Freemasonry and Judaism - Leon de Poncins

Freemasonry in Appearance

Definition of Freemasonry

Freemasonry varies in appearance according to circumstances, times and peoples. Thus the masonry of Catholic countries is different from that of Protestant countries. Also masonry of today differs from that of before 1789 and from that of the middle of the nineteenth century. Everywhere and always it offers diversities and contradictions.

In principle, and according to its statutes, Freemasonry is a secret association, the aim of which is philanthropic, humanitarian and progressive. It wishes to ennoble and perfect society by directing it towards an ideal of light, progress, and truth.

All virtues are practised, above all those of tolerance and brotherly solidarity between masons. It is a sublime, holy and sacred institution, the everlasting originator of all things done in humanity which are good, beautiful, and great. This association aims to place itself above the ideas of party, class, nationality and religion. All Freemasons are brothers and equals. In the original statutes Freemasonry must keep apart from politics. From the religious point of view each mason is free to believe what he wishes.

These declarations are found, or have been found, in the constitutions of all the masonic federations and therefore carry authority.

What at first strikes a layman is the vagueness of the formulas: what is the light? what is an ideal of progress? Every one can have a different conception of it. That is just what masonry wants, for it can thus work in the most varied directions. Only two affirmations remain definite: no dealing in politics and respect for every religious faith.

We shall see that the facts ceaselessly contradict these two dogmas. In France for example Freemasonry no longer hides itself and carries on openly a religious and political struggle.

Origens of Freemasonry

If we are to believe the contradictory versions which masons give of their origins they are both vague and manifold. It seems that the association dates from very ancient times. In England it comes from the guilds of mason builders of the middle ages. Historically it may be stated that Freemasonry has existed in its present form since 1717. At that time several English lodges met in London and founded the Grand Lodge of England, the first in date of all the grand lodges of the world. John Anderson was entrusted with the task of bringing together, correcting and editing in a definitive form the masonic constitutions. His work appeared in 1723 and served as a basis for all present masonic constitutions.

Organization of Freemasonry

There is a double and simultaneous organization: the visible administrative organization and the hidden organization sometimes unknown to Freemasons themselves.

The apparent administrative organization.

The Freemasonry of the whole world is divided into several groups administratively independent of each other, each group corresponding broadly to a country. They bear different names such as: Federation of the Grand Lodge of England, of the Grand Orient of France, etc . . . The administrative organization of each of these groups or federations is very much the same everywhere.

Let us take the Grand Orient of France for example. It comprised before the war about 20,000 members distributed in 400 lodges of about 50 members each.

Each lodge is directed by officers elected for one year. They are five in number: the venerable, the first and second overseers, the speaker and the secretary. They have no authority outside their lodge.

The central authority of the social body is also appointed by election. Each lodge elects a delegate, and these delegates meet twice a year. The assembly thus formed is called a "Convent" and is in fact the masonic parliament of the Federation.

This "Convent" elects 33 members appointed for three years to form the council of the order, which is the executive committee of the whole federation.

At the head of the council is a board and at the head of the board is a President or chairman. (In other federations this president is called Grand Master.) The President, or Grand Master, is therefore at the head of a masonic federative administration, which is not as important a function as one might believe.

The convent examines questions of masonic general interest, deals with the budget, decides upon modifications in the statutes, maintains intercourse with other federations and, at present, occupies itself above all with political and religious questions.

Secret organization of the Degrees.

So much for the visible organization; but according to an ex-mason, Copin-Albancelli, there exists simultaneously another which is much more secret—that of the Degrees. We shall only touch on it briefly and return to it later. When a person enters Freemasonry, he first of all belongs to an apprentice lodge and is received as an apprentice. At the end of a certain time, when his mind is judged to be sufficiently receptive for the masonic light, he passes to the degree of companion that is to say he is admitted into a lodge of companions. After a further period of observation, more or less prolonged, and if he is judged satisfactory, the companion will be promoted master and join a master's lodge. Every mason can visit a foreign lodge of a degree similar or interior to his own. Each degree has a catechism, ritual and symbols of its own.

Here let us note a difference: In the open administrative organization, the chief officers are appointed by election, whilst in the organization of degrees they are chosen by selection. The masons of a higher degree observe their brothers of a lower degree, and only admit among them those whom they select.

Another particularity is that, whilst a mason is nominated definitively to any degree which he may attain, an election in the administrative organization is always temporary. The degrees of companion, apprentice and master form the lower masonry or blue masonry, from which it is possible to resign at will. Above this comes the masonry of high Degrees whose activity is unknown to the members of blue masonry. The number of high Degrees varies according to the federations and rites. In the Grand Orient of France only eight are actually practised; the best known being those of Rose-croix, chevalier kadosch, etc. The Scottish Rite practised at the Grand Lodge has kept the thirty three degrees. The supreme councils of the Scottish Rite of the whole world are confederated. The thirty-third Degrees of the Grand Orient are not admitted to them.

Higher up, the degrees continue to be given by selection, the number of members diminishing progressively while the high degrees become very secret.

In a lodge meeting of any degree, there are always present one or more masons of a higher degree, often unknown as such to their brothers of the lower lodges.

Every mason is therefore ignorant of what is said and done in the workshops of higher degree than his own, for entrance to them is forbidden. It is an essential duty which is laid upon the higher degrees to visit lower lodges and to inspire in them the ideas which they have themselves received from above.

Freemasonry is then a superposition of Secret Societies. While in the administrative organization the management is directed from below by election, the organization of degrees, on the contrary, demonstrates the probability of a secret higher group which makes its will pass in an invisible manner throughout the whole masonic pyramid. It can readily be understood that documents emanating from higher groups such as those of the Bavarian Illuminati, of the Haute Veute Romaine and of the Hungarian lodges, throw a strong light on the true nature of the masonic aim and on the means employed. Whoever is at the summit of the pyramid can control the whole structure.

However that may be, whether the secret of masonic organization resides in the arrangement of degrees or elsewhere, one thing is certain, namely that between Freemasonry such as it is shown to us in the form of a private humanitarian and philanthropic society and the immense revolutionary part which it has played in the world, there is a striking contrast. There is a similar disproportion between its visible organization and the results obtained. Nor can one understand the need of the terrible oath exacted from all Freemasons, an oath accompanied by curses and threats if they should reveal the secrets of the association. Would a simple philanthropic society make such serious dispositions and think of such precautionary measures? When it is only a question of doing good, even discreetly, there is no need for this kind of concealment: there is something behind the facade.

Let us therefore inquire into the part played by Freemasonry in history and as shown in its documents from Munich, Rome, Buda-Pesth, and it will then appear to us such as it is really: an essentially revolutionary power.

I shall not speak of rites, of symbols and of the ceremonies necessary for the creation in the lodges of the desired state of mind for the propagation of masonic ideas. Each degree has its ceremonies, its rituals, its catechisms and its psalms. All that is without interest for the layman. We shall only say a few words on a very important point: the religion of secrecy which masonry has created. Al each degree the oath to maintain secrecy is renewed and the punishments which await the unfaithful mason are recalled.

The following is an example of such oaths:

"If I should in the very least degree violate my oath, may my head he cut off, my heart, my teeth and my entrails be torn out and thrown into the sea, may my body be burnt and the ashes cast to the winds so that nothing may remain of me or of my thoughts among men and among my brother masons."

Masonry is so well organized in this respect and knows so well how to render its adherents secretive that not a word leaks out, even in the low degrees which know nothing important and which form the immense majority. There is to my knowledge no case of a high initiate having betrayed an important secret.