Skip to content

Farwerck and Le Droit Humain

A couple of years I paged through all Bulletins that were published between 1918 and 1933 in one afternoon rapidly taking pictures of what appeared to be interesting. Now I have all these issues myself, so I can check them for information without the rush.

The Dutch part of the international mixed gender Masonic organisation Le Droit Humain started in 1904. In Bulletin 3 from 1933 (March) a text is published about the first 25 years. The text was a lecture of Johannes Francisus Duwaer (1869-1944) which was reworked for publication by Anne Schlesinger-Kerdijk (1882-1944). Duwaer has a few details that were new to me.

Duwaer is about as good a source as we can get. As he writes himself, he and eight other persons were initiated on 18 June 1904. This was done by Annie Besant and a few others. What was new to me, is that Duwaer appears to say that this was done with Besant’s English ritual which was only translated on the foundation of the first mixed gender lodge. Both the English and Dutch versions of that ritual were published by Duwaer himself and (another person that was initiated that day) Henri van Ginkel (1913-1923). The initiation took place in a gym of an Amsterdam school.

“Cazotte” was the first lodge to be founded and was installed a year later. The lodge grew rapidly. New lodges were founded too. Van Ginkel and Duwaer had several publishing houses. With one of them they started the periodical Swastika. The first issue had on the cover that this was the official publication of Le Droit Humain, Netherlands. Not everybody agreed and the disagreement ran so high that Van Ginkel (and I think also Duwaer) left his mother lodge to start a new lodge in his own house: Christiaan Rosencreutz.

In the meantime, Van Ginkel had started to rewrite the rituals of Annie Besant, to make them more conform the rituals of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands, the “regular” male-only Masonic organisation in the Netherlands. The new lodge Christiaan Rosencreutz was the first lodge to work with these Van Ginkel rituals. Perhaps it was not (only) the rituals that formed the disagreement between Van Ginkel and members of his mother lodge, but also Swastika.

Farwerck was initiated in that very lodge Christiaan Rosencreutz, even in the year of its foundation: 1911. This is a somewhat funny story. Farwerck was initiated on 23 April 1911. He was passed to the second degree of Fellow Craft on 21 October of the same year and raised to the third degree of Master Mason on the same day. He signed the application of the charter for the new lodge as Senior Warden. The charter is dated 1 January 1911, so well before Farwerck was initiated.

Swastika was founded in 1911 and was meant as a periodical both for members, but also for non-members. It didn’t sell as well as Van Ginkel had hoped and it was discontinued after four years. It would take another four years before a new periodical saw the light of day: Bulletin, a name often used for internal Masonic publications. It was this Bulletin that I now finally got to have a prober look at. It only started in 1918 on, so there is no information on the early days of Le Droit Humain in the Netherlands, nor -of course- of the first seven years of Farwerck’s membership.

The first thing of note is that in that very year 1918 Farwerck was the Worshipful Master of Christiaan Rosencreutz. In 1921 he passed on the function to his predecessor, never to return to the East again. In this lodge at least.

Farwerck’s brother was initiated in 1917. He married Johanna Borrius in 1920 and she was initiated a year later. Of Willy Farwerck I know he was initiated in Christiaan Rosencreutz, of Johanna I’m not sure, but this is likely. Willy and Johanna seem to have lived in Amsterdam since their marriage (possibly before that). Franz and Willy often stayed in each other’s houses. This also shows in their Masonic memberships. In 1921 Franz was involved in the founding of Broedertrouw. He had a function, so he had to have been a member. In 1925 Franz, Willy and Johanna appear to have been involved in the founding of another Amsterdam lodge: Hiram Abiff. Franz sat in the East of this lodge in 1930, Willy in 1933. Franz was Senior Warden in 1927, Johanna Almoner in the same year, Willy Master of Ceremonies in 1929. But Willy is also listed as having a function in the lodge Ken U Zelve (Utrecht/Bilthoven) of which Franz has also been a member and Franz was involved in the founding of a lodge in the far North, Leeuwarden. Willy then also stood at the cradle of the Amsterdam lodge Eenheid.
As we saw, Farwerck was also involved in the founding of a lodge in Frankfurt, later also in Prague, Berlin and Hamburg.

Farwerck became member of the National Council in 1919, in 1921 he was acting Grand Chancellor a year later Grand Treasurer. In 1922 Farwerck received the 33º so he could represent the foreign lodges at the Supreme Council in Paris. Again a year later, 1923, he became the representative of the Dutch federation of Le Droit Humain, the highest position in a federation. A position he would fulfil until 1933 when he left the organisation.

Give the above a thought. 7 Years after his initiation, Farwerck led his lodge. During that period he has function is the Grand Lodge. After his time in the East, his activities really set off. Grand Lodge functions, setting up lodges domestically and abroad. He started to write more and rapidly rolled into his role as ‘big man’.

It appears he never lost touch with ‘base’. He had different positions in both “Blue” and “Red” lodges, sometimes holding membership of several lodges at the same time. Also, he held talks in his own and in other lodges. Sometimes I know the titles of these talks. Let’s have a look:

  • The esotericism of Freemasonry;
  • The Ritual;
  • Symbolic and magical effects of the ritual;
  • Initiation;
  • The Scottish Rite;
  • Freemasonry and Theosophy;
  • Merit of the ritual;
  • Symbolism;
  • Historical relations and the inner task of Freemasons;
  • The lost word;
  • Philosophy and Freemasonry (in different lodges);
  • The organisation of our order and other Grand Lodges;
  • Dionysian artists;
  • Introduction into mysticism;
  • Color symbolism (later published);
  • The third degree.

As you can see, especially when you compare this list to the bibliography Farwerck had wide interests. Some of his talks can (roughly) be traced back to his function as Grand Master (information about revised rituals). “Theosophy and Freemasonry” was probably quite an anti-Theosophical talk when I look at his writings and saying about the subject.

Farwerck also appears to have been a strict and inflexible leader. He constantly points to elements in the rituals that he thought didn’t belong there. He was a staunch proponent of a neutral ritual without any colouring (especially not Theosophical). Also he didn’t see the Bible as reference to Christianity. He kept cleaning up the rituals in order to make them more ‘neutral’. In the Bulletins we can read about how he helped to found lodges within and without the Netherlands, but also about talks he had with lodges and people who had left the organisation due to differing opinions. Sometimes he is lauded for having been able to bring people back, but especially in his talks with the Theosophical lodges that split off, he was way too inflexible to achieve what he had in mind.

It seems that he wanted to assert his authority, sometimes making small differences large. Many a text is saying how things should be. He sometimes comes across as a bit of a jurist. He didn’t impose his ideas though, at least, not always. Several times there are pieces about “The Egyptian Rite” (Memphis-Misraim). Can members join Le Droit Humain? Farwerck wrote that if that organisation was non-Masonic, there could be no discussion about that. You can’t forbid members to join a soccer club after all. He did reach another conclusion about “The Egyptian Rite” than the National Council did, but settled for the voice the majority.

The end of his Masonic career was uncomfortably fast, I had noticed that before. One of the German lodges wrote a little text in the Bulletin when the National Socialists came to power. Dutch lodges started to ask Farwerck about his opinion. He replied in very naive terms. This was disputed and answered once and then Farwerck announced his resignation. I suppose that behind the scenes more happened that these few exchanges of views in the Bulletin.

As in any domain, Farwerck within Le Droit Humain appears to have been a hard-working, high-flying and principled member; revered by some, reviled by others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *