Observant and observance, Traditional Observant and simply Observant, and the archaic Strict Observance – what are all these confusing terms and what they mean? Are they all the same?
No, they are not. Let’s have a brief retrospective of the evolution of the terms. It is worth noting that for a while not many people (including Masons) were aware of the „observant lodges”. Some prefer to write it with capital letters but linguistically there is no reason for that. Masons have this tendency to capitalize words that they find important for themselves. Like “Mason”…
In the 90s different groups of Masons in the English-speaking world (except UK) realized the need for change in what became the usual practices of the lodges, in order to bring back what they deemed to be lost. Accordingly, the “restoration” idea has been circulated and a foundation with such aim created. As they stated “[t]he goal of the foundation is to restore Freemasonry to the historical and philosophical intent of its organizational founders.” Sometimes they were looking at the Masonic lodges in different European countries where the decline of membership didn’t happen and, while trying to emulate their practices, they were named European concept lodges. In other places, mainly in North America such lodges that followed the restoration movement have been called “Observant” lodges because they were considered to observe the “philosophical intent of the […] founders”. And since they followed a model that was thought to be more “traditional” – the moniker Traditional Observant Lodge has been created. Some also called the trend itself Traditional Observance.
Later, mainly based on arguments presented by Andrew Hammer, the author of the book that became like a blueprint for such lodges – Observing the Craft, the adjective “traditional” was left out. As the author argued: not all the traditions are worth observing…
But what about the Strict Observance? Isn’t that more adequate in this case? – It is not. And here is why: that name is already “taken” by a historical Masonic body that existed in the 18th century.
A certain Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund (1722–1776) started a new Masonic rite in 1751, which after 1764, he called the Strict Observance. Following his death, the “Order” as it was called, dissolved itself. The Order had seven degrees.
Von Hund’s Order of Strict Observance has nothing to do with the present day restoration ideas or the concept of “observant” lodges.
P.S. I am a member of Ontario’s second Observant Lodge – Templum Lucis No. 747 – and, incidentally, in my other district there is a lodge called The Lodge of Strict Observance No. 27 (dispensation issued on August 1,1847), where today nobody seems to know why they have that name or what does it refer to.
- Masonic Restoration Foundation
- Hammer, Andrew, Observing the Craft: The Pursuit of Excellence in Masonic Labour and Observance.
- Collectanea (Grand College of Rites, 2010), Vol 21, Pt 1 [Order of Strict Observance ritual]