The following questions were found on a Twitter post which began “I am really disappointed to see some FM [Freemasons?] proclaiming themselves ‘enemies of religions.’” Then:
“Que de Dualisme et de radicalite, aurait-on perdu tout sens de la nuance – What Dualism and radicalism, would one have lost all sense of nuance?”
“La franc-maconnerie n’est-elle pas lá pour rassembler plutot que diverser – Isn’t Freemasonry here to bring together rather than to divide?”
As usual with me, this requires an explanation and my apologies if it’s a little long, but as I am currently researching why Roman Catholics forbid their members to join Freemasonry, I felt the need to address this, until, that is, I closely examined the first question, which I am not certain I fully understand, so I am going to suggest alternative words or phrases to ‘dualism,’ ‘radicalism’ and ‘nuance’ as each can have a few contrasting meanings and even when substituted it is still hard for me to understand exactly what the Tweeter of this question actually had in mind. So first let’s examine each word:
- Dualism, in religion: the doctrine that the world (or reality) consists of two basic, opposed, and irreducible principles that account for all that exists. It has played an important role in the history of thought and of religion. (Britannica)
- Radicalism: the belief that there should be great or extreme social or political change. (Cambridge Dictionary)
- Nuance: A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation. Or Expression or appreciation of subtle shades of meaning, feeling, or tone. (Free Dictionary)
So, being a simple Englishman, I have chosen an alternative way of phrasing this question:
“What two fundamental opposites and extreme views, would one have lost all sense of refinement.” (I’m not sure why the comma is there, but I left it in anyway.)
So, with the above definition in mind, I still have no real idea of the basis of the question, so I will use two possible meanings from my Editor in chief, whose language and linguistic skills far exceed this humble retired engineer. They are:
- Why does Freemasonry have a problem with religions, why do they try to disperse religions?
Now this I understand. Perhaps, though, dualism here means religion or none, either way my Editor’s choice will be used.
To begin with, as the questions were in French they probably reflect French Freemasonry, where, in the regular world of Freemasonry, the Grande Oriente of France and any Grand Lodges in amity with it, are deemed irregular; this is because in their history they abandoned two of our basic rules. The first was that all Freemasons must believe in a Supreme being, the second that politics and religion are forbidden topics in a regular Lodge.
So here lies the problem, discussion of religion, not allowed! Let’s have a short history lesson,,,,
Before non stonemasons were accepted into a society of stonemasons, be it a guild, company or just a group, or “lodge” of stonemasons, all these craftsmen were Roman Catholics and followed closely the sacraments and doctrines as laid down by their Church. Then came the Reformation, so most (definitely not all) British stonemasons were taken from the Roman Catholic faith and placed into the faith of, for example, the Church of England or Scotland. These Protestant Churches followed the Catholic model, unlike the Lutherans and Calvinists (among others). Then came the “Age of Enlightenment,” the age when the likes of John Locke (1632-1704), known as the father of philosophy began to question some of the beliefs of the Christians (being the main religion of Europe); Voltaire (1694-1778) closely followed Locke’s views a century later. Voltaire was a Deist, a believer in God but not one that enters human existence, i.e Deism refers to what can be called natural religion, the acceptance of a certain body of religious knowledge that is inborn in every person or that can be acquired by the use of reason and the rejection of religious knowledge when it is acquired through either revelation or the teaching of any church. This naturally upset the clergy, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, who firmly believed that their “revealed knowledge” was God’s Word, and that was that. Roman Catholic leaders apparently believe that Freemasonry is a Deist religion; it is not, but it is why Voltaire was allowed to join. As he believed in a Supreme Being; God.
As an example of “bringing people together,” England’s first known non stonemasons to be made a Freemasons (there are earlier records in Scotland) was a gentleman called Elias Ashmole, he was made a Freemason in 1646 along with his wife’s uncle, Colonel Henry Mainwaring. They supported opposing sides in the English Civil War between mainly Purist Protestant parliamentarians, Elias supported this side, and Royalists who supported King Charles I, Col Henry supported the king. Although Charles I was a Protestant (his father was James I of England (James VI of Scotland), a Catholic) and in 1625, the year he became king, Charles I married Henrietta Maria, also a Roman Catholic. I have no knowledge of the religion of either Elias nor Henry, but this civil war was fought because the Purists believed that Charles I was attempting to restore Catholicism into the English Monarchy.
In Freemasonry, even before it had “officially” begun, opposing views were accepted. One reason why religion and politics are forbidden is that discussing such would surely disrupt the harmony of the Lodge. But how does this relate to our questions. The second one is obviously answered by the above, Freemasonry certainly brings people together rather than divide, remembering that the two basic discussions that divide people, religion and politics, are kept outside the Lodge. But what about that religious sounding first question, along with that disappointment in the lead in?
We’ll now move the clock on a short time and to France. Voltaire, who was blamed for many things, was a brilliant writer and satirist, he did, however, have a tendency to mock the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, remembering that France was basically run at this time (mid 18th century) by the Roman Catholic Church (their Prime Minister was Cardinal Fleury). As stated above, Voltaire was actually a Freemason, hence perhaps, one of the Catholic Church’s multitude of mistaken reasons to blame Freemasonry for everything later on, but not possibly one that banned Catholics from becoming Freemasons by the Pope Clement XII’s papal encyclical of 1738; this was in the middle of Voltaire’s life but before Voltaire was made a Freemason. That was on April 7 1778, some 40 years after Clement XII’s papal encyclical, and he died a few weeks later on May 30 1778, not very long to have had much influence on Freemasonry, an certainly none in 1738, so many anti-Masonic Catholic writers in later years made an inaccurate connection.
Now we reach the Mid 19th century, and the Risorgimento (Italian Unification) was concluding (1870). Freemasonry was blamed for this, along with the French Revolution some 80 years earlier, and after Voltaire’s death too. During the intervening years the Roman Church also believed that the Bavarian Illuminati and the Carbonari were Masonic, but in truth, although each tried to infiltrate Freemasonry, both basically failed. Even Mazzini’s Young Italy, the secret society that plotted the Risorgimento, was linked to Freemasonry in Italy. In the 1860’s and 1870’s there was much debate in Freemasons’ Lodges of France and Belgium (there are no debates in a regular Freemasons’ Lodges) about God’s existence and much hatred of the Roman Catholic Church was expressed in these meetings, that is according to Felix Dupanloup, the Bishop of Orleans (and others). This, he claims, was published in Freemason Magazines of the time, and further “truth” that Freemasonry was trying to overthrow Christianity. The Bavarian Illuminati certainly was, the Carbonari just wanted a united Italy, the centre states being under the Pope’s jurisdiction, but regular Freemasonry was not involved in any way, shape or form.
Meanwhile, back in Britain, its colonies and the USA, Freemasonry remained as it was originally conceived, no political of religious discussion, the belief in a Supreme Being remaining paramount, and by now the admittance of all men (and women later) of any monotheistic faith, hence regular Freemasons refer to God in a manner that is meant to be accepted by any faith, and offend none. Apparently the Roman Catholic Church at that time frowned upon their faithful mixing with other faiths, but Freemasonry loves to bring this diversity together.
Back in France, assuming that Bishop Dupanloup is correct, the arguments raged, but the Official line that belief in God is paramount remained in place. Until, that is, 1877 when the Grande Oriente de France capitulated and allowed non believers into French Freemasonry. Originally French Freemasonry had followed strictly the three degrees that make up regular Freemasonry but had moved to accept a very small number from the many pseudo Rites and Rituals that had abounded many years earlier. After removing the need for members to believe in God, the Grande Oriente de France was deemed irregular and amity was severed by the main and regular Freemasons across the world.
So the long winded, and I hope interesting, answer to both questions. Regular Freemasonry brings together men (and women) of any monotheistic faith, hence allowing a divers membership, not just with respect to religion, but also from all walks of life, a truly showing a great amount of diversity and unity. Whilst in the same context, in French Freemasonry atheists and others are also welcomed into the mix.
With respect to Freemasonry having problems with religion, the French Freemasons believe in a membership which doesn’t demand a belief in God, hence they have truly ostracised themselves from the Roman Catholic Church. On top of this, the Roman Catholic Church also believe that Freemasonry wants to dominate the world as a “religion of Reason.” In every context, regular Freemasonry, which is definitely not a religion, has no problems with any religion and is certainly not “an enemy of religion,” but the Roman Catholic Church definitely has an issue with Freemasonry, although this is unwarranted with respect to regular Freemasonry.
This story, over the hundreds of years it has raged, is far more complex than covered here, hence a book is in progress called “The Freemasons Did It,” but it’s likely to be a while yet in preparing.
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPDepGReg, former Chaplain, now provider of musical accompaniment for Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986. This does not represent the view of any Lodge, Grand/Provincial Grand or otherwise.
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