MASONIC DISCUSSION PAGE
Irregular and Clandestine Lodges.
As the Worshipful Master is enjoined not to admit visitors without proof of their having been initiated in a regular lodge, so he is required to admit that no countenance should be given to any irregular lodge or to any person clandestinely initiated therein, being contrary to the Ancient Charges of the Order.
The new Master Mason may well wonder if irregular or clandestine lodges still exist. The answer is that they most certainly do. Wherever the genuine properly chartered lodge exists anywhere in the world, the non-recognized or spurious lodge may also exist.
Even recognized, legitimate Grand Lodges may, because of some violation of the requisites, have recognition withdrawn. Examples might be the removal of the Holy Writings or engaging in political activity. In this event, no visitation is possible either by our members or their until the violation is remedied and recognition resumed.
Likewise, a new Grand Lodge may be formed in territory formerly open. Only after investigation of its legitimacy can the Grand Lodge be recognized, and visitation of its constituent lodges begin. An example of this arose when in Japan, lodges, chartered by the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, were the founding lodges of the Grand Lodge of Japan. A number of servicemen, raised in these lodges, found themselves unable to visit California lodges during the interval between the formation of the Grand Lodge of Japan and its recognition by our Grand Lodge. Now both the Grand Lodge of California and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines accord full recognition to the Grand Lodge of Japan.
The Master Mason contemplating a trip to foreign shores and anxious to visit legitimate lodges while avoiding the irregular, may ask where the information is kept of these regular lodges around the world.
The solution of the problem lies in the publication furnished every California lodge. Entitled “List of Regular Lodges Masonic”, it is issued by the Grand Lodge of California to its constituent lodges, with the admonition that this book is to be kept in each lodge for reference in receiving visitors and on applications for affiliation. There may well be an old copy which you can use, for it is re-issued every year. A check of this book before a trip to another country, or even another state, may prevent the embarrassment of wrongful visitations.
Clandestine Masonry takes many forms, from outright fraud to well meaning imitation of our ceremonies. So called “Co-Masonry” even admits women and is said to have elevated more than one to “Mater”. All of these are spurious and counterfeit. No trace can be found in truth of any assertions of legitimate descent form our Ancient Brethren. So, may prudence teach us to avoid this strange and mixed company lest the secrets of Freemasonry be unlawfully obtained.
As indicated above, recognition alone removes the bar against the visitation of an irregular lodge. It is a Masonic offense of the most serious nature to fraternize with or visit a clandestine lodge. Loss of one’s membership is too great a price to pay for a glimpse of what at best is still illegal and at worst a travesty on our ancient ceremonies.
Raoul L. Mattei, 33°, Past Sovereign Grand Commander
The Supreme Council for France
La Mouniade, 945, chemin du Cercle
06570, Saint Paul, France
The history of the Scottish Rite in France has been characterized by a constant struggle to stick to its creed and comply with the fundamental requirements of Masonic regularity.
The original Supreme Council for France was established in October 1804 by Ill. Comte Alexandre de Grasse-Tilly, 33°, then an active member of the Jurisdiction which exists today at the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A. Two months later, the French Supreme Council entered into a "concordat" agreement with the main Masonic Body in that country, the Grand Orient of France. But the practices of the Grand Orient led the Supreme Council for France formally to break this "concordat" on September 6, 1805.
In the absence of a regular Grand Lodge, the Supreme Council for France then hosted the Symbolic Lodges practicing Scottish Rite rituals under its direct authority. This situation lasted until November 7, 1894, when a congress of these said Symbolic Lodges created, with the agreement of the Supreme Council, an independent Body later renamed Grande Loge de France.
Seventy years later, on September 17, 1964, the Grande Loge de France approved the conclusion of a Treaty of Alliance with the irregular Grand Orient of France. On the next day, the Supreme Council (renamed earlier Supreme Council of France) unanimously voted to rupture with the Grande Loge de France, from which approximately 1,300 Brothers resigned. Their ambition was then to constitute in France a new regular Grand Lodge, but Sovereign Grand Commander Riandey knew that it would not be possible. The United Grand Lodge of England recognized only a single Grand Lodge in each country and supported, since 1913, a Body then constituted and named today Grande Loge Nationale Francaise.
Consequently, Gr. Cmdr. Riandey established preliminary contacts with the Grand Master of this regular Grand Lodge, M.W. Ernest Van Hecke, in order to integrate the loyal Scottish Rite Brothers in the said Body. The majority of the Active Members of the Supreme Council for France disapproved this initiative of their Grand Commander. On December 18, 1964, they carried a motion of censure against him. As Gr. Cmdr. Riandey persistently refused to resign, the Supreme Council of France deposed him, as well as two other Grand Officers, on January 11, 1965, and elected new officers. On January 21, 1965, the Supreme Council for France formally rescinded its previous Decree of rupture with the henceforth unrecognized Grande Loge de France.
On January 14, 1965, Ill. Luther A. Smith, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction, had advised the regular Supreme Councils of the World that a schism had developed in the affairs of the French Jurisdiction. On February 23, 1965, Gr. Cmdr. Smith, 33°, arranged a meeting in his office with Sovereign Grand Commanders R. Coulton Berkinshaw, 33°, of Canada; George E. Bushnell, 33°, of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. of the Scottish Rite; Charles Riandey, 33°, of France, and the Grand Master of the regular Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, M.W. Ernest Van Hecke. Three other distinguished Brothers assisted the participants.
The Supreme Council for France being considered hopelessly irregular, the three Grand Commanders of North America agreed to support Grand Commander Riandey in re-establishing a regular Jurisdiction for France. It could not possibly remain in the premises of the irregular one. The Grande Loge Nationale Francaise could not help, its membership being expected to drop under 1,000 after the foreseeable departure of all U.S. Military Lodges as a consequence of President Charles de Gaulle's impending decision to withdraw France from NATO. To allow the new Supreme Council for France to purchase an appropriate building in Paris, the Grand Commanders of the Southern and Northern Jurisdictions, U.S.A., and of Canada then agreed to make a joint donation of $5.00 for each dollar given by the French Scottish Rite Brothers. However, due to some misunderstandings, this most generous proposal was reconsidered during the ensuing months.
Finally, on December 7, 1965, Gr. Cmdr. Luther Smith, 33°, sent Gr. Cmdr. Riandey, 33°, a first check of $20,000 ($9,600 on behalf of the Southern Jurisdiction, $9,600 on behalf of the Northern Jurisdiction, and $800 on behalf of the Supreme Council of Canada). On October 18, 1966, Gr. Cmdr. Luther Smith, 33°, sent Gr. Cmdr. Charles Riandey, 33°, a second $20,000 check on behalf of the same Jurisdictions, with no mention of their respective participation. The contributions of the Jurisdictions of North America thus amounted to a total of $40,000 representing approximately 25% of the price and taxes paid for the purchase of the house of the new Supreme Council for France in Paris at 128 Avenue de Villiers. Contributions or loans of French Scottish Rite Brothers covered the balance, the fitting up of offices and of three small Temples.
The U.S. Supreme Councils were also of great help to Gr. Cmdr. Riandey in other respects. Their support was a determining factor in sustaining the Scottish Rite and regular Masonry in France. Ten years later, both had gained in importance and reputation, and they were in a sound financial situation.
Europe's political and economic institutions had by then begun to take shape, opening new prospects to many activities. This evolution inspired hazy views to some Masonic leaders favorable to some kind of reorganization of the Order at European continental level. To reinforce their personal influence, some ambitious individuals shook the pillars of the Temple. They overlooked some fundamental rules or enforced new ones, ventured into a policy of intensive blind recruitment, took inconsiderate positions at international levels, and neutralized or expelled the traditional Freemasons opposed to their ill-fated initiatives. This led to severe disappointments and to a number of lamentable affairs that could not be kept quiet very long. Several of these are nowadays repeatedly commented on by French television, radio broadcasts, newspapers, and magazines. Thus, the fundamental aims of Freemasonry, its practices, and the ideals of the Scottish Rite are publicly questioned.
This difficult and unfortunate history demonstrates that the defense of the integrity and regularity of the Order is an ongoing duty and an imperative requirement for the survival of traditional Freemasonry and of the Scottish Rite.
|Raoul L. Mattei|
is a senior Emeritus Member of Honour of the Southern Jurisdiction, Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council for France, and a Life Member of the Scottish Rite Research Society. He is the author of several books and articles related mainly to the history of the Scottish Rite in France.