No. 11 -- The newsletter of The Freemasons Chamber -- July 2000

"That a belief in the Supreme Being…."

On September 14th 1877, the Grand Orient of France voted to eliminate from its ancient constitution the following article: "Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the solidarity of mankind." The Masonic world was plunged into horror at this "act of atheism". This was certainly the most radical move in modern Freemasonry. Many grand lodges severed fraternal relations with the Grand Orient. However, there were Masonic scholars and bodies who attempted to understand the reasons behind this drastic amendment. They found that there was much to commend it, keeping in view the political and religious environments in France, and the role, which the Grand Orient saw for itself in the Masonic world. The Freemason now has the complete 37-page document compiled by Bro JH Ramsey of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, and published in the journal The Builder, in January 1918. Over the next thee issues we shall publish key excerpts from Bro Ramsey’s exciting account of the event and its effects on the Masonic world. Any Brother who wishes to have the complete set of three discussions, written by three leading Masons of the time, may request an e-mail copy. – Editor.

In lieu of the deleted article regarding "…the existence of God….", the following was inserted: "Whereas Freemasonry is not a religion and has therefore no doctrine or dogma to affirm in its constitution, this Assembly has decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article 1, of the Constitution (above quoted) shall be erased, and that for the words of the said article the following shall be substituted:

1. Being an Institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic, and progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth, study of universal morality, science and arts, and the practice of benevolence. It has for its principles absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no person on account of his belief, and its motto is 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity."'

At the next annual session of the Grand Body in 1878 a move was made to conform the ritual to the change of the constitution and a committee directed to make a report and recommendation for consideration at the following session.

Accordingly in September, 1879, upon a report of the committee, a new ritual was adopted wherein all reference to the name and idea of God was eliminated, but liberty was given to the Lodges to adopt the new or old rituals as they should see fit. We are told, that this action was taken in the Grand Lodge session amidst great excitement and in spite of a vigorous and determined opposition of the minority.

Naturally, and as a matter of course, the change in the Constitution and ritual permitted the removal of the Bible from the Altar.

It is not too much to say that the Masonic world stood shocked and astounded at this radical departure taken by the French Masons. Probably nothing in Masonic affairs, ever excited such widespread interest and apprehension. The Masonic press in every country was filled with vigorous discussion and many felt that it foreshadowed the division of the Craft into two great sections - one believers in Deity and non-political, and the other atheistic and democratic.

Grand Lodges, especially in all English-speaking countries lost no time in condemning in bitterest terms the action of the Grand Orient, and in severing fraternal relations. In our own State (Iowa) in the Grand Lodge session of 1878, the Grand Master said:

"The Grand Orient of France having obliterated from its constitution the paragraph which asserted a belief in the existence of Deity, and by such action placed itself in antagonism to the traditions, practice and feelings of all true and genuine Masons in this jurisdiction and the world, deserves no longer a recognition as a Masonic body from this Grand Lodge… we should wipe our hands of all such bogus Masonry."

The Grand Orient Masons have always resented the accusation that they promulgated unbelief and atheism. In fact, and in support of an opposite contention, they cite the circumstance, that when the amendment to change the constitution was proposed, at a meeting of the Council, preliminary to the Grand Session, a Protestant minister, M. Desmond, drew the report in support of the resolution in which he argued that the disappearance of the original article of belief would not imply a profession of atheism, but merely an admission into the Craft of men of all opinions, and that Masonry should welcome men of all doctrines and every shade of thought.

A few weeks after the amendment, a member of the Grand Orient, wrote: "The Grand Orient of France, while it respects all philosophical beliefs, insists upon absolute liberty of belief. This does not mean that we banish from our lodges the belief in God. The United Grand Lodge of England on the contrary desires to make a belief in God in some manner compulsory. The Grand Orient of France is much more liberal, since in proclaiming the absolute liberty of belief it permits to each one of its members the liberty to believe or not to believe in God, and by so doing desires to respect its members in their convictions, their doctrines and their beliefs.

"This is the reason why fraternal relations do not exist between the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Orient of France. We regret this exceedingly. England has always been considered, rightly in other respects, a country of liberty. It is difficult to understand under the circumstances why the Freemasons of this great and noble nation should want to deprive their brothers of France of this same liberty."

(To be continued)


A History Of Scottish Freemasonry In India 1838 – 1999 (Part V)

(Continued from The Freemason No. 10, with a request for further information and items from Brethren, by the Rt Wor District Grand Master, Bro Bomi S Mehta)

In 1947 the portrait of Bro. Jehangir C. Mistree, who was our popular Grand Secretary for three decades was unveiled in the Library of Freemasons Hall at Edinburgh by the then Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason, Bro. The Earl of Galloway. This was indeed a unique honour, as he is the first and only Indian whose portrait has been unveiled at Edinburgh. This was also a well deserving honour for one, who has been rightly called "The Grand Old Man of Indian Freemasonry". As a tribute to his memory, a life-size statue of Bro. Mistree stands at the entrance of Freemasons' Hall in Mumbai.

Grand Lodge of United Scottish Freemasonry of India and Ceylon 1948 - 1961

In 1947, on account of the partition of India, the Grand Lodge of All Scottish Freemasonry in India changed its nomenclature from November 1948 to Grand Lodge of United Scottish Freemasonry of India and Pakistan, and from July 1955 to Grand Lodge of United Scottish Freemasonry of India and Ceylon.

Upto now all the Grand Masters were appointed from those, who permanently resided at Bombay. In 1955, there was a first departure from this practice by the appointment of Bro. Nawab of Rampur as our Grand Master. On 9th March 1959, the Most Worshipful Immediate Past Grand Master Mason, Bro. The Right Honourable Lord Alexander G. MacDonald and the Grand Secretary, Bro. Dr. Alexander F. Buchan visited the Grand Lodge of United Scottish Freemasonry of India and Ceylon.

At a meeting held in London on 29th October 1959 between the Pro Grand Master of England, the Grand Master of Ireland, and the Immediate Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland acting for the Grand Master Mason, it was decided that an independent Grand Lodge of India was desirable and that in order to help forward the above objective, it was further decided that one of the terms of the Concordat of 1905 requiring the assent of two-thirds of the Lodges under each of their jurisdiction to be necessary before recognition could be given to a new Grand Lodge, should be waived. To promote this decision, a Steering Committee was formed consisting of members in proportion to the number of Lodges in India under each Constitution, viz., English (180 Lodges) 12 Members; Scottish (75 Lodges) 5 Members; Irish (14 Lodges) 1 Member.

The three Grand Masters agreed that the Irish representative, Rt. Wor. Bro. Lt. Gen. Sir Harold Williams should be the Chairman of the Steering Committee.

To the Editorial Board


This is to appreciate, encourage and congratulate you for the novel manner in which rare Masonic information is being given to us – the readers.

The articles are small but precise, containing a variety of Masonic knowledge. It takes little time to read , but the material gives one enough to ponder over till the next issue. Do go on doing the noble work.

Wishing you all the best.

Yours fraternally,

Bro Dinesh Mehta

Editorial Board: Bro Tofique Fatehi, Bro Ahmed Bharucha, Bro Larry Grant.
Published for The Freemasons Chamber by Larry Grant, Post Box 1610, Mumbai 400001, India
Phone 91-22-2151001. E-mail
Master Masons are welcome to request free copies. Please send full name, name and number of lodge, and address. Copies also available by e-mail.

Previous Issue Newsletter Page Next Issue