French Rite

The French Rite (FF) proposes a particular route inspired by the hope in the Man that impregnated the century of the Lights. FR therefore invites a personal journey, the path that Freemasonry opens up in each one, as a path in a group.

The FR was born out of a symbolic elaboration and a 50-year practice of Freemasonry in France that found its foundation in the humanistic values ​​of the time during that period: encyclopedism, development of the responsibility of each person in society, ideal of freedom . That is why we say that RF is the Rite of the Enlightenment.

Its origin is sought between the years 1720-1730, years of introduction of Freemasonry in France and Europe, at the same time was introduced in Spain with the creation in Madrid of the Lodge “French Arms” No. 50 of the registry of the Great Lodge of London, known as “The three flowers of Lys” or “La Matritense”, also in the same rite.

The texts that, from 1737, allow us to know this first continental Freemasonry, clearly show that the basic elements of the RF as we practice it today were already present, and that this Rite is no more than the result of a development of those base elements, occurred throughout the eighteenth century.

Although the first French lodges were not founded by the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster of 1717, the relations between this Grand Lodge and the first French masonry were narrow, and the comparison between the French texts and the English texts of the time shows that the Rituals and primitive French catechisms were essentially in conformity with those of the English Grand Lodge.

Philip, Duke of Wharton, the sixth Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster and creator in 1728 of that first Spanish lodge on San Bernardo Street in Madrid, was later elected in that same year as “Grand Master of the French-masons in France “between the years 1728 and 1729. An example of this are the words of the first and second degree and the place of the watchmen that were always consistent with those used in the Freemasonry of the English Grand Lodge of 1717 We can thus ensure how the RF is the heir of this, through the first French freemasonry.

The Great Lodge of London of 1717 was later called “Grand Lodge of the Moderns” by the rival Grand Lodge founded in 1751, which proclaimed itself “Grand Lodge of the Ancients.”

This is the reason why RF is also called Modern Rite. However, these denominations of the Rite are very late. They do not appear before the end of the 18th century and, as far as the second one is concerned, neither before the beginning of the 19th century. They are subsequent to the emergence of rites that qualify as “Scottish,” or that claim the Freemasonry of the Ancients.

Throughout the eighteenth century, the rituals practiced in France are developed and incorporate new elements, some of which come from the “compagnonnage”. All these new elements, added to the rituals arrived from England, have given to the French ceremonies a character that distinguishes them very clearly from the English ceremonies, although the general framework remains common.

For example in the tests at the time of travel in the Reception of new members, purifications by water and fire come from the Scriptures, at the baptism of Christ in the Jordan River and have no alchemical connotation.

These French contributions to rituals are reunited in similar ways also in the Rectified Scottish Rite (RSR) and the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (AASR), but what differentiates the RF from others is that it remains very close to the practices of the French masonry of the eighteenth century, considered by many as the Foundation Rite of Freemasonry.

The RSR has incorporated the influence of the German Strict Observance and the doctrine of Martinez de Pascually.

The AASR has adopted the basic elements of the English Freemasonry of the Ancients, and has given its blue degrees an hermetic and alchemical content. In the RF, nothing similar has occurred.

The development of rituals in the eighteenth century was facilitated by the fact that the Grand Lodge of France, and later in the beginnings of its successor, the Grand Orient of France, had no official rituals. This fact also resulted in a diversification in the use of rituals.

With the aim of restoring uniformity, the Grand Orient of France took over from 1779 the drafting of rituals destined to become officers. This work concluded in 1785, and the final redaction was approved by the general assembly of the Grand Orient, taking force of law in the lodges.

Several manuscript copies of these rituals dating from 1785 prior to the Revolution are preserved. In 1801 they were printed in one volume, “The Regulator of the Mason” and is by this name as they are generally known. The rituals in use in the GLE have been established on the basis of the rituals of 1785. They are not, however, a pure and simple reproduction, because the rituals of 1785, even though they are precious, are not always explicit or precise enough. could wish for practical purposes as well as for the good transmission of certain traditional elements of French masonry of the eighteenth century.

They have had to be clarified taking into account, whenever necessary, Masonic uses and old documents, previous to this date, of undoubted antiquity, that complete them.

The rituals

As they are practiced today in the GLE since its introduction in February 2006 after the lifting of columns of the Respectable Symbolic Lodge of San Juan “Aleph” No. 147, east of Toledo, the rituals of the first three degrees of the RF are , except for some modifications of presentation indispensable for the comfort of its use in Lodge, almost equal to the rituals approved by the Grand Orient of France in 1785, with the indicated complements.

In the beginnings of Freemasonry in France there were no written rituals. The ceremonies were developed and transmitted in a purely oral manner. The prohibition contained in the Masonic oath to write the rituals was applied in a very strict way. If it happened that the freemasons, or the lodges, resorted to records for their own use, these writings did not have any authorized character. For this reason, the first Grand Lodge of France, which was active from 1728 until the end of the 1760s, never had official rituals.

Something of this situation subsists in the Anglo-Saxon masonry. In some of the states of the United States there are no printed rituals, in others only the initials of the words are printed, for all those included in the text. In England there are extremely precise printed rituals of different ‘work styles’ or ‘works’ (for example, the works of Emulation, known in Spain for the term consecrated by the use, but unfit for ‘Rite’ Emulation), but none of These rituals may pretend to be the official ritual of the United Grand Lodge of England.

However, in 18th-century French masonry, the need for official written rituals was immediately felt. The reason was the sensitive differences that were being introduced in the ritual practice of the different lodges and that made people long for the reestablishment of a certain uniformity. The preamble of our rituals of 1785 says it expressly: “Another point no less important is the uniformity, long desired, in the manner of proceeding to initiation. Encouraged by these principles, the Grand Orient of France has finally dealt with the drafting of a protocol of initiation to the first three degrees, or symbolic degrees. He has believed that Freemasonry must be redirected to its old uses that some innovators have tried to alter, and to reestablish these first and important initiations in their ancient and respectable purity. The lodges of their jurisdiction must adhere point by point, in order never to offer the Freemasons again a diversity as scandalous as contrary to the true principles of Freemasonry. “

The Grand Orient of France was not the first to take the initiative to write the rituals. Some provincial Masonic authorities had begun to write official rituals that communicated to the lodges of their dependency. This is proven in the Scottish Mother Lodge of Marseilles in 1774 and is likely in the Grand Lodge of Regular Masters of Lyon in 1772. Their rituals are not currently in use, but shortly after they saw the light, simultaneously, two ritual systems that they remain as two of the main rites practiced today: the RER and the RF.

From its constitution in 1773, the Grand Orient of France, which succeeded the former Grand Lodge, had decided to draft new regulations and rituals. He devoted himself immediately to the first task and until 1779 he could not be placed with the second. The history can be reconstructed thanks to the ancient archives of the Grand Orient deposited in the Masonic Fund of the French National Library.

On June 1, 1779 a commission of 9 members was created for the writing of the three symbolic degrees. There are few data on the work of this commission. In 1783 it is when we really see the work begin, after the Grand Orient entrusted it to the Chamber of Degrees.

The Grand Orient was administered by three chambers: the Chamber of Administration, the Chamber of Paris (dedicated to correspondence with the Parisian lodges) and the Chamber of Provinces (dedicated to correspondence with the lodges in the provinces). On January 18, 1782, a fourth chamber was created, the Chamber of Degrees. Its mission was to deal with the writing of high grades. In the eyes of the Grand Orient, the high degrees were the necessary complement of the three symbolic degrees, forming with them an integrated and coherent whole. He had entrusted this work to the most learned and expert Freemasons, among whom was the great Roëttiers de Montaleau, who occupied the position of Speaker in the Chamber of Degrees.

On April 23, 1782, the three chambers together communicated to the Chamber of Degrees a first redaction of the rituals of the symbolic degrees, asking them to examine them and give their opinion. The Chamber of Degrees did not immediately go with it, since it was very busy with the preliminary drafting work of the high grades that had been commissioned. However, as of February / March 1783, he began to work on the symbolic degrees, devoting himself almost exclusively to this work throughout the year 1783.

The minutes of the meetings show that the Brothers who took the most active part were, together with Roëttiers de Montaleau, the HH. Millon, Salivet and Grifin.

At the beginning of 1784 the work was finished. On February 10, the result was communicated to the three chambers assembled. On June 24, 1784 the General Assembly of the Grand Orient appointed a commission of 9 members, taken from 9 Parisian lodges, to examine the rituals and make their observations. Then, during several assemblies held in July / August 1785, the Grand Orient proceeded to a final examination of the rituals, which were finally approved on August 26.

On April 7, 1786, the Grand Orient decided that the rituals would not be printed, but sent to the lodges in manuscript form. Many of these manuscripts survive before the Revolution.

After the Revolution, in 1801 (and again some years later under the Empire), the rituals were printed with the title “Regulator of the Mason”. It is with this title that they are most frequently known. The comparison with the manuscripts shows that this printed version is perfectly faithful to the original version approved in 1785 (apart from a funny gazapo in the description of the apprentice sign since, in the printed versions, the larynx has become the largus. ?) The only notable difference – and inevitable -, is in the ritual of the banquet, in the first toast, which is by the King in manuscripts before the Revolution, being for the French Republic in the printed version in 1801, and by His Majesty Imperial in the reprint made during the Empire. Despite this fidelity, the usual reference to the “Mason Regulator” should not make you forget the oldest origin of these rituals.

The denomination of FR, under which this ritual system is known, was not given by the editors of the rituals, nor by the Grand Orient. It was adopted spontaneously by the Masonic vox populi to distinguish it from the systems that were called ‘Scottish’. Ultimately, this Scottish Rite-French Rite distinction concerned less, in the spirit of the Freemasons of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to the symbolic degrees taken separately than to Masonic systems including symbolic degrees and high degrees.

As for the denomination of ‘Modern Rite’, for which the system is also known, it is a consequence of the introduction in France, at the beginning of the 19th century, of the AASR. This system was proclaimed of the Freemasonry of the ‘Old Ones’ – issue on which we suggest to be documented in the historical studies concerning the disputes between the two Grand Lodges called the ‘Ancient’ and the ‘Modern’ that divided the English Freemasonry in the second half of the eighteenth century- and, correlatively, called the FR as ‘Modern’.

FR is therefore the exercise of freemasonry in a chemically pure state. In its first three degrees it contains only the symbols related to the myth of the construction of the Temple of Solomon.

The FR is essentially mythical and conveys three fundamental myths:

  • The myth of the passage from darkness to light
  • The myth of the construction of the temple of Solomon
  • The hiramic myth.

There is no alchemy or secrecy in FR. There is talk, both in the chain of union and in some prayers, of consecration of the Great Work, but it is only the Work of fraternity, of the base and ultimate work; of the foundation stone and the vault key, which is proposed to each Mason for its implementation. The mission of the brothers is the meeting of all human beings around the axis of the world that is no other, in the FR, than universal love.

FR provides a working method, and each grade completes its pedagogy. The newly initiated learns in this way, that the indications that have been given do not exhaust the sense of the symbols that have previously been presented. It is in this way that, through his own meditations, he will be able to penetrate this sense more deeply. Or rather, this sense will penetrate deeper into him. Reception in FR is a return to reality. Reality does not change; but what does change is the perception of that reality. The external becomes, increasingly, internal. This change of interior perspective that is presented to the candidate is one of the keys to the esotericism of our system. The key is given to the candidate, but he has to turn it over. The door is open and the mysteries unveiled will not cease to amaze and enrich the spirits as you discover them.

FR is also a balanced rite. It allows the transmission of a pedagogy of the meaning of the Masonic values ​​founded in the Enlightenment century, but it is also an initiatory vector, that is, it points to the change in depth of each one in unsuspected and unexpected aspects.

The initiation preparation in the FR is not only spiritual, moral and intellectual. It implies a participation of the heart. Without an affective feeling, without emotions, without sharing and without a good coexistence, the heart remains impermeable. The knowledge parades, the ritual develops, but the soul stays dry and the change is not realized. An FR Mason is an educated Mason, but at the same time he must be a good brother, of course for others, since it is good to be a resource for those we love and a comfort for those who are in difficulty. But also for himself, since that is a condition “sine qua non” to advance on himself.

Our purpose in the FR, the “non plus ultra”, is the peace of the heart for itself, for those we love, and for those who must still learn to love. And here we are all facing the path of discovery of our neighbor.

The Brothers in this rite can follow their Masonic work in the four Orders of Wisdom, never superior, offered by the French Grand Chapter and which complement and develop the content of the Master’s degree, without ever forgetting the teachings of the first two degrees of Apprentice and Fellowcraft.

The purpose of these Orders of Wisdom is none other than to help make and perfect the passage of the squad to the beat, using as a basis for the story a biblical story, but in reality it is a story that takes place inside each one of us, and that should lead us to a level of spiritual realization, provided that we know how to make the teachings of these degrees fruitful in our interior.

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