SHORT TALK BULLETIN

Vol. XLI No. 8 — August 1963

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SOME LODGES ARE DIFFERENT

(The information in this Short Talk Bulletin has been generously furnished to The Masonic Service Association by Brother Norman Peterson, Portland, Oregon, who originally published it in greater detail in the November, 1957, New Age, the September, 1958, Royal Arch Mason. and the March, 1963, Oregon Freemason.)

Since World War 11 Americans have become world travellers in increasing numbers. American Freemasons have joined the swelling tide of visitors to other lands for military, business, and vacation plans, as well as out of fraternal curiosity.

Many Brothers have learned by first hand experience that Masonic ritual is recited in foreign languages, a fact that all of us have been aware of but never truly realized in our fraternal travels in the United States.

From this realization has come a quickened interest in ritual as well as language differences, which has stimulated frequent questions about "how they do it over there". Many inquiries received by your Masonic Service Association are exemplified by this one: "Since they use the metric system, what do they have, in Germany for example, for the twenty-four inch gauge in the E. A. degree?"

This answer is not intended to be humorous. They use the twenty-four inch gauge. Freemasonry on the continent of Europe acquired much of its ritual, especially for the first three degrees, from England in the first half of the eighteenth century. The metric system was not widely used in Europe until after 1790 when France required its adoption by law during the period of the revolution. The metric system is a product of modern science and mathematics. The inch, a word derived from a Latin word meaning twelfth part, was known and used throughout the countries of Europe long before metric units became the standards for weights and measures.

Most of us subconsciously assume that others do what we do. When we find that what we took for granted "just isn't so", we are likely to be astonished or confused unless we inquire into the historic, linguistic, or racial differences which have created the variations that surprise us.

Many a newly-made Brother in the United States is at first bewildered when he learns of the differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. What are private grand honors in one Grand Jurisdiction may be public grand honors in another. Sometimes this happens within the territory of the same Grand Lodge. For example, in Connecticut, a Mason raised in East Hartford may be really surprised if his first visit to another Lodge is made across the river in Hartford, in a Lodge which has proudly maintained a somewhat different ritual entirely "from mouth to ear" since it first acquired its charter from Massachusetts before the Revolution.

Connecticut has a "standard" ritual, approved by the Grand Lodge Custodians of the Work; but since some of its founding Lodges antedate the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1789 and "have transmitted unimpaired" the rituals which they acquired (from three different sources) before that date, the Grand Lodge has never insisted on the adoption of the "standard" ritual by those older Lodges, so long as they make no alterations in their form and language, because those agree in spirit with the fundamental tenets of the Craft.

But many American Masons are also surprised to learn that there are Masonic Lodges in this country still working in other languages than English. A little reflection will remind such brethren that this nation absorbed a great many immigrants into its population, whose descendants still preserve their "mother tongue" and some of the ideas and customs of the countries of their origin.

The writer's father, a Presbyterian minister, preached two sermons every Sunday, one in German and one in English, in New Orleans, Louisiana, New York City, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, until the third generation had so largely forgotten the mother tongue of their immigrant ancestors that the German worship services were discontinued un the 1930's.

The same thing has happened in Masonic Lodges. There used to be many more which worked in other languages, French, Spanish, German and Italian. Lessing Lodge No. 557 of Chicago and United Brothers Lodge No. 356 of New York are examples of Lodges which have discontinued working in another language.

But as late as five years ago there was a considerable number of Masonic Lodges whose members still carried on the ritualistic labors of Freemasonry in their mother tongue.

The majority of American German-speaking Lodges are concentrated in New York City, especially in the Ninth Masonic District; but there are others in Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Reading); California (San Francisco) ; Baltimore, Maryland; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; and Washington, D. C.

The polyglot origin of the people who built such cosmopolitan cities as New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, and Miami, Florida, accounts for the survival of foreign language- speaking Lodges in those places, particularly those employing the Romance languages, French, Spanish, and Italian. Freemasonry in New Orleans, for example, had its origins among the French refugees who fled there from Hispaniola in the 1790's and the early 1800's, when that island experienced bloody revolutions led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Henry Christophe.

French speaking Lodges may be found in New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and Montreal, Canada. Italian is still used in some Lodges in the 10th District of Manhattan (New York City), New Orleans, and San Francisco. Spanish is the language used in a few Lodges in New Orleans, New York City, Miami and Tampa, Florida. A list of these foreign language Lodges in the United States is given at the end of this Short Talk Bulletin.

But for every Brother who is surprised to learn that there are still so many Lodges in the United States using a foreign language, there are many more who are amazed to discover that a number of Lodges (most of them still using a foreign language) employ a "Scottish Rite" version of the three degrees of Symbolic Masonry. The average American Freemason is bewildered to hear that there is a "Scottish Rite Blue Lodge ritual".

To clear up the first and most natural misunderstanding which such a statement may create, it should be emphasized that the Supreme Councils of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in the United States most emphatically disclaim any control over "the symbolic degrees of ancient Craft Masonry", i.e., over the "Blue Lodges" and their governing bodies, the sovereign Grand Lodges of the various states of the nation. In fact, the Supreme Councils have done all in their power to proclaim and to demonstrate their acknowledgment of the Grand Lodges as the supreme Masonic authority in their respective jurisdictions.

To understand the term, "Scottish Rite Blue Lodge ritual", one must become aware of the historical developments which produced that phrase. Since it is a phenomenon associated primarily with those Lodges using a foreign language in their labors, it is closely tied to the theme of this Bulletin, "Some Lodges are different."

When Speculative Freemasonry underwent its phenomenal spread and growth in the eighteenth century, its ritualistic ceremonies had not been fixed or finally determined. When the Mother Grand Lodge of England was established in 1717, there was no ritual of the third degree, as we recognize that term today. The ritual grew and expanded as "ritual tinkerers" experimented with it and added to its language and its ceremonies.

As it spread into other countries on the continent of Europe, it took on different forms and ceremonies which reflected the tastes and predilections of various national groups. The French especially liked colorful rites and pageantry, which became the characteristic features not only of the "higher degrees", but even of the primary degrees of symbolic Craft Masonry.

Because of the association of the term "Scottish Rite" with some of those degrees in France, as a result of the activities of the Chevalier Ramsey and other Scottish Freemasons in exile in that country, the basic degrees also were described as "Scottish Rite" to distinguish them from the symbolic degrees as they had developed in England. In fact, in some European systems of Masonic rites, Supreme Councils actually claimed control over the symbolic degrees.

"Scottish Rite Blue Lodge ritual", therefore, is a term which describes the ritual of the symbolic degrees as it developed in France and other nations on the continent, especially those which had a closer cultural affinity with the French because of their kinship in the use of Romance languages.

The "Scottish Rite" version of the ritual has been the most popular one among Latin peoples; so it is not surprising that where we find that ritual in use in the United States today, it is usually in foreign language speaking Lodges using French, Spanish, or Italian. The only German speaking Lodge known to employ a "Scottish Rite" ritual in the first three degrees is Aurora No. 30 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

For those brethren whose first reaction is to say about Lodges which are different, "Why can't they do the way we do?", there is a humbling consideration in the thought that the "Scottish Rite" version actually represents only one of many versions different from those usually found in American jurisdictions. Even the ritual used in English Lodges - and there are various "workings" permitted by the Mother Grand Lodge! - differs appreciably from that which the American Mason regards as "standard". The Short Talk Bulletin for March, 1961, pointed out one of the minor differences which create misunderstanding: what we call movable and immovable are just reversed in English practice!

There are approximately twenty-five legitimate Lodges in the United States which use a "Scottish Rite" version of the ritual of the three symbolic degrees. (A list may be found at the end of this Bulletin.) Unfortunately for the Brother who desires to visit some of them, they are concentrated in New York, New Orleans, and California. But with our "population on the move" so much, American Freemasons visit other jurisdictions much more frequently than they did a couple of generations ago. An awareness of the location of "Scottish Rite Blue Lodges" may help an interested Brother arrange his travel plans to include a Masonic visit to one of the cities mentioned above.

While this Short Talk cannot be extended to include even a brief description of the "Scottish Rite" version of the "Blue Lodge" ritual, it should be mentioned that the first degree is the most impressive of the three. More ritualistic officers are usually employed; the ceremonies of the first degree are more elaborate and extended. However, the basic lessons of the three degrees are developed as any Mason would expect to find them. A description of these ceremonies, especially as they differ from the familiar features of "the American rite", may form the subject matter of a future Short Talk Bulletin.

These variations illustrate the richness of Masonic heritage. Displeasing though they may be to those who crave a global uniformity for Masonic rites and ceremonies, they show how differences in the interpretation and exemplification of Freemasonry's universal ideas can satisfy different individuals in different cultures. And in that way, they illustrate the Masonic slogan: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty."

FOREIGN LANGUAGE LODGES IN THE UNITED STATES

(GERMAN)

(FRENCH)

(ITALIAN)

(SPANISH)

* Since the first printing of this Bulletin in 1963, it has been learned that this Lodge now works only in English.

U. S. LODGES USING "SCOTTISH RITE BLUE LODGE" RITUAL

The Masonic Service Association of the United States of America