Concise History of the French Regular Freemasonry

Written by Brother Laurent Jaunaux, Regular Grand Lodge of Belgium

Birth of French Freemasonry

franceThere is no certainty about the birth date of French Freemasonry. Two theories are raised with one common point : Freemasonry was brought to France from England.

The “official” history reports that English Gentlemen came to France and founded speculative lodges in the early 18thcentury. These lodges received French Gentlemen. Between May and July of 1728, all lodges grouped themselves under the auspices of the first French Masonic body : The English Grand Lodge of France. Its Grand Master was the Duke of Wharton, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London.

Another history reports that the first lodges in France had been imported from the United Kingdom by the Scottish and Irish guards of the Stuart Family, while they were in exile in St Germain en Laye. Among the Scottish Guard were Freemasons. They formed lodges and rumour has it that the very first French Lodge was founded in St Germain en Laye in the late 17th century.

The English Grand Lodge of France installed its first French Grand Master in 1738, the Duke of Antin.

During the 1750’s, the English Grand Lodge of France acquired complete autonomy and changed its name to the Grand Lodge of France.

 The First Crisis.

In the United Kingdom, Freemasonry was struck down by a quarrel opposing the Ancient and the Modern partisans. The Ancient wished to turn back to a very “operative” ritual and the Moderns wished to continue the way it was.

This quarrel also arrived in France, which divided the newly formed French Masonry. In 1773, a part of the Grand Lodge of France broke away and created its own Masonic body, the Grand Orient of France.

In fact, this crisis is the result of a fight between Parisian lodges and provincial ones. The provincial lodges reproached the Grand Lodge administration to be clearly oriented to Paris and to forget the other lodges.

Another grievance was about the ritual and the beginning of the higher degrees. The Parisian lodges used to practice another ritual called the “rite of perfection”.

In 1773, the Grand Orient of France was formally created. This event is very important for a good understanding of the French Freemasonry. 1773 is not only the date of the creation of two Grand Lodges ; it is the beginning of two directions in Freemasonry. The Grand Lodge of France was “Scottish” oriented, with the proliferation of higher degrees, and the Grand Orient of France choosing a “modern way”.

The Masonic relationships with the Grand Lodge of England were implicitly the same for both French Masonic bodies. In 1813 the Ancients and the Moderns Masonic bodies unified themselves in the “United Grand Lodge of England”. This new United Grand Lodge of England decided to establish fraternal relationships with the Grand Orient of France, the biggest French Masonic body at this time. We can understand the UGLE preferred to have good relationships with the Grand Orient of France because this Masonic body had lodges almost everywhere in France and it had much more members than the Grand Lodge of France.

Members of the Grand Orient of France and members of the Grand Lodge of France could visit each others lodges. Many times the two Masonic bodies wished to merge, but every time members of the two bodies refused to accept a merger.

The crisis around the Grand Architect of the Universe

In 1799, the Grand Lodge of France changed its name to the Scottish Grand Lodge of France. The Grand Lodge merged with the new formed “Supreme Council of France” in 1805.

In 1821, the Central Grand Lodge was created by the Supreme Council of France to manage the 3 first degrees of the AASR. The Supreme Council of France kept its management for the 4th to the 33rd degrees. It is the controlling power of the whole Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in France.

There was a second French Revolution in 1848. Secularism, Liberty and Hope were new ideas in the French People. It wished to return to a French Republic. A lot of Freemasons were partisans of these new ideas. The Grand Orient of France started to think about its Masonic constitution. The question was how, in a republic, people can have the religion of their choice if the Catholic religion is a state one ? The idea of secularism and free-thinking was slowly growing in the lodges of the Grand Orient of France until 1877.

To avoid the Central Grand Lodge being hit by the Secularism movement, the Supreme Council of France imposed in 1873 that all documents should begin with “To The Glory of The Grand Architect Of The Universe, under the name and the auspices of the Supreme Council of France, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Also, the Supreme Council of France and the Central Grand Lodge adopted the definition of the Lausanne Communication in 1875 about the Grand Architect of the Universe which says “The Grand Architect of the Universe is the Principle Creator of the Universe”.

Since 1875, the AASR in France follows this definition.

In 1877, the Grand Orient of France decided to suppress the invocation “To the Glory of the Grand Architect of the Universe” in its rituals.

For most of the Anglo-Saxon readers, this act can be seen as outrageous and “irregular” for a Masonic body. That is true in a country where secularism does not exists, where State and Religion are one. That was not true in the past in France when one knows French History. Tired of religious wars, tired of requesting “Church” authorization to govern the Country, the French people decided to separate Church and State. In agreement with French laws, the Grand Orient of France decided to follow the rules of its country, despite English pressure.

The United Grand Lodge of England decided to break its relationship with it because of “irregularity”.

In 1894, the Central Grand Lodge became fully independent of the Supreme Council of France. It changed its name and became the Grand Lodge of France, an independent Masonic body, managing the AASR blue lodges, continuing the Regular French Masonry.

Confusion, ignorance and misunderstanding

The system of the Rite has always been very important for French Freemasons. A new rite was growing at the end of the 19th Century : The “Rectified Scottish Rite”, a remnant of the “Strict Templar Observance”. Edouard de Ribaucourt and friends of him decided to re-build the “Centre des Amis” Lodge, practicing this rite, under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France. This Masonic rite is exclusively Christian. The Grand Orient of France was engaged in the way of secularism. The open Bible of this lodge was seen as a misunderstanding by the visitors from other Grand Orient of France Lodges.

With the help of the Duke of Connaught, Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England the “Centre des Amis” Lodge proclaimed itself as a new Grand Lodge : The Independent and Regular Grand Lodge for France and Colonies. This new Grand Lodge was automatically recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England, despite its creation by only one lodge. The “L’Anglaise” Lodge joined this new masonic body.

In 1955 the Grand Lodge of France adopted a declaration of principles which read :

  1. The Grand Lodge of France works to the Glory 0f The Grand Architect Of The Universe (1).
  2. In conformity with the traditions of the Order, three Great Lights are placed on the altar of the Lodges: the Square, the Compasses and a Volume of the Sacred Law (2). Masons take their Obligations on these three Lights
  3. The Grand Lodge of France proclaims its unfailing loyalty and total devotion to our Country.
  4. Neither the Grand Lodge of France nor its constituent Lodges shall meddle in matters of political or religious controversy. For the education of Brethren, it is permitted to present talks on these matters followed by exchanges of views. However, debates on such issues shall not be followed by a ballot or the adoption of resolutions liable to compel the opinions and feelings of certain Brethren (3).
  5. Concerning principles other than those defined above, the Grand Lodge of France refers to the Old Charges, especially with regard to the respect of the traditions of Freemasonry and to the scrupulous and strict practice of Ritual and Symbolism as means of access to the initiatic content of the Order.

Notes :

  1. At the Grand Lodge of France, the Great Architect Of The Universe is seen as a Principle Creator.
  2. At the Grand Lodge of France, the Volume of the Sacred Law is the Bible.
  3. See also in that regard, Art. 23 of the Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of France

This declaration of principles is always true. At this time, the Grand Lodge of France recognizes Prince Hall Masonry.

After the World War II, the “Independent and regular Grand Lodge for France and Colonies” changed its name to the French National Grand Lodge (GLNF). Members of the GLNF do not have the right to visit other French Masonic Bodies. The GLNF has always been seen as a French subsidiary of the United Grand Lodge of England.

In 1958, Pierre de Ribaucourt, Edouard de Ribaucourt’s son, 30 Grand Officers of the GLNF and the lodges “Les Philadelphes” and the famous “Le Centre des Amis”, created a new Grand Lodge : The “French National Grand Lodge – Opera”. The main objective of this new Grand Lodge was to re-establish fraternal relationships with the other French Masonic Bodies, and to create a regular and recognized Masonic body “where French is the main language”. To avoid confusion with the other GLNF, the GLNF-Opera- changed its name in 1982 to the “Traditional And Symbolical Grand Lodge” (GLTS or GLTSO). Few members of the GLTS decided to restore the Ancient rituals. They founded the “National French Lodge”, using the old motto “God is our Guide”.

In 1994, some regular masons of the French National Grand Lodges decided to found a Rectified Scottish Rite Grand Lodge, including a Great Priory. They founded the Rectified and Reformed Scottish Grand Lodge of Occitania, based on the 1782 masonic rule of the Scottish Lodges. They splitted the organization in 3 independant bodies : The Grand Lodge, for St John Lodges, the Directory for St Andrew Lodges and the Great Priory for the “Benevolent Knights of the Holy City”.

There has been lots of tensions in the GLNF end of 90’s. Some brothers, to escape some these ones, created the Regular Grand Lodge of France, with the exactly same GLNF rules.

Regular French Freemasonry Today…

The Traditional and Symbolical Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of France founded in 1999 the “Confederation of the United Grand Lodges of Europe”, with the hope of establishing fraternal relationships with all Regular Grand Lodges in Europe (Cf. The Plumbline, Vol. 8, Nr 2, Summer 2000, by Robert G. Davis, 33°). Treaty of amity and/or amity exists between most of these regular masonic bodies.

As evidence of its regularity, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and other US grand lodges (including PH Grand Lodges) have decided to re-recognize the Grand Lodge of France, despite the presence of the GLNF Grand Officers during US conferences. The GLNF attempts to obstruct GLDF recognition (Cf. “From the desk”, April 2001 issue, The Philalethe Society. See also the Paul M. Bessel’s website about French recognition by DC).

Conclusion

At least six French Masonic bodies are “regular” regarding the United Grand Lodge of England’s Landmarks. They are the Grand Lodge of France (GLDF – 1894), the National French Grand Lodges (GLNF – 1913), the Traditional and Symbolical Grand Lodge (GLTS – 1958), the French National Lodge (LNF – 1968), the Rectified and Reformed Scottish Grand Lodge of Occitania (1994) and the Regular Grand Lodge of France (2001) ).

With the advent of the Internet, all regular Masonic bodies are becoming known worldwide. French regularity has always existed and slowly, other regular Masonic bodies are recognizing them.

A “miracle” really happened in 1738.

Brother Irving Berlin:

1888 was a year filled with many historical firsts…

  • Washington Monument opens for public admittance
  • National Geographic magazine publishes for 1st time
  • George Eastman patents 1st roll-film camera and registers “Kodak”
  • Congress creates Department of Labor
  • Great Blizzard of 1888 leaves largest snowfall in New York City history (21″)
  • Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president

Other notable world events:

  • Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh cuts off his left ear
  • “Jack the Ripper” butchers 2 more women
  • Wilhelm II becomes emperor of Germany

Among these (in)famous headlines, a little known event also happened. On May 11, 1888 Irving Berlin was born Israel Baline in Eastern Russia, near the Siberian border in the Russian village of Tyumen. He was one of eight children born to Leah and Moses Baline. His father was Shochet – (shoykhet in Yiddish)one who kills kosher animals as prescribed by Jewish religious laws. He was also the cantor in their Ashkenazi Synagogue. His family moved to New York in 1893 to escape the pogroms in Russia. At the age of five, Israel (Izzy) Baline’s American success story began when he stepped onto Ellis Island in 1893, on his way to Gotham’s teeming Lower East Side, “the eyesore of New York and perhaps the filthiest place on the continent,” according to the New York Times of the era. However dirty and poor, this Jewish ghetto was incubating an American renaissance that would produce gangsters, legislators, merchants, professionals of all stripes— and Munn Lodge’s Very Own, Brother Irving Berlin: one of the most prolific songwriters in history and a man who would change the music business forever…

A Brief History of one of Munn Lodge’s Most Famous Members:

So many articles have been written about this very famous Freemason, I couldn’t even imagine scratching the surface of his accomplishments — in such a short article. However, I have learned so much (in doing the research for this article) there are many things I found were missing in other articles about Brother Berlin. I believe, to truly understand the character of this remarkable man, I feel it’s important to understand his environment. In a moment I will paint a picture of NYC at the turn of the 20th Century; I will then illustrate Irving Berlin through his own words and actions as a Man, a patriot, a father, a Freemason, and through some of his peers…

Everybody ought to have a Lower East Side in their life.                                               ~Irving Berlin

The East Side of Manhattan is where it all began for generations of immigrants from around the world. Originally, “Lower East Side” referred to the area alongside the East River from about theManhattan Bridge and Canal Street up to 14th Street, and roughly bounded on the west by Broadway. It also (then) included areas known today as East VillageAlphabet City and NoLIta.

 

Irving Berlins Lower East Side Songbook The character of this neighborhood began to evolve more than three hundred years ago, when extended families from around the world squeezed their hungry families into the tall tenement buildings that filled lower Manhattan. This area was formerly known as Corlaer’s Hook and was notorious for streetwalkers, who were dubbed hookers. There were several overlapping neighborhoods in East Side’s “Five Corners” district: Chinatown, Little Italy, Bowery, Germantown and Jewtown (mostly of Eastern European: Russiain, Polish & Ukrainian descent) – these were among the largest ethnic enclaves – between the Williamsburg & Manhattan Bridges.  In search of opportunity, turn-of-the-century newcomers quickly hit the streets selling their wares out of potato sacks slung over their shoulders, becoming the Lower East Side’s first business owners. Not stopping there, many successful business owners expanded their inventory and purchased pushcarts, and eventually storefronts, making the Lower East Side one of the busiest commercial districts in the world.As with their Italian counterparts, many Jewish gangs (dubbed:Kosher Nostra) – specializing in extortion – began operating in the heavily Jewish neighborhoods of New York’s Lower East Sidemost prominently the so-called Yiddish Black Handheaded by Jacob Levinsky, and later byMeyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.

 

Amidst all of this negativity the young Izzy (Irving Berlin) Baline steered clear of illegal activities and instead developed a quick whit, a strong work ethic, a talent for singing and an ear for music.

Talent is only the starting point… Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it!                                                                      ~Irving Berlin

During his youngest days, Israel lived a relatively wild and unsupervised life belonging to a gang and playing street games with his pals. Berlin’s family was too poor to provide piano lessons, let alone a piano; Berlin would remain musically illiterate. He took to the Streets of Jewtown on the Lower East Side of New York City to help support his family. To supplement the family’s meager income, Israel, more fluent in English than his parents and five older siblings, haggled with a nearby junk shop. “I used to go there selling bits and pieces of an old samovar that my mother had brought from Russia and kept under the bed,” he once recalled. “I’d get five and ten cents for the pieces and kept selling them until the entire samovar disappeared.”

As with many immigrant families, times were tough and even the kids had to pitch in and earn money. Berlin understood the value of hard-earned money from early on. Hawking papers as a “Newsie” on a downtown pier in 1901, a 13-year-old Israel had just sold his fifth copy of the New York Evening Journal when a loading crane swung into his path, knocking him into the East River. Fished out just in time, he was given artificial respiration and carted off to Gouverneur’s Hospital. An hour later, as the young newsie slept, a nurse pried open his clenched hand. In it: five copper coins. He remained tight-fisted for the rest of his 101 years.

In 1896, Moses died and 15yr old Israel ran away from home.

Young Israel was determined to find an easier way to make money. He began his show business career earning money for himself first as a street singer beginning as a companion to an unsavory singing beggar. Israel began singing too and hung around some popular cafés and restaurants in the Bowery.

He Joined Munn Lodge in 1910 at the age of 22.

In the early 1900s Berlin found worked as a singing waiter in many restaurants including Pastors Music Hall (The birthplace of Vaudeville) and the Pelham Café — this is also where he began writing songs. According to Parlorsongs.com: “[He] became quite popular entertaining customers with parodies of current popular songs. Baline became well known and even was mentioned in the papers thus becoming better known. Two waiters at a rival café had written an Italian song and had it published. Not to be outdone, Pelham asked their pianist, “Nick” Nicholson to write a song and tapped Baline to write lyrics. The two wrote Marie Of Sunny Italy (MIDI, Lyrics) and Berlin introduced the song himself and often sung it while at work. The song was quite popular with the clientèle and when Stern picked it up to publish, a printer’s error on the cover gave him the name, Irving Berlin. Not one to tempt fate, the newly named Berlin stuck with the name for the rest of his life. Berlin made a total of 37¢ in royalties from the song.”

There’s No Business Like Show Business……no business, I know!                                                        ~Irving Berlin


I'll See You In CUBA      

 

Irving Berlin went on to write more than 3000 songs, 19 musicals and the scores of 18 movies. He once wrote:

A fiddler can speak with his fiddle, A singer can speak with his voice, An actor can speak — With his tongue in his cheek, but a songwriter has no choice…  Whatever his rights or his wrongs, he can only speak through his songs.

This was his theme. As mentioned above, his first published hit was “Marie From Sunny Italy.” His successes continued through the years. Some of his songs that have become classics include “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Easter Parade,” and “White Christmas.” He was the top money maker among songwriters in America.

In 1924, fellow songwriter Jerome Kern said “Irving Berlin has no place in American music. He is American music.”

Irving Berlin’s 1920 song I’ll See You in C-U-B-A, pictured here above. This song is one that responds directly to Prohibition. Click the QuickTime Control (below)to hear the song…

He was equally at home writing for Broadway and Hollywood. He wrote 17 complete scores for Broadway musicals and revues, and contributed material to six more. Among the shows featuring all-Berlin scores were The Coconuts, As Thousands Cheer, Louisiana Purchase, Miss Liberty, Mr. President, Call Me Madam, and the phenomenally successful Annie Get Your Gun.

Among the Hollywood musical classics with scores by Bro. Irving Berlin are Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, On the Avenue, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Holiday Inn, This ls the Army, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, White Christmas, and There’s No Business Like Show Business. His songs have provided memorable moments in dozens of other films, from The Jazz
Singer (1927) to Home Alone (1991). Among his many awards were a Your Newsletter special Tony Award (1963) and the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year for “White Christmas” in 1942.

Never hate a song that has sold more than a half a million copies.
~Irving Berlin

An intuitive businessman, Bro. Irving Berlin was a co-founder of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), founder of his own music publishing company, and, with producer Sam Harris, built his own Broadway theater, The Music Box.

Click to enlargeIn 1918, this (30yr old) Munn Lodge Brother made history when he scribbled a most beautiful series of simple words onto a piece of paper — while at boot camp in Long Island, NY. The song was God Bless America and he became immensely wealthy from it. It wasn’t until 20 years later – on Nov 10, 1938 those famous words were sung live on the radio by the #1 songstress in the nation – Kate Smith to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I (later to become Veteran’s Day).

The lyrics were inserted into the Congressional Record, and there was even a movement to make the song our national anthem.

Although it was recorded by Bing Crosby, Barry Wood, Gene Autry, and Horace Heidt’s orchestra at the time, it was destined to be associated with Kate Smith forever, giving her a certain immortality, as well as a guaranteed standing ovation at all of her concerts. [Hear Kate’s Version]

A patriotic song is an emotion and you must not embarrass an audience with it, or they will hate your guts…”                              ~Irving Berlin

In 1940, in true Masonic spirit, Irving Berlin established the God Bless America Foundation, with all royalties from its performance earned by either Berlin or Miss Smith going to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. To date, Tens of Millions of Dollars have gone to these children via this foundation.     

Brother Irving Berlin, the Free & Accepted Mason, received the first of his Three Degrees of Freemasonry in Munn Lodge, New York City on May 12, May 26 and June 3, 1910, becoming a life member of the Lodge on December 12, 1935. Berlin received the 32° Scottish Rite (Northern Masonic Jurisdiction) on December 23, 1910 and was also initiated as a Shriner into Mecca Shrine Temple on January 30, 1911, becoming a life member of the Shrine in December 1936. 

 

You’re not sick, brother, you’re just in love.
~Irving Berlin

Berlin was married twice. His first wife, singer Dorothy Goetz, sister of songwriter E. Ray Goetz, contracted pneumonia and typhoid fever on their honeymoon to Cuba, and died five months after their wedding in 1912 at the age of twenty. Her death inspired Berlin’s song “When I Lost You”, which became one of his earliest hits. Curiously, a year before Dorothy Berlin’s death, Irving Berlin, E. Ray Goetz, and Ted Snyder co-wrote a song called “There’s a Girl in Havana”.

His second wife was Ellin Mackay, a devout Irish-American Catholic and heiress to the Comstock Lode mining fortune, as well as an avant-garde writer who had been published in The New Yorker. They were married in 1926, against the wishes of both his family, who objected to religious intermarriage, and her father, Clarence Mackay, a prominent Roman Catholic layman, who disinherited her.

Without a dispensation from the Church, the two were joined in a civil ceremony on January 4, 1926, and were immediately snubbed by society: Ellin was immediately dis-invited from the wedding of her friend Consuelo Vanderbilt, although Vanderbilt was not a Catholic. Finances were not a problem, however: Berlin assigned her the rights to his song “Always” which yielded her a huge and steady income.

The couple had three daughters—Mary Ellin Barrett (oldest daughter, was born on November 25, 1926.), Linda Emmett, and Elizabeth Peters — and a son, Irving Berlin, Jr., who died as an infant on Christmas Day. Irving and Ellin remained married for the rest of their lives.

 

After you get everything you want,
you find you don’t want everything.               ~Irving Berlin

 

As a Freemason, Berlin supported many charities and organizations and is responsible for generating hundreds of millions of dollars to worthwhile causes. For this ha had received many honors, accolades, and awards. In 1944, he was honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for “advancing the aims of the conference to eliminate religious and racial conflict.” His actions were also acknowledged with such accolades as the Army’s Medal of Merit from President and Bro. Harry Truman, in 1945, also a Congressional Gold Medal for “God Bless America”. Five years later, he was honored by the New York YMHA as one of “12 outstanding Americans of the Jewish faith.” On February 18, 1955, President Eisenhower presented him with a gold medal in recognition of his services in composing many patriotic songs for the country. Earlier, Berlin assigned the copyright for “God Bless America” to the God Bless America Fund, which has raised many millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Berlin’s World War I dough-boy uniform and many of his original patriotic scores are on display in the Jewish War Veterans Museum in Washington, D.C. He also received the Freedom Medal from President and Bro. Gerald Ford in 1977.

The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success. ~Irving Berlin

During the Vietnam Era, Berlin proposed a new verse for his famous song:

 


        

    God bless America,
    Land I enjoy,
    No discussions with Russians
    Till they stop sending arms to Hanoi. . . .
    God bless America
    When skies are dark,
    God bless America,
    My Noah’s ark.
Berlin often said: “There are really only six tunes in the world.” But from those six tunes he fashioned, according to his catalog, thousands of songs – and nobody knows how many more he may have stored somewhere.When someone admired one of his melodies, Mr. Berlin was quick to say: ”I like it, too. I’ve used it lots of times.” — Marilyn BergerFollowing a gala 100th birthday celebration concert at Carnegie Hall (which Berlin did not attend but gave his blessing), Morton Gould, president of ASCAP, said that “Irving Berlin’s music will last not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but for always.”      

As per the New York Times, Berlin’s earning capacity seems remarkably undiminished from the time of his unimaginable fame. The 2004 annual Forbes.com list of the rich and deceased claims that Berlin’s works earned $7 million from ASCAP — 15 years after his death (tying two others among the departed, Johnny Cash and George Harrison).

Not bad for a poor immigrant who had only two years of formal schooling and who never learned to read or write music!

In a NY Times interview (published: May 15, 1988) on Irving Berlin’s 100th Birthday a reporter asked another famous musician — What makes an Irving Berlin song special?
What makes an Irving Berlin song special? The answer is quite simple: Irving Berlin! And that’s ”not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but always.” In a world where many make sausages, Irving made beauty. ‘ ~ Frank Sinatra
Israel Baline ~ One of Munn Lodge’s Most Famous Brothers…

I got lost but look what I found!
~Irving Berlin

Bro. Irving Berlin died in his sleep an immensely wealthy man on September 22, 1989, at the epic age of 101. He was survived by his 3000 songs, 17 Broadway Musicals, 3 daughters, 9 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren and 1 incredible story.

In his Obituary in the New York Times, many of his peers commented about his long and illustrious career. Songwriter Sammy Cahn once said Mr. Berlin: If a man, in a lifetime of 50 years, can point to six songs that are immediately identifiable, he has achieved something. Irving Berlin can sing 60 that are immediately identifiable. Somebody once said you couldn’t have a holiday without his permission.

Born penniless, steering clear of the many potholes in the “Streets of New York”, joining Munn Lodge and going on to become one of the most notable Freemasons of the 20th century: Brother Irving Berlin is a shining example of “A Good Man Made Better”. His body of work, legacy and Masonic benevolence will imortalize him. He is one of the reasons I joined this Lodge. I can only pray that following in his footsteps, walking the same halls, following the same rituals & sitting in the same seats as this most famous brother – a man whom I wish I could have gotten to know personally – will help to shape my own future. Maybe this article will persuade another young Brother to do the same…

“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”
~Irving Berlin
 

 

SOURCES: In-line references and links are made for Wikipedia.Com and New York Magazine (NyMag.com), CityJournal.ORG – , Also, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame – Jewish Museum in Cyberspace, and Irving Berlin’s Obituary in The New York Times


First Published on MunnLodge.ORG — for Irving Berlin’s Masonic Mother Lodge

Myths, Misconceptions and Conspiracy Theories surrounding Freemasonry

As a Freemason I have often been asked some strange questions such as Do you have to ride a goat when you join the Lodge?  Or That’s the same as the Orange Order isn’t it?  Which really highlights the number of myths or misconceptions surrounding the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry.

If you search for information on the Internet about Freemasonry, many of the top sites are anti-Masonic in nature, Masons are accused of dominating world governments or arranging the assassination of non-Masonic leaders, Freemasonry traditionally advises its members to keep silent when faced with those who, through ignorance, know nothing about it.  The trouble is, when you don’t answer them, the unbalanced minds never get a proper view of the truth and the multitude of conflicting information leaves the bystander confused.

In my blog I will explore some of the more common myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories told about the Craft over the years.

Why is the Craft so Misunderstood?

The answer to that is for hundred of years the members of Freemason lodges themselves misunderstood what was meant by Masonic Secrecy. Technically the ‘Secrets’ that Mason’s are forbidden to discuss with people outside the craft are the Signs, Tokens and Words of the order traditionally these are the methods the Masons use to identify one another.

Unfortunately generations of Masons have taken their obligation of secrecy to mean that they couldn’t discuss the fraternity outside the Masonic Hall at all. 

This leads to the problem that with no information coming from Masons, it’s all too easy for people to fill the holes with incorrect information or just plain lies, particularly if they are eager to sell book’s, DVD’s or gather subscribers to their paranoid web sites.  Like a game of Chinese Whispers these lies get compounded as they are repeated.

From the time of the Middle Ages, the goat has been the symbol of the Devil and stories were told of witches who came riding into town on a goat to take part in their blasphemous activities, later as Freemasonry gained in popularity its detractors took the opportunity to accuse them of witchcraft and associate them with the riding of the goat.

masongoatcard

It did not help that some of the early Masonic ritual books referred to God as ‘God of All Things’ and abbreviated it as G.O.A.T. That was quickly changed, and God is now referred to by the acronym G.A.O.T.U. which means Great Architect of the Universe.

And of course many Masons seized the opportunity to tease non members and new initiates, with humourous tales of Goats at Lodge Meetings.

 

 

masonic-bibleMasons have been accused of using their own Satanic bible in their ceremonies, this stems from a custom of many lodges to present a Master Mason with a commemorative Bible upon completing the 3rd Degree Ceremony.  This bible is usually the 1611 translation of the King James version and has additional pages to record the Master Mason’s raising date and has spaces for the Lodge Officers to sign.  Copies of the bibles sometimes find their way on to eBay and other auction sites.

Freemasonry is open to all men with a belief in a Supreme Beings so it is perfectly natural for more than one holy book to be open depending on the beliefs on the members of the lodge.  The combined name for these books is the Volume of the Sacred Law or VSL.

dollar_bill_great_sealAnother myth is that the ‘All Seeing Eye on top of the unfinished pyramid’ design on the $1 bill is related to Freemasonry. In reality the bill was initially designed by a committee of four men, only one of whom was a Freemason, Benjamin Franklin.  The eye was suggested by the artist Pierre du Simitiere. 

The design was modified by two other committees before being approved the unfinished pyramid was added at the time and none of these final designers were Freemasons.

 

Through the Renaissance period the eye within the triangle was used as a non denominational representation of God.  There is nothing sinister or occult about it.

Another area which is ripe for misconception and myth is Freemasonry relationship with organised religion, a lodge meeting is not an act of worship, a Lodge is not a church and Freemasonry is not a religion.  Mason’s use prayers to open and close their meetings but so do many Parliaments and Congress’ throughout the world.  Freemasons take oaths on the Volume of Sacred Law but so do Judges, and military personnel even police officers and boy scouts.

The misconception is that Masonic Meetings are some sort of bizarre, secret worship service, offered up to a Pagan god, a goat or to Satan himself. This ridiculous notion is alleged to stem from the trials of the Knights Templar in the early 1300’s ce when they were tortured and force to confess to the worship of Baphomet and these false confessions have been trotted out every since by those that want to believe the salacious and unbelievable.

The Freemasons and World Takeover

There are a huge amount of Conspiracy theories linked to the Ancient and Accepted Rites of Freemasonry.  Most of these theories claim that Freemasonry exerts control over politics at all levels. Perhaps the best-known example is the New World Order theory, but there are others. These mainly involve aspects and agencies of the United States government, but actual events are used to lend credence to claims.

Freemasons are forbidden to discuss politics in the Lodge, which makes it particularly hard to plot a world takeover plan and with over a million men in nearly every country in the world in the Craft, how would it be kept a secret?.  So all in all if the Freemasons were planning to take over the world we are really not very good at it.

Regular Freemasonry does not now, nor has it ever aspired to be a world-dominating empire.  Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that simply seeks to improve men so that they may, in turn, improve society around them.  It makes good men better.  But it does not tell them how to do it, nor does it give them political, commercial or religious instructions.

Some of the conspiracy theories involving Freemasonry are:

  • That Freemasonry is a Zionist front for world domination. An example of this is the notorious and fraudulent document The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
  • That Freemasonry is controlled by the Illuminati, which refers to a purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy power controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations.
  • That the Victorian Serial Killer Jack the Ripper was a Freemason whose murders resembled Masonic initiation rituals.
  • That the September 11 attacks were part of a hidden war between Masonry (as descendants of the Crusader Knights Templar) and Islam.
  • That Freemasons intertwine various symbols and numerology into modern culture, such as corporate logos.
  • That the KKK, Skull and Bones, Orange Order and other organizations are intimately tied to Freemasonry.
  • That Freemasons were behind faked Apollo moon landings
  • That Freemasons were behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Diana, Princess of Wales and even ex-Beatle John Lennon.
  • The sinking of the Titanic was planned and carried out by Freemasons.
  • The Freemasons were behind The French, American and Russian Revolutions.

In the past European Kings and Religious leaders distrusted Freemasonry because it encouraged freedom of thought, of religion and expression exactly the kind of thing they did not want their subjects to have.

Robert Cooper, the Curator of the library of the Grand Lodge of Scotland has this to say on the subject of conspiracies surround Freemasonry

I strongly suspect it’s our fault. People asked us questions and we didn’t answer because it wasn’t their business. That is no longer sustainable but you can see the problems it’s caused. Because we didn’t respond 100 years ago to these allegations there has been 100 years of belief that we’re hiding something, no matter how open we are now.