Diversity in unity?

HeidleShoek_WomenHeidle and Snoek’s book also has a ‘very Dutch’ essay. Anne van Marion-Weijer conducted an investigation within the Dutch federation of Le Droit Humain for her master’s thesis for her study at Amsterdam Hermetica.

Besides a student, Van Marion is also a member of the organisation she investigated. She is editor of the periodical Nieuw Perspectief and used to be the archivist.

Her questionnaire was about the fact that within the Dutch federation three different “traditions” are present, a “Dutch” (before 1995 called “Scottish”), “English” and “French” “tradition”.

Van Marion starts with a general introduction. She calls the Dutch federation “special” because it works with different rites, but in fact most (all?) federations of Le Droit Humain have more than one rite. The British federation, for example, lists no less than six on their website.
The general introduction mentions that of the 27.000 members of Le Droit Humain worldwide, 60% live in France or Belgium.
For the Netherlands Van Marion mentions that there were at the time of writing 21 lodges, 15 of which worked in the “Dutch” “tradition”, four in the “English” and two in the “French”.

Then follows more information about the different “traditions”. The author says that in the beginning, there was only the “English” tradition in the Netherlands. Nowadays only 19% works in that “tradition” and two of the four “English” lodges are so small that they have to work together with “Dutch” lodges.

The author says that the “Dutch” rituals are largely based on the rituals of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands, but this is not entirely true. In an article of Jan Snoek that Van Marion mentions in her bibliography, he demonstrates that the “Dutch” rituals are actually translations of Annie Besant‘s “Dharma workings” to which adjustments have been made based on the rituals of the Grand Orient.

In the general introduction to Le Droit Humain the author mentions that initially Georges Martin didn’t want ‘high grades’, but allowed them to be added to attract more members. At the time he only had the 30th degree himself (from the organisation he was initiated in himself), so a way had to be found to grand him the 33th degree in order to be able to pass it on.

Then the text again focuses on the Netherlands and how the Dutch federation fared with the change of rituals from “English” to “Dutch” (first split-off), how the “English” “tradition” returned and how eventually also the “French” would be introduced.
The latter is a nice story. The ritual of Georges Martin was revived at a commemoration, after which several members were of the opinion that these rituals were better than that of their own lodges. Two lodges replaced their own rituals.

Then follows the questionnaire that Van Marion conducted for her thesis. All members of the Dutch federation received questions about the different “traditions”. About a third sent them back. Fortunately the proportion in “tradition” worked of the respondents was about the same as the proportions between the different “traditions” in general.
The questions included were such as ‘are you aware of the different “traditions”?’, ‘were you before you joined?’, ‘did you make a deliberate choice?’, etc.

The conduct was made in September 2005. At the time there were 328 members, 256 women and 70 men.

From the answers of members of the “English” tradition we can see that here is the largest group who made a deliberate choice for this tradition. This could be that they were Theosophist. 30% Had no idea that there were other “traditions” before they received the questionnaire and only 6% was of the opinion that the different “traditions” was enriching. A third sees animosity between the different “traditions”. 12% Was of the opinion that they had nothing in common with the other “traditions” and 84% experience their own rituals as ‘religious’/ ‘spiritual’.
Also the “French” tradition proved to be a deliberate choice. Some people even switched lodges in order to work in this rite. Even though none of the six respondents experienced no animosity between other traditions 60% said to have nothing in common with the other two. Some even expressed themselves quite sharply. None of the respondents experienced their rituals as ‘religious’, but the word ‘spiritual’ was used.
From the largest group, working in the “Dutch” “tradition”, only 26% choose this “tradition” deliberately. From this group the largest part (52%) had not been aware that there were lodges working with another rite. Also the largest part of this group (50%) saw the diversity as enriching, but on the other hand, this group had the only respondents who were of the opinion that the diversity detracted Freemasonry (5%). A third experiences animosity between the different “traditions” and from this group the largest part (70%) experiences “a feeling of togetherness and sacredness / spirituality” during their rituals.

After the questionnaire some more general information follows and then the author continues with testing a sociological theory on her findings. Here we can read how the original main group (“English”), was overshadowed by the “Dutch” tradition and had to play the role of “outsider”.

What pleads for the existence of the very website you are reading now is that Van Marion says that her respondents: “show little interest in the other traditions and they are surprisingly ignorant about the French roots of the IO LDH.”

Considering that the “French” “tradition” is so small, the author closes her essay saying that: “Time will show us whether or not the French ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ will have a greater appeal in the future than the Dutch ‘wisdom, strength and beauty’ or the ‘English’ ‘faith, hope and charity’.”

Looking at the last few years, I think this just might become the case.

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