian, or of any other religion, to be a Freemason or belong to any degrees other than those stated above.
As a thought, as far as Al-Khabar’s research team understands, the creation of a new set of modern appendant or concordant degrees, or Rite, perhaps based on a specific religious perspective, has not yet been tested as acceptable, so any regular Freemasons may wish to pursue this area, but as stated, just a thought.
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986. They do not represent the view Neptune 5150 or of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved