José Filardo, P.´.M.´.
Freemasonry in Brazil took its first steps in the early nineteenth century, when brothers throughout the fabric of society practiced the Adonhiramite Rite, or the rite of the twelve degrees. As we saw in https://bibliot3ca.wordpress.com/quadro-historico-da-maconaria-no-rio-de-janeiro-1822/, “…five Masons of those dispersed formed a lodge and started, with inviolable secrecy to initiate people who enjoyed credit, were educated and well mannered. This first lodge … was called União (and later Reunião). ”
After the Peace of Amiens (1802), the Brazilians masons were in contact with French military Masons who recognized the lodge on behalf of the Grande Oriente of l’Ile de France, and delivered to the Brazilian masons the statutes and Rituals of the French or Modern Rite.
At the same time, a delegate of the Grand Orient Lusitano (of Portugal, but also with a French pedigree, since it had been founded by the troops of Junot), failing to force the Lodge União (at this time under the name of Reunião) to join the Grand Orient Lusitano, founded two other lodges.
We see here that the Portuguese Establishment realized the importance of Freemasonry and intended to subdue the newborn manifestation within their frames.
The dispute dragged on for several years until it was interrupted by the intervention of the Crown, which suspended the Masonic works by order of the Count of Arcos, a situation that would last until 1821. During this period, Freemasonry did not disappeared completely, the proof is in a lodge – São João de Bragança – working inside the royal palace, integrated by important members of the Brazilian aristocracy. There is no accurate information about this lodge, but everything suggests that it orked under the auspices of the Grand Orient Lusitano, as the “Brazilian citizens” of the time were actually Portuguese subjects transplanted to Brazil, and who did not tend to be nativists.
During this period, however, the colony had developed, and a portion of the population realized the negative role played by the Metropolis, and theimpact of this role on their profits. This discontent led to a longing for freedom that has been captured by the “intelligentsia” of that society, a progressive group that integrated the Masonic lodges, given the convenience offered by secrecy and the ability to mobilize forces of the nascent Creole Freemasonry. And this new institution was born under the auspices of the French lights and focused on the participation in the civil society, as an engine of changes that adopted internally the French Rite.
Of course, within this enlightened layer of the population, there were different political tendencies. Men like Gonçalves Ledo, far ahead of his time, were already Republicans; on the other hand, men like the Andradas brothers were reactionary and conservative, and established a “parallel Freemasonry” that they called the Apostolate, where they revealed the dark side to their personalities.
However, it was not all roses in paradise. The Andradas, conservatives, succeeded on October 29, 1822 in causing the Emperor (who had been co-opted by Freemasonry and elected its Grand Master) to decree the suspension of the nascent Grand Orient, and even when he decided to authorize the reopening, the Andradas interfered and maintained the prohibition, and began persecuting the more liberal members of the Grand Orient Brasílico which remained closed until 1831.
1832 was an important year. The Emperor D. Pedro was forced, the year before, to return to Portugal to take over the throne, opening a new era of the Brazilian history with a new composition of internal forces to the government, since the heir was a minor, and the government was taken over by his tutors.
In that same year, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite was also introduced in the Grand Orient, through the hands of Francisco Ge Acayaba Montezuma.
The Brazilian society developed slowly, without keeping up with the dynamics of the rest of the civilized world, and the British imperialist pressures influenced both politics and Freemasonry, as the United Grand Lodge of England was hegemonic and was also an instrument of the British imperialism.
So, social and economic pressures of a rising bourgeoisie that wanted to participate in the management of the country’s wealth, a bourgeoisie which participated massively in the Masonic lodges, led to the organization of the coup of 1889, which culminated in the proclamation of the Brazilian Republic. This participation in the Freemasonry was instrumental and still kept alive the progressive spirit of the Masons, despite the growing hegemony of the Scottish Rite.
With the proclamation of the Republic, political parties were founded that lend themselves better to the exercise of politics than Masonic lodges, rigged in the previous century, when under the Empire, this practice was impossible.
Little by little, the lodges will be emptied; they will get entropic; the level of political and economic power over their members will decrease; the Scottish Rite, which caters more to the desires of this new mediocre Freemasonry; the Grand Orient of Brazil celebrates its first treaty with the UGLE in 1919, and the crises begin to emerge in the form of intestine power disputes that will culminate in 1927 with a schism that spelled the end of the Brazilian Freemasonry. As of that time, it will become a shadow of what it had always been, but interestingly, shall retain the reputation brought by their participation in the Declaration of Independence and the Proclamation of the Republic.
The result was that the general population has, today, a concept of Freemasonry as it was until the schism of 1927 – an influential super-institution that commanded secretly the fate of the country; infiltrated in all industries and circles, and that brought together the most powerful men.
This is the image.
The reality, however, is that the institution almost lost completely its influence. And this took place not because it changed – something unthinkable in terms of Freemasonry – but because Freemasons changed. The human material that joined the Order after the proclamation of the Republic did not have the same behavior, as the political participation has always been very limited in the Brazilian society. The leaders went to political parties, and the power brokers found more efficient ways of exercising their power in the civil society.
An membership process that depends on proactive members, not always able to effectively judge the qualities of the candidates; the lack of objective information delivered to the candidate, leading him to be mistakenly included in a lodge that is incompatible with his personality or interests; the “sale” of the image described above, with the resulting shock of reality that the candidate undergoes in the day-to-day of the lodge; all these are responsible for part of the crisis.
In smaller cities, Freemasonry still occupies a place among the social forces, even when it is “rigged” by partisan political tendencies of hegemonic groups. It still attracts influential people from the city, and thus it still retains some of its historical role.
In large cities, however, Freemasonry is absolutely inoperative due to the decentralization of municipal power. In addition, the demographic structure of the membership, which in most lodges is composed of members from the four corners of the city, without a common motivation that might galvanize an efficient performance.
Grand Masters – with rare exceptions – are not aware of their role as spokespersons and drivers of the Freemasons. They limit their performances to intestine power disputes, cult of personality, and honors, medals, and decorations. They do not mobilize the Order around important issues, either because they do not understand the power Freemasonry has, or because of sheer incompetence.
The consequences – apart from the loss of prestige in society – are a huge dropout rate and lack of interest in joining the Freemasons.