Review of Freemasonry

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THE SWEDISH CONSTITUTION, Nordic Esotericism in Baroque Splendour.
by W.Bro Alex G. Davidson
IPM (2005), United Masters Lodge No. 167 (New Zealand Constitution)

1. Introduction

The Swedish system of Freemasonry (Svenska Frimurare Orden) is probably the most unusual constitution with which we enjoy fraternal relations.  It is not, as may perhaps be assumed, a small and obscure branch of the Craft:  the Swedish system is also used in the rest of Scandinavia and is one of the two major constitutions in Finland.[1]  In Germany, the  Große Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland use it, in Norway it is found in Den Norske Frimurerorden, in Denmark it exists as Den Danske Frimurerorden, and the Icelandic order Frímúrarareglan á Íslandi is also Swedish.  It is not so widely known that it was one of the three great strands of the historical Russian constitution.[2]  Excluding the revived Russian order, it has over 40,000 members today.  It would therefore be fair to describe it as a major system, and one that differs greatly from the Anglo-American forms we are accustomed to.

Although I am a New Zealander, I am unusually well placed to comment on the Swedish system.  I lived in Sweden for ten years, I speak the language fairly fluently, and I hold a doctorate in philosophy from the Royal University of Uppsala.  I have attended two Swedish workings as a visitor: a first degree ceremony in Stockholm at the magnificent Bååtska palatset, and a third degree in my old ‘home town’, Uppsala.  Information in English about the Swedish order is readily available, so the emphasis in this paper will be on the aspects of their system I consider most interesting, with some personal observations and comparisons.

My starting point, however, is not Sweden but the Isle of Man.  In a web site devoted to fraternal associations and clubs of that island, two observations on the page about Freemasonry caught my attention.  The first, in reference to masonry as ‘a system of morality’, is the following comment:

This morality is taught via role playing in small set-piece allegorical theatrics with the addition of lectures or catechisms in which the candidate gives set answers to set questions.[3]

The second, referring to the history of Freemasonry, observed:

Stewart[4] in a recent Prestonian Lecture discusses the linkage between the members of several London lodges and the Royal Society to illustrate the interest in the new rationality and scientific outlook promulgated within lodges at this early period.  However, by the mid 19th century, he agrees with contemporary French criticism that English Freemasonry had become a “body without a soul”, having lost its original philosophic impulse, and was by then (and possibly still is) obsessed by form, procedure, decorum, status etc.

These two observations seem to me especially relevant in discussing certain significant differences between constitutions of British origin and the Swedish system.  I hope to bring out that relevance in the following pages.    


2. Origins of the Swedish System


The Swedish Rite has been described as ‘a mixture of the pure Rite of York, the high degrees of the French, the Templarism of the former Strict Observance, and the system of Rosicrucianism.’[5]  Sweden was one of the first countries to receive Freemasonry during its expansionary period in the first half of the 18th century.  Masonry came to Sweden in the early 1730s not from England, where modern organised Freemasonry had begun in 1717, but at second hand from France.  The chief architect of the Swedish order was C.F. Eckleff, who designed a system with nine degrees.  Subsequently, Duke Carl (later King Carl XIII), who was a devoted mason, redesigned the constitution to contain ten degrees.  This is basically the same system as is used now, though an eleventh degree has been added, which is awarded only to certain grand officers of the order.

The Swedish Constitution is a closed male order based on the Christian faith, which engages in personal development, friendship and fundraising for welfare.  As such, it is almost unique in its insistence on candidates being practising Christians.  At the beginning of the First Degree ceremony, the candidate must go through a long catechism in which he affirms his adherence to the Christian faith, asserts it is the best of all possible religions, and confirms that he would never abandon it.  Although non-Christian Brethren who are members of other constitutions (except the Grand Orient) may visit a Swedish lodge, they cannot become members.

The history of the Swedish Order is interesting.  In an earlier paper[6] I claimed that English Freemasonry in the early 18th century was the bearer of radical Enlightenment philosophy: essentially republican (in the Lockean sense), deistic and universalistic including (including the de-Christianisation of the ritual and the admission of freethinkers and Jews).[7]  Freemasonry came to Sweden from Christian lodges in France.  French Freemasonry, although derived from the English, had developed in two directions: one explicitly Christian, and one whose tendency was rationalist and nonreligious.  The latter was inspired by the ideology of the English Grand Lodge: the former came from exiled Jacobite Britons who were, in many cases, Catholics.

At the time of the formation of the first Grand Lodge, the English situation was unique.  As a result of their revolutions of 1640-50 and 1688, they had secured constitutional and parliamentary government.  However, Freemasonry neither caused nor participated in these revolutions.  To ensure respectability, English Freemasons remained silent on any part their members may have played, and Continental masons carefully reconstructed the mythic history of origins from Hiram and King Solomon’s Temple, through the Crusades and Knights-Templar, up to 17th century England.  

The exiled Catholic Jacobite Chevalier Ramsay’s story of masonry coming to France via the mediæval kings of Scotland was popular, as it bypassed the English revolutions altogether.  British Freemasons themselves carefully avoided all mention of association with these upheavals.  The specifically British origins of Freemasonry already rendered it suspect in most Continental countries where parliaments, revolutions, bills of rights, and acts of tolerance were seen as inherently subversive.

Freemasonry came to Sweden from the conservative religious branch, carried by Swedish noblemen who had been initiated in France.  At first it took the form of ‘private lodges’, which bore the name of their founder, and often met at his home.  One such was Count Axel Wrede Sparre’s lodge, established in 1735.  A formal charter was received in 1737 through friherre[8] Carl Fredrik Scheffer, issued by the French Grand Master Charles Radclyffe, Earl of Derwentwater.  The lodge closed in 1747 when Wrede Sparre left Stockholm to take up an appointment as lieutenant-colonel of the Västgöta cavalry regiment.

In 1752 the lodge ‘St Jean Auxiliare’[9] was founded by Captain Count Knut Carlsson Posse, under charter from the French Grand Master Louis de Bourbon-Condé, Count of Clermont, a royal prince.  Many of the scattered masons from dormant or shaky private lodges became members of this new lodge.  In 1753 the king declared it the Mother Lodge of all Swedish craft lodges.  Freemasonry grew considerably after 1753, when Carl Fredrik Scheffer was installed as the first Swedish Grand Master.  In the same year King Adolf Fredrik assumed ‘overlordship’ of all lodges in Sweden, and thus became the first ‘High Protector’ of Freemasonry.

The first high-degree ‘Scottish’ (St Andrew’s) lodge was started in 1756 with Chancellor Carl Friedrich Eckleff as master.  In 1759, Eckleff formed the Chapitre Illuminé (Grand Chapter) ‘L’Innocente’, and began constructing a high-degree system which originally had nine degrees, but was later increased to ten.  In 1760 the Swedish Grand Lodge was founded, replacing ‘St Jean Auxiliare’ as Grand Lodge for the Craft, and the present-day organisation of the Order was established as three branches:  St John’s, St Andrew’s and the Chapter Degrees.  Grand Lodge at that time had no power over the ‘Scottish’ degrees or Eckleff’s ‘Illuminated Chapter’.  In 1774 Duke Carl, later King Carl XIII, became Grand Master of both systems, whereby all masonry in Sweden came under the Grand Lodge.

Duke Carl was elected Grand Master of the Strict Observance in 1776, after Baron von Hund died.[10]  However, the selection had political repercussions, and Duke Carl was forced to resign the office after just two years.  He then set about reforming the higher degrees, and in 1801 launched the Swedish Rite with eleven degrees, using the Templar traditions as a basis, which is largely the system in use today.  Duke Carl used Eckleff’s material and added elements from other sources:  the Strict Observance has left clear imprints on the Chapter Degrees (VII – XI).  By 1800, no less than 4292 men had been received as Freemasons in lodges belonging to the Swedish Order.  This group was as much a product of the Swedish Enlightenment as it was a reaction against it.


3. The Swedish Constitution Today 


Since 1877, the leadership of the Swedish Order has had its headquarters in the Bååtska palatset (the Bååt[11] Palace) on Blasieholmen in Stockholm, a magnificent baroque palace from the 1660s.  It contains offices, rooms for lodge activities, and halls for formal dinners, concerts and so on.  It has a valuable collection of works of art, and a significant library.  The Order’s administration is housed in the same district, at Nybrokajen.  

The Order has between 15,000 and 16,000 members in Sweden, arranged in eight provincial lodges (including one in Finland), 72 local lodges and 70 fraternal associations.  Every year it distributes about 31 million crowns (approximately 6.25 million New Zealand dollars) through its charitable trusts to medical research, primarily in the fields of pædiatrics and geriatrics, as well as to general relief.

The present king, Carl XVI Gustaf, is the High Protector of the Order, and the current Grand Master is Professor Anders Fahlman.  King Carl XVI Gustav declined requests to become Grand Master, and instead his uncle, Prince Bertil, took up the position.  Prince Bertil died in January 1997, and was succeeded by Gustaf Piehl, who was in turn succeeded by Anders Fahlman in September 2001.  The 200-year-old tradition of the monarch being Grand Master is now definitively, if not irrevocably, broken.  Duke Carl (later King Carl XIII from 1809-1818) became Grand Master in 1770, and after him, all kings were Grand Masters until 1973, when King Gustaf VI Adolf died.  Until recently the Pro Grand Master and the Deputy Grand Master were also members of the Royal Family.

The Swedish system consists of eleven degrees, organised into three different lodge levels.[12]  The craft masonry lodges are called ‘Lodges of St John’.  Degrees IV-VI are conferred in the ‘Scottish Lodges of St Andrew’.  Above that is the ‘Chapter Lodge’, which is Templar Freemasonry.  The XIth degree is an honorary degree given only to the Grand Officers of the Order (and royal princes).  The craft degrees are still compatible with international systems, but the particular Christian content is stronger in the higher degrees.

There are numerous lodge buildings throughout Sweden.  Most contain either a St John's lodge or a St John's and a St Andrew's lodge, but only the Provincial Grand Lodge buildings have Chapter Lodges.  The three lodges meet in separate halls, since the physical design of the lodge rooms is different.  In many places, there is no lodge building (since these tend to be very expensive), and masons meet in fraternal associations called brödraförengingar (‘brotherhood clubs’).  These perform a simplified version of the masonic rituals, usually without degree workings; they need a special permit to give degrees.  Where there is only a lower lodge, there is usually a brotherhood club for Brethren of the higher degrees.  In some regions, lodges and/or brotherhood clubs meet in halls not owned by the Order, often rented from the Oddfellows or some other reputable society.

Candidates must be recommended by two faddrar (sponsors, patrons and mentors), one of whom must hold at least the seventh degree, and the other at least the third.  Applicants must be a minimum of 24 years old, Christian, and of good repute.  There is only one form of accepted ritual for each degree, and deviations are not permitted.  The degree workings were established in 1800, but the language of the rituals is from the 1700s, which gives a similar impression to the workings of the New Zealand Constitution (the language of our rituals is essentially that of 1813 or earlier, with Victorian interpolations and embellishments).

Members do not, as a rule, remain members of a St. John’s Lodge when they move on to a St. Andrew’s Lodge.[13]  When a Master Mason is elevated to the IVth/Vth degree, a ‘letter of transport’ is sent to the St Andrew's Lodge of his choice.  He ceases to be a member of his Craft Lodge and pays all dues to the St Andrew's Lodge.  The same thing happens on passage from St Andrew’s to Chapter Lodge.  Since this is not international standard, some Brethren have asked for a reform so that they can remain members of their Craft Lodge.  This request is currently under consideration.

Progression from one degree to the next is far from automatic.  A Brother has not only to be regular in attendance, he has to give proof of his proficiency and of his knowledge of Freemasonry.  Advancement proceeds according to a fixed set of rules with a minimum required time in each degree, a minimum number of visits in that degree, and certain other requirements.  A Brother does not petition for advancement: when the requirements are met, the Worshipful Master[14] and Deputy Masters of his lodge petition for him.  Brothers are expected to advance when summoned to receive a higher degree.  The XIth degree is an honorary degree conferred on a maximum of 80 Xth degree Brothers.

The Swedish rite is progressive and continuous.  Each degree leads to the next, and each sums up the contents of the preceding degrees.  The system is grouped into three divisions as follows:

St. John's (Craft) degrees (S:t Johannesloge):
I   Apprentice (S:t Johannes Lärling)
II  Fellow Craft (S:t Johannes Medbroder)
III Master Mason (S:t Johannes Mästare)
St. Andrew's (Scottish) degrees (S:t Andreasloge):
IV-V Apprentice-Companion of St. Andrew (S:t Andreas Lärlinge-Medbroder)
VI     Master of St. Andrew (S:t Andreas Mästare)
Chapter (Templar) degrees (Kapitelloge):
VII  Very Illustrious Brother, Knight of the East (Riddare av Öster)

VIII Most Illustrious Brother, Knight of the West (Riddare av Väster)

IX   Enlightened Brothers of St. John's Lodge (S:t Johanneslogens förtrogne bröder och Tempelkommendörer)

X    Very Enlightened Brothers of St. Andrew's Lodge (S:t Andreaslogens förtrogne Bröder, Riddare av purpurbandet, och Tempelprefekter)

On top of the system is (Stora Landslogen):

XI  Most Enlightened Brother, Knight Commander of the Red Cross (Riddare och Kommendör med Röda korset)

There are approximately 60 freemasons in Sweden currently holding the XIth degree.  No longer termed the Illuminated Chapter, they are present or past members of the Grand Council or Grand Officers, and constitute the Swedish Grand Lodge.  Sweden is unique in having a civil order, equivalent to a British knighthood, instituted in 1811 as the Royal Order of King Carl XIII.  It is conferred by the king only upon Freemasons holding the XIth degree, with the number of members limited to 33 (three of whom must be ordained) at any given time.  It is not, however, a Masonic degree.  The rank of Grand Master is sometimes referred to as the XIIth Degree.

Reflecting its peculiar structure, the emblem of Swedish Freemasonry is not the international square and compasses, but the red Maltese cross of the Knights Templar.  The motto of the Order is Veritas Persuadet (‘the truth convinces’).  The Order’s purpose and content is personal development (from a Christian basis), fraternal sociability and brotherly love; which are manifested through lodge workings, discussions, communal meals and other social events; plus contributions to worthy charities.

The signet ring of the Order is issued in the VIIIth degree, and is worn on the index finger of the right hand.  At this level, a Brother is also obliged to design his coat of arms, which is hung in the Chapter Hall of his Provincial Grand Lodge.


4. The Workings of a Swedish Lodge

St John room Bååt

As the Swedish Order maintains a high degree of secrecy about virtually everything connected with its workings, and there appear to be no authoritative ‘exposures’, the only way a non-Swedish mason can gain any detailed knowledge about its ceremonies is to learn Swedish and attend lodge meetings as a bona fide visitor!  I shall therefore make a few remarks about my observations of the two degree workings in which I have participated, but only in very general terms, so as not to offend against the hospitable Swedish masons’ strict sense of fidelity.

In a Swedish First Degree ceremony there is much that is familiar, and much that is strange.  There are, for example, no working tools, and the symbols on the tracing board are quite different.  The entire floor of the lodge room is black-and-white mosaic, and a floor cloth is carried in and spread out in the centre with great ceremony.  There are no wardens in the west and south:  instead, two bevakande bröder (‘guarding brothers’ or ‘overseers’) sit on throne-like chairs side-by-side in the west, facing the Master.  As they have no pedestals, they signal the knocks by striking the hilts of their swords with small hourglass-shaped hammers worn on chains around their necks!  Yet, in spite of the many differences, the gist of the ceremony remains familiar, and passages in some charges bear a strong resemblance to those in our own ritual.  The essence of the degree is the same.

Similarly, in the Third Degree, the general outline is familiar (even if the central figure in this working is Adoniram, not H.A![15]).  Where possible, the ceremony is conducted not in the St. John’s lodge room, but in a special room in the vaults of the building.  The theatrical element is, once more, much greater than in the constitutions we are familiar with.  Interestingly, the backdrop to the Master’s pedestal is black with silver teardrops, such as we use only in Lodges of Sorrow.  In this degree, as in all except the First, the candidate is required to present a paper on what he has learned from the previous degree.  This paper must be approved before the ceremony can proceed.

There is no ‘business session’ prior to a degree working:  the ceremony begins immediately the Brethren are assembled.  Meals are taken after virtually all masonic meetings, and are considered as an integral part of the working.  The dress code has been relaxed in recent years, as in our own Constitution.  Some masons still wear a tailcoat with black waistcoat, but a dark suit and tie are also acceptable.[16]  There is a different apron for every degree, and the third degree regalia, which is what Swedish masons wear when visiting craft lodges abroad, is easily recognisable by its vivid blue and yellow colours.

Chapter room Bååt

A difference between Swedish masonry and the Anglo-American systems is that there is no procedure whereby all Brethren take turns at holding the lodge's offices.  Lodges are large; for example, the city of Uppsala has over 500 masons but only two lodges.  There are many officers, but a Master holds office for six years, and others for at least one year, usually longer.  A member must hold at least the VIIIth degree to become the Master of a lodge.  There is no rank of Past Master in the Swedish system, and a Master whose term has expired simply resumes his normal place amongst the Brethren.[17]  

This reflects a fundamental difference between the Anglo-American systems and the Swedish Order.  While British, American or New Zealand masons are waiting for their next office, Swedish masons are waiting for their next degree.  Nobody stays put after becoming a Master Mason:  everybody passes on to the high degree section of the Order.  This also means that Sweden has no selection of many different high degree systems, such as exist in Britain or New Zealand; it is one integrated system.  It normally takes about two years to become a Master Mason, and 15-20 years to reach the Xth degree.

As a consequence, lodges tend to be fewer but larger than we are familiar with.  For instance, Stockholm, with over one million inhabitants, has only four craft lodges.  Each of these has hundreds of members, and holds about one lodge meeting per week.  Lodges with selective memberships, such as policemen, lawyers, soldiers or some other profession, as can be found in England, do not exist.

In order to visit a Swedish lodge, one must be at least a Master Mason, and belong to a lodge which is recognised by the Swedish Order of Freemasons.[18]  For the degrees above the third, one needs to be member of a foreign high degree system; there are conversion tables between the degrees.[19]  The Xth degree, however, does not receive visitors, like American 33-degree masonry, which does not accept visitors in its highest degree.


5.  Social and Religious Criticisms of Swedish Freemasonry

Freemasonry is regarded with some awe by Swedes in general, whether they approve of it or not.  Demographically, it has moved steadily away from being the preserve of royalty and aristocracy to a predominantly upper-middle class membership, a profile similar to Rotary’s.  The general criticism is that such organisations form elite decision-making bodies.  Anders Westholm, Associate Professor of Politics at Uppsala University, commented on alleged masonic elitism to a Swedish newspaper:

To the extent that an organisation contributes to a reduction in the diversity of opinions and decision alternatives, it is a danger to democracy.  It could lead to international recruiting to elite appointments. — Expressen 12/1/95 (my translation).

However, the same criticism is applied without distinction to Rotary, Lions and the Oddfellows!  More significant is the religious criticism of Swedish Freemasonry.  The State Church (Svenska kyrkan, evangelical Lutheran) has no apparent problems with masonry, and many of its members, clergy and even bishops are masons.  The minority Free Churches (Missionskyrka, Evangeliska frikyrkan, Pingstkyrkan, all rather Baptist-like), on the other hand, consider membership of Freemasonry incompatible with membership of themselves.

Duke Carl, later King Carl XIII, developed the moral philosophy of the Swedish Rite, and through two major ritual revisions in 1780 and 1800 he created the system which in essence remains unchanged to this day.  Since Carl was affected by the gnostic and esoteric fashions of his time, his revisions brought these elements into the higher degrees.  

The gnostic and Rosicrucian [20] elements in the Swedish order are the major stumbling block.  One Swedish mason offered the following defence:

Brothers of higher degrees than myself have stated that there are traces of deism and gnosticism in these degrees, which unfortunately is a consequence of these streams existing in society at the time that Freemasonry took its form.  These days they are treated just as an expression of a spirit of the times, an historical phenomenon.  We are unfortunately obliged to retain them, because the different degrees of Freemasonry are intertwined and changes threaten to destroy the whole structure.  The official defence is that Freemasonry takes no position on any matters of faith, but is intended to be a school of moral philosophy on general Christian ground, “to live right to be able to die right”.  ­— “Bengt”, anonymous Swedish Freemason (my translation).

Catholics[21] are forbidden to join the Swedish order, but on different grounds from the church’s ban on other constitutions, i.e. that they are not exclusively Christian.  One Catholic priest explained the church’s opposition in the following terms:

We consider that this [that Catholics can be Freemasons]is not possible:  because the Freemasons are in principle relativistic, they are by their nature a more modern version of the gnostics, they are the heirs and acknowledgers of a type of Enlightenment theology and philosophy which is incompatible with the Catholic faith… the Christian faith is principally public… one cannot build an esoteric entity, “Ecclesiola”, within the greater community and separated from it, where only the elect would be admitted and which claims to have a special, secret tradition which only these elect may share; a “secret knowledge” which would imply a “higher stage” of the Christian faith — that is exactly what the gnostics claimed — and one cannot celebrate a type of esoteric quasi-sacrament and simultaneously be a Catholic. — Anonymous Catholic priest (my translation).

Whatever the truth of these charges, Swedish masons themselves seem untroubled by any potential conflict with the doctrines of the state church, and the state church itself has not found any reason to condemn Freemasonry on these grounds.  As far as I am aware, the esotericism of the Swedish higher degrees is an element that is not found in our own Knights Templar or Rose Croix orders.


6. Conclusions and Personal Observations

I began this paper with two observations about Anglo-American Freemasonry, the first of which, in reference to masonry as ‘a system of morality’, read as follows:

This morality is taught via role playing in small set-piece allegorical theatrics with the addition of lectures or catechisms in which the candidate gives set answers to set questions.[22]

Teaching morality by allegory and symbols makes us actors in a play, where the lodge room is the theatre and the candidate the protagonist.  However, compared with the Swedish workings, our theatrics are rather poor.  Our deacons march the candidate briskly around the room under the full glare of fluorescent lighting, while the Brethren sit about, exchanging jocular remarks sotto voce.  The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.  

The Swedish lodge room, by contrast, is a mysterious and gloomy space, lit only by massive candles, where figures appear from the shadows to deliver their charges, then fade away in the darkness.  A Swedish working is an intensely solemn and almost mystical experience.  The symbols and ritual of a Swedish degree are somewhat more explicit than our own, further reinforcing the other-worldly atmosphere and heightening the shared experience.

The second observation, in reference to the history of Freemasonry, noted:

….However, by the mid 19th century, he [Stewart] agrees with contemporary French criticism that English Freemasonry had become a “body without a soul”, having lost its original philosophic impulse, and was by then (and possibly still is) obsessed by form, procedure, decorum, status etc.

This encapsulates what I consider to be the major philosophic difference between the two systems.  Anglo-American Freemasonry, having abandoned its original engagement in contemporary social and scientific debate, now sets the expert delivery of ritual as its highest goal.  In spite of claims to the contrary, the essence of a ‘good’ working is generally regarded to be proficiency in word-perfect rote learning, rather than content or meaning.  The philosophical aspect, eagerly debated by our 18th century Brethren, exists only in an attenuated and vestigial form.

Swedish Freemasonry, on the other hand, has retained its original spiritual (rather than philosophical) impulse, and clearly sets this at the centre of all its activities.  Masonic education, and proof of learning by candidates as a precondition for advancement, are considered to be of the highest importance.  While there may be some concerns in common with those expressed by our own members, e.g. a desire for a shorter ritual, and more involvement of wives and partners, the Swedish mason is really a horse of a different colour.

In a recent paper[23] to the United Masters Lodge of Research in Auckland, New Zealand, R.W. Bro. Neil Ingram, Past Provincial Grand Master, commented that the new policy of ‘Openness’, and its related membership recruitment drives, seemed to be counter-productive.  He observed that around the world:

Masonic jurisdictions focusing on membership numbers were failing, whereas those focusing on quality of members and meetings were succeeding.

The less easy it is to become a Freemason, the more desirable membership is to potential candidates.

In simple terms, things easily attained are not highly valued.

‘Openness’ is anathema to the Swedish Order, as expressed by the Past Grand Master, M.W. Bro. Gustav Piehl:

By publishing its rules and regulations the Order aims at informing the public of its organisational structure and to explicitly manifest its message.  The Rituals themselves will, however, continue to remain strictly secret.  The very proceedings that take place at a Lodge meeting have always to be kept confidential.  The passing through the Masonic degree structure is intended to reveal empirical knowledge.  Should the substance contained in these rituals be published, the pedagogic model, and the singular experience of each candidate, would then be lost.  It would be like an advance unveiling of a written test.  – (my translation).

Neither are membership drives acceptable.  It is difficult to apply to join the Swedish Order, and acceptance may be as low as one applicant in three.  Quality, rather than quantity, is the focus:  quality in ritual (without an obsessive emphasis on rote-learning: in both degrees I have witnessed, longer charges were read from a leather-bound book[24]), quality in education, quality of candidates, quality of premises, quality of refectory etc.  

In spite of this, membership is slowly but steadily growing.  More significantly, the spread of ages is much more even:  members range from the mid-20s to the mid-80s, but the curve peaks in the mid-40s.  In New Zealand, as we know only too well, the curve is skewed to the elderly, peaking in the mid-to-late-60s.  This indicates the relative success of Swedish passive recruitment.

Finally, I would like to thank the Master, Officers and Brethren of Lodge Adolf Fredrik in Stockholm, and Lodge Stenbocken in Uppsala, for the opportunity to participate in their degree workings.  The warmth of their reception, their hospitality and fine refectories, and their kindness to visitors, epitomised what I consider the essence of Freemasonry:  tolerance, brotherly love, and peace between nations.  Long may they prosper!

*               *               * 

[1] The Grand Lodge of Finland, founded in the 1920s with a charter from the Grand Lodge of New York, is an independent Grand Lodge.  Several lodges under this Grand Lodge work with a Swedish translation of the Finnish (New York) ritual, which should not be confused with the Swedish Rite.  However, most Swedish-speaking Finnish Freemasons belong to the Swedish Order.

[2] Tolstoy’s famous description of a Russian First Degree working in War and Peace has many similarities to the modern Swedish First Degree.

[4] T. Stewart, English Speculative Freemasonry: Some Possible Origins, Themes and Developments (Prestonian Lecture 2004).  London: Grand Lodge, 2004.

[5] Albert G. Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry,  Richmond, Virginia: 1966, p. 997.

[6] Alex Davidson, “The Masonic Concept of Liberty: Freemasonry and the Enlightenment”, United Masters’ Transactions Vol. 34 N°. 5 (August 2002).

[7] Cf. M.C. Jacob, Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).

[8] Approximately equivalent to a baronet.

[9] ‘St Jean Auxiliare’ amalgamated with the lodge ‘L’Union’ in 1799, and is today named ‘Den Nordiska Första S:t Johanneslogen’, ‘The First Nordic St John’s Lodge’.

[10] The Rite of the Strict Observance is based on ‘Templar Masonry’.  Its founders claimed that all Knights Templar were masons, that they had come to proclaim it to the world, and to have the Order of the Temple given back its former possessions, and to have its former powers restored to it.  In fact, all Templar Masonry is descended from a Kadosh degree invented in Lyons, France, in 1743.  Cf. R.F. Gould, A Concise History of Freemasonry (London 1903: reprint by Kessinger, 1998). 

[11] Pronounced ‘Bawt’.  It was originally built for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Served Bååth, on land donated by Queen Christina.

[12] See e.g.

[13] Except in Germany, where continuous membership is required.

[14] Ordförande Mästare, or OM (literally ‘Chairman-Master’).

[15]  In the VIIIth Degree, Jacques de Molay replaces Adoniram in a similar ceremony.

[16] In fact, in the two Swedish lodges I visited, all Brethren wore the dark-suit-and-tie variant.

[17] This situation would, no doubt, be envied by many New Zealand masons!  Likewise the fact that there is no saluting or ‘rendition of honours’ in a Swedish lodge:  only ‘showing the sign’ as required by the working.  

[18] Basically, any lodge recognised by UGLE or NZ Grand Lodge is probably recognised there as well.  

[19] I was judged to be the equivalent of a VIth degree mason, thanks to Royal Arch and Cryptic Council!

[20] Rosicrucianism:  A fraternity which endeavours to regain ‘authentic’ Christian traditions rather than accept the ‘dogmatic, institutionalised theology’ preached by the churches.  As such it admits hermeticism, cabbalism and other esoteric teachings.  Ferguson describes it as offering an esoteric mystical gnosis (secret unexplained knowledge of a spiritual nature).  Cf. Jacob (1991), p. 36, & re ‘La Loge de Juste’, pp. 128, 133.

[21] Catholics, mainly immigrants, comprise a tiny minority of Sweden’s population, probably less than 1%.

[23] W.N. Ingram, ‘The Origin and Development of the 500 Series of Lodges’, United Masters’ Transactions 35:7, October 2004.

[24]  By a senior officer titled ‘Talare’ (Speaker).

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