Friday, 18 October 2013


 Our Paris Letter.

It was with something akin to a painful surprize that the Encyclical onslaught against Freemasonry, has been received by those who have been the most fervent admirers of the tact, lucidity and moderation of Leo. XIII., in the difficult position made for his theocratic ideas of government in this realistic age, where thought,writing, speech, and reunions, are so free. To attribute to those "satanic workmen"— the  Freemasons—the authorships of the equalising or levelling tendencies of the times, is, on the part of His Holiness, to ignore what are really the acting forces, and where originate the currents of that influence which impels modern society and peoples.  
There was a time when freemasonry played a political role. That was the epoch when freedom of action and of speech did not exist, and then the "lodges" became a refuge for the advocates of such liberties. To-day nothing is concealed ; for publicity, as for the sapeur, nothing is sacred. All is concocted in the open day. Socialistic, revolutionary, anarchic, and dynamatic advocates, have no greater unrelenting opponents than the Free Masons. Only last week these stormy petrels of our civilization  were denounced by the Masonic lodge of the Saôno-et-Loire, in scathing and vigorous terms : so much so, that Leop. XIII. himself might have signed that anathema. And the revolutionists who have an hereditary, a Shylock hate against the Masons, are also the most uncompromising foes of every church and every creed. His Holiness in signalling out Freemasonry as the disturbing agent of the evolutions of Society, unconsciously imparts to it an importance to which it can lay no claim. Its history, since its birth, really about 150 years ago, proves its cosmopolitan, non-political, and non-sectarian character. The late Pope Pius IX. was, when simply "young mastai," a brother of the mystic tie. Monarchs, princes, dignitaries of the church even, did not disdain to tie on their Masonic aprons. The royal families of England, Prussia, and the Netherlands, have ever contributed members to the craft. Louis XVI.. Louis XVIII., Charles IX., the Napoleon's I. and III., Louis Philippe I. ; Leopold I. of Belgium, and Abd-el-Kader, were free and accepted Masons. And the unexclusive character of Masonry may be judged from the following samples of membership : — Prince Charles Edward Stuart, who founded a lodge at Arras : Washington, Berryer, Franklin, the Lafayettes, Laplace, Voltaire, Gambetta, Jules Terry, the Abbe Siegès, Paul Jones, Hoche, Nelson, Meyerbeer, Tom Paine, Humboldt, Mirabeau, Dr. Guillotine, who did not invent, but recommended the adoption of that instrument, Garribaldi, Jules Favre, Marshal Canrobert, Danton, Masseira, Bernadotte, Marshal Saxe, &c. Such personages, represent opinions as diverse as their social standing.
Fauverty said Freemasonry was a universal religion : it would be more accurate to describe it a cosmopolitan club, where right good fellows meet for convivial ends, supplemented by charitable works. Songs that would delight Gœthe or Burns ; stories, and occasionally the discussion of social questions, replace cards and billiards. Freemasonry, whether philosophical or philanthrophic, open or secret, has penetrated into all countries of the globe, with the spirit of progress and liberty of the eighteenth century. It has for its aim the moral and material amelioration of man ; for principles, the laws of human progress ; for ideas, toleration, fraternity, and liberty, without distinction of religious faith, political creeds, nationalities or social distinctions. It is the friend of the rich and poor, only exacting that they be virtuous.
The Grand Orient, which is the Grand Lodge of France, has had a chequered career. Its foundation was laid in 1725, by Lord Derwentwater ; but the first lodge in France, and which was at the same time the first on the continent, was organised at Dunkirk, in 1721, by the same nobleman. Indeed Freemasonry is an essentially English institution, and was propagated throughout the world by the English nobility. The Grand Orient excluded no candidate on account of his creed, so that Helvetius the materialist, and Lalando the atheist, could accept the formulas. Imitating Plato, the Divinity was called the '"Grand Architect," leaving to each to interpret that appellation following his church or his philosophy. The Grand Orient is now essentially democratic, and since a score of years, secular; that is to say, it does not exact belief in a Personal God as a test of membership.
The council of the Grand Orient consists of 50 members; it connects with 315 lodges. There are about 10,000 Free Mason lodges in the world, possessing ten millions of members. There are very few rites and ceremonies in French lodges. such being considered infantile, and fewer grades. There are no more legends. The story of Adam and Eve being the first — impossible to go further back— Masons, and the Garden of Eden the first lodge; of Noah being the founder, after the deluge, then Moses, Torvastor, Isis, Ceres, Proserpine, Jacchus, etc., are, for intelligent Masons, nursery tales. In the same category may be placed Hiram, the architect of Solomon's temple. Hiram was not an architect at all, but a metal worker, whose services only came into play when the building was erected. All these myths are only destined to heighten the lustre of the order, by an illustrious genalogy or allegories, and feed the imagination, while keeping warm the enthusiasm, of apprentices. Similarly with secrets and signs. There were no secret societies in ancient times, and but very little brotherhood, since travelling did not exist. As for the secrets, he who runs may read them in the official organs of the craft, where the rules and regulations of the lodges, their days of meeting, their places of dining, the programme of all their business is duly set forth. It is not by peculiar shakes of the head, rubbing of the nose, scratching of the head, and treading on the feet, that a Mason or tramp gains admission into a French lodge, or obtains help. He must produce credentials. Further during the reign of Louis XV women were admitted to be Masons, and the Duchesse de Bourbon was a Grand "Mistress."
As for sashes, aprons, gloves, jewellery, &c., such pomp and circumstance count for little here : they are regarded as the outcome of human vanity, ranked with the rattle, which pleases the child, or the plaything that delights the youth. Masonry appears to have really originated from the break up of the building guilds in Italy during the Middle Ages. Then the workmen wandered over Europe, seeking employment ; they had signs to recognise one another as fellow craftsmen, and so claiming, if required, succour. The clergy utilized these wandering artizans to erect churches, and even joined their fraternal corporations, the better to aid the needy. Such is the history of Strasbourg Cathedral. The word "Mason" is derived from "hammer" or a "wall" ; and "Tiler," the Cerberis, or lictor functionary, comes from the French toilleur de piene, or stone cutter.

Paris, April 24, 1884.

 The Shoalhaven Telegraph,

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