Alain Bernheim: My Approach to Masonic History

Reading Time: 31 minutes



This address was delivered on 26 May 2011 in Sheffield before the members of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research.

Oui, la lecture donne des idées, les idées peuvent mener à l’idée de liberté et l’idée de liberté à l’utopie du bonheur. Ce n’est pas raisonnable.

Jean-Jacques Pauvert

Dear Brethren,

As a French citizen who was successively a member of the Grand Orient of France – ‘that irregular body’ –, then of the Grande Loge Nationale Française – a regular one –, then of the United Grand Lodges of Germany and, for the past ten years, of the Swiss Grand Lodge Alpina, I would like to thank you for having invited me here to-day.

When I was six, I was blessed with a nanny who convinced me that drinking tea every day was good for me and insisted on talking to me in English. Years later I had to learn German in order to understand what newspapers wrote about my piano recitals. This is why, early in my masonic life, I was able to read books written by authors of the authentic school of masonic history, which, as all of you may not be aware of, originated in Germany and developed somewhat later in the British Isles.

How I became a Mason

In the 1960s, I lived in a small German town and gave about one hundred concerts each year. One day, the local rabbi, a gentleman I had never met before, came to my house and asked if I would give a benefit concert for some charitable association. Having explained what he had in mind, he asked me out of a blue sky: Are you interested in Freemasonry ? And then: Are you Jewish ?

Quite unprepared, I answered yes to his first question and that I felt Jewish only when Jewish people had problems. I added that although I knew next to nothing about Freemasonry, I felt that his second question was sort of irrelevant. Then he said gravely: ‘I see. Then I shall send you to the Grand Orient of France’.

Masonic beginnings (1963-1964)

There were indeed two lodges belonging to the Grand Orient of France in Germany, one of them near to the French border in Saarbrücken. I was made there in 1963. Two German lodges existed in the same town but they never visited us and we never visited them. I asked why and was told it was a complicated matter which I would understand later.

At that time all I knew about Freemasonry came from a book by Roger Peyrefitte, Les Fils de la Lumière. It was rather well-informed and included an interesting portrait of a member of the Grand Orient, Marius Lepage. Lepage was Worshipful Master of a small lodge in Normandy as well as the Editor of an excellent quarterly masonic review, Le Symbolisme. He had written a book which came into my hands, L’ORDRE et les Obédiences. I was very lucky since this is one the finest books ever written in French about Freemasonry.

Not being familiar with German, Lepage did not mention a single book written in that language and probably never suspected that the earliest reliable history of French Freemasonry was written in German in the middle of the 19th Century by Dr. Georg Kloss. He remarked :

There are only very few books – in France – about the history of Freemasonry which can be referred to without reservation.

And then he underlined the importance of the English authentic school, of books by Knoop, Jones and Hamer, and of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. I got the catalogue from Marks & Co. in Charing Cross Road and bought my first original Gould in red morocco for 2 £ and 15 shillings.

As soon as I was a Master Mason, I candidly applied to become a member of Quatuor Coronati Corresponding Circle. The file I had to fill requested the name of the Lodge I belonged to, not that of its Grand Lodge. My application was accepted[1] and I subscribed for advance copies of papers. About the same time Quatuor Coronati Lodge, having changed its printers, sold old volumes of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum which had been in store for many years[2] at a very attractive price. I bought everything there was to buy[3].

First tribute to AQC

Soon afterwards, being rather brave, I sent a few pages of comments on Eric Ward’s paper, ‘Anderson’s Freemasonry not Deistic’[4]. Ward gave his interpretation of Anderson’s First Charge and I thought fit to summarize the views of two respected continental Brethren, J. Corneloup and Bernhard Beyer[5]. Bro. Carr accepted my comments except for one sentence of Corneloup which he crossed out:

And since I am myself an atheist, and because I know other atheists (very few in numbers, for genuine atheists are very rare) who belong to the best Freemasons, I have the right to state that all of them have a religious and a moral sense at least equal to that of the average Christian, of the average Jew, of the average Muslim, and no one thinks for one second to forbid them admittance into our Temples.

Carr had written in the margin:

To boast being an atheist and having a religious sense is playing upon words and trying to confuse issues.

To which I replied:

This is not only the problem of Corneloup, of Bernheim, of Carr… It is the problem of words […] For most of us it is not possible to be an atheist and have a religious sense. Corneloup says it is possible for him. [….] who is going to decide if Corneloup is right or wrong ?[6]

First discoveries

In the mean time, having merely followed references given by Kloss and Gould, I had unearthed two essential documents considered as lost forever[7]: the French Grand Lodge General Regulations of 1743 and the Statutes of St John of Jerusalem of 1755. I announced my discovery in 1967 during a conference in Paris on the History of Freemasonry[8]. As a consequence, I became a member of the History Committee of the Grand Orient of France.

When these invaluable documents were brought to the attention of the then Grand Master, Jacques Mitterand, he noticed in the 1755 one that French Freemasons were to go to church on Sundays and declared that the publication of these documents by the Grand Orient was “inopportune”.

The Sitwell papers (1969-1970)

Browsing through old issues of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, I noticed that in May 1927 Bro. Sitwell had read a remarkable paper[9] in which he quoted many unknown documents about 18th century French Freemasonry. At that time they were owned by two Brethren, Alfred Irwin Sharp[10] and Nicolas Choumitzky. Sitwell’s paper was so important that I decided to look for further ones he may have written.

In February 1969 I went to London and was heartily welcome by Harry Carr. He listened to my query, went to a room behind his desk and came back minutes later with hundred pages of unpublished typewritten papers by Sitwell. Carr was kind enough to have most of them Xeroxed and sent to me in Germany. They were a neglected gold mine.


However next January I got an unexpected letter from Carr[11]:

We have received information that although you are apparently attached to perfectly respectable lodges in Germany, you are also a member of the French Grand Orient. If this is true, we would not be able to keep you upon our Roll of Members and I must ask you to let me have a declaration certified by the Secretary of your Lodge and stating that you are not in any way involved with that irregular and unrecognised body. I shall hope to hear from you at your early convenience. Yours sincerely and fraternally.

I answered immediately, explaining the limited information asked from the registration file I had sent to London and that in the Grand Orient Lodge I belonged to at that time in Strasbourg the Three Great Lights were displayed and that our ritual was always open and closed in the name of the G.A.O.T.U. Carr’s reply was very friendly:

I am deeply sorry to have lost a friend and fellow-student whom I valued highly. […] we will gladly re-instate you (without fee) upon your resignation from the Grand Orient, and your application from a regular and recognised Lodge[12].

I realised that my membership in the Grand Orient was a mistake and contacted the regular Strasbourg Lodge in which I was regularised in May 1973. I informed Harry Carr who wrote to me:

I am delighted to hear that you are now within the fold […]. Needless to say I shall be most interested to know if you have written anything suitable for us in the years when we were divorced.

However Carr retired as Secretary in November 1973. January next, having in the meantime made the acquaintance of Bro. Baylot, I read a paper before the lodge of research of the Grande Loge Nationale Française, Villard de Honnecourt. It was published with proper acknowledgement for the kindness of Harry Carr and included most documents I had rediscovered[13].

Somewhat later, I found a microfilm copy of the Sharp documents and that the originals were located in the United States since 1952. I told that story and the beginnings of L’Anglaise de Bordeaux in a paper read before Quatuor Coronati lodge by my dear friend Brigadier A.C.F. Jackson[14]. In his comments, he wrote:

A study of the Index to A. Q. C.  shows how weak have been the researches of the lodge in respect of French Freemasonry. […] Q. C. Lodge was founded about the time of the break between French Freemasonry and regular obediences. The lodge seems to have gone into the then curious British middleclass attitude that ‘niggers begin at Calais’. […] Being myself also a French freemason I am aware that there still exists a modicum of suspicion at all levels in the English masonic hierarchy that all French Freemasonry should be viewed with reserve. This view, if it was not sometimes irritating, I have found amusing as it is of course quite ridiculous[15].

Truly, the ‘suspicion’ goes both ways as a book showed recently, in which the author mentions the French ‘popular Anglophobia’[16].

However I am convinced that what we have in common is more important than anything else, beginning with the time when the English King Edward III assumed the title of king of France – some seven centuries ago – our ‘Entente Cordiale’ in 1904 and the unforgettable offer made on 16 June 1940 by the English government to the French one:

From now on, France and Great Britain are not two nations anymore, but an indissoluble French-British nation. Every French citizen will immediately enjoy English citizenship. Every British citizen becomes a French citizen[17].

What remains to be done, in the masonic world of to-day, is to know and to understand each other better. Let us give it a try.

The G.A.O.T.U. – France and Belgium

Speaking in Manchester in November 2007, Roger Dachez reminded his audience that in 1877 the Grand Orient of France decided to remove from its Constitutions, not the mention of the GAOTU – no – but the compulsory “belief in God and the immortality of the soul”.

However he explained neither why nor how this happened and did not mention Belgium. When the French Grand Orient was founded in 1773 it adopted Statutes[18], later named Statutes and General Regulations of the Masonic Order in France. In 1839, its first article said:

The object of the Order of Free-Masons is the exercise of benevolence, the study of universal morality, of sciences and of arts, as well as the practice of all virtues.

Ten years later, it decided — for the first time in its history — to give itself a Constitution. Its first article included the previous words in the middle of two added sentences:

Freemasonry, an essentially philanthropic, philosophical and progressive institution, is based upon the existence of God and the immortality of the soul ; its object is the exercise of charity, the study of universal morality, of sciences and of arts, as well as the practice of all virtues. Its motto was at all times: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

The last sentence was pure imagination[19] and the first one, as far as I am aware, was never part of a masonic Constitution anywhere before[20]. The Constitution was adopted unanimously, but for five votes, on 10 August 1849.

The wording of the 1st article was slightly modified twice in 1854 and 1865. In the latter year, it became an extra sentence:

It regards liberty of conscience as a right which belongs to every man and excludes no one for his beliefs[21].

At a General Assembly of the Grand Orient held in September 1877, a lodge moved that the words ‘Its principles are the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and human solidarity’ be crossed out (motion No. IX). After a report written and read by a Protestant minister, Frédéric Desmons, they were changed into: ‘Its principles are absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity’[22]. The motion was carried by a majority.

Whoever wrote that Desmons favoured the suppression of the G.A.O.T.U.[23] likely never read what he said. The G.A.O.T.U. was not mentioned once in his report which concluded with the words:

Considering that Freemasonry is not a religion, that consequently it does not have to assert doctrines or dogmas in its Constitution, [the General Assembly] approves motion No. IX.

Let us now consider what had happened five years earlier in Belgium. The Grand Orient of Belgium did erase the words ‘To the glory of T.G.A.O.T.U.’ from its Statutes in May 1871[24]. Nevertheless, in May 1875, the United Grand Lodge of England entered into official relations with that body[25] and they lasted until 1921[26]. Strangely enough, this appears to have been forgotten, for, as Bro. James Daniel informed Quatuor Coronati Lodge in 2003:

On 10 March 1965 the Grand Registrar of the UGLE […] reminded Grand Lodge that the UGLE had severed relations with the Grand Orient of Belgium in the latter half of the 19th century ‘because they did away with the Volume of the Sacred Law and a belief in a [sic] Supreme Being’[27].

The United Grand Lodge of England’s reaction was quite different as far as France goes. As a consequence of the Grand Orient’s vote, it adopted a resolution, 6 March 1878, which included the words:

That the Grand Lodge, whilst always anxious to receive in the most fraternal spirit the Brethren of any Foreign Grand Lodge whose proceedings are conducted according to the Ancient Landmarks of the Order, of which a belief in T. G. A. O. T. U. is the first and most important, cannot recognise as ‘true and genuine’ Brethren any who have been initiated in Lodges which either deny or ignore that belief[28].

Let us now take a look at that ‘first and most important Ancient Landmark’.

‘That unfortunate and mischievous expression, the “Antient Landmarks”’[29]

While preparing this paper I re-read fundamental ones on the topic of landmarks which appeared for the past hundred years in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, notably Bro. Frederick Worts’s in Vol. 75[30]. In the comments which followed his paper, some members of the lodge stressed the ‘immutability’ of landmarks (Parkinson, James) while others insisted on the fact that landmarks were not permanent (Ward, Rylands). Worts concluded:

Although most “knowledgeable” Masons had a shrewd idea of what the Landmarks were, few were able to define them or to justify their selection, except perhaps the First Landmark, which, admittedly, was the acceptance of the G.A.O.T.U.[31]

John Rylands commented drily without elaborating:

Even in respect of what is miscalled the First Landmark, Bro. Worts feels constrained to insert “perhaps” when discussing the subject[32].

The definition of ‘the’ First Landmark as the ‘belief in the G.A.O.T.U.’ – Worts used the word acceptance, not belief –, seems to have appeared first in 1878 within the United Grand Lodge of England’s resolution about France[33]. I believed it was true until I read, first in Gould and then in many other books or papers[34], the portrait of Martin Folkes who was appointed Deputy Grand Master on 24 June 1724 by Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond[35]. This is how the Rev. William Stukeley[36], Folkes’s contemporary, depicted him:

In matters of religion an errant infidel[37] & loud scoffer. Professes himself a godfa[the]r to all monkeys, beleives [sic] nothing of a future state, of the Scriptures, of revelation. He perverted Duke of Montagu, Richmond, Ld Pembroke, & very many more of the nobility, who had an opinion of his understanding; & this has done an infinite prejudice to Religion in general, made the nobility throw off the mask, & openly deride & discountenance even the appearance of religion, w[hic]h has brought us into that deplorable situation we are now in, with thieves, & murderers, perjury, forgery, &c. He thinks there is no difference between us & animals ; but what is owing to the different structure of our brain, as between man & man. When I lived in Ormond Street in 1720, he set up an infidel Club at his house on Sunday evenings, where Will Jones, the mathematician, & others of the heathen stamp, assembled. He invited me to come thither but I always refused. From that time he has been propagating the infidel System with great assiduity, & made it even fashionable in the Royal Society, so that when any mention is made of Moses, of the deluge, of religion, Scriptures, &c., it generally is received with a loud laugh[38].

Recently, Folkes’s characters were praised in the Online Newsletter of the Society of Antiquaries of London:

In many ways, Folkes was a modern man before his time. David Boyd Haycock’s Dictionary of National Biography entry notes that he detested all forms of racial prejudice (‘In 1747 he explained to his friend da Costa, who was Jewish, that “we are all citizens of the world, and see different customs and tastes without dislike or prejudice, as we do different names and colours”’). It was Folkes’s active atheism that led Stukeley to describe him as ‘in matters of religion an errant infidel & loud scoffer’, but Stukeley goes on to say something else that suggests an acute mind at work: ‘he confesses himself a godf[athe]r to all monkeys … He thinks there is no difference between us & animals; but what is owing to the different structure of our brain, as between man & man’. Stukeley intends to scoff, but the comment raises Folkes to the stature of a Darwinian more than a century before Darwin[39].

One way to reconcile the wording of Anderson’s first charge with Folkes’s appointment as Deputy Grand Master by the Duke of Richmond is to accept the explanation of my friend Chris Impens[40], a distinguished professor of mathematics and my predecessor in the chair of Belgium’s lodge of research:

Time and again, it has been claimed that the first charge excludes stupid atheists and irreligious libertines from freemasonry. If you think: yes, that’s what I heard, think again, because Anderson says nothing of the sort[41].

This provocative sentence is followed with an original analysis of the first charge, based, likely for the first time, upon ‘books, pamphlets, church catechisms, sermons […] and much more written by predecessors and contemporaries of Anderson and Desaguliers’[42].

Some members of the Craft may reject Chris Impens’s paper. Then they are left with the ticklish task of explaining how an ‘active atheist’ succeeded Desaguliers as the third Deputy Grand Master of English Freemasonry.

Let us now return to France.

Recognition of a new Grand Lodge in France (1913)

In 1973, Bro. Will Read read before Quatuor Coronati Lodge a paper about Sir Alfred Robbins who was appointed President of the Board of General Purposes on 4 June 1913. Read mentioned the meeting of Grand Lodge on the following 3 December and that ‘there was to be a message from the Grand Master’[43] but did not show what that message said, which was this:

It is with deep satisfaction that I find myself able to signalize the auspicious occasion of the Centenary of the Union by an announcement which will, I am convinced, cause true rejoicing throughout the Craft.

A body of Freemasons in France, confronted by a positive prohibition on the part of the Grand Orient to work in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe have, in fidelity to their Masonic pledges, resolved to uphold the true principles and tenets of the Craft, and have united several Lodges as the Independent and Regular National Grand Lodge of France and of the French Colonies[44].

In the same paper, Read wrote:

[…] in the nineteen-twenties, […] many Grand Lodges desired therefore to be recognized by the United Grand Lodge. Each application was treated on its merits and examined against the customs, practices and principles followed within the English Craft; but these had never been defined or codified [45].

He added a foot-note to the above sentence:

Some of these principles were defined and listed as ‘obligations’ when recognition was accorded to the newly-formed ‘Independent and Regular Grand Lodge of France and of the French Colonies’. (Title changed in 1948 to ‘Grande Loge Nationale Française’) vide Grand Lodge Proceedings, 1913, p. 78.

Bro. Read did not quote either the wording of these ‘obligations’ which were read before Grand Lodge the same day, 3 December 1913, by Lord Ampthill, MW Pro Grand Master[46]:

The obligations which will be imposed on all Lodges under this new Constitution are the following:

1.     While the Lodge is at work the Bible will always be open on the altar.

2.     The ceremonies will be conducted in strict conformity with the Ritual of the “Regime Rectifié” which is followed by these Lodges, a Ritual which was drawn up in 1778 and sanctioned in 1782, and with which the Duke of Kent was initiated in 1792[47].

3.     The Lodge will always be opened and closed with invocation and in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe. All the summonses of the Order and of the Lodges will be printed with the symbols of the Great Architect of the Universe.

4.     No religious or political discussion will be permitted in the Lodge.

5.     The Lodge as such will never take part officially in any political affair but every individual Brother will preserve complete liberty of opinion and action.

6.     Only those Brethren who are recognised as true Brethren by the Grand Lodge of England will be received in Lodge.

It may come as a surprise to many that the above ‘Obligations’ were the faithful translation of suggestions made in two letters written by Dr. de Ribaucourt to England and noways the result of a decision by the United Grand Lodge of England[48].

In spite of statements made by Ribaucourt in various letters he sent to England between 20 September and 13 November 1913 (the new Grand Lodge was to be composed of ‘three lodges’, ‘at least five lodges’, ‘many lodges’, ‘sixty lodges decline to remain in the Grand Orient’)[49], the new Grand Lodge was created on 5 November 1913 by one single lodge, Le Centre des Amis[50], founded three years earlier[51]. Edmond de Ribaucourt, Worshipful Master of the lodge, became the first Grand Master.

His Grand Lodge was recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England in a letter signed jointly on 20 November 1913 by Lord Ampthill and Sir Edward Letchworth:

We were quite prepared to receive your letter from 8 October […][52]. We have full authority to act in the name of our G. M., H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught […] and accordingly in the name of H. R. H. we are eager to assure you that the G.L.N.I. et R. is recognized by the G. L. of England as a sovereign G. L. with which we wish to establish and entertain brotherly relations[53].

Two weeks later, another lodge, L’Anglaise No. 204, demited from the Grand Orient of France on 3 December[54]. The next day it joined the new Grand Lodge and somewhat later received its Décret N° 2 which said:

Our Sovereign Grand Committee, in its meeting of 15 December 1913, decided to recognize your Very Worshipful Grand Lodge [sic] as being an integral part of our Obedience since 4 December 1913, the day of your official adhesion to our Régime[55].

Finally, the third lodge of the new Grand Lodge was consecrated on 20 June 1914[56].

‘Those Basic Principles of Freemasonry for which the Grand Lodge of England has stood throughout its history’ (my italics) – seldom quoted words which stay at the head of this well-known document – were accepted by Grand Lodge on 4 September 1929[57]. They requested:

1. Regularity of origin, i.e. each Grand Lodge shall have been established lawfully by a duly recognized Grand Lodge or by three or more regularly constituted Lodges.

In 1975, Bro. George Draffen retorted:

The National Grand Lodge of France is often quoted as a Grand Lodge founded by only two (!) Lodges and accepted as regular, but this was in December 1913, i.e. sixteen years before the United Grand Lodge of England adopted the regulation stipulating a minimum of three. […] Two old (!) French Lodges[58] […] were responsible for the formation of this new Grand Lodge […] the fact that it had been formed by only two Lodges in no way invalidated this[59].

All this being taken under consideration, one is reminded of sensible remarks made by English scholars. One by Gould:

Of the Ancient Landmarks it has been observed, with more or less foundation of truth: “Nobody knows what they comprise or omit: they are of no earthly authority, because everything is a landmark when an opponent desires to silence you, but nothing is a landmark that stands in his own way.” (Freemasons’ Magazine, February 25, 1865, p. 139)[60].

The other by Knoop and Jones:

For good or evil the freemasonry of London and Westminster in the age of Walpole showed what are regarded as common British characteristics. […] a reluctance or incapacity to follow an argument to its end, and a disposition to be satisfied with a somewhat illogical position[61].

Masonic instruction

When I happen to give masonic instruction to Apprentices or to Master Masons who wish to learn, I give them first two pieces of advice. One is not to believe anything they are told in their lodge without asking ‘How do you know ?’ and not to believe either what they read in books about the history of Freemasonry without checking sources and information provided by any author. Some time ago, I wrote a paper about masonic books – I read it once in Rome with the subtitle, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly – and quoted the following words :

If one resigns oneself to be part of a flock, a flock of Hindus, of Catholics or of Maoists, that’s one thing. But if one has real breadth, and if it is one’s own personal concern, one must search[62].

I do not use books to find answers but to find how and where their authors found out what they state.

My second advice is never to visit a lodge which is not recognised by our Swiss Grand Lodge Alpina. Not because such a lodge may be termed irregular or unrecognised, but because they pledged themselves to respect our Constitution and General Regulations on the day of their initiation.

I add that I may be of some help if they wish to try and learn our authentic history, but that I will never explain them the meaning of symbols we use in our ceremonies which, in my opinion, cannot be explained nor commented upon. I justify myself by stating that nothing expressed with words – lectures, instructions or conferences – let us hear the music of Freemasonry[63]. Music should be heard, not explained. The music of Freemasonry goes through the heart, not through the brain. Along our rituals, things happen, symbols are showed, sounds are heard. Each Freemason has the duty to try and understand what they mean. No one can – or should – attempt to explain them.

Earlier this evening, I mentioned one the finest books ever written in French about Freemasonry. Marius Lepage makes a fundamental distinction there between L’ORDRE, ‘the traditional and initiatory Freemasonry’, and the Obediences which he qualifies as ‘recent creations […] submitted to all the fluctuations inherent to the congenital weakness of the human mind’[64].

I was always convinced that this distinction – I find myself whole-heartedly in agreement with it ‑ was first elaborated by Lepage until I found a very similar idea, though expressed in a different way, in the first paper devoted to the Landmarks in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. It was written by a Swedish-born Brother named Axel Jonas Alfred Poignant[65]:

I regard Freemasonry as one thing, and the Order of Freemasonry as another. The latter, I hold, is a society professing Freemasonry, i. e., a peculiar system of morality. The difference between the two is exactly analogous to the difference between the Religion of Christ and the Church of Christ[66].

I could find no better words to conclude this evening.


Bibliography of foreign quoted sources

Robert Amadou. 1974-1975. ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’. Renaissance Traditionnelle 17/18, 19/20, 21/22, 23/24.

[anon.] Jean Baylot 1963. Histoire de la Grande Loge Nationale Française 1913-1963. Paris.

      — 1976. Histoire du Rite Ecossais Rectifié en France au XXe siècle. Paris: Grande Chancellerie de l’Ordre.

Wilhelm Begemann. Vorgeschichte und Anfänge der Freimaurerei in England, 2 vol. Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn. – 1990. Vaduz, Lichtenstein: Sändig Reprint Verlag.

Alain Bernheim. 1974. ‘Contribution à la connaissance de la genèse de la première Grande Loge de France’. Travaux de Villard de Honnecourt X, pp. 18-99. – 1988. Re-issued in Travaux de la Loge nationale de recherches Villard de Honnecourt 17, pp. 55-197.

      — 1989. ‘1877 et le Grand Orient de France’. Travaux de la Loge nationale de recherches Villard de Honnecourt 19, pp. 113-147.

      — 1994. Les Débuts de la Franc-Maçonnerie à Genève et en Suisse. Genève: Slatkine.

      — 2004. ‘Le premier article des « Constitutions d’Anderson »’. Alpina 10, pp. 237-239.

      — 2004. Masonic Authors – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. de hominis Dignitate. Rivits di Cultura Masonica. Anno 5, Numero 6, pp. 102-123.

— 2008. Une certaine idée de la franc-maçonnerie. Paris: Dervy.

Michel Brodsky. 1998. ‘Le Convent du Grand Orient de France de 1877 à la recherche d’une identité’. Acta Macionica 8, pp. 327-357.

Louis Charrière. 1938. Le Régime Écossais Rectifié et le Grand Orient de France. En vente chez l’auteur: 15, rue Daubenton. Paris.

Arnaud Desjardins 1990, En relisant les Évangiles. Paris: La Table Ronde.

Charles de Gaulle. 2000. Mémoires. Paris: La Pléiade.

Arthur Groussier. 1931. Constitution du Grand Orient de France par La Grande Loge Nationale 1773. Paris: Gloton.

Chris Impens. 2008. ‘Concerning God and Religion. The way it was meant’. Acta Macionica 18, pp. 7-21.

Adrien Juvanon. 1926. Vers la Lumière. Paris: Imprimerie centrale de la Bourse.

Marius Lepage. 1956. L’ORDRE et les Obédiences. Lyon: Derain.

Daniel Ligou. 1966. Frédéric Desmons et la Franc-Maçonnerie sous la 3e République. Paris: Gédalge.

      — (sous la direction de) 1987. Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie. Paris: puf.

Henri-Félix Marcy. 1956. Essai sur l’origine de la Franc-Maçonnerie et l’histoire du Grand Orient de France. Tome deuxième, Le Monde Maçonnique Français et le Grand Orient de France au xviiie Siècle. Paris: Editions du Foyer philosophique.

Alec Mellor. 1980. La Grande Loge Nationale Française. Paris: Belfond.

Pierre Noël. 2000. Le Rite Rectifié en France au XXe siècle’. Travaux de la Loge nationale de recherches Villard de Honnecourt 45, pp. 115-270. That paper under its original title: ‘Heurs et Malheurs du Rite Rectifié en France’ and its 279 foot-notes (none of which were included in the printed version) can be read on the web:

      — 2007. ‘Le Grand Orient de Belgique et la mort lente du Grand Architecte de l’Univers’, Acta Macionica 17, pp. 399-417.

Petrus, Eques a Cygno & A. V. Adhuc Stat 1913-1963. [The two parts of this small booklet of 24 pages are signed Petrus, Eques a Cygno on p. 20 and A. V. on p. 23. It was printed in 1963 and described on p. 1 as ‘Numéro spécial du Bulletin intérieur de la GLNF pour la commémoration de son cinquantième anniversaire’. This GLNF (Grande Loge Nationale Française) is the breakaway Grand Lodge which was founded in 1958 and had its head office 5 avenue de l’Opéra in Paris.]

Paul Reynaud. 1947. La France a sauvé l’Europe. 2 vol. Paris: Flammarion.

Fabrice Serodes. 2010. Anglophobie et politique. De Fachoda à Mers el-Kébir. Paris: L’Harmattan (see Le Monde dated 29 April 2010).

Oswald Wirth. 1938. Qui est Régulier ? Paris: Éditions du Symbolisme.


Grand Lodge meeting, 3 December 1913(*)

The Grand Secretary [Sir Edward Letchworth] read the following message from the MW Grand Master [HRH Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn].

“It is with deep satisfaction that I find myself able to signalize the auspicious occasion of the Centenary of the Union by an announcement which will, I am convinced, cause true rejoicing throughout the Craft.

“A body of Freemasons in France, confronted by a positive prohibition on the part of the Grand Orient to work in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe have, in fidelity to their Masonic pledges, resolved to uphold the true principles and tenets of the Craft, and have united several Lodges as the Independent and Regular National Grand Lodge of France and of the French Colonies.

“This new body has approached me with the request that it may be recognised by the Grand Lodge of England and, having received full assurance that it is pledged to adhere to those principles of Freemasonry which we regard as fundamental and essential, I have joyfully assented to the establishment of fraternal relations and the exchange of representatives.

“We are thus enabled to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of that Union which was the foundation of our solidarity and world-wide influence, by the consummation of a wish which has been ardently cherished by English Freemasons for many years, and we are once more in the happy position of being able to enjoy Masonic intercourse with men of the great French nation.

“I trust that the bond thus established will strengthen and promote the good understanding which exists outside of the sphere of Freemasonry.”

MW Pro Grand Master [Lord Ampthill].

Brethren, the happy announcement to which you have just listened has been made to you in the form of a Message from the Throne in conformity with precedent and in order to mark its great importance. You will, I am sure, not deem it inappropriate that I should add a few words of explanation.

The agreement with this newly constituted body of French Freemasons is the result of prolonged and difficult negotiations in which two well-known brethren have been devoted and skilful intermediaries. It is no more than their due to mention their names as they hold no official positions and have done their work, not as a matter of duty but from disinterested devotion to the Craft. They are Bro. Edward Roehrich[67], who plays so prominent a part in the work of the Anglo-foreign Lodges in London, and Bro. Frederick Crowe[68], to whose self-denial, no less than to the enterprise and generosity of other Brethren, we owe the proud possession of the valuable collection of documents which are now being displayed in the Library.

The Lodge in France which took the lead in withstanding the prohibition of the Grand Orient is the Lodge “Le Centre des Amis” of Paris, in which the guiding spirit has been Bro. Dr. De Ribaucourt.

Bro. de Ribaucourt has been elected Grand Master of the newly constituted Independent and Regular National Grand Lodge of France to which, we have good reason to expect, there will be many accessions of Lodges under this new Constitution all over France.

The obligations which will be imposed on all Lodges under this new Constitution are the following:

1)     While the Lodge is at work the Bible will always be open on the altar.

2)     The ceremonies will be conducted in strict conformity with the Ritual of the “Regime Rectifié” which is followed by these Lodges, a Ritual which was drawn up in 1778 and sanctioned in 1782, and with which the Duke of Kent was initiated in 1792.

3)     The Lodge will always be opened and closed with invocation and in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe. All the summonses of the Order and of the Lodges will be printed with the symbols of the Great Architect of the Universe.

4)     No religious or political discussion will be permitted in the Lodge.

5)     The Lodge as such will never take part officially in any political affair but every individual Brother will preserve complete liberty of opinion and action.

6)     Only those Brethren who are recognised as true Brethren by the Grand Lodge of England will be received in Lodge.

You will permit me, I am sure, to express my own deep satisfaction that the privation of Masonic intercourse with Frenchmen in France, which has for so long caused us so much sadness, is now at an end.

Now that there is a body of Frenchmen, a body which I do not doubt will grow very largely, who regard Freemasonry from the same point of view as we do, we can look forward to a most desirable extension of the principal work which lies before us, namely, that of promoting good understanding and goodwill between nations by the fraternal intercourse of individual men and culture.

I venture to think that no happier or more auspicious event could have coincided with the celebration of the Union which, effected a hundred years ago by the mutual goodwill and concession of men of truly Masonic spirit, has resulted in ever increasing prosperity and power.

[1]           AQC 78 (1965), p. 290.
[2]           Colin Dyer, The History of the first 100 years of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 (1986), p. 47.
[3]           Some years later, when a paper of mine was read in Quatuor Coronati Lodge, I sat next to Bro. Will Read, a Yorkshire man. He asked me if I was interested to buy the first forty-five volumes of AQC in original bindings which the Bradford Library was selling. I had to charter a truck to Bradford to get them to Germany, the set weighing about 200 lb.
[4]           AQC 80 (1967), pp. 50-52. Bro. Ward wrote in his reply ‘The further observations of Bro. Bernheim contain enough combustible material to set me ablaze with a new fire, but I must suppress the temptation here’.
[5]           Joannis Corneloup (1898-1978), Honorary Grand Commander of the Grand Collège des Rites (the Supreme Council of the Grand Orient of France). Bernhard Beyer (1879-1966), PGM of the GL zur Sonne in Bayreuth.
[6]           10 April 1967.
[7]           Henri-Félix Marcy 1956, p. 173.
[8]           2-3 December 1967. The Transactions of the Conference were issued in Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française vol. 197 (1969), pp. 379-392.
[9]           AQC 40 (1928), pp. 91-125.
[10]          They became world-famous as the ‘Sharp Documents’.
[11]          23 January 1970.
[12]          2 February 1970.
[14]          12 may 1958, AQC 101 (1989), pp. 33-132. I paid a small tribute to our friendship in ‘In Memoriam Brigadier A.C.F. Jackson (1903-2000), CVO, CBE, ADC. A Personal Recollection’, AQC 112 (2000), pp. 249-250.
[15]          AQC 101 (1989), p. 124.
[16]          Fabrice Serodes 2010.
[17]          Paul Reynaud, 1947, vol. II, p. 351. Also see Charles de Gaulle (1954) 2000, pp. 66-68.
[18]          Arthur Groussier 1931, pp. 231-257.
[19]          See the series of studies of Robert Amadou 1974-1975.
[21]          1849, 1854, 1865 and 1877 versions in Bernheim 1989, p. 144. Original French of the 1865 and 1877 versions in Richard Edward Parkinson 1957, History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, p. 211.
[22]          Frédéric Desmons’ report was reproduced in La Chaîne d’Union, October 1877, pp. 499-503 ; Adrien Juvanon 1926, pp. 53-60 ; Daniel Ligou 1966, pp. 86-92. At the previous year’s General Assembly a Brother had said: ‘I belong to those who do not write in full the name of God and the immortality of the soul in the Constitution, but I set a great word at its head, a word which ruled Freemasonry until 1849 […] the Great Architect of the Universe. […] it answers all possible aspirations, all desires. For the Mohammedans, it means Allah; for Christians, the whole Trinity; for Hindus, Brahma or Siva; for us, it is God…’ (Bernheim 1989, pp. 125-126).
[23]          For instance Michel Brodsky: ‘The Reverend Frédéric Desmons […] who was the principal mover of the changes gave wholehearted support for the expulsion of the Great Architect from French Freemasonry’, AQC 106 (1994), p. 111. ‘How could minister Frédéric Desmons cry out “We request the abolition of this formula (the reference to the Great Architect of the Universe) because it appears to us as quite unnecessary and alien to the aim of Freemasonry”’ (Brodsky 1998, p. 349, original italics ; see comments in Bernheim 2008, pp. 128-129).
[24]          Pierre Noël 2007, pp. 407-408.
[25]          Bernheim, AQC 100 (1988), p. 79: ‘I have now the pleasure of informing you officially [… of] the willingness of the Grand Lodge of England to enter into official relations with the Grand Orient of Belgium.’ (Draft from Grand Secretary John Hervey, G. L. Letter Book 9 [Jan. 1875-June 1876] folio 227d). Answer from the Belgian Grand Master: ‘The G O of Belgium […] has received the brotherly letter in which your Grand Secretary informs us of the establishment of official relations between the masonic authorities of the two countries […]’. In 1987, Bro. Brodsky had written ‘we do not know whether it [the Grand Secretary’s letter] was ever mailed’ (ibid., p. 65) and kept on ignoring the evidence of the Belgian Grand Master’s answer, AQC 117 (2005), p. 49.
[26]          Pierre Noël 2007, p. 414. Also the obituary of Goblet d’Alviella, PGM of the Grand Orient of Belgium, in AQC 38 (1925), pp. 223-224.
[27]          James Daniel, AQC 117 (2005), p. 11. The Grand Registrar was Erskine Simes, ‘an eminent barrister’ (Timesonline, 9 December 2004). The ‘sic’ in square brackets is in the original quote. From the time when the Grand Orient of Belgium was founded in 1833 ‘it is likely that the Bible was nowhere displayed while lodges were at work’ (Pierre Noël 2007, p. 410).
[28]          Robert Freke Gould, The History of Freemasonry 1886, vol. III, p. 26. (Gould quoted only the 2nd of the four paragraphs of the resolution adopted on 22 February 1878 by a Committee appointed on the previous 5 December. The full text was quoted in French by Oswald Wirth in Le Symbolisme from April 1935, a paper reproduced in Wirth 1938, pp. 126-127). Page 192 of the same volume, Gould wrote: ‘Not that the relations between England and the Grand Orient had ever been very close. The latter was doubtless tacitly acknowledged by England as an independent Masonic power, but never formally so. No correspondence passed between the two, no exchange of representatives was ever made. But French masons who were formerly received and welcomed in all English Lodges, can now only be admitted, on certifying that they were made in a Lodge acknowledging the G.A.O.T.U., and that they themselves hold such a belief to be a pre-requisite to Freemasonry. With this mournful episode, let us close the history of the French Grand Orient. Indeed, in our eyes, French Freemasonry no longer exists. What remains is spurious, and illegitimate.’ However when Gould on 8 May 1884 asked Bros. Poule and Du Hamel, both members of the Grand Orient of France, to help him, he addressed them as ‘Dear Gentlemen and Brethren’ and his last sentence expressed the hope that ‘his desire to do justice to such an important cause as that of Freemasonry in France could be an excuse for his letter’ (French translation of Gould’s letter in Adrien Juvanon 1926, Vers la Lumière, pp. 131-132 ; letter from the Grand Orient of France to the Grand Master, HRH Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, dated 28 November 1884, answered by Grand Secretary Shadwell H. Clerke, 12 January 1885, ibid. pp. 68-72).
[29]          John Rylands, AQC 75 (1962), p. 27.
[30]          Also papers by W.B. Hextall, AQC 23 (1910), 25 (1912) by Chetwode Crawley, AQC 28 (1915).
[31]          Frederic Robert Worts, AQC 75 (1962), p. 20.
[32]          John Rylands, AQC 75 (1962), p. 27.
[33]          Bro. Worts did not mention the 1878 resolution in his anthology: ‘[…] the G.L., from 1813, never expressed any official view concerning the Landmarks until more than a century had passed.’, AQC 75 (1962), p. 19.
[34]          R.F. Gould, AQC 6 (1893), p. 131; W.B. Hextall & A.F. Calvert, AQC 30 (1917), p. 202 & 205); Lewis Edwards, AQC 46 (1936), pp. 360-361. J.R. Clarke commented: ‘It is possible to be very close friends with a man and not to approve his religious views’, AQC 78 (1965), p. 72. Also Begemann 1910, pp. 128 & 137; Dudley Wright, ‘Martin Folkes Deputy Grand Master 1724’ (The Builder Magazine, April 1922); Bernheim 2000, pp. 237-239; David Stevenson, ‘James Anderson: Man and Mason’, Heredom 10 (2002), p. 122); Andrew Prescott, ‘A Body without a Soul? The Philosophical Outlook of British Freemasonry 1700-2000’, ( &
[35]          Grand Master 24 June 1724-27 December 1725. Folkes was President of the Royal Society 1741-1752.
[37] James E. Force, ‘The breakdown of the Newtonian synthesis of science and religion’ in Essay on the Context, nature and influence of Isaac Newton’s theology, Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990, p. 151).
[38] Stukeley wrote the following about John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, first noble Grand Master (June 1721-June 1722): ‘[…] & had he not been born a nobleman & of heathen bringing up, we shd have had the same love for religion. I often made great impressions in his mind on that head, but Mr Folks’s company, Cha. Stanhope, Mr. Baker, & the like irreligious, effac’d ‘em’ (Ibid., p. 114; fully quoted in German in Begemann 1910, p. 128). Bro. W.G. Fisher mentioned only the 2nd Duke of Montagu’s ‘heathen upbringing’, an expression he culled, modified, from the previous sentence, AQC 79 (1966), p. 70.
[41]          Chris Impens 2008, p. 9. Nearly same paper as ‘The First Charge revisited’, AQC 120 (2008), pp. 216-237, but without the above-quoted sentence. Both papers are an excellent contribution to a comment made once by Bro. William James Williams (a solicitor who had a ‘keen legal mind‘, AQC 62, 1951, p. 78): ‘[…] although stupid Atheists are excluded from entry, the qualifying adjective (which should have been unnecessary) might leave it open to the remark that only a certain class of atheists were intended’, AQC 56 (1945), p. 52.
[43]          AQC 86 (1973), p. 105.
[44]          French translation in Alec Mellor 1980, pp. 88-90. Original English in Pierre Noël, (, pp. 64-65. In footnote 266, Bro. Noël mentions he received a copy of the document through Chris Connop, presse-attaché of the UGLE. Copied from his paper in the appendix to this paper.
[45]          AQC 86 (1973), p. 114 (my italics).
[46]          Both the message of HRH the Duke of Connaught and the allocution of Lord Ampthill are quoted in the Appendix to the present paper.
[47]          Edward Augustus Hanover (2 November 1767-23 January 1820) was created 1st Duke of Kent on 24 April 1799 ( HRH was initiated on 5 August 1789 (not ‘in 1790’, as stated pp. 120 & 235 of Grand Lodge 1717-1767) in the Geneva lodge L’Union (not L’Union des Cœurs, as stated ibid., p. 275). L’Union and L’Union des Cœurs were two distinct Geneva lodges. L’Union, founded on 20 March 1786, was the lodge of the Grand Master of the Grand Orient National de Genève, Jean Rodolphe Sigismond Vernet, and never worked the Rectified Rite. L’Union des Cœurs, founded in 1769, joined the Régime Rectifié in 1810 (Bernheim 1994, pp. 303 & 539). The dates 1778 and 1782 are those of Convents held in Lyon and in Wilhemsbad. The mistake concerning the lodge in which the future Duke of Kent was initiated, originated in three Swiss historians, Galiffe, Zschokke and Boos; it was set right by François Ruchon in 1935, quoted by Paul Tunbrige (AQC 78, 1965, p. 19). See Bernheim 1994, pp. 247 note 13 & 303 note 27.
[48]          ‘Voici les engagements que nous pouvons prendre’ in letter to Roehrich, 17 September 1913. ‘Nous avons imposé et nous imposerons à nos Loges les obligations suivantes’ in letter to HRH the Duke of Connaught, 8 October November 1913 (facsimiles of both letters in Alec Mellor 1980, pp. 247-248 & 269-[273]; see note 51). Mellor (1907-1968, made a Mason on 28 March 1969) states that the Board of General Purposes allowed him to reproduce these letters and thanks Sir James Stubbs and Terence Haunch for their brotherly reception (Mellor, op. cit., p. 245).
[49]          From the seventeen letters in Mellor 1980, pp. 247-[281], seven of them as fac-similés.
[50]          Dated 6 December 1913 and signed by Ribaucourt Grand Master, Décret N° 1 of the new Grand Lodge said: ‘[…] considering: That the new Grand Lodge was founded in Paris on 5 November 1913 […]’ (Jean Baylot 1963, pp. 27-28, and Alec Mellor 1980, p. 90). Twenty years ago, I mentioned that this Grand Lodge was founded by one lodge only, AQC 101 (1989), p. 98.
[51]          Le Centre des Amis is the new name adopted in 1793 by lodge Guillaume Tell. It lapsed in 1841 (Adhuc Stat, p. 15). Three members of the Grand Orient (Édouard de Ribaucourt was one of them) who received the CBCS (Chevalier Bienfaisante de la Cité Sainte) degree in Geneva on 11 June 1910 created an unattached lodge working the Rectified Rite under the name Le Centre des Amis in Paris on the following 20 June. In a letter they sent in July to the Grand Orient of France, they asserted to have ‘re-awakened that lodge in virtue of a constitutive patent dated 11 June 1910, delivered to them by the Directoire du Régime Écossais Rectifié en Helvétie (Charrière 1938, p. 98). After a rebuke for its illegal action, the lodge was warranted by the Grand Orient on 15 March 1911 (ibid., p. 108).
[52]          In view of these words, it is noteworthy that in the letter to HRH the Duke of Connaught, mentioned in note 48, the word Octobre is crossed out and the word Novembre written above it.
[53]          The above is my re-translation of the French text quoted in Jean Baylot 1963, pp. 34-35 & Alec Mellor 1980, pp. 86-87: ‘Nous étions tout préparés à recevoir votre Pl. du 8 octobre […] Nous avons toute autorité pour agir au nom de notre G.M., S.A.R. le Duc de Connaught […] et au nom de S.A.R. nous nous empressons de vous donner l’assurance que la G.L.N.I. et R. est de ce fait reconnue par la G.L. d’Angleterre comme une G.L. souveraine avec laquelle nous désirons établir et entretenir des relations fraternelles.’
[54]          According to the history of the lodge on its website and to the first history of the lodge written in 1915 by Bro. Renou (a typescript I found in the library of UGLE [ref. 4FR 166 (204) REN], pp. 30-32). On page 32, Renou writes that on 3 December 1913, the lodge was closed for the last time in the name and under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France.
[55]          Jean Baylot 1963, p. 28. The words ‘notre Régime’ mean the Rectified Rite.
[56]          Jean Baylot 1963, pp. 37 & 89.
[57]          Quoted in Masonic Year Books as well as in Appendix B of Bro. James Daniel’s paper, AQC 120 (2005), p. 41. My italics.
[58]          Lodge Le Centre des Amis was founded in 1910 (see note 49).
[59]          AQC 88 (1976), p. 85. A few years later, Draffen wrote: ‘All help should be given to see that the new Grand Lodges do not stray into the enemy’s camp and become one of those Grand Lodges dominated by the thinking of the Grand Orient of France’, AQC 96 (1984), p. 135.
[60]          R.F. Gould 1882-1887, The History of Freemasonry, Vol. I, p. 439, note 1.
[61]          Douglas Knoop and G.P. Jones, AQC 56 (1945), p. 47.
[62]          «  (Arnaud Desjardins, p.59.
[64]          Marius Lepage 1956, p. 8.
[65]          Practitioner of Swedish Manual Treatment. Born in Stockholm (Sweden) 21 November 1876. Naturalized 21 November 1914. Lived in Harrogate. Captain 10th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment, later Lt-Colonel 15th West Yorkshire Regiment. Awarded the Military Cross 1st January 1918. Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of valuable services rendered in connection with Military Operations in Archangel, North Russia, 3 February 1920. Source: with a photograph and other websites found through Google.
[66]          AQC 24 (1911), p. 173.
(*)        See note 44 of this paper.
[67]          [Note by AB]. ‘Worshipful Brother Edward Roehrich was born in Geneva. […] Founder, Past Master (twice W.M.) and Father of the Entente Cordiale Lodge, No. 2796, consecrated in London in 1899, and working entirely in the French language ; […] In 1901 he was invested as Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies of England, […]. At the Grand Lodge of England he represents the Grande Loge Nationale of France, of which he is Past Senior Grand Warden. […] It was chiefly through his advocacy and assistance that the National Grand Lodge of France was recently organised, whereby a severance between English and French Freemasons of nearly forty years was bridged over ; […] At the Grand Lodge of England he acts as representative of the Grand Lodge Alpina (Switzerland)’. ([Anon.] 1915. Representative British Freemasons – A Series of Biographies and Portraits of Early Twentieth Century Freemasons. Kessinger reprint 2003, p. 216).
[68]          [Note by AB]. The reviser of R.F. Gould’s Concise History of Freemasonry (1920).
%d bloggers like this: