mercredi 7 avril 2010


Is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around five million, including just under two million in the United States and around 480,000 in England, Scotland and Ireland. The various forms all share moral and metaphysical ideals, which include, in most cases, a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being.

The fraternity is administratively organised into Grand Lodges or sometimes orients, each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. Grand Lodges recognise each other through a process of landmarks and regularity. There are also appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.

Freemasonry uses the metaphors of operative stonemasons' tools and implements, against the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon's Temple, to convey what has been described by both Masons and critics as "a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.


The origins of freemasonry are shrouded in colourful myths passed down by generations of masons. Some masons traced their beginnings back to the building of Solomon's temple in biblical times. Others dated their order back to the Templar, the knightly crusading order of the twelfth century. But most historians now see eighteenth-century freemasonry as evolving out of English and Scottish stonemason guilds of the seventeenth century. Master stonemasons were highly skilled craftsmen whose trade demanded considerable technical knowledge in engineering and architecture. Taking pride in their craft, they had developed over the centuries a rich repository of legends and rituals highlighting their history as the builders of palaces and churches. In the seventeenth century their myths and ceremonies began to attract the attention of individuals outside the guild, including those with philosophical and scientific interests who saw masonry as a fount of ancient wisdom. By the early eighteenth century Masonic organizations had begun to lose their identity as occupational associations and had evolved into fraternal lodges devoted to charitable activity and the provision of fellowship and mutual aid to their members. As such, the rise of freemasonry was symptomatic of the more general proliferation of clubs, reading societies, salons, and other institutions of sociability that occurred throughout Europe in the age of Enlightenment. Those from the middling ranks of society, especially merchants, comprised a large segment of British freemasons, although members also included aristocrats and even royalty(at the end of the eighteenth century almost all male members of the royal family were members). By 1725 London lodges, which in 1717 had confederated themselves into the Grand Lodge of London, numbered thirty-seven, and by 1780 England as a whole boasted almost four hundred.


The early development of Freemasonry are a matter of some debate and conjecture. A poem known as the "Regius Manuscript" has been dated to approximately 1390 and is the oldest known Masonic text.There is evidence to suggest that there were Masonic lodges in existence in Scotland as early as the late sixteenth century (for example the Lodge at Kilwinning, Scotland, has records that date to the late 1500s, and is mentioned in the Second Schaw Statutes (1599) which specified that "ye warden of ye lug of Kilwynning [...] tak tryall of ye airt of memorie and science yrof, of everie fellowe of craft and everie prenteiss according to ayr of yr vocations"). There are clear references to the existence of lodges in England by the mid-seventeenth century.

The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England (GLE), was founded on 24 June 1717, when four existing London Lodges met for a joint dinner. This rapidly expanded into a regulatory body, which most English Lodges joined. However, a few lodges resented some of the modernisations that GLE endorsed, such as the creation of the Third Degree, and formed a rival Grand Lodge on 17 July 1751, which they called the "Antient Grand Lodge of England". The two competing Grand Lodges vied for supremacy – the "Moderns" (GLE) and the "Antients" (or "Ancients") – until they united on 25 November 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).

The Grand Lodge of Ireland and The Grand Lodge of Scotland were formed in 1725 and 1736 respectively. Freemasonry was exported to the British Colonies in North America by the 1730s – with both the "Antients" and the "Moderns" (as well as the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland) chartering offspring, or "daughter", Lodges, and organising various Provincial Grand Lodges. After the American Revolution, independent U.S. Grand Lodges formed themselves within each State. Some thought was briefly given to organising an over-arching "Grand Lodge of the United States", with George Washington (who was a member of a Virginian lodge) as the first Grand Master, but the idea was short-lived. The various State Grand Lodges did not wish to diminish their own authority by agreeing to such a body.

Although there are no real differences in the Freemasonry practiced by lodges chartered by the Antients or the Moderns, the remnants of this division can still be seen in the names of most Lodges, F.& A.M. being Free and Accepted Masons and A.F.& A.M. being Antient Free and Accepted Masons.

The oldest jurisdiction on the continent of Europe, the Grand Orient de France (GOdF), was founded in 1728. However, most English-speaking jurisdictions cut formal relations with the GOdF around 1877 – when the GOdF removed the requirement that its members have a belief in a Deity, thereby accepting atheists. The Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) is currently the only French Grand Lodge that is in regular amity with the UGLE and its many concordant jurisdictions worldwide.

Due to the above history, Freemasonry is often said to consist of two branches not in mutual regular amity:

  • The UGLE and concordant tradition of jurisdictions (mostly termed Grand Lodges) in amity, and
  • The GOdF, European Continental, tradition of jurisdictions (often termed Grand Orients) in amity.

In most Latin countries, the GOdF-style of European Continental Freemasonry predominates, although in most of these Latin countries there are also Grand Lodges that are in regular amity with the UGLE and the worldwide community of Grand Lodges that share regular "fraternal relations" with the UGLE. The rest of the world, accounting for the bulk of Freemasonry, tends to follow more closely to the UGLE style, although minor variations exist.


Were originally skilled workers in stone who, in the Middle Ages, travelled from site to site and developed a set of secret signs and passwords for private identification. Later they ceased to have much resemblance to craft guilds and became prosperous social clubs, which claimed to do much charitable work. Lodges were better organized, with regular meetings after 1691, and admitted broader social ranks; the first grand lodge was founded in 1717. The movement prospered, with many lodges owning their own premises, and in 1802 they established themselves as a national organization. Largely because of their secrecy, freemasons attracted much criticism, particularly from the Roman catholic church, which believed freemasonry to be a cover for free-thinking; others suspected secret political influence or accused members of promoting each other's interest by stealth.


With a social base that was urban, mercantile, and hence geographically mobile, freemasonry spread quickly to the Continent. A Parisian lodge was in existence by 1725, and on the eve of the French Revolution there were an estimated 600 lodges in the monarchy as a whole. In 1770 Paris alone had some 10,000 freemasons, and in 1789 France's masonic population ranged between 50,000 and 100,000. In the Dutch Republic lodges were established in The Hague and in Amsterdam in the 1730s, and in Germany some 450 lodges were founded between 1737 and 1789. Freemasonry took root somewhat later in Austria, where the devoutly Catholic Maria Theresa (ruled 1740–1780) was hostile to the order after the papacy formally condemned it (1738) on the grounds of its alleged deism. But her son and successor, Joseph II (ruled 1780–1790), himself joined a lodge and encouraged the movement during the early, liberal years of his reign. By 1784 there were sixty-six lodges in the monarchy, although Joseph's successor, the archconservative Francis II, outlawed freemasonry in 1794 as a subversive Jacobin import. The spread of freemasonry was also belated elsewhere on the European periphery. Madrid's first lodge was founded relatively early (1728) by an exiled English Jacobite, but opposition by the church curbed the growth of Spanish freemasonry until the enlightened reign of Charles III (ruled 1759–1788). Russia's first lodges were founded by and for foreigners, but under Catherine the Great (ruled 1762–1796) freemasonry for a brief time became fashionable among enlightened circles at the University of Moscow. But by the 1790s Catherine, like her Austrian counterpart, had begun to suppress freemasonry as politically subversive.

The Masonic Worldview

The Freemasons instituted an initiatory degree system by which members were step-by-step brought into the inner working of the lodge. Initially there were three degrees, but these could never satisfy the true Gnostics. Various elaborate systems of degrees were developed to picture the levels leading from this world to God and to symbolize the journey of the knowing soul back home. The most famous, due to its success and longevity, was the 30° system placed upon the original three degrees that emerged as the 33° system of the Ancient and Accepted Rite, the system operative in the United Grand Lodge. This system became integral to the dominant American masonic body, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and its teachings as illustrated in the writings of Albert Pike, its dominant intellectual leader.

As speculative masonry emerged, it espoused the idea that masonry was a restatement of the ancient religion of human-kind. At one time, the masons suggested, there were two religions, one for the educated and enlightened and one for the masses. The one religion of the enlightened became the base upon which the various historic faiths emerged. Through the centuries, however, adepts (masters) kept the original teachings intact, and they were eventually passed in their purity to the masonic leadership. In the modern age, due to the evolution of the race, more people are now capable of receiving and safely handling that secret wisdom that is now being disseminated by the masonic lodges. That secret wisdom came from the ancient East and Middle East, and both Eastern religions (especially Hinduism) and Western mystical systems such as Kabalism assist the process of describing it.

The ancient wisdom myth of Freemasonry found an origin in the Bible, a significantly more acceptable source to a Christian establishment than Arabia and the Muslim countries of Rosicrucianism. In 1 Kings 7:13-45, the masons found the story of Hiram. Hiram was employed by King Solomon to work on the temple in Jerusalem. After his work, he disappeared from both the pages of the Bible and from history. Freemasons, however, developed his biography that included a murder by his artisan colleagues. Hiram, in working on the temple, became aware of the "Word of God" inscribed in the secret parts of the temple. He would not reveal what he had learned and his non-collegial reticence cost him his life. His death then became integral to the ritual initiation of members who symbolically die and are reborn into the craft.

The masonic worldview begins with three fundamental realities. First, there is a omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle that is ineffable, beyond any limiting descriptors of human language, the end-point of all metaphysical speculation, the rootless root and the uncaused cause. Natural law is a representation of the permanency of the absolute. Second, there exists what we term space in the abstract. Space is a symbol of divinity as it is basic to all experience; it is fathomless but at the same time integral to all human concepts. Third, there exists motion, another abstract notion, representing unconditioned consciousness that manifests as spirit and matter. Spirit and matter are two facets of the absolute.

The universe is seen as a boundless plane, a playground upon which numerous universes come and go. There is an eternal flex in which new universes begin to develop and are absorbed back into the boundless space out of which they were formed. Creation of a universe begins as space becomes turgid and produces a first or potential matter called the akasa. Operating on this matter is absolute abstract motion, latent potential energy, consciousness, and cosmic ideation.

Thus at the beginning is the universal energy (fofat) and the universal substance (akasa) behind which stands consciousness and ultimately the absolute. As creation proceeds, it will occur in steps of seven. Seven plans of creation will be formed from the purely spiritual to physical substance. These seven planes of existence are reflected throughout the universe. Each human also possesses these seven levels. The seven levels are: atma, buddhi, manas, kama, astral, life principle, and physical. The operations of these seven planes in the universe and in the individual provide much room for speculative elaboration and would later provide material upon which Theosophy would build.

Masonic Lodges

A Lodge (often termed a Private Lodge or Constituent Lodge in Masonic constitutions) is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. Every new Lodge must have a Warrant or Charter issued by a Grand Lodge, authorising it to meet and work. Except for the very few "time immemorial" Lodges pre-dating the formation of a Grand Lodge, masons who meet as a Lodge without displaying this document (for example, in prisoner-of-war camps) are deemed "Clandestine" and irregular.

A Lodge must hold regular meetings at a fixed place and published dates. It will elect, initiate and promote its members and officers; it will build up and manage its property and assets, including its minutes and records; and it may own, occupy or share its premises. Like any organisation, it will have formal business to manage its meetings and proceedings, annual general meetings and committees, charity funds, correspondence and reports, membership and subscriptions, accounts and tax returns, special events and catering, and so forth. The balance of activities is individual to each Lodge, and under their common constitutions and forms of procedure, Lodges evolve very distinctive traditions.

A man can only be initiated, or made a Mason, in a Lodge, of which he may often remain a subscribing member for life. A Master Mason can generally visit any Lodge meeting under any jurisdiction in amity with his own, and as well as the formal meeting, a Lodge may well offer hospitality. A visitor should first check the regularity of that Lodge, and must be able to satisfy that Lodge of his own regularity; and he may be refused admission if adjudged likely to disrupt the harmony of the Lodge. If he wishes to visit the same Lodge repeatedly, he may be expected to join it and pay a subscription.

Most Lodges consist of Freemasons living or working within a given town or neighbourhood. Other Lodges are composed of Masons with a particular shared interest, profession or background. Shared schools, universities, military units, Masonic appointments or degrees, arts, professions and hobbies have all been the qualifications for such Lodges. In some Lodges, the foundation and name may now be only of historic interest, as over time the membership evolves beyond that envisaged by its "founding brethren"; in others, the membership remains exclusive.

There are also specialists Lodges of Research, with membership drawn from Master Masons only, with interests in Masonic Research (of history, philosophy, etc.). Lodges of Research are fully warranted but, generally, do not initiate new candidates. Lodges of Instruction in UGLE may be warranted by any ordinary Lodge for the learning and rehearsal of Masonic Ritual.

Freemasons correctly meet as a Lodge, not in a Lodge, the word "Lodge" referring more to the people assembled than the place of assembly. However, in common usage, Masonic premises are often referred to as "Lodges". Masonic buildings are also sometimes called "Temples" ("of Philosophy and the Arts"). In many countries, Masonic Centre or Hall has replaced Temple to avoid arousing prejudice and suspicion. Several different Lodges, as well as other Masonic or non-Masonic organisations, often use the same premises at different times.

According to Masonic tradition, medieval European stonemasons would meet, eat, and shelter outside working hours in a Lodge on the southern side of a building site, where the sun warms the stones during the day. The social Festive Board (or Social Board) part of the meeting is thus sometimes called the South. Early Lodges often met in a tavern or any other convenient fixed place with a private room.