Tadeusz Cegielski Speaks About the Freemasonry Exhibit in the Museum of Ethnography
Part Three: Masonry – Nation – Politics
In the context of politics, everything we do in the public sphere is political, whether we are aware of this or not, whether we want it to be so or not, everything is political.
There are many reasons why the founders of Freemasonry, of the Grand Lodge formed in London in the year 1717, were eager to distance themselves from politics. That is to say, from one point of view, they were committed to the goal of achieving prestige, of entering the world of salons, of above all entering the royal court. In the forefront of achieving this goal stood the aristocracy, preferably members of the royal family, and in this they were successful.
At the same time, they wished to achieve a practical goal, an ethical goal. Which is to say that at that time one of the most pressing, most acute problems in England was the dramatic separation between the Protestants, the Anglicans who were the supporters of this new dynasty, the dynasty of the German House of Hanover, and those that continued to believe in the dynasty of the Stuarts, which was Catholic, and who were often, though not always, Catholics themselves.
The founders of the Grand Lodge dreamt of, and to some extent were successful in, bringing the two sides of this conflict together in Masonic lodges. On the one side would be Catholics, on the other Protestants. They themselves were Protestants, but they offered the hand of friendship to the Catholics, and without the help of the nation, without the help of the King, without the authority of the King, they would not have been able to achieve this goal.
Masonry is an element of a political organisation, as can be seen in the United States, where it played a key role as one element in the formation of the legal and constitutional framework. Likewise in England, where we hear stories of members of delegations falling asleep which, if true, would have led to a collapse of the framework.
So how should we look at this? Freemasonry is an element of politics, but in a different way from our everyday understanding of politics. We are not talking here of parties, of struggles, of intrigues, of plots, of factions. We are talking about the organisation of the nation.
This means that Masonic organisations did not involve themselves in political intrigues. More often we find situations where, in countries ruled by a dictatorship, Masonry is regarded as an enemy. A very serious enemy. We must recall twentieth-century anti-Semitism, which has its own anti-Masonic function, and in which the terms Jew and Mason are interchangeable. And so it was in mid-War Poland, where the terms were used without distinction. A Mason was a Jew, in Germany, in the fascist Italy of Mussolini, in the Soviet Union of Stalin.
It goes without saying that Masonry was proscribed, was banned, and its leaders ended in jails or concentration camps. In this context we should recall mid-War Poland, where, toward its end in November 1938, the government of President Mościcki outlawed Masonry by decree — a decree that was implemented by the Endecia Party using a camp, a castle connected to President Mościcki. In this Endecia was disillusioned. It had imagined that in Poland, as in Germany and Austria, the concentration camps would be filled with Masons, that the Berezka Kartuska Prison would be filled with Brethren in aprons -- no longer wearing aprons, of course. Nothing came of this because it was little more than a tactical move.