1. Alleged “Official Birth” in England
Symbolic or “Speculative Masonry” began to gradually develop during the XVI and XVII in Europe, particularly – though not exclusively – in the kingdoms of England and Scotland.
As the official history relates, on June 24, 1717, four Londonese Lodges gathered to celebrate the Summer Solstice, and to “constitute” the First Grand Speculative Lodge (“Grand Lodge of London”); But, not without the most indignant protest of The Grand Lodge of Operative Masons, which, denounced the “Speculative One” of being Illegitimate and Apocryphal, for many of its subordinate lodges and very leaders (including Anderson himself) had never been affiliated with the Craft – let alone initiated – as “Accepted Masons”.
From that moment on, however, the Grand Lodge of London became the creating source of numerous lodges around the world, which, in turn, were progressively creating their own national bodies (Grand Lodges or Grand orients in every country), all inter-linked by bonds of Solidarity and Mutual Recognition.
In September 1721 (four years later), as a result of the heterogeneity provoked by great errors that existed in all the copies of the Ancient Constitutions, and, at the same time, due to the expansion of Speculative Masonry to Europe and America, the assembly of The Grand Lodge of London charged Pastor James Anderson, chaplain of a subordinate Lodge, with “ordering the old constitutions with a new and better method”. Anderson finalized the assignment in three months and presented his finalized work at the festivity of Winter Solstice of that same year – being thereupon revised by a commission integrated by fourteen erudite masons, shorthly thereafter approved by the same group on March 25, 1722, and subsequently published by William Hunter the following year. In the third article of these “new constitutions”, there is a concrete clause prohibiting women to join the Order. In that sense, Anderson is very clear in stating such prohibition; But, he is rather indifferent in stating the motivations that drove him to such a pronouncement.
2. Emergence in Continental Europe:
Simultaneously, Speculative Masonry started gaining terrain in Continental Europe, mainly in France. In addition to the Irish Lodges that were constituted in Saint Germain in 1690, Free-Masonry attained much strength at the beginning of 1720, under the leadership of the Duke of Wharton, and, posteriorly, under that of Sir John MacLean. The first “londonese styled” election, of which there is historical constancy, was that of Charles Radcliffe, Count of Dervenwater, in 1736, as “Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Most Illustrious Society of Franc-Masons in the Kingdom of France”. The Duke of Anton was the first French Grand Master of the Order in 1738. Later came the Grand Mastership of Louis de Borbon, Count of Claremont and Abbot of Saint Germain from 1743 to 1771, whom at one point was even called “Grand Master of All Regular Masonic Lodges in the Kingdom of France”.
The first french translation of the “Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of London”, better known historically as: “Anderson’s Constitutions”, was made by the Marquis de la Tierce in 1742, twenty years after its first publication in London. In his translation he mentions:
“The famous festivities of Ceres in Eleusis, of Isis in Egypt, of Minerva in Athens, of Urania in Phoenicia, and of Diana in Sitia, had much in common with ours. The celebration of these mysteries contained clear vestiges of the ancient religion of Noah and other patriarchs; they concluded their ceremonies with a feast and libations during which, at the beginning, no one knew of excesses or intemperances, until later when the pagans fell into them gradually. The source of these infamies, was the admission of people from one gender and the other at the nocturnal assemblies of the institution. It was to prevent these abuses that women were excluded from the Order”.
This, could be interpreted as either a tacit or veiled admission that indeed women were admitted to work in Lodge in the past; as a rather poor and quasi-baseless argument to discriminate against women; or, as a political pretext – as the very de la Tierce points out – to keep Queen Elizabeth from joining the Order and using it to her benefit, as she so did with other guilds.
It is possible that due to this draconian transition between the established observance of the real constitution of the Grand Lodge of London and the reissuing of its new general norms (“Anderson’s Constitutions”) which lasted approximately six years, the lodges under its jurisdiction worked without rituals and unifying norms during the first half of the XVIII century, and this was, of course, reflected in the first Speculative or Symbolic Masonic Lodges of Continental Europe, many of which, due to their involuntary or voluntary disavow of Anderson’s Constitutions, welcomed the initiation of women.
3. Pseudo-Initiatic Androgynous Societies of Masonic Appearance:
In the Pre-Revolutionary French Society, there were many organizations created by the growing Bourgeoisie that participated in the process of creating the “Civil Court” which came to gradually substitute the “Imperial Court”; these organizations were circles, clubs, cafes, academies, literary societies, scientific societies, spiritualist societies, alchemical societies, chambers, halls of lecture and singing, etc. The vast majority of these societies were not only bi-gender, but, were also sponsored by women of great economical, social and political power – mainly the “philosophical halls”, a world of initiates that was dominated by the “Court of Seals” of the Duchess of Maine (1676 – 1753), Director ad vitam of the “Order of the Bee”; the hall of the Marquee of Lambert (1647 – 1733); the “Bureau of the Spirit” of Claudine Guerin de Tencin (1681 – 1749); the hall of the Marquee of Deffand (1697 – 1780); the “Kingdom” of Maria Teresa Geoffrin (1699 – 1777) and the “Philosophical Hall” of Julia de Lespinasse (1732 – 1776).
The pseudo-initiatic societies denominated as: “Androgynous” or “Hermaphrodite” that appeared along the XVIII century, have their origins in like organizations created at the end of Louis XIV’s rule, and other social entities of more profane roots where the openness of membership to both genders was not only normal, but, encouraged. These organizations can be divided in two groups:
Secret Societies which were gallant, licentious, fun-seeking and recreational, platonic and charitable.
“Orders” that parodied Free-Masonry and sought to become their competitors and/or substitutes – something that they did so well, that between 1730 and 1740 public powers/officials mistook them for actual Masonic Lodges in a number of occasions. Among these “Orders” were: the “Con-Fraternity of Figs” in Vienna, the “Order of Liberty“, “Order of Felicity“, and “Order of Anthropocentrism” in France. The “Order of Felicity” proliferated and got to be sponsored by high personages of French politics, economics and society at large. On the other hand, the “Order of Anthropocentrism” took its name from maritime language, a fact, which, in the eyes of the profane world, got them often misidentified with Masonic Lodges of naval origin – aside from having passwords and methods of recognition which made reference to bodily parts of men and women, and, that, as such, had erotic, sexual and licentious connotations.
The “Order of Knights and Nymphs of the Rose” was also famous; its membership was mainly constituted of aristocrats and well known free-masons, such as: the Duke of Chartres (then future Duke of Orleans) who was also Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France.
The “Order of Knights and Ladies of Perseverance” equally pseudo-initiatic, but, less “loud”, was created by notable figures such as: the daughter of Stanislav II, Augustus Poniatowski, Last King of Poland, Elizabeth Lubomirska and her daughters, the Countesses Rzewuska and Potocka, all members of the Masonic Lodge of Adoption “Catherine the Northern Star” which was conjoined with its male counterpart of the same name, constituted under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France, and propelled by Ignatius Potocki. Other notables who held membership in this Lodge of Adoption were the Duke of Chartress, the Count of Artois (future Charles X), the Prince of Ligne, Charles Joseph, future Marshall of Russia, the Austrian Duke of Lauzum. Knight Hospitallier of the Order, and a number of prestigious intellectuals.
During the kingdoms of Louis XV and Louis XVI appeared other pseudo-initiatic organizations of Masonic appearance, such as: the “Order of Medusa“, the “Extirpators of Palisades“, the “Knights of the Dove“, the “Order of the Green Apple“, etc.
Since 1730, aside from these more or less “light societies”, in all of Europe we are able to find fraternities (bi-gender or not) which, amused themselves parodying Masonic secrets and rituals out of mere jealousy, contempt, rivalry and/or imbecile humor.
The Order of Mopses (or Order of the Pug) is perhaps the most famous of the aforementioned organizations which used to mocker Free-Masonry. It was born in Strasburg in 1738, after the official prohibition of Masonry emitted by the Empress Mary Therese, as a consequence of the Papal Bull “In Eminenti”. It was presided by Wilhelmina, sister of Frederick II, King of Prussia. With the exception of the Grand Mistress Ad Vitam, all the Sisters may occupy all the “stations”. In every Lodge, every position or office has two titleholders, a man and a woman. Every six months the presidency of the Lodge is alternated between a Man and a Woman, and their ceremony of Initiation is carried out in accordance with the Inductee’s gender, be it by male or female officers.
It was within that context, in 1736, that Andre Michelle, Knight of Ramsay pronounced his over-misogynous speech before the General Assembly of Masonic Lodges in Paris, and which he later repeated in 1737. His public address had the eventually-failed objective of causing Free-Masonry to be under the control of the Monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church, in order to counterattack the incredulity and socio-political discredit in which the Craft had fallen, due to the turmoil and disorder provoked in considerable measure by these Pseudo-Initiatic Institutions of Masonic Resemblance and, of course, by the misconduct of actual Free-Masons.
All this agitation caused a great deal of tension between the Puritan and Orthodox Masonic Jurisdictions of England and their French counterparts. From then on, the English Free-Masons demonstrated an unbelievable efficiency in generating tidal-waves of anti-feminine literature aimed at justifying the non-admittance of women in Lodge. They had three basic arguments which had been tangibly proven in France, at the hands of the previously referenced “Mixed Pseudo-Initiatic Orders”. Such arguments were: the congenital Feminine Indiscretion which made the respect to Masonic secrecy Impossible; the disorders, conflicts and eventual loss of harmony that could be provoked by the “Beautiful Gender” in a Masculine Lodge; and the risks of being accused of Immorality, Lasciviousness and Libertinism by civil and ecclesiastical authorities.
From that moment forward, one of the most colossal anti-feminist campaigns was launched in all of Europe. These campaigns were clearly manifested in Literature, Music, Theater, and, of course, the Media… What’s new?!
In reaction to this, in 1774 the Grand Orient of France legitimized the Lodges of Adoption (Bi-Gender and Feminine Masonic Lodges). Pierre Louis Gouillard Aine, Parliament’s Attorney, Dean of the Faculty of Law in Paris, Royal Auditor, Officer of the Grand Orient of France and Venerable Master of Sophia Lodge prepared a document containing numerous points in defense of Female Free-Masons. Some of those remarks and arguments were:
“The association of both genders is founded upon Natural Law and one cannot separate from this Principle without rebelling against the tenets of this Immutable Law”;
” What a most satisfying spectacle to see a Lodge formed by Brothers and Sisters animated by the desire of practicing the fundamental virtues of our Institution”;
“Which Philosopher – even the most austere – can refuse the pleasure of contemplating in the same place the two most perfect artworks that were ever sculpted by the hand of Nature?!”
Then, he gives historical proof that indeed Women are capable of safe-keeping the most delicate secrets:
“… when being admitted in many of the Mysteries of Antiquity, like those of the Druids, to whom they were Deservers of all Confidence and Respect, even more so than that which they professed toward men, by having been assigned to the office and dignity of Prophetesses and Sages that were considered the elite of the nation …”
He continues on advocating for the innocence of Sisters in Lodge:
“Some of our Brothers, oblivious to the principles of Art and under false pretenses of creating a Lodge of Adoption, have gathered incorrigible females with whom to abandon themselves in orgies and the most uncontrollable excesses of libertinism; But, precisely because we have had the disgrace of nourishing in our bosom those unworthy monsters that I call “men” (for I wish not to call them Masons), these spurious brothers, abusing a title of which they are totally unworthy of, have succumbed to the most execrable superfluities; Can we actually think that the solution is to throw women out of our Temples?, No! Undoubtedly what must be done is to take measures against the perpetrators of these transgressions”.
He then suggested a number of regulative measures to stop the abuses in the Lodges of Adoption – such as the following two:
“To summon, by consent of the majority of the Brethren, to participation in all meetings and special gatherings, which will be indistinctively presided by either the Venerable Master, or one of the Wardens of the Adopting Lodge”;
“Scrupulous Examination of the conduct and state of all female candidates”.
And with this final comment, our French Brethren voted in favor of admitting women into our Order:
“… profiting from lessons of Wisdom that shall be vividly engraved in the hearts of men, when imparted by an amiable mouth which by the sweetness of its accents, shall make the austerity of precepts disappear, and will force us to think of ourselves and to practice virtue …”
From this very moment, many masculine lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of France began to auspice Lodges of Adoption, and, at the same time, to enrich the arguments in defense of Free-Co-Masons (Women Free-Masons), thus creating the Perfect Unification of Human Energies and Labors toiling for the material, moral, spiritual and intellectual progress of Humanity.
All these events gave full or partial pretext or foundation to the “surfacing” or “devising” of an Anglo-Saxon System of Masonry which calls itself “REGULAR” and refuses to “recognize” others, and a “LIBERAL” F-R-E-E-MASONRY, integrated by all those other Sovereign Grand Bodies and Jurisdictions that are “Irregular” in the eyes of our English Styled/Controlled Masonry — An absolute contraposition which seems irremediable still in our days.
Reprinted by permission of Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr.