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Visible Masonry

In a Circular published March 18, 1775, by the Grand Orient of France, reference is made to two divisions of the Order, namely, Visible and Invisible Masonry. Did we not know something of the Masonic contentions then existing in France between the Lodges and the supreme authority, we should hardly comprehend the meaning intended to be conveyed by these words. By Invisible Masonry they denoted that Body of intelligent and virtuous Freemasons who, irrespective of any connection with dogmatic authorities, constituted "a Mysterious and Invisible, Society of the True Sons of Lights who, Scattered over the two hemispheres, were engaged, with one heart and soul, in doing everything for the glory of the Grand Architect and the good of their fellow-men. By Visible Masonry they meant the congregation of Freemasons into Lodges, which were often affected by the contagious vices of the age in which they lived.

The former is perfect; the latter continually needs purification. The words were originally invented to effect a particular purpose, and bring the recusant or nonconforming Lodges of France into their Obedience. But they might be advantageously preserved, in the technical language of Freemasonry, for a more general and permanent object. Invisible Freemasonry would then indicate the abstract spirit of Freemasonry as it has always existed, while Visible Freemasonry would refer to the concrete form which it assumes in Lodge and Chapter organizations, and in different Rites and systems.

The latter would be like the Material Church, or Church Militant; the former like the Spiritual Church, or Church Triumphant. Such terms might be found convenient to Masonic scholars and writers.

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