by José Filardo, M.´.M.´.
Member of the Fernando Pessoa Lodge -4001 –
Grand Orient of Brazil – Modern Rite
My two cents: One could say, grosso modo, that the main difference, today, between the French Rite and the Modern rite is the presence of the invocation of the gaotu in the first and the absence of it in the later (in the GODF). But that would be a rough simplification of the matter.
As John Slifko said, one has to consider the historical aspects of the transmigration of freemasonry from its berth to the continent.
I would start with the Hadrian Wall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian’s_Wall), which was built to protect Roman Britain from the Picts, a ferocious barbarian tribe that used to attack frequently. The Picts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picts) were the celtic people that lived in what we know today as Scotland.
West of the British Islands there is an island, a green island inhabited by a very musical and happy people who loved playing music with their bagpipes.
The National Geographic foundation, partnering with IBM created the Genographics Project (https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/) where they mapped the genomic history of Humanity (I have, myself) sent a swab and found that my father’s forefathers were 5 thousand years ago in Ukraine, and my mother’s forefathers were 5 thousand years ago in Africa.)
Well, this project mapped the genomic origin of the peoples in Europe and found that the Irish and the Welsh Celts had Basque origins (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/1256894.stm), the basques being the oldest ethnicity in the world.
Together with the Celts, the Scots inhabited Ireland and a small portion of the present territory of Scotland, the region of the Isle of Aran, Largs, Greenock.
I used to pick on a Scottish colleague of mine, by telling my version of this event. It goes like:
The Scots and the Celts were a very merry people who inhabited the green island of Eire, and they used to gather together in great festivities where they played their bagpipes. Well, the noise was so high that the neighbors – mainly from Norway – were very angry and came to Eire to complain. I totally understand this, because I am a lover of Irish and Scottish music, and I have purchased a bagpipe in one of my trips to Scotland, and my neighbors were as happy as the Vikings, with my (lousy, BTW) playing of my pipe.
The British did not complain because they had not been formally introduced to the Celts and Scots. The Celts finally invited the Vikings to stay for their parties, and today the Irish have some Viking blood in their veins. The Scots, on the other hand, have only “usquebaugh” mixed with their bloods.
Anyway, after the Scots got tired of all those complains of the Vikings and Basques, they moved to the highlands where they could play their pipes in peace.
Now, seriously, let’s put some circumstances that conformed the events of the invention of Freemasonry in 1717, and later in France.
Around the 4th century Scotland adopted the Catholic faith influenced by the Picts, which had already been converted by Saint Ninian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Ninian) and by the 5th Century, Ireland followed suit with St. Pádraig (or St. Patrick, as he is known today).
It is certain that since the end of the 11th Century, there were “lodges” of operative masons in Hirschau, Germany, and in 1275 at the Congress of Strassbourg, the first Grand Lodge of Masons was founded.
In the 16th century, Henry VIII, that fat king who could not keep his penis inside his breeches decided to severe the links with the Papacy and declared the independence of the English Church, turning Britain into a Protestant country. At the same time, he united England and Scotland, where the descendants of his sister Margaret – the Stuarts were the rulers of Scotland. The bomb was set for the future succession crisis of the 17th Century, as the Catholic Stuarts were always possible kings or queens of a Protestant England.
In 1614, a manifesto was published in Kassel, Germany, of the Fama Fraternitatis Rosae Crucis, which became a hype in the Scottish court, together with the influence of Paracelsus and the Alchemists. “Lodges” were created to study these subjects inside the court.
In the middle of the 17th century, a fraternal society called Order of Free Gardeners was founded in Scotland that shared knowledge – secrets – linked to the profession and offered mutual aid. Little, but some evidence exists that they had a ritual. They were divided into three degrees, and wore embroidered aprons.
As early as 1599, there was a masonic lodge in Kilwinning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lodge_Mother_Kilwinning), a lodge of operative masons.
In 1660, the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Society) was founded.
The cauldron of the 17th century was ready to receive explosive ingredients. The Scottish and Irish lodges – still not freemasonry – supported the Stuarts and the crisis began with the overthrowing of King James II (Stuart) who was a Catholic and an ally of France. This episode is known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorious_Revolution)
The fields were defined: on one side the Jacobites supporting James, a Catholic, and on the other side the British supporting William of Hannover, a Protestant.
The Crown was in danger. The British way of life threatened. They needed to control the hearts and minds of the Britons.
The answer came through the geniuses of the Royal Society, illuminists, free-minds who devised an institution that was the answer to the Crown’s requirements. (I cannot even imagine how a Protestant Pastor could, almost single-handedly, invent such an institution except perhaps for the BS that precedes the Chares, the long “History”.
And the touch of genius was the first Charge of the Constitution:
“A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law ; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves ; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d ; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must else have remain’d at a perpetual Distance.”
This revolutionary concept, plus the resorting to the general structure of the Masons’ Guilds, with free elections, Equality, and Fraternity produced a mechanism of support to the Protestant interests in the dispute for England’s throne.
Suddenly, in each English town, the “elite” of the local society joined the new institution, which by opening the spectrum of religions accepted automatically alienated the Catholics, because they do not accept other way to Heavens.
The new institution offered the possibility of a commoner enjoying the company of a Lord in equal terms; offered business opportunities; and was a sign of importance.
Once the new institution was founded, the Duke of Wharton, in 1721, founded a lodge in Dunkerque, on the Continent. And we cannot forget that in this time, the English freemasonry still abode by the Constitution of 1717.
After the Glorious Revolution, James II of England, after the Catholics lost the war, they went into exile in France, as the French had been always their allies and supporters. Even during the Glorious Revolution, French troops went to Scotland to help the Scots. And there is non-confirmed information that the Royal Irish Regiment would have founded a lodge in 1688 under the name of “La Parfaite Égalité”. Anyway, this was not a lodge of freemasons, it was one of those lodges originated in Scotland during the influence of the Rosicrucian Era.
So, France received Freemasonry from two sources, a catholic strain and a protestant one, and this cleavage also informed the appearance in England of the Antients and Modern masons, the first inspired by the Scottish and Irish Catholic heritage, and the later faithful to the Constitution of 1717 and its rational position concerning religion.
In France, after a period of free-wheeling creation of rites, degrees, fancy lodges, including the famous discourse of the chevalier de Ramsay, who invented a new brand of freemasonry, more in the liking of the Scottish noblemen, providing origins less “plebeian” than simple masons.
This time also witnessed the condemnation of Freemasonry by Pope Clement XII, on grounds that the new institution “relativized” the notion of religion as the way to salvation. This condemnation was effective only at continental level, as England was long estranged from the Pope’s claws.
The French Rite or Rite of the Modern (Masons) was created in France in 1761 with three symbolic degrees and in 1786 began to be a consensus that Freemasonry and Religion are two different things with the return to the ideals of the Constitution of 1717. Later, there were divisions, because many brothers gave much importance to the High Degrees, but in 1801, with the publication of the Regulations, things began to become clear.
In the beginning, 1772, date of foundation of the Grand Orient of France, the GM Felipe d’Orleans intended to enforce the ideals of 1717, proposed the extinction of all philosophical degrees. However, he did not succeed and High Degrees were created.
In 1877, the Grand Orient of France decided to eliminate from the tenures the formula “To the glory of the grand architect of the universe” as an institutional expression of the unconditional defense of the absolute freedom of conscience of its members, who are free to believe or not in what suits them.
The invocation of the grand architect is an option in the French Rite, though it is mandatory in the French National Grand Lodge (GLNF).
So, there is no remarkable difference between the so-called French Rite and the Modern Rite. The last name is more suitable, however, to the universal nature of the Rite, as it is adopted outside France.
“What is important is to draw the attention to the objectivity and austerity of the ritual, and its symbolic effectiveness.” (M. R. C. SJ, México, D.F., 2007. http://histoireritefrancais.blogspot.com.br/).
In my opinion, by reclaiming the spirit of 1717, the French freemasonry attracted to its ranks some of the best minds of all times, as it offered the opportunity of acting, instead of just remain in the lodges discussing the sex of angels, or dedicating to the personal perfection as an end in itself, or limiting the action of the lodges to charity.