co-Masonry against Theosophy

Annie Besant and several other English members came to Amsterdam on 18 June 1904 to initiate six gentlemen and four ladies. Two days later they were passed to Fellowcraft and raised to Master Mason on the same day. The formation of a Dutch lodge was then possible.

Thus says a history of the Dutch federation (translated to English). These 10 new members were all Theosophists and of course Besant was the leading Theosophist of these days. The first Dutch lodge, Cazotte, was a ‘Theosophical’ lodge.

Henri van Ginkel (1880-1954) was one of these Theosophists, but he soon came to the conclusion that Theosophy and Freemasonry should be separate things. If this opinion led him to leave his mother lodge is not entirely clear, but a fact is that in 1911 he founded the second co-Masonic lodge in the Netherlands and this new lodge, Christiaan Rosencreutz, would use a non-/less-Theosophical ritual written by Van Ginkel himself. Revisions would follow, each time removing more Theosophical elements.

In 1911 Van Ginkel was the first representative for the Netherlands. In 1919 there were enough lodges for a Dutch federation, which was to be led by Van Ginkel until 1923.

Van Ginkel tried to convince other Dutch lodges to use his non-Theosophical ritual, but not with too much succes. He did find a more positive hearing at the Supreme Council and that Supreme Council tried to push non-Theosophical rituals to its federations. In the Netherlands this led to a schism in 1918.

In his brand new lodge, Van Ginkel initiated Franz Farwerck (1889-1978). The two most likely knew each other from Theosophical circles. It is an open question if Farwerck waited with his initiation until there was a ‘non-Theosophical lodge’ (he lived closer to the first Dutch lodge than to the second when he was initiated) or that his contact with Van Ginkel simply led him to being initiated only somewhat later (he was only 22 when he was initiated), but Farwerck turned out to be another Freemason who battled against Theosophical influences on Freemasonry with a Theosophical background.

Farwerck followed Van Ginkel as representative of the Dutch federation in 1924. Since 1922 he already was representative for foreign lodges at the Supreme Council in Paris. Now he represented all lodges that were member of the Dutch federation.

Somewhat later, I don’t know exactly when, Farwerck also became the (or a?) vice-president of the (international) Supreme Council. It was in this capacity that he addressed the 1927 International Convent. A convent that, for some reason, he did not attend.

On a website dedicated to Farwerck, a letter of him to the Supreme Council is published. In his 8 pages in French and 8 in English, Farwerck railed against certain “extremists”. Also in the Bulletin of the Dutch federation, Farwerck had written against influences of Theosophy. Let’s see what he wrote to the Supreme Council.

Farwerck writes that Le Droit Humain is the first successful attempt to create an international order. For that to work, he has some proposals. To explain his point, Farwerck describes different forms of Freemasonry, of which the “symbolic” one is the only one that can hope to function internationally. Why? Because Freemasonry: “is intended to be the meeting-point of every direction of thought and religious conviction. […] no compulsion may be exercised in any definite direction of thought or religious conviction, nor may people otherwise ready and able to work according to the masonic method with masonic means, be excluded by any definite form of ritual.”

About “Freemasonry according to theosophical ideas” Farwerck writes:

This forms, in relation to the foregoing, but a small group and is not confined to any definite country. Within this group exists a wide divergence of ideas, (just as is, in truth, the case to a certain degree with the other groups). Some base themselves on the three principles of the Theosophical Society, others believe more or less in the modern theosophical system, such as that which has been worked out by our Very Ills. Bro. Annie Besant in particular, others again, whom we might call the extremists — more royal than the king — wish to imbue the world with theosophical ideas by all the means in their power, even where others will have nothing to do with them and they do that sometimes, alas, even without having a sufficient appreciation of the notions of those holding different opinions.

Fortunately these extremists form only a small group and they are kept back from following their schismatic inclinations (which they foster as soon as it appears that domination is not possible) by the more intelligent of their leaders, who quite comprehend that the desired co-operation is impossible. if anyone is to force his own opinion on the others. For this co-operation — and where is this more desirable than in a masonic order which, moreover, is also international — is only possible when there is a neutral platform where we can meet each other: a form which binds us all; a meeting-point from which we, in our way and according to our views, can proceed to accomplish our work for the welfare of mankind.

Quite strong wording! This may be due to the fact that Farwerck made a few attempts to have the schismatic lodges return to the Dutch federation, but without succes.

Interestingly, Farwerck seems to say that there are Theosophical co-Masons who are more strictly Theosophical than Annie Besant herself. Farwerck himself was not uncritical towards Besant either.

There is an irony in the above. In Farwerck’s time as national representative, ‘Theosophical’ lodges newly appeared in the Dutch federation. This was (mostly) due to Dutch emigrants to the Dutch Indies, who returned when the colonial period there ended. Over there there had been no movement against Theosophy (or less strongly) and these remigrants brought with them the Theosophical rituals that they were used to.

Similar currents can be seen in other federations of Le Droit Humain as well, such as in Britain and the USA.

Thus we have a faint picture of how after a massive boost due to Theosophy and Theosophists for co-Masonry, a ‘counter reformation’ started.

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