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Freemasonry and Brotherhood

First International Masonology Simposium

23 October 2009, Ankara


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StarRed Special Project 2012 Turkey
The Centenary Celebrations 1909-2009

MW Bro Remzi Sanver
On the 23rd of October 2009 an international Masonology Symposium was assembled in Ankara under the title of “Freemasonry and Brotherhood”. The symposium was sponsored by the Grand Lodge of Turkey within the framework of The Centenary Celebrations. The Grand Lodge of Turkey did not intervene in the academic aspects of the symposium asides from determining the title, in other words, the subjects discussed were shaped independently from the Grand Lodge. In fact, the term “Masonology” is reminiscent of such an independence. It is obvious that Freemasonry is a research topic of academic historiography and furthermore the academic inspection of Freemasonry is not limited with its own historical dimensions. In the second half of the 20th Century disciplines like philosophy, sociology, law, psychology and political science have included Freemasonry in their areas of research. Although this happened in distinct aspects, it has become a field of attraction in many universities where research centers have been established to inspect this discipline all over the world. Consequently, the term “Masonology” has been proposed with a meaning of “researching Masonic history by scientific methods”, today, it has turned into “researching Masonry, with all its aspects, by scientific methods”. The purpose here is not to prove that Freemasonry is a science but the concept of Freemasonry is being inspected by many Mason or non-Mason scholars using scientific methods.
MW Bro M. Remzi Sanver, Grand Master



by W Bro Yavuz Selim Ağaoğlu

© No part of this paper may be reproduced without written permission from the The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Turkey. HTML code is property of PS Review of Freemasonry. Project Co-Editor: W Bro Tony Pope. All rights reserved ©

The event of 1965 in Turkish Freemasonry, which is remembered to be a bitter experience as far as the fraternal bonds are concerned, actually finds its roots in the particular period of time starting from the foundation of the Ottoman Grand East. Should the subject be approached from this perspective, one would clearly see that 1965 is the consequence of a far deeper and more complex chain of events rather than the result of a few simple ones. Looking into this usually overlooked chain of events, would enable us to perceive its close relation with Masonic culture. This deeper look and the evaluation of the event with regard to Masonic culture and Masonic bonds of fraternity shall clarify the fact that the 1965 event is not a simple domestic issue of Turkish Freemasonry but it rather embodies important and strong experiences and lessons. In this work, the Grand Rupture of 1965 is being analyzed both from the historical perspective and the point of view regarding the Masonic culture and the notion of fraternity. We, hereby, try to underline the grave importance of internalization of the Masonic culture among the brethren.

There are certain subjects for which it is difficult to express new and different views, ossified patterns and sensibilities are established in answering certain questions.

Like it or not, it is still stressful to analyse the facts of the 1965 split of Freemasonry in Turkey. Therefore it is beneficial to review the events of 1965, in the light of recently found new archival material.

We observe that the 1965 events have their roots in the creation of the Grand Orient of Turkey in 1909. The causes of these events lay much deeper than the chain of the last few incidents which triggered the split.

We have to start by questioning this search by looking at the concept of Brotherhood in Masonic culture. The fact that Masonic culture had not been well absorbed created the impossibility to prevent the foreseeable events.

The relation of our subject with Masonic culture is evident. The 1965 rupture in Turkish Freemasonry, is more than a local problem, it could be analysed in the scope of the general problems of international Freemasonry.

Brotherhood is one o the key attributes of Freemasonry. To achieve its aim of building a Temple of Wisdom for humanity[1], it must transcend all types of discrimination in its understanding of brotherhood, for all human differences must coexist there in harmony. To be free, to have equal legal rights and to live in fraternal relations with the rest of the world is a nice ideal for humanity; but it is more so for Freemasonry which defines it as its objective. The symbols and allegories of our rituals, aim at this objective. But we all know that to express an idea in word or writ is much different than realising it. The concept of brotherhood, as many other concepts, has undergone many changes in its travel through time. Therefore we have to review this process.

Even if it sounds awkward, in order to understand abstract ideas, we need concrete archives. Archives mean memory and force the individual or group to confront itself. This confrontation leads to introspection. In other words the concretised past brings us to reconsider the established concepts and produce a historical synthesis.

We have stressed the importance of archives and the need to compare the different definitions of concepts in the flow of time. At this point we encounter a difficulty: in many countries, as it is the case in Turkey, a seriously compiled, continuous and well preserved archive is not available. Maybe because of this situation, Paul Dumont said that our Masonic history is a continent waiting to be explored.[2]

To consider why some of the Turkish Masonic Archive material was lost in time will shed some light on our subject. The revolutionary politic party “The Committee of Union and Progress” developed in the security of Masonic lodges and was closely associated with the Grand Orient of Turkey until 1918. At the end of World War One some Masonic archives were destroyed together with the archives of the Committee. Later, in 1935 when Freemasonry became dormant, part of the archives were distributed to some brothers, while the rest was hidden in sacks stored in the warehouse of the Society for Animal Welfare.[3] After the Masonic activities were resumed in 1948, in the early fifties, and once more in the early sixties documents were burned and sold as scrap, which ended in the hands of some newspapers constituting the base for of some antimasonic publications.[4] During the split of 1965 archive material was dispersed again. The serious archive collection of the Grand lodge of Turkey started after 1965.[5] Masonic history written in these years was based more on hearsay and personal recollections than documents.

That is why, as it was already stated, it is difficult to deduce new and different things on these subjects. In due time some frozen stencilled patterns and standardised answers to questions were established.

In my view, the 1965 events affected the concept of Brotherhood in the history of Turkish Freemasonry. If we try to understand what happened by observing only the concrete facts leading directly to the “Break Up”, we shall be disappointed with respect to the meaning of “Brotherhood”. Brothers turned their backs to each other and broke all types of mutual communication. It is not possible to talk about a Temple of Humanity without establishing first Masonic Brotherhood. Brothers, who laboured in the same lodges for decades, even blood-related brothers, father and sons, were divided and started to frequent competing grand lodges. Obviously such a situation did not freeze at once as an administrative problem; the division became sharper and sharper with passing time.

It is useless to lament; let us try to understand what happened. The most important characteristic of Masonic Brotherhood is its embracing character beyond all known classifications. It means that mature people from different roots, political views, beliefs, cultures and classes form a Chain of Brotherhood with the aim of building a temple or humanity. The differences between people should be a source of wealth in the initiatic teachings, rather than a cause of separation. No party should feel superior to another. This is what mainly separates us from civil associations such as charities, companies, associations of young entrepreneurs, academia and social clubs.

When we analyse the history of the Turkish Republic we can see times when Freemasonry acted like a political party or a social organisation.

The events that led to the 1965 schism started in the 1950’s with the bifurcation in the understanding of what Freemasonry really is. This split in attitudes was officialised with the re-consecration[6] of the Grand lodge of Turkey by the Grand lodge of Scotland in 1965, establishing the influence of Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry in Turkey. To arrive at this point, Masonic practice and rituals started to be modified in the early fifties. This means that all efforts were concentrated on the principle of regularity, Masonic traditions were institutionalised. Rituals are important with respect to Masonic culture. Think of the trauma suffered by brothers who had laboured for a lifetime in one ritual and suddenly had been ordered to change it, without the right to question, as if it was a simple technicality. We have to stress this fact in order to understand the feelings at that time.

On the other hand, we should not overlook the general sensitivity of the Turkish society at that time. Even today, we can diagnose similar sensitivities on the emphasis given to laicism. One should not underestimate the effects of the military coup of 1960. Religious elements in the new rituals were a hot topic of discussion.

Three main matters affected Brotherhood ties in 1965. The first one was political. The 1965 events are remembered in association with “the letter given to a politician”. In spite of the fact that we often listen to conferences on the theme that Freemasonry doesn’t mingle in politics, unfortunately the truth is somewhat different. At the end of 1964, Freemasonry in Turkey, by the way of its members, influenced the election of a party leader, known to be a Freemason, giving him a letter stating that he was not a Freemason. This letter, changing the course of the Turkish political life, caused a turmoil in our ranks. You have to remember that Turkey was experiencing newly with multiparty democracy.

The second one was the interaction between two institutions: The Supreme Council and the Grand Lodge. The relations between those two institutions started in a hierarchic way, the Grand Lodge being subordinated to the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council wanted to regain its lost supremacy. With the 1965 circumstance, these sentiments were exacerbated and the relations between various groups of brothers had soured.

In our view, even today, the relations between “Brother – Lodge – Grand Lodge” and “Brother – Chapter – Supreme Council” and the “rite – ritual” interaction occasionally gives problems.

The third one is the management skills and administrative rulings. We notice that in the course of the development of the events and aftermath, instead of a reconciliatory policy, a tension building one prevailed. From whichever side you look at the events, you see that the ruling hierarchy influenced Brotherhood ties. We should not forget that the quick and sharp resolutions decided by the ruling bodies created situations which were impossible to correct later, and thus affected thousands of Brothers. In the course of our history we often meet situations where officers resigned, but later withdrew their resignations because of management problems and emotional reactions.

The most important observation we can make is that the root of all these events were laid much earlier, in the way the Grand Lodge of Turkey was first created and developed. It is as if the reasons for the “Break Up” were present right from the beginning.

The same things could be said in relation to the creation of the “Hürriyet ve İtilaf” (Freedom and Entente) Party that came to power after the 1918 defeat, in reaction to the Committee of Union and Progress.  The relation between the Young Turks and Freemasonry is a known reality. The Committee which ruled the country after the 31 March 1908 revolution owed its success to Freemasonry and planned the organisation of national Freemasonry as a political power. [7] The first Grand Master Talat Pasha was the minister of the Interior at the time and later became prime minister. The revival of the Supreme Council which created in turn the Grand Lodge had been staged under political pressure.[8] Rıza Tevfik who was one the leaders of the “Hürriyet ve İtilaf” party, was elected as Grand Master. In revenge to his past political imprisonment, Rıza Tevfik denounced the brothers belonging to the outlawed Committee of Union and Progress. [9] The arrest and exile of Brothers who had been members of the Committee, plus the confiscation of lodge archives opened incurable wounds in the common memory of the Brotherhood.

After the creation of the Turkish republic in 1923, Freemasonry faced different political pressures. In the search to reach a multi party democracy, some politicians’ applications to join Freemasonry had been rejected [10] , while others had been promoted to the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite.[11] Thus a class group of political anti masons had been created. With the rise of National Socialism and Fascism, Freemasonry was attacked as a godless organisation which had its roots outside the country. The “Internationalist” character of Freemasonry became a political argument. [12]

Hakkı Shinasi Pasha, General Inspector for the Territory of Istanbul, intervened in the Grand Lodge elections of 1930 producing a list of delegates that should be elected approved by the Party. The unrest that this action produced led to resignations, closure of two lodges, repeated elections, re-opening of the closed lodges, publications, etc. [13] This situation left marks difficult to erase[14], built tensions within the Craft and friction with the government. It can also be stated that there was a sort of reservation about Masonry’s opposition towards the ruling power in Turkey. [15]

The problems that started to materialise in 1920, grew with time step by step[16] and political tensions in Europe and came to a conclusion in 1935. The banning of Freemasonry in Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal finally was reflected in Turkey, the Grand Lodge of Turkey declared that it was stopping its activity and handed over its assets to the Turkish Institution for Public Education and spreading Kemalism.

From 1935 to 1948 when Freemasonry was awakened, the Supreme Council continued its activities in a modest way and even, with the complicity of the government, consecrated three craft lodges in 1938 and 1939.  In 1948, after a dormant period of 13 years, the old tensions and dissents were not forgotten.

In 1948 the Supreme Council reorganised the Craft Lodges in a partisan way. Old lodges were not awakened, new lodges were established and in this way old members were not awakened automatically, some were left dormant while others were accepted in the new lodges. This was an elimination process[17], which in spite that it was corrected later, opened new wounds in the Brotherhood Chain.

In 1950 the establishment of a Grand Lodge was brought into the Supreme Council’s agenda. On the 30th September 1950, the Supreme Council decided to prepare the constitution of a subordinate Grand Lodge for the Craft degrees.[18] After different experiments and new frictions, the Grand Lodge was finally created on the 16th December 1956.

The torments of the transition to multi-party politics had marked Turkish Freemasons. An interesting example to this state of mind is the letter circulated to the brothers of Hürriyet Lodge by the Worshipful Master of the lodge.[19]

In short it could be claimed that in the period from 1948 to 1956, the influence of politics, relations between institutions and individual administrative decisions prepared the 1965 events.

We notice that these negative influences continued to be effective after the establishment of the Grand Lodge. The secretary of state of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Ahmet Salih Korur, was the Grand Master. The 1960 military coup d’état undoubtedly influenced Freemasonry. [20] Ahmet Salih Korur had been arrested and the Board of Grand officers discussed the necessity to make a proclamation of support for the revolution. Eventually too much time passed before a decision could be reached and as it was too late to proclaim it, nothing was done. [21]

Starting from 1950, the search for regularity and relations with some Grand Lodges, including the Grand Lodge of Scotland, were on the agenda. The subject of amending our rituals parallel to those of Scotland was also brought into the agenda on the Grand Officers’ meeting of the 3rd December 1957. [22] 

In 1963 Scottish rituals were translated into Turkish so that they could be studied by the Ritual Committee, correspondence with the Grand Orient de France and the Grande Loge de France, accepted as irregular obediences, was brought to an end. [23]

In 1964 the Committee of Grand Officers, referring to the influence of the translated rituals and constitutions on brothers, proposed to take measures to prevent a schism. The same year friction between the Grand Lodge and the Supreme Council became evident. [24]

In short, we observe that the 1965 events approached step by step.

As indicated before, Brotherhood ties necessitate cohesiveness; the differences between people should be a source of wealth in the initiatic teachings, rather than a cause of separation. No party should feel superior to another. But, although the opposite is claimed by some, it had not been possible at that time not to be influenced by politics and relations with the government.

Starting with the oath taken by Talat Pasha as Grand Master in 1909, the relations between Supreme Council and Grand Lodge had not been handed with maturity. The social structure of the Grand Lodge of Turkey had inherited an authoritarian way closed to criticism which in turn affected its administrative structure.

The inclination towards Anglo-Saxon masonry had started with individual initiatives, inevitably caused reactions. The synthesis of these arguments was reached after 1969, although some arguments remained unsolved, for a time, in the rite - ritual discussion.

We can conclude by saying that the 1965 events had their origin in a distant time and were related directly to Masonic culture.

In the 1965-66 period, while the schism was in the making, chaos reigned. Some brothers were attending lodge meetings in both organisations, some while attending lodge meetings in one organisations were labouring in the chapters of the other [25], some resigned, went to the other organisation, then came back. It was even said that some attended the rival chapters to get a fast raise in the hierarchy.

None of the Brotherhood Chain values were considered. The few goodwill attempts to reconcile both sides did not produce any result. [26] The conflict was between different systems: the Supreme Counsel’s pyramidal hierarchic system clashed with the elective horizontal system of the Grand lodge. The lack of tolerance caused blood brothers and father and sons to part in their Masonic voyage. The schism approached step by step. Common sense and wisdom were lost and the concept of Brotherhood took a big blow.

Advocation of Masonic values and Brotherhood could only be possible by reviewing the esoteric-initiatic structure of Freemasonry, using introspection and self-criticism in the process, and learning a lesson from past mistakes. That’s where archives are important.

Otherwise the ideal of leading a social life in harmony and the call for Brotherhood will get lost in the shadow of our “mountainous ego” and within the playground of Popular Culture.


[1] The expression which is in our ritual today, initially was in fact in the form of “To prepare ourselves for temple building”, “To prepare the reasons for temple building”, “To prepare the facilities for temple building” and took its last form form after the transition period between 1965 and 1971. For comparison see; Agaoglu, Yavuz Selim, “The Rituals in Turkish Masonry from the Beginning to Today, Apprentice Degree, 1909-2004”. IVAL, 2005, p. 22, 67, 208, 296, 368, 440, 504, 541, 662, 709, 743, 777, 810, 852, 894, 941, 988, 1038.

[2] Paul Dumont (Lebanon 1945), Professor of Contemporary Turkish Language, Literature and History, He run the department of Turkish Research in Marc Bloch Strasbourg University between 1989 and 1999 and after that he run the Centre for Middle Asia Turkish and Ottoman Researches in Centre National de la Rocherche Scientifique, and after that he was the director of the Institute of French Anatolia Researches. His work named  “Ottomanism, Nationalist Elements and Masonry” was published by Yapi Kredi Publications and he presently continues his research on Turkish Masonry.

[3] Layiktez, Celil, “The History of Masonry in Turkey”, Volume 3, Yenilik Publications, Istanbul 2003, p: 105

[4] Cever, Ali Oktay, the article named “Burnt Document”, Tesviye Periodical, No: 51, p: 24-25

[5] Ors, Hayrullah, “The Message of Grand Master”, Mimar Sinan Periodical, No: 2,  p: 4-6

[6] The Grand Lodge of Scotland had recognised the Grand Lodge of Turkey in 1963, and to satisfy the Grand Lodges of England and Ireland, had re-consecrated the Grand Lodge of Turkey in 1965. 

[7] For detailed information see; Layiktez, Celal, “The History of Masonry in Turkey”, Volume 1, Yenilik Publications, Istanbul 1999, p: 113-123

[8] A previous Grand Master, Bro:. Hayrullah Ors had referred to this subject in the Convene dated 3 October 1965.

[9] Layiktez, Celil, “The History of Freemasonry in Turkey”, Volume 1, p: 124

[10] General Secretary of Republican People’s Party Recep Peker and Minister of Justice Mahmut Esat Bozkurt are the examples for this group.

[11] Sukru Kaya, Hasan Saka, Tevfik Rustu, Cemil Uybadin and Kazim Ozalp Kardesler are the examples for this group. For detailed information see; Minan Sinan Periodical, No: 65, p: 8-17

[12] For instance, the pamphlet of Bro. Servet Yesari, named “Speech on the Subject of Nationality and Internationalism in Freemasonry”, published in 1931, contains sentences  such as these; There are provisions for the monopoly of offices to national elements in the legislation of  every national masonry. Our main regulation lays down the condition that the Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master must be a Turkish subject. Upto today, this record was sufficient for the administration of masonry within the country. Masons do not wish to have some Brethren offended due to their present situations. Therefore they have not even said anything by showing politeness. But lately some events have shown us that there is a need for taking further measures because the activities of some Brethren, who have the status of being foreign subjects, in regard to Turkish Masonry within the country by forgetting their status of being visitors and the duties that status ascribe onto them.”

[13] The writing which was distributed in Necat Lodge at the end of the meeting dated 14 September 1930 and the brochure named “Turk Masonluğunda 1930 Intihabat Buhrani Hakikat ve Mahiyeti”, dated 1930 and signed by the Bro:. Servet Yesari, Bro:. Ibrahim Necmi, Bro:. Ahmet Nehri and Bro:. Celal Tahsin.

[14] The troubles between the Brethren who were doing administrative work as successor-predecessors were seen later in the event of Azim Lodge. In the same time, the conference text of the previous Grand Master Bro:. Servet Yesari is highly interesting both in the sense of content and and style.

[15] “The History of Freemasonry in Turkey”, Istanbul 1951, p:153

[16] The matter we wish to indicate here is the attitude of some politicians and the press in regard to Masonry, the text  of Turk Ocaklari General Congress dated 1927 which was prepared against Masonry and withdrawn at the last moment saying that the members of denational organisations cannot be accepted to National Turkish Hearths, the reflections of Necat Lodge dated 1930 and the following events, the disturbances which were indicated in the speech of new Grand Master Mim Kemal Oke in 193, “Denationality” arguments and Azim Lodge events, the order and instruction in 1932 saying that military personel cannot  take place in the organisation, Shooting of Mason Lodge in Izmir and the following events, The news in the Press saying that Mason Lodges will be closed down from 1934 onwards, The decision in the congress of Republican People’s Party in 1935 outlawing any association with international purposes and ties. The proposal saying that “the permission of government ministers is needed for setting up associations or opening branches in order to establish cooperation between nations from which the state will benefit” and  other events in 1935 show the attitude during the period in question. For detailed information see, Umur, Süha, “1935-1948 Sleeping Period of Masonry in Turkey (1)”,  Mimar Sinan Publications,  No: 65, p:8-17 and Erginsoy, Abdurrahman, “Birth and Development of Masonry in Turkey”, The publication of Tanyeri Muh:. L:.  No:1, January 1996, 76.

[17] Erendağ, Dündar, “The History of Lodge Ideal, No. 1”, 2004, p: 24, the very same matters are emphasized.

[18] Çeltikçi, Fikret, “Notes from the History of Freemasonry”, Mimar Sinan Publications No: 6, p: 337.

[19] Tesviye Periodical, No: 13, P: 32

[20] An article in periodical of Turkish Mason praising the ruling party, and calling back and the confiscation of the periodical by the Grand Master Hayrullah Örs after the coup d’éat can be mentioned as an example of establishment’s relation with the politics. See: The Minutes of Convene dated 3 October 1965.

[21] Layiktez, Celil, “The History of Freemasonry in Turkey”, Volume 2, Istanbul 2001, p: 79-88.

[22] The Attachment of the Report of Administration presented to the General Meeting dated 26/27 April 1969.

[23] Layiktez, Celil, “aforementioned publication”,  p: 140-144

[24] Layiktez, Celil, “aforementioned publication”,  p: 151-161

[25] Aksoy, Suha, “1965-1966 Events”, Ulku Lodge Publications, No: 9, Istanbul 2003, p: 126-127

[26] For detailed information see  Aksoy, Süha, a.g.e. s: 100-126


Short Biography of the Speaker

Yavuz Selim AĞAOĞLU

Was initiated in 1994 into Doğa Lodge working under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Turkey and he is also a member of the İzmir Valley Research Lodge. His research on the Ottoman archive records and documents as well as the history of the Turkish Freemasonry, the rituals of the Turkish Freemasonry and the interaction of the popular culture with Freemasonry are printed as conferences, articles and books. Among these, his research entitled “From Past to Present, Rituals in the Turkish Freemasonry; Entered Apprentice Degree 1909 – 2004” was awarded by the Grand Lodge of Turkey, at the year 2005. His education is on Engineering and Management and he is working as a professional in the private sector.

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