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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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
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.
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.
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
During the split of 1965 archive material was dispersed again. The serious
archive collection of the Grand lodge of Turkey started after 1965.
Masonic history written in these years was based more on hearsay and personal
recollections than documents.
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.
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.
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.
we analyse the history of the Turkish Republic we can see times when Freemasonry
acted like a political party or a social organisation.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
while others had been promoted to the 33rd degree of the Scottish
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.
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.
This situation left marks difficult to erase,
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
The problems that started to materialise in 1920, grew with time step by step
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
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,
which in spite that it was corrected later, opened new wounds in the Brotherhood
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 -
can conclude by saying that the 1965 events had their origin in a distant time
and were related directly to Masonic culture.
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
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.
of the Brotherhood Chain values were considered. The few goodwill attempts to
reconcile both sides did not produce any result.
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.