Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise (de France)

The history of the short lived Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise (1880-1911) is well documented. A book was even published about it.

The ‘Symbolic Scottish Grand Lodge’ came from the Grand Orient de France. The GOdF had already taken the progressive path by removing the obligation of faith for prospective members in 1877. Also the Bible would disappear from its lodges. Still there were members who thought that the GOdF didn’t move forward fast enough.

The first problem was the authority that the ‘higher degrees’ had over the ‘symbolic’ degrees (“craft” degrees as they are often called in English). Especially the conservative stance of the Supreme Council was a problem. In 1880 it came to a break and 12 lodges left the GOdF to found the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise. As mentioned, the word “symbolique” referred to the first three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.

Several attempts have been made to bring the lodges back under the GOdF and/or the Supreme Council and also with the Grande Loge de France, the latter was founded in 1894 as another split off of the GOdF.

The GLSE grew from 12 to 27 lodges between 1880 and 1894, but then some started to fold, others moved (back) to other obediences. Between 1909 and 1909 the GLSE had only one lodge left which eventually joined the GLdF.

Even though the GLSE was more progressive than the GOdF, the initiation of women remained a hot potato. Some lodges wanted to initiate women, most didn’t. Some lodges would press for lodges of adoption, but one lodge kept pushing to initiate women. In 1882 Marie Deraismes was initiated by a lodge that temporarily withdrew from the GLSE and intended to rejoin after the initiation. This didn’t quite work that way and Deraismes and Georges Martin would found their own mixed gender organisation.

We already know that the two chose an almost identical name for the new organisation: “Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise de France – Le Droit Humain”, but it could also be said that “Le Droit Humain” was the name of the first lodge, so only “De France” was added to the name of the organisation that Martin and Deraismes came from.

It is often said that Martin took the rituals of the GLSE and edited them a little to create the first mixed gender ritual. Let’s compare the rituals.

Pretty similar so far.

It is obvious where Martin’s inspiration came from. So what about the rituals themselves?

The first pages of the initiation are the same, including the image of the steps all the way at the beginning. In the opening small differences can be seen. The GLSE “quelle heure est-il?” (‘what time is it?’), became “à quelle heure les App. Maç. ouvrent-ils leurs travaux?” (‘at what hours do apprentices get to work?’). Other sentences are slightly changed.

I have the GLSE ritual, but I don’t know the year of publication, so it is possible that it’s a -let’s say- 1910’ish version and that Martin used an older one. On to the initiation itself then.

Both rituals start with questions to be asked to the candidate before entering the lodge. There are minor differences in the text. The members of the lodge are address as brothers and sisters in Martin, but the candidate as “monsieur”. The many “interrogatoire”s (‘interrogations’) in Martin’s texts are already present in the GLSE ritual.

Then there is a remarkable detail: the journeys start in the centre. I thought this was a somewhat particular element in British early mixed gender Freemasonry, but now I see that Martin also had that element and that it came from his example ritual.

Martin kept to odd lay-out choices in the GLSE ritual, added a line here and there, edited another, but by and large the rituals are as similar as two revisions of the same ritual. The biggest differences is that the GLSE “batt.” became a “triple batt.” and that a wee bit of ritual is added just before the closing of the lodge.

In that ‘wee bit of ritual’ there is a part for the orator. There are also a few extra lines for the orator in the “cloture du trav.”. A relatively big addition is that Martin added the question if anybody present has anything to say, the moment for visitors to convey greetings.

Conclusion: Martin didn’t feel he had to change much to the ritual of the GLSE to start Le Droit Humain.

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