On 12 January 2016, Mardis de l'ESSEC welcomed Daniel Keller, Grand Master of Grand Orient de France, and Serge Moati, a former mason. Two figures from the shadows to shed some light on Freemasonry. Report by student Clémence de Villepin.
This is the history of Freemasonry, and through it, of its beliefs, the fruit of debate. The multiple sources to which Freemasonry can trace its origins were reviewed and summarised: the builders of the cathedrals, Christian mysticism, medieval esotericism, the Lumières of France and England… A long discussion of the 3rd French Republic followed: Ferry, the Affaire des Fiches scandal and Minister Combes… At the end of this journey through history, the question that remained was: does the genealogical diversity explain the flexibility of thought within Freemasonry?
Serge Moati spoke in their defence; for him, the basis of Freemasonry is a sort of shared universal religion that everyone agrees on. Holding up Anderson’s Constitution, he affirmed that a Mason must follow moral law so that he “will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine”. The foundation of Masonry then was a belief in God. That is a point that Serge Moati stressed in particular, highlighting the initiation, the moral and spiritual aspects of Freemasonry, explaining its traditions and vocabulary (lodge, workshop, temple, obedience) and referring to his own practice, with pages and pages of rituals to learn off by heart.
The less radical Daniel Keller recalled the importance of social issues in Masonic work. He spoke of philanthropy and solidarity, the essential values of the Masonic ideal, in his opinion, which guaranteed the movement’s humanist and immanent spirituality.
How did this philanthropic view mesh with Freemasonry’s reputation for elitism? Keller responded that Freemasonry was essentially made up of middle-class people; there was a fairly exemplary sociological diversity in its ranks. And he added with a touch of humour “It’s much easier to get into the Freemasons that it is to get into ESSEC! Everyone is welcome.”
Without dwelling on the parallels between the two institutions, we can agree to take on board the essential mission of Freemasonry as defined by Daniel Keller “to improve man and society”. Get out your aprons and let’s get to it!