Co-Freemasonry

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The Square and Compasses. The symbols employed in Co-Freemasonry are mostly identical with those in other orders of Freemasonry.
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Co-Freemasonry is a form of Freemasonry which admits both men and women. It began in France in the 1880s with the forming of Le Droit Humain, and is now an international movement represented by several Co-Masonic administrations throughout the world. Most male-only Masonic Lodges do not recognise Co-Freemasonry, holding it to be irregular or clandestine.

International Order of Mixed Freemasonry — Le Droit Humain

Main article: Le Droit Humain

The International Order of Mixed Freemasonry Le Droit Humain was founded in France in the late nineteenth century, during a period of strong feminist and women's suffrage campaigning. It was the first Co-Masonic Order, and also the first truly international Masonic Order. Today it has members from over 60 countries worldwide.

French Masonry had long attempted to include women, the Grand Orient de France having allowed Rites of Adoption as early as 1774,[1][2] by which Lodges could "adopt" sisters, wives and daughters of Freemasons, imparting to them the mysteries of several degrees.[3]

In 1879, following differences among members of the Supreme Council of France, twelve lodges withdrew from the Grand Orient de France and founded the Grande Loge Symbolique de France. One of these Lodges, Les Libres Penseurs (The Free Thinkers) in Pecq, reserved in its charter the right to initiate women as Freemasons, proclaiming the essential equality of man and woman.

Maria Deraismes, co-founder of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain.
Georges Martin, co-founder of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain.

On January 14, 1882, Maria Deraismes, a well-known humanitarian, feminist author, lecturer and politician, was initiated into Les Libres Penseurs. The Right Worshipful Master, Bro. Houbron, 18°, justified this act as having the highest interests of humanity at heart, and as being a perfectly logical application of the principle of 'A Free Mason in a Free Lodge'. The Lodge was soon suspended for this "impropriety".

In 1890 the Lodge La Jerusalem Écossaise, also of the Grande Loge Symbolique de France, petitioned other Lodges for the establishment of a new order of Freemasonry that would accept both men and women. This time La Jerusalem Lodge did not propose to initiate women itself, but to create a new order working in parallel. The main proponent of this was Dr. Georges Martin, a French senator, advocate of equal rights for women, and also a member of Les Libres Penseurs.

On March 14, 1893, Deraismes, Martin and several other male Freemasons founded La Respectable Loge, Le Droit Humain, Maçonnerie Mixte (Worshipful Lodge, Human Rights, Co-Masonry) in Paris. They initiated, passed and raised sixteen prominent French women.

Shortly after, on April 4 of the same year, the first Grand Lodge of Co-Freemasonry was established, the Grande Loge Symbolique Écossaise Mixte de France (Grand Lodge of Mixed Scottish Rite Freemasonry of France), which would later become known as the International Order of Co-Freemasonry "Le Droit Humain". This was a radical departure from most other forms of Freemasonry, for not only did the new order not require belief in a Supreme Being (the Grand Orient de France had discarded this requirement in 1877) — it opened its doors to all of humanity who were "... just, upright and free, of mature age, sound judgment and strict morals."

As early as 1895 the Lodge Le Droit Humain (with no number) was travelling around- to Vernon, Blois, Rouen and Havre, in what were called selections - it gave conference and started to hold initiations in the presence,every time, of a large audience [4] Lodge Nr.1 was thus created in Blois in 1895, but, permanently excluded in 1902, this lodge re-awoke only recently.[5] Its Mother Lodge Le Droit Humain now took over the position of Lodge Nr.1 whilst splitting up again in Paris to form Lodge Nr.4. Three lodges were founded in the provinces [6]:

Lodge Nr.1 in Lyon (1896) Lodge Nr.3 in Rouen (1896) and Lodge Nr.5 in Havre (1902)

The first News-sheet of co-masonry appeared in January, 1895.[7] It contained an article by Georges Martin enunciating the principles of LE DROIT HUMAIN as well as various rules regarding to membership lists, subscription fees (11 francs for an initiation, and 20-31 francs for an increase of wages), the price of diplomas (5 francs), the annual subscription rate (18 francs) and the price of subscription to the Newssheet (2 francs per year).[8]

As a base for comparison: 1871 the average wage of a worker was 4,98 frcs. A woman earned half of this sum. In 1882 a clerk at a Ministry earned 1500- 2000 frcs per year. One week's stay in Paris in 1900 for the International Exhibition cost about 100 frcs.[9] The co-masonic News-Sheets appeared regularly until 1914 - their publication was interrupted during the war, but some editions were published in French in Ameria.[10]

The Eastern Federation

Annie Besant wearing 33° Masonic regalia.

Several prominent members of the Theosophical Society joined Co-Freemasonry, including Annie Besant, George Arundale, Charles W. Leadbeater, C. Jinarajadasa and Henry Steele Olcott. Henceforth, wherever they took Theosophy, they also introduced Co-Freemasonry.

The Order of Universal Co-Freemasonry in Great Britain and the British Dependencies was founded by Annie Besant and officers of the Supreme Council of the French Maçonnerie Mixte (known today as The International Order of Co-Freemasonry, Le Droit Humain) on September 26, 1902, with the consecration of Lodge Human Duty No. 6 in London. Besant remained head of the Order until her death in 1933. The English working, influenced by the Theosophy of its leading members, restored certain Masonic practices not required in the French working, notably that its members hold a belief in God or a Supreme Being. The permission received from France to reinstate this in the English workings is known as the 'Annie Besant Concord', and in 1904 a new English ritual was printed, which firmly established this requirement as central to the work. The revised ritual was called the 'Dharma Ritual', also known as the 'Besant-Leadbeater' and more recently as the 'Lauderdale' working. The Dharma Ritual also attempted to restore prominence to esoteric and mystical aspects that its Theosophically-minded authors felt were the heart of Freemasonry, so that it became foremostly a spiritual organisation; Co-Freemasonry of this Order was therefore sometimes called "Occult Freemasonry".

The Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry

In 1903 the first Co-Masonic Lodge in the USA was instituted under Le Droit Humain by the French professor Antoine Muzzarelli in New York. He founded the first Alpha Lodge in Charleroi, Pennsylvania and more than 50 others within four years before his untimely death 1908. In November of that year, delegates of twenty-four of these Lodges founded the American Federation of Human Rights in St. Louis. By 1924, nearly 100 Lodges had been started under the guidance of Louis Goaziou, President, Most Puissant Grand Commander and Representative of the Supreme Council in Paris.

Defection of Lodges from Le Droit Humain

Between the mid-1990s and early 2000s a large number of lodges defected from Le Droit Humain, which they charged with infringing upon their constitutional rights. On 2 January 2001 Le Droit Humain formally expelled four senior members of the British Federation over these disagreements. Following these expulsions, about 70[11] members resigned.

The defecting lodges reformed as the American Federation of Human Rights, the Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry, the Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry, the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women, and a number of smaller orders. The Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women no longer uses to term "Co-Masonry", and members call themselves "Freemasons" instead.

The defection of the British Lodges was the latest in the past two decades. This process began in North America in 1994 when "Le Droit Humain" withdrew recognition of the American Federation of Human Rights (see below) and incorporated another American Federation, chartered in Delaware. The Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry formed later, as did a few other smaller orders.

Other lodges, including those in Australia and South Africa and some United States lodges, opted to remain affiliated with the Supreme Council of the International Order of Mixed Freemasonry Le Droit Humain, and continue to exist as the British, Australian, and American Federations of the order, governed by the Representative of the Supreme Council in France, known as the Most Puissant Grand Commander, who holds the 33rd and highest degree of the Order.

Le Droit Humain in Europe

LE DROIT HUMAIN in the Netherlands and in the Dutch East Indies.

The first co-masonic Dutch lodge was solemnly installed in Amsterdam on Saturday, 10 June 1905, by the Grand Mistress Marie-Georges Martin and the Grand Orator Georges Martin, with distinctive name Cazotte Nr. 13.[12]

Various lodges were subsequnetly founded in The Hague (Nr.41 in 1911), in Hilversum (Nr.43 in 1913), in Rotterdam (Nr.92 in 1915), in Arnhem (nr.74 in 1916) and again in Amsterdam (Nr. 53).[13]

Co-Freemasonry was also introduced to the Dutch East Indies when W.B. Fricke founded on the island of Java, Lodge Lux Orientis Nr.406 followed in Surabaya in 1913, Lodge Nr. 421 in Semarang and Lodge Nr.422 in Bandung in 1915. (Lodges Nrs. 402 and 422 still active). One lodge was even installed on the island of Sumatra in Medan.[14]

The Supreme Council designated its Representative for the Dutch lodges and for those in the Dutch colonies who formed one complete Jurisdiction. (It was not until 1919 that the lodges in the Dutch East Indies became indepedant of the Dutch Jurisdiction). Van Ginkei was designated as representative of the Supreme Council for the Dutch Jurisdiction.[15]

LE DROIT HUMAIN in Belgium

The first lodge of LE DROIT HUMAIN was founded in Brussels in 1911, after a long period of incubation during which eminent members of the Maçonnerie Mixte Ecossaise de Frane worked patiently to convince the Progressives to accept a masonry working in a world without frontiers.[16]

At the Congress on Free Thought of 1895, Louise Barberousse, Senior Deacon of the Lodge Nr.1 Le Droit Humain introduced co-masonry to Brussels and showed its Bulletin.[17]

LE DROIT HUMAIN in Switzerland

After the permanent exclusion of the Zürich Lodge in 1905, founding of a new lodge was concentrated in Geneva which became the centre of many world-wide organisations.[18]

Having worked as a Triangle for three years, Lodge Nr.44 in the Order of Geneva was solemnly installed by Georges Martin on 6 April 1913 in the presence of about twenty Brethren from the Grand Lodge of Switzerland Alpina and the ceremony was followed with the initiation of a candidate.[19]

The first worshipful master was brother Reelfs- a remarkable personality - who was born in Amsterdam in 1888, and who had lived in Switzerland since 1906, after completed his studies in The Hague, Multi-lingiual speaking Dutch, English, German, Greek and French, he became Professor of Litterature at Madame Rollier's school (she would later on be a pioneer of LE DROIT HUMAIN in Switzerland, and became worshipful master of the lodge in Lausanne).[20]

Having been a member of Lodge Nr.13 Cazotte in Amsterdam, Bro Reelfs was, at that time of the consecration of Lodge Nr.44, a member of both Grand Lodge of Switzerland Alpina and of the Grant Orient de France, and was invested with the 18th Degree. He could not prevent the closure of the lodge during the war because members of foreign nationalities were obliged to return home where some were called up for military service. As to Reelfs ha was to prove his worth after the war.[21]

The American Federation of Human Rights / American Co-Masonry

The origins and development of LE DROIT HUMAIN in the USA cannot be separated form the life and activity of its founder, the Frenchman Louis Goaziou.[22]

Born in Brittany in 1864, he emigrated to the USA in 1880 where he worked in the coal mines of Houtsdale, Pennsylvania. Three years later he married Marie Bourgeois, born in Namur in 1866.[23] Goaziou wanted to improve the apalling working conditions of his friends and set up, in 1866, the Association of United Miners, as well as two Associations for mutual help, whose aims he defended in a weekly French speaking magazine.[24] Through this he attracted the attention of a professor of French at Columbia University in New York, Antoine Muzarelli, member of the New York LodgeI'Atlantide pf the Grand Orient de France, and who was keenly interested in the foundation of LE DROIT HUMAIN.[25]

The humanitarian ideal of the new Masonic order struck him as absolutely compatible with the social ideas of Louis Goaziou.[26] Muzarelli contacted Goaziu in 1903 with the idea of creating in Charleroi (Pennsylvania) either a Lodge under the Grand Orient or a lodge of LE DROIT HUMAIN, which also admitted their wives.[27] The first 3 degrees were conferred on them by Antoine Muzarelli, and , on 25 October 1903, the first co-masonic American lodge was born in Charleroi Pennsylvania. It was lodge Alpha Nr.301 of which Louis Goaziou became the first Worshipful Master.[28]

This French speaking Lodge continued until 1973.[29] Six other Lodges were founded in 1904, three working in French, one in Slav, one in Italian and one in English (under the direction of John Goaziou, a brother of louis).[30] Soon Lodges were founded in Chicago, St. Louis and in California.[31] The Rose-Croix degrees were given to Louis Goaziou by communication in November, 1904 and he become a member of Chapter Nr.1 in the valley of Paris. The first American Chapter (Nr.?) was formed in Charleroi with 6 charter member.

On 28 December 1905, Louis Goaziou became a member of Areopagus Nr.1 in the camp of Paris, and soon afterwards Areopagus Nr.41 Alpha was founded in Charleroi. As the American masons had to comply with USA legal requirements regarding societies, Bro .'. Muzarelli called the 20 American DROIT HUAMIN lodges to a Convention which was to be held on the 6th November, 1908 but, sadly, he died on 15 October.[32] It was, therefore, Louis Goaziou who took charge of the financial and administrative affairs of the lodges, and who went to St. Louis to preside over the pre-arranged Convention.[33]

On 7 November 1908 the American Federation was legally constituted under the title of The American Federation of Human Rights (A.F.H.R), of which Louis Goaziou was elected President. The 31st, 32nd and the 33rd degrees of the Scottish Rite were conferred on him on 21 November 1909, and he was designated by the Supreme Council as its Representative for the American Federation.[34]

The same year Annie Besant was staying in the USA where she installed English speaking lodges and granted the degree of Installed Master to certain members- a degree which did not exist either in the Grand Orient or the Scottish Rite. A new trend began in American co-masonry. Whilst some members of French and Italian origin, mainly recruited in the mining industry, had concentrated on social problems, the masons initiated by Annie Besant, under theosophic influence, saw in the Ancient Mysteries the origins of masonry, and adopted a much more spiritual interpretation of Masonic symbolism.[35]

When the 1914-1918 war ended, operative work started by Louis Goaziou recommenced; the Houses in Larkspur, in California and in Pennsylvania were completed and furnished thanks to the Home Fund.[36] The administrative building in Larkspur was built between 1921-1924 in order to replace the first building - Saramac Cottage- which had become too small.[37] In 1922 the potash mines in Colorado went bankrupt and this led to about 100 Italian members of LE DROIT HUMAIN losing their job.[38] Despite their real interest for the building of larkspur - they had no option but to leave mansonry.[39] It was no longer possible, through lack of funds to realise the initial project to construct, next door to the administrative offices at Larkspur, an orphanage and a Home for the elderly.[40] However Louis Goaziou hard effort to achieve goal for building the Masonic temples and increase membership became successful especially after the Second World War. Louis Goaziou was the Builder of American Federation and he played important role to set up an American Co-masonic constitution.

In December 1993, when demands from the Supreme Council in Paris conflicted with the International Constitution and the National Constitution of the American Federation of Le Droit Humain, which mandated independence in internal affairs and adherence to United States law, a large part of the membership decided to withdraw from Le Droit Humain.

On April 11, 1994, the Supreme Council of American Co-Masonry, The American Federation of Human Rights, was reformed by members of the Grand Inspector General of the Thirty-third Degree. Also known as American Co-Masonry, this now-independent obedience, which has its headquarters in Larkspur, Colorado, has since become the largest Co-Masonic organization in the United States.[citation needed]

The Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry

In 2001, following growing concerns over erosions to the Annie Besant Concord by the administration in Paris, many member lodges of the Eastern Federation resigned from Le Droit Humain, severing all ties, and reconstituted new governing bodies. Lodges in India, New Zealand, parts of the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Spain reformed as the Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry; lodges in the UK reformed as the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women.[41][42]

The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Accepted and Esoteric Freemasons

The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Accepted and Esoteric Freemasons is a virtual Grand Lodge for men and women operating over the internet.

The Ancient, Accepted & Esoteric Freemasons was initially chartered by the Grand Orient de France on May 14, 1928. On November 17, 1976 Grandmaster Juliet Ashley established the Sovereign and Independent Grand Lodge of Ancient, Accepted and Esoteric Freemasons as an independent Masonic organization. This order's name was changed to "International Sovereign and Independent Grand Lodge of Ancient, Accepted and Esoteric Freemasons" at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on June 22, 1977. At that meeting the Grand Lodge also established Acacia Lodge #1 A:. A:. & E:. F:. as the first Lodge of Master Masons under the new jurisdiction. From 1992 the Grand Lodge ceased to operate within a physical temple, and from 2003 they began rewriting the rituals for self-initiation and lodge initiation using one or more initiating officers. They have offered internet initiations for Entered Apprentices since 2004.[43]

The order confers Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason degrees, as well as York Rite and Scottish Rite degrees and several other advanced rites. Degrees are practiced in their regular and ancient form, and are accompanied by esoteric teachings.

The Co-Freemasonic Order of The Blazing Star

The Co-Freemasonic Order of the Blazing Star is an independent order of freemasonry based in the South West of England that admits men and women equally. It sees its main emphasis as cultivating the spiritual and esoteric aspects of freemasonry, and offers a true initiatory system of training and development of the 33 degrees of ‘The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite’ for the benefit of humanity and the world. It currently operates an ancient Irish working in the craft degrees.

In November 1997 a group of senior masons formed an independent Supreme Council to revitalise and regenerate masonic ritual and practice with an explicit emphasis on the symbolic, esoteric and spiritual teachings, initiatory training, and the ‘inner’ workings forming the basis of the ritual work. To distinguish the new order from other masonic bodies, the name ‘Order of the Blazing Star’ was taken. The Blazing Star is a universal symbol, and is found in most masonic rituals. The principals, rituals and traditions are still based on those of the Grand Scottish Constitutions of 1786, revised and agreed by the national Supreme Councils of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite at Lausanne in 1876. In May 2007 the Supreme Council decided the name of the order should more closely reflect its heritage and work and thus ‘The Co-Freemasonic Order of the Blazing Star’ was established.

Recognition of Co-Freemasonry by other Freemasons

Co-Freemasonry is not formally recognised by any of the larger Male-Only Masonic Grand Lodges in the US in as much as intervisitation or other Masonic interaction is not permitted.

A Landmark of Freemasonry agreed by the 51 masculine Grand Lodges in the US is that the initiation of women is forbidden and members take a binding obligation not to countenance the initiation of women. Very few masculine Grand Lodges outside the US maintain either as a "Landmark". Most notably, the United Grand Lodge of England has no such prohibition.[citation needed]

Certain Grand Lodges of Co-Freemasonry, those under Le Droit Humain, also follow the lead of the Grand Orient de France in removing references to the Supreme Being from their rituals and initiating atheists; this is a further point of separation from typical Masonic Lodges which hold belief in a Supreme Being to be a Landmark requirement.

Notwithstanding the prohibition of interaction in a ritual context, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the oldest of the Grand Lodges, whilst not recognising Co-Freemasonry, states that it does hold informal discussions from time to time with Women's and Co-Masonic Grand Lodges on issues of mutual concern, and that

Brethren are therefore free to explain to non-Masons, if asked, that Freemasonry is not confined to men (even though this Grand Lodge does not itself admit women).[44]

The Grand Orient de France did not initiate women for many years, but it does now and it recognizes Masonic bodies that do. Thus, it allows visitation by women from those bodies.[45]

See also


External links

Co-Masonic Organisations

Women's-only Masonic Organisations

References

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  2. Mackey, A. C. Adoniramite Freemasonry, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences. Retrieved 2006-07-13
  3. Mackey, A. C. Eastern Star, Order of the, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences. Retrieved 2006-07-13
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