In this Sojourners post, a observant brother from the Prince Hall tradition asks a very important question about access in the modern age of Freemasonry – Who has it, why, and should it be exclusive? This piece, while brief, explores at least in part these ideas as more and more of a diverse audience is gaining exposure to the meanings of Freemasonry.
The Meaning of Freemasonry
A Sojourners post by Richard E. Gordon III
Many things have been said of the Craft, as such, I will not attempt to reiterate them here, but will attempt to express what freemasonry means to me.
My journey began long before I was made a Mason. There was a longing in my heart to understand the deeper mysteries of the world, their respective interrelations and manifestations, and a desire to know the Truth. I would spend many hours reading books of seemingly different natures, only to be delighted to discover a connection between subjects. These associations were meaningful to me because, as I had worked to achieve insight and understanding, I came closer to a more enlightened view of reality. I felt as if I was coming out of the darkness into something a little more distinguishable, a little more clear.
My worldview began to change. I read The Hiram Key, by Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight in college, as the first book about freemasonry I read as a non-mason. I had sensed a continuous stream of knowledge, some would say, from time immemorial, but this book put into focus what I had already sensed. I had realized I wanted to join the Order, out of curiosity, but also to further development, and to honor those wise men that had gone on before me. One could say that, I was seeking to revive the spirit of the Adept within myself. To be a vessel of the divine spark.
Upon being Raised, I was struck at how real it seemed, as during my initiation, I called out and protested as if I was actually the Master in the Temple. My answer to those who would accost me for the secrets of the Temple, was simply ‘Kill Me’. For I knew I could not get away, and I knew I could not oblige them. As the final blow came, I was thrown backward onto my death shroud, and accidentally caught my foot on a brother. My foot was wrenched aside, twisted, my senses not knowing of where the pain and darkness was truly from. I must say this experience changed me. I truly felt death had come, and the embrace of the shroud was comforting. The Lion’s Paw I had received from my father, and it was a very special moment in my life. This cemented my Quest.
From that point on, I strived to the higher ideals of the Order, subduing my passions and improving myself in science and history. Knowledge is a wonderful gift, but it means nothing if it is not put into practice for the benefit of All. Freemasonry then, helped me to become a man, instilling the virtues that, if all possessed, would surely rebuild the Heavenly Temple on Earth. The meaning of freemasonry is to give purpose. This in turn, gives us the ability to, hopefully, transcend into a Higher and more Lofty state of Society, in the spiritual/alchemical sense of the Philosopher’s Stone. There is one drastic hitch or impediment to this dream, however, and that is the insistence of the rules and regulations of the Craft to deny women, the fairer sex, entry into the Order. How can we as Masons do this injustice to over half the population of the world?
I want my brothers to consider this in earnest. Can we rightly deny our sisters, mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, the joys and spiritual guidance that Freemasonry has to offer? Eastern Star is separate but not equal. It is simply not enough, and in the long run, will hurt the progression of establishing the Temple Cornerstone of the World, for all to enjoy and benefit. Freemasonry is more then just a fraternity, and should be recognized as such, but that task will be thwarted if we deny others the right, who are already Masons in their heart, the opportunity to join the Craft. Was it not Mary of Bethany Jesus’s most beloved disciple? Is not Venus the birther of all Men? Why do we close our doors to her?
I shall simply say that, the meaning of freemasonry is that of continuation, of the hopes and dreams of the Adept.
Richard E. Gordon III
Richard E. Gordon III, was raised a Master Mason in 2010, in Golden Square Lodge #23, 4th Masonic District, Prince Hall Affiliation, Urbana, Ohio, and is a member of Miami Consistory #26 in the Valley of Dayton. He holds a Masters Degree in Applied Behavioral Science from Wright State University and won the “Outstanding Graduate Student Award” (2010) in the Applied Behavioral Science (ABS) program. He also obtained his Bachelors in Psychology in 2007 at Wittenberg University, where he founded and led the Society for Extraordinary Phenomena (SEP). Richard worked as a medical lab researcher at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in the STREAMS program, which is dedicated to fostering biomedical research experiences for minority students, and studied the biomedical effects of intermittent hypoxia in neonatal rats, with implications for conditions such as sleep apnea and aerospace industry considerations. He is a Research Associate with Vision Genomics, LLC.
Freemasonry, like religion, is an institution that has created for itself its own teleological system of boundaries. What is, and what isn’t, a Freemason is often a hard etched line drawn in the metaphysical sands of the philosophy. And yet, those lines shift between organizations, time or ideology. To overcome this, most branches of Freemasonry have chosen to define Freemasonry in a particular way, like a very specific rendering of a point within the circle – everything within the circle IS and everything without IS NOT. But, at the edge of that boundary, often times are other groups who have made that self same requisite of what is and what is not. Some of those boundaries blend together and others are hard buttressed edges replete with warning totems, curses, and threats of community rejection should they be crossed. The latter example is the edged between mainstream Grand Lodge Freemasonry and Confederation of Freemasonry known as Le Droit Humain. In this installment of Sojourners, I get to cross that boundary and spend some time talking with Dianne Coombs, a lady Freemason from Le Droit Humain. While far from being an outlier within her branch of Masonry, Dianne and I met on that boundary edge and to talk about the fraternity on the other side. Not surprisingly, I found there to be more in common than I thought marked by some stark differences in contrast. The thought to keep in the back of your head while reading this is to ask yourself “how different are we really?”
Greg Stewart (GS) – Dianne, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Before we delve to deeply in the conversation, tell me about who Dianne Coombs is? How long have you been a Freemason?
Dianne Coombs (DC) – I have been a teacher of various subjects for 35 years. I am also a practitioner of yoga, and a student of various subjects such as astrology. I have been a Freemason for 32 years.
GS – What initially interested you in becoming a Freemason?
DC – The organization with which I practiced yoga has schools of initiatic and esoteric studies. It was founded by Masters who were among other things, Freemasons. I wanted to continue being in school, so to speak, and being in a hierarchical organization with specific stages of advancement.
GS – I’m curious, you mention schools of initiation and esoteric studies, and could you elaborate on those traditions?
On the internal side, there are degrees of recognition, and the requirements include a vegetarian diet and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Those who have been recognized with the first degree and above have the opportunity to join a Secret Chamber.
GS – For the record, you are a member of le Droit Humain (LDH), a mixed-gender masonic organization. How did you initially find them and what lead you to join?
DC – I found out about Le Droit Humain through a friend who had been recently initiated. I joined because I was intrigued by an organization that uses ritual and ceremony, something I am very drawn to.
GS – Were your initial ideas about it validated, or did you discover something different?
DC – Yes and more! More than being just a formal ritual I learned how people, working together to perform ritual well, could create a powerful impact and strong personal bonds.
GS – How so?
DC – At my initiation the ceremony seemed very familiar, possibly through connections to my religious upbringing and later spiritual practices.
GS – If I might ask, what was your religious upbringing that you found familiarity to?
DC – I was raised in the Episcopal Church, but the familiarity didn’t directly relate to the liturgy of the Church. I think I am a person who feels a connection with spiritual ritual, so perhaps that was the connection.
GS – So what influenced you most about Masonry early on? Where did you find your inspiration?
DC – I was initiated into a Lodge that had members who came from a variety of spiritual traditions that all worked together in harmony. I was inspired by the leaders of the American Federation at the time, but no one person in particular was influential.
What was more influential is the fact that Le Droit Humain is an international Order [which] meant that I could attend Lodges all over the world and have Brothers and Sisters all over the world.
GS – Do you, or have you, held any masonic office or leadership roles within Le Droit Humain?
DC – I am installed Master, and currently I a District Deputy for the Mountain States region for the American Federation of Le Droit Humain. I have also served as the head of bodies for higher degrees (beyond the Craft Lodge), and I am a member of the Federation Consistory.
GS – Interesting. Not knowing much about LDH, how many higher degree bodies are there in the Le Droit Humain configuration? Does it mirror American mainstream masonry in the U.S.? Would they be easily recognizable to mainstream masons?
DC – After the Craft Degrees, we have Lodges of Perfection, which mainly work the 4º , 12º and 14º, lodges Rose Croix, which work the 17º and 18º, Areopagi (Areopagus singular), which work the 29º and 30º, Sovereign Tribunal of the 31º, Consistory (Princes of the Royal Secret) – 32º and Grand Inspectors General – 33º.
These are based on traditional Scottish Rite degrees, so I think they would be recognizable to mainstream Masons. Those members who have joined Le Droit Humain after having been members of AASR have not mentioned significant differences.
We also have three York Rite degrees that are considered side degrees because they are optional and do not lead to advancement for higher degrees. They are Mark, Holy Royal Arch, and Royal Ark Mariner.
In LDH, higher degrees are not conferred by decree, but given ceremonially in which the candidate participates.
GS – What do you mean by that?
DC – In [mainstream] AASR, multiple degrees can be conferred simply by attending and watching. In LDH, there is a set time period between the higher degrees to receive them , and the candidate must participate in the ceremony, rather than by observing.
GS – I’m always fascinated with the operations of Masonry, the things we do for it, tell me about your work with le Droit Humain.
DC – I have held various offices within Craft Lodges, and I have helped to create Facebook pages to increase awareness about our Order. Additionally I have served as a contact for those who are inquiring about the American Federation.
That’s on the external level.
On the internal level, I have found that being a member has helped me to work to a higher stage of spiritual understanding and to feel a greater connection to humanity as a whole.
GS – Spiritual level, elaborate on that. What have you come to find that to mean in a Masonic context?
DC – In Masonry, I have found a great deal of diversity in background and beliefs compared to other groups in which I have been a member. The fact that we are working together for a common purpose, the brotherhood of humanity, I think transcends the work being done in the individual Lodge. Le Droit Humain has national and international conventions which serve to create connections with people from all over the world. As far as spiritual understanding goes, the individual must transform himself/herself in order to assist humankind. That is one of the great teachings of Freemasonry in all of the degrees. At the same time, there is the reminder that, “it’s not just about me.” None of the ceremonies or rituals can be performed by an individual, but must be performed by the entire lodge working together.
GS – You make an interesting point that I can’t say occurs in a broad way with the Grand Lodge System. So, why do you think co-masonry exists organizationally? Does it fill a particular niche or need?
DC – There are various co-Masonic organizations in the world. In English-speaking countries we are known as The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women, Le Droit Humain. We dropped the term “Co-Masonry” because it had a connotation of somehow being lesser than other Masonry. In Europe it is known as “Mixed Masonry,” but that doesn’t really translate into something that makes sense in English.
Le Droit Humain was founded by a man and a woman who were active in the campaign for the rights of women. Thus, it exists because its members believe in equality. Our international constitution says that we accept men and women as co-equals. In addition, generally speaking, its members believe that Freemasonry need not be reserved exclusively for men because the human soul has no gender.
GS – From what you’ve learned or what you know, how did this mixed masonry begin? What were its origins?
DC – This is copied from the international website:
Maria Deraismes, journalist and fighter for the rights of women and children and Dr. Georges Martin, Senator, General Councilor for the Dept. Of the Seine, Municipal Councilor of Paris, undertook campaigns in favor of the civic and political rights of women, the defense of the rights of oppressed children, against clerical intolerance and for the establishment of a neutral school respecting the ideas of everyone.
Maria Deraismes was initiated – on 14th January 1882 – into Lodge “Les Libres Penseurs” of Pecq, a small village to the west of Paris. She was the first female Freemason, symbolising initiatory equality.
Eleven years later, on 4th April 1893, Maria Deraismes and Georges Martin, a well known mason, created in Paris the first co-masonic Lodge. Out of this co-masonic Lodge came the birth of the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise “Le Droit Humain”, establishing the equality of men and women, out of which, later, came the birth of the International Order of Co-Freemasonry “LE DROIT HUMAIN”.
Maria Deraismes died on 6th February 1894, and the task of organizing and developing “LE DROIT HUMAIN” fell on Dr. Martin. His energetic will placed him beyond frontiers, ethnic groups, religions and cultures, and he very quickly founded Lodges outside France: in Switzerland and in England.
The ORDER spread throughout Europe before sowing itself in other parts of the world. Le “DROIT HUMAIN” was built out of a marvelous dream, to unite humanity despite all the barriers, ethnic groups, geopolitics, religions and cultures.
GS – Do you see that mandate of creation still in operation today?
DC – When Le Droit Humain was first founded, a principal reason was to recognize the equality of women, not to create an Order outside the borders of France. After the death of Marie Deraismes, Georges Martin saw that this need transcended national borders. It was his vision to create a more universal Freemasonry.
Considering that humanity remains divided on so many levels, I see that that mandate is definitely still in operation.
GS – What do you see as the role of mixed gender masonry in a landscape dominated by the masculine variety of the fraternity?
DC – Its role is the same as that of many Masonic orders: the progress of humanity. The principal difference is the work on an international level without distinction of gender.
GS – Is there room for both?
DC – There is definitely room for both, just as there is room for women-only or male-only orders. The male members of Le Droit Humain disagree with the idea of discriminating against half of humanity, which is often part of their reason for joining.
GS – Do you see a fixed and unchanging boundary in separate, but essentially equal, branches of Masonry (i.e. regular, Co-Masonry, Prince-Hall, Feminine, etc…)?
DC – I do not see it as fixed. I have come into contact with members [of] traditional male craft lodges who are genuinely interested in learning more about mixed orders. I see very tiny baby steps happening right now towards mutual recognition.
GS – That sounds promising, anything you can elaborate on about this mutual recognition?
DC – While I have come into contact with some traditional Masons who continue to insist that women cannot be Freemasons, in forums such as social media, I have had respectful exchanges of ideas from masculine Brethren. Neither side is insisting that the one join the other, but the fact that the dialogue is respectful, indicates to me that the door is opening slightly. The Lodge of which I am a member has received referrals from masculine lodges for women who would like to become Masons. While that is not indicative of mutual recognition at this point, the fact that there is even a conversation is a step in the right direction.
GS – Are there any overtly different aspects between co-masonry and the grand lodge tradition?
DC – Not really – the main rituals used in the United States are based on traditional AASR rituals. The rituals used in Europe in both Le Droit Humain and traditional orders are essentially the same.
GS – Should there be some recognition between the branches, or even equality of association as in say, some kind of open organizational association?
DC – Yes. We should have this recognition because, in our mutual pursuits for the progress of humanity, we have a lot to gain in solidarity of efforts and to learn from each other’s approach.
GS – Why do you think there continues to be a distinction between the two?
DC – I think many people in the masculine Orders have a great respect for tradition. [But] sometimes respect for tradition does not allow for change. There can be a delicate balance between the respect for tradition and evolution.
One of my favorite texts, The Kybalion: Hermetic Philosophy, teaches that there is always change. If this change is for the greater good of humanity, change does not need to be avoided.
GS – It sounds like there is some degree of openness from the LDH side, how do you react when words like ‘clandestine’ or ‘bogus’ are thrown around when used in describing a flavor of Masonry other than those calling themselves ‘regular’?
DC – I kind of shrug my shoulders. It’s not worth getting upset over, since it’s usually the result of a lack of understanding. By the same token, some male craft lodges have become purely social organizations (men’s clubs) and have drifted away from the deeper traditions of Freemasonry. Often those in traditional lodges seem to have a kind of fear of other orders, or they demonstrate the need to be exclusive (perhaps on a psychological level) – not only towards women, but also towards those or different race or ethnicity.
GS – Within LDH, what do you see as the role of the esoteric aspects of Masonic study?
DC – Although not explicit, the esoteric aspects of Masonic study are an integral part of the Work. The esoteric traditions of initiation in general often draw many people to become members.
GS – Is there an explicitly esoteric aspect to it?
DC – Yes – we interpret the symbolism of the rituals and furnishings to have a deep meaning, which, of course, is not interpreted for anyone, but left for members to discover for themselves. Many members consider Freemasonry to have ancient roots, back to the earliest times of recorded history, and that Freemasonry is the repository for the ancient Mystery Schools. Even though the symbolism is not interpreted for anyone, it is understood that many ancient traditions have a connection.
GS – Which traditions do you think it draw the greatest parallels or symbols from?
DC – I think the great Mystery traditions have informed Freemasonry in general and Le Droit Humain in particular – ancient Egypt, the Hebraic tradition, the Eleusinian mysteries, the Knights Templar, and more.
I think Le Droit Humain would make the same connections with past traditions that mainstream Masonry has made.
GS – As a body, who does Le Droit Humain look to as its organizational patriarchs, matriarchs or its great authors?
DC – Our organization is not based on the Grand Lodge system; we have a Supreme Council headquartered in Paris. Those countries with a sufficient number of lodges are termed federations.
Our International Constitution says that,
The Order is organized into federations, jurisdictions and pioneer lodges within which Freemasons … meet in lodges of all degrees that have been granted a charter by the Supreme Council of the Order.
Due to the way Le Droit Humain is organized, we do not have patriarchs or matriarchs. We have had many Grand Masters who have left profound writings, as well as have past heads of the American Federation, but none is more influential than another.
Inspirationally, members often draw upon the same Masonic authors as members of other orders.
GS – So, let’s take a turn here and talk about something on the minds of both sides of the divide. As a membership society in a landscape of similar such bodies and organization how do you believe LDH is faring in the modern landscape?
DC – Over the last five years, the American Federation has increased its membership by nearly 50%.
GS – Where has that growth come from do you think? Is there an organizational push for growth or is it organic?
DC – I think there are a lot of factors – the thirst from humanity in general, increasing our visibility without proselytizing, and as is the case with other Orders, personal relationships.
GS – So where do you see le Droit Humain 5 years from now? How about 10 years from now?
DC – I expect to see more Lodges being formed in new areas and increased numbers in those that have already been established.
GS – If someone was interested in finding out more about le Droit or interested in associating with them in some capacity, what would you recommend to them? How could they go about it?
DC – Besides recommending the web pages, I would recommend completing the contact form on www.comasonic.org, because a person who is interested in learning more will be contacted personally. Requesting information on Facebook pages generally draws a personal response as well.
Dianne, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and share your thoughts. I definitely appreciate it and I know many reading, while perhaps not publicly, appreciate it too.
By Karen Kidd
Author of “Haunted Chambers: the Lives of Early Women Freemasons”
Controversial American author Robert Temple observed “Technology is forbidden when it is not allowed to exist.”
“It is easy to forbid technology to exist in the past because all you have to do is to deny it. Enforcing the ban then becomes a simple matter of remaining deaf, dumb and blind. And most of us have no trouble in doing that when necessary. . . I call it consensus blindness. People agree not to see what they are convinced cannot exist.”
Temple made these comments in his paper “Forbidden Technology”, which is about optical technology, long denied by “experts”, that none-the-less existed for millennia.
“Consensus blindness” long has been the unwritten/unspoken rule among Malecraft Masons, likewise accepted by many non Masons including women, about the existence of early women Freemasons. However, just as there are lenses in Ancient Egyptian archaeological finds dating to the 4th and 5th dynasties at Abydos, so also have women Masons existed throughout all of the modern Freemasonic period.
Denying their existence, for centuries, was the expected norm and any Masonic historian who wrote about them had to adopt a sort of double-speak. For instance, 20th Century Masonic scholar Carl Claudy, when he wrote about women Freemasons in his “Masonic Harvest”, spent the first page of that chapter stating that women could not be Freemasons; then ten pages describing – with continual double-speak – the lives of those women Freemasons.
Claudy, whatever his personal opinions, had no choice but to write about early Women Freemasons in this way. Had he attempted to be more straight-forward, it likely would never have been published. In this way, Claudy and other Masonic writers kept from complete obscurity the lives of these women Freemasons.
Their existence is a fact, despite determined effort to ignore, marginalize and deny it. That effort, however, ongoing for centuries, has done its worst. The very vast majority of early women Freemasons are unknown to us. Finding them can take as much effort as it did to obscure them.
Gunnilda the Mason: a female operative mason mentioned by name as living in Norwich in the Calendar of Close Rolls for the year 1256.
Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth: initiated into her father’s lodge in County Cork in Ireland before the founding of the modern Freemasonry Grand Lodges.
Hannah Mather Crocker: Grand Mistress of the Femalecraft St. Ann’s Lodge in Boston during the 1770s.
Henriette Heiniken: better known as “Madame de Xaintrailles”, a hero of the Napoleonic wars initiated into an otherwise Malecraft Lodge in Paris the early 19th Century.
Mary Ann Belding Sproul: an early New Brunswick settler initiated into her husband’s Lodge in the early 19th Century.
Catherine Sweet Babington: a teen-ager when she snuck into her uncles’ lodge in East Kentucky, initiated into that Lodge at the height of the anti-Masonic era spawned by the disappearance of William Morgan.
Salome Anderson: late 19th Century wealthy matron of Oakland, CA, outed as a Freemason by a respected Masonic publication six years before her death in 1898.
And many more. Late 19th Century Masonic history W. Fred Vernon, writing when Malecraft Masons were a bit more laid back about the subject, commented, “I have no doubt other ancient Lodges have their lady members just as ancient buildings have their haunted chambers.”
I’ve heard my book is a threat to all Freemasonry, Malecraft Masonry in particular. This is no more true than admitting to the existence of their contemporary male brethren is a threat to any part of Freemasonry. All our Brethren who have passed to the Grand Lodge above, be they male or female, are to be remembered and emulated.
While none of these women were Co-Masons, they did pave the way for that part of Freemasonry. And, today, women can become Freemasons without eavesdropping, sneaking into lodges or hiding in furniture.
For more than a century, Freemasonry has operated in three parts. There is Malecraft Masonry, there is Femalecraft Masonry and there is Co- or Mixed Masonry. And we know this system can work, largely before it does.
And so it will continue with the past duly recalled. I wrote about these women to follow in the tradition of Claudy and other Masonic historians who kept their stories alive. I wrote the truth that this generation, and the next, may find worthy of remembrance.
Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast with Br. Kidd.
 Temple’s paper was published in the Summer 2001 edition (Issue 17) of Freemasonry Today and is available online here: http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/17/p11.php
 See “Calendar of Close Rolls 1254-1256”, page 366
The pre-revolutionary condition and philosophy of illustration of the era, propitiated the strengthening of the Principle of Equality between a man and a woman, and so it came to pass that both genders became lawfully eligible for membership in the Craft.
To admit a Woman in Lodge, is more than “opening the doors of our Temples to the Lovelier Gender”. It is to interrogate our Inner Tribunal of Consciences over the Eligibility of Women for Induction, in other words, to reflect on their potentials and their undeniable intellectual and spiritual qualifications as human beings; Yet these reflections cannot be carried out in Lodge so directly and openly – it is preferable to induce them by making reference to the “High Priestesses” and “Female Initiates of Ancient Mysteries”, through whom it is tacitly presupposed therefore that Women are “thinking beings”.
In spite of the efforts of many Free-Masons to place women in conditions of Equality, the Official Masonry at the dawn of the XIX century, at best, accepts the Adoption but not the Initiation; this meaning that women may become “adoptive daughters” of Anderson, perhaps even “his sisters”, but never his equals.
Now, in the arts and written press of France, serious, noticeable, and rather loud public discussions over women joining Free-Masonry began to take place, and to become the habitual topic of debate in almost every social gathering of the period.
In general, we can state that the arrival of English-Styled Masonry in France caused problems, and provoked an uproar in the aristocratic-bourgeois sociability of Paris and other parliamentary capitals dominated in part by women. Since 1730, the year in which the first Feminine Masonic Lodge appeared, there were published a number of literary works that fervently manifested the discontent of Ladies who saw themselves marginalized by “Regular Masonry”. In fact, however, not a single one of those pamphlets and/or books was written by a woman; thus leading us to assert with much certainty, that “The Enchanting Gender” was not considered odd or foreign to the mobilization and activism of many Male Free-Masons who favored the admission of women to the Royal Art.
At the same time, we must be honest, and for the sake of historical accuracy mention that there were Male Masons whom, over-looking the fundamental principles of the Order, invited to their banquets, dance halls and post-official gatherings, numerous loose females, dancers and courtesans, with whom they committed excesses that brought forth a terrible loss of prestige to our Institution in the eyes of the government, the roman catholic clergy, and the society at large; However, since the legalization of Masonic Lodges of Adoption by the Grand Orient of France, there were countless Male Free-Masons who defended the Legitimate Right of Women to participate in Masonic labors; and these actions, of course, provoked an immediate reaction in their detractors. As every day went by, more and more, the arguments over Women in Free-Masonry became a personal dispute between members of the Craft in general – whether they be sympathizers or adversaries of Co-Masonry. Eventually, the debate, or, better stated, the war of ideas between the defenders of the “enchantment of women”, and those concerned-accusers who denounced the “dangers of their weaknesses”, created the propitious soil for the germination of what in due time came to be known as: The Global Feminist Movement.
STATE OF CO-MASONRY IN OUR DAYS
Masonic Organization in Mexico and Latin America:
Given the fact that during the last 150 years Co-Masonry has gained greater notoriety, relevance and power in the Masonic World at the south side of El Rio Grande in the American Continent, and most of Europe (with the exception of the so-called “United Kingdom”) has long embraced the spirit of True Universal Free-Masonry, I will focus this section of my article in that part of the Western Hemisphere where the most retrograde and deplorable conservative-religious societies still exist, Mexico, Colombia, and Latin America as a whole.
Despite having been duly constituted as Independent Secular Republics, and, as such, having earned their Freedom and Sovereignty among the nations of the world – through the leadership and struggles of Free-Masons precisely, Mexico and most Central and South American countries, have proven to be quite an on-going challenge for the Craft and, most particularly, for the aspirations of women.
For a very long time, in Mexico, Colombia, and other Ultra-Catholic/Patriarchal Latin American countries, the membership of women in Free-Masonry has been considered one of the greatest taboos that, more than anything else, divide rather than unify.
The equivocated interpretation and enforcement of the Landmarks, which, per the so-called “Regular Masonry,” bars women’s admission and equal participation in the Craft, not only ignores the role of Guilds of Women Spinners, Seamstresses, Weaveresses, Women Glass-Stainers/Cutters/Blowers, Sculptresses, Women Engravers, etc. in the Arts of Architecture and Construction, but, it also captures one of the fundamental prejudices of the Puritan English Society of the beginning of the XVIII century, to whom a woman was considered a “thing”, in the juridical meaning of the word, and, as such, she was legally deprived of any and all rights, except, of course, of those dispensated to her by her Master, or better stated, her “Proprietor.”
French Free-Masonry, sponsored in considerable measure by Opulent Ladies of the period, since its very official foundation in 1740, marks a pivotal moment in the consolidation of a more egalitarian society, by taking on the challenge of recognizing the rights of their compatriots of like gender, and with that the possibility of being initiated in a Masonic Lodge. To our contemporary dismay, unfortunately, the prejudices of “Victorian Morals” remain in force at the dawn of the Third Millennium, and they still are the principal cause of Discord and Disharmony among the different visions and bodies of Symbolical Masonry around the world.
Amidst this puritanical phase in Global Free-Masonry, a significant event took place in the less-suitable country, Mexico. Surprisingly and amazingly enough, by the standards of that period and society, the Mexican Masonic Organization, following the tradition of Vanguard Thinking which, since its official birth around the middle of the XIX century has been hoisted by “The Mexican National Rite,” has sponsored the formation of Bi-Gender Lodges, considering women in total equality of conditions, rights and capacities as those of their Male Brothers. There is also much respect to the autonomy, habits, and bylaws fomented among all different Lodges and Grand Orients or Jurisdictions, by recognizing and accepting with like enthusiasm the existence of Masonic Lodges which, are exclusively masculine or feminine.
Thus, in all the Lodges and Bodies amalgamated in the Mexican Masonic Organization, and particularly in the Grand Orients of Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, the participation of women or men in The Order, is accepted – without being obligatory to Lodges that are purely masculine, or, exclusively feminine, respectively.
Moreover, in 1991, the Mexican Masonic Organization welcomed the official birth and constitution of the First Masonic Grand Lodge of Women of Mexico, also known as: “Grand Lodge of Insurgent Women”. Unlike a number of “Co-Masonic” and/or “Para-Masonic” Grand Jurisdictions of Latin America where women are recognized as “Lesser Sisters”, this unique Masonic Body has total recognition. and is endowed with absolute power and autonomy over its laws, decisions, and labors. In 1995, Argentina and Peru followed in their Mexican Brethren’s footsteps, by rejoicing in the emergence and formation of their respective Feminine Masonic Grand Lodges. Presently, with the exception of The Central American Isthmus, there are Co-Masonic and Feminine Grand Bodies in every country of Latin America.
CONCLUSION = GENDER IS IN EVERYTHING
“Gender is in everything; everything has a Masculine and Feminine Principle; Gender is manifested in all planes”, so teaches the ultimate of the Hermetic Laws. With this postulate, the “Thrice Wise Master” guides us through the different levels of Natural Evolution, observing in it how duality is fused into one, in order to create a new being.
This Principle, which relates to Procreation, also shows us the existence of centrifugal and centripetal impulses, which are the forces that support gravitation, be it at the level of minuscule particles, or, of immense Universes.
Of all the Cosmic Purposes, to engender Life is the most sacred and transcendental act. At the microscopic level, the force of attraction makes the negative corpuscles or electrons revolve around the positive-ones or protons. After their obligated courtship, they unite, and thus the creation of a new atom occurs. In the animal and human species the “dance of life” repeats itself with male spermatozoa being attracted by female ovules. When one of the male reproductive cells attains penetration, the miracle of conception takes place.
The same system of procreation reigns at the macro-cosmic levels. In the British Encyclopedia we find that
“… in remote times, the bombardment of comets to the earth could have had an important role in the formation of the atmosphere and the seas. Additionally, these comets could have supplied the organic molecules necessary for the development of life”.
The method of fertilization is then the same – be it electrons, sperm, or comets that fecundate protons, ovules or planets. In like manner, we must apply the Principle of Gender to “traveling” from the “known” to the “unknown” – supporting ourselves in the Principle of Correspondence: “As it is above so is below, and, as it is below so is above”. Only through such application of this Principle shall Free-Masons comprehend and harness its primordial significance and power.
So states Hermes Trismegistus:
The very creation of the Universe also obeys the Principle of Gender.
He adds further: “Gender is manifested in all planes.” This, my Brothers, means that all possibilities of creation – mental and spiritual – are governed by the same Universal Law or Principle. Until the luminous emergence of the “Thrice Greatest Master”, a little over five thousand years ago, this was an occult body of knowledge available only to the Great Sages and High Priests/Priestesses of Ancient Egypt. In it there also secrets of “High Magick”, for only the faithful implementation of this law can bring within our reach the key, with which to command the Sacred FIAT LUX by the power of the Wise.
Brethren, Co-Masonry is already part of our lives – whether we accept it or not; it is in our very Human Faculties; it is part of our natural mechanism, and, accordingly, part of our very Masonic Essence as “Individuals who were first made Masons in OUR HEARTS”. Even at more subtle levels, to procreate is the result of the union of opposites.
A Thought, which is activity and mobility, represents Masculine Polarity, while Emotions and Sentiments, as clear expressions of Receptivity and Repose, and incarnate the Feminine Principle.
In order to physically produce what we desire, we must unite these forces:
THOUGHT plus EMOTION equals MANIFESTATION.
Thus, all our individual and/or collective endeavors shall first be conceived in subtle planes. Then, if the Law/Principle of Correspondence allows, the Universe will support it/them and accommodate the circumstances of manifestation (Gestation Process), Once the necessary time has elapsed, we shall invariably see the materialization of that which we created.
Our membership is still declining, regardless of our Enthusiasm, Official Optimism, and the momentary “Increase” of alleged “quality brethren”. It is Time to open our Third Eyes and begin seeing!
THERE ARE PLENTY OF ELIGIBLE AND WORTHY WOMEN OUT THERE!
All it takes is Humility, Wisdom, and a Sense of Justice and Equality. Are we “Worthy Masons” not characterized by such Virtues?! Are we “Concerned Masons” not worried about the Future of our Institution?! Are we “Enlightened F-r-e-e-Masons” not the Children of Alchemy’s Hermaphrodite Being?! If you responded positively to these questions, there is no need for further disputes and/or discussions – there is only much Amelioration to bring into our Fraternity.
In short, Is Co-Masonry the Antidote?
I have no doubt!
Reprinted by permission of Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr.
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.
While listening to an alarming expose on the declining of membership of “Regular” American Masonry and its apparent inexorable demise, I could not help to wonder if that which has been prohibited, the admission of Women into our Order, is not precisely what and whom we need to insure our survival, and, most importantly, to genuinely live up to our Sacred Principle of Equality. As I gathered my thoughts later on that night, I began to gradually immerse myself in my humble essential library, and proceeded to read, compile, and eventually mold my sentiments and commentaries on paper. The following essay is the result of various sleepless nights that began that same evening.
The eagerness to know the Self and his/her Objective and Predominant Surrounding, in order to achieve Self-Transcendence, is one of the peculiar characteristics of human feeling, thinking and acting.
The perennial problems that Humanity has endeavored to resolve since its very origins, are all alike in their roots, though their solutions have been adapted to “the spirit of times”, that is to say, to the appropriate conditions of a particular civilization in a determined time and place.
Since immemorial times, there have existed ritualistic practices exclusively for men, for women, and/or for both.
Nowadays, it has become frequent to observe the rediscovery or resurfacing of Ancient Schools of Thought and Initiatic Organizations engaged in new ways of understanding and implementing (esoterically and exoterically) the Traditional Science. Among these organizations and schools, Organized Free-Masonry distinguishes itself as the most important of all Initiatic Institutions in Western Europe, America and parts of Asia and Africa.
All these aspects – without prejudice to others that are also worthy of consideration – should be kept into account when asking ourselves and others the questions: “What is Masonry?”, and, “What is Mixed Masonry or Co masonry?”.
As we now begin to reflect, with the purpose of building for ourselves and others the most objective possible vision of what Free-Masonry is in general, and Mixed Free-Masonry or Co masonry in particular, we must try to answer, with the utmost honesty, the following three questions:
Have there existed initiatic organizations of mixed and feminine orientation in ancient times, and, if so, did they actively participate in the Art of Architecture?
Has there existed a Mixed and/or a Feminine Speculative Masonry, at least since its alleged “official birth” in 1717, and, if so, how has it evolved?
Is it possible, at this point in time, to conceive a Free-Masonry integrated by Lodges of Women, of Men, or, of Mixed Gender among which there can exist a broad respect to their particular preferences of initiatic realization, while, at the same time, having full conscience that they ALL are part of an unique and indivisible entity known as: Universal Free-Masonry?
A Curious Mythology:
Ever since humans left behind their nomadic conditions and became sedentary, they started to manifest their attitude toward advancement and their aptitude for construction. In fact, Construction is one of the most evident characteristic signs of Civilization in all epochs and cultures; However, with respect to determining its objective origins, History is irremediably mixed with Myth, arriving sometimes to some unsuspected extremes.
Charles Bernardin (1860-1939), notable Masonic Historian and member of the Supreme Council of the Grand Orient of France, was able to compile and prove the existence of 206 authors who contended and presented 39 divergent opinions on the origin of Masonry. Amongst these opinions, the most admiration-worthy are the following:
At the very beginning of “his constitutions”, Anderson himself asserts that the first Mason was Adam, and that the Great Architect of the Universe inscribed in his heart the Liberal Sciences, and, before all, Geometry, fundament of Masonry and Architecture, which, he later taught to his descendants.
Fifteen of the thirty nine Masonic Historians elaborated on the existence of a Lodge at the East of Paradise. Some contend that at the sixth day of the Creation, the issue of women in Lodge was addressed and approved at the Celestial Grand Lodge. Others state that the First Mason was indeed Adam, and from that standpoint Jean Marie Ragon de Bettignies (1781-1866) concluded: “… If our father Adam labored in Lodge, he could not have done it with anyone else, but, with his woman …”.
Elian Brault stated, rather persuasively: “… Given that the Serpent of Genesis approached Eve first, to have her taste the fruit of The Tree of Life, Science and Death, it was Eve evidently the First Initiated, whom, in turn, initiated Adam …”
For his own part, Marc Bedarride sustains that the Patriarch Jabel, son of Lamech, was the first who conceived the felicitous idea of accepting a woman in Lodge. He chose as Grand Mistress his sister Noema, daughter of Lamech and Sella, and sister of Tubalcain. Since the age of seventeen, Noema demonstrated having the most outstanding qualities, by being honest, civilized, gracious, affable, amiable, kind and beautiful. Jabel surrounded himself with other illustrious sisters to help him with his labors – having had their first Lodge meeting at a plain field surrounded by twelve palms, and under a pure and serene sky where Peace, Concord and Harmony reigned.
When some poorly informed people – Masons and Non-Masons – blindedly reject the possibility of a Woman being eligible and/or worthy of Masonic Initiation, whether it be in a Feminine Lodge or a Mixed-one, one cannot help to “sketch” a light smile; for it is clear, even by the accounts and terms of Profane History, that women, in their individual capacities or through their membership in diverse guilds of spinners, weaveresses, carvers, upholsterers, sculptresses, etc. have taken active participation in the Divine Art of Architecture.
Some evidential facts that support the above statement are the following:
The Carpenters Guild of Norwich, a guild that dates from 1375, and to which the Masons of York belonged, recollect that: “Every year, the Saturday following the Ascension, the Brothers and Sisters get together in a determined place to recite their prayers in honor of the Holy Trinity, in favor of the Holy Church, for Peace and Union of the country, and for the repose of the souls of all defunct, not only Fore-Brothers and Fore-Sisters, but, all friends and Christians… If a member of our Guild dies, his/her Brothers and Sisters should pray for him/her and celebrate a mass for the peaceful state of his/her soul”…
In the archives of York Lodge Number 236, which belonged to the Ancient Grand Lodge of England, in the Orient of York whose origin is immemorial, there is a Manuscript dated in 1693 and transcribed on a lightly mutilated parchment, by which we find that, during the reception of a neophyte in the 17th century: “One of the Elders picks-up the Book, and He or She who is to be made a Mason places his/her hand on the Book, and then the instructions are given”.
Another fact comes to contradict the exaggerated misogyny of a vast number of Masons, Grand Jurisdictions and Concordant Bodies: There is a great feminine name, among those “admirable cathedral builders”, that of Sabine de Pierrefonds, daughter of Herve de Pierrefonds, better known by the Germanic name of Erwin Von Steinbach. Sabine participated in the construction of the cathedral of Strasburg, and also sculpted some of the most prominent statues of Notre Dame in Paris. Evidently, however, the construction of these cathedrals, which, usually took up to a couple of centuries to be built, required more than one Master of the Work, and it is highly probable that Sabine de Pierrefonds was not the only woman who toiled in these labors.
On another hand, among those possible feminine receptions of “Accepted Masons”, like those narrated by ancient medieval “Duties” and “Charges”, we can include those of the Masters’ wives, since these “Bylaws” make an invariable reference to them both:
“Thou shall not reveal the secrets or projects of thy Master or thy Mistress…”
(Ancient Constitutions of Franc-Masons, taken from a manuscript written 500 years ago by J. Roberts, Warwick-Lane, 1722, Apprentices’ Bylaws, 1,4,5,7)
The publication of this manuscript was prior to that of “Anderson’s Constitutions”, and it has been found to be more trust-worthy, in light of its antiquity and uniqueness – since in 1724 (seven years after the creation of the alleged “First Grand Lodge”) Anderson simply made a synthesis of various documents, some of which were even second hand; whereas in the case of our aforementioned manuscript, we are in the presence of an unique and complete document. And with respect to the evoked “Mistress”, we can all admit that Sabine de Pierrefonds, artist and sculptress, had to, at the same time, form/train Apprentices and Companions (Fellow crafts). Later on, in due time, the benefits of this Feminine Initiation into “Accepted Free-Masonry” were extended to a female monarch: Queen Anne Stewart, Daughter of James II, who ruled between 1702 and 1714.
The Free-Masonic Institution is an Initiatic, Esoteric, Humanitarian, Philosophic and Philanthropic Order that labors in pursuit of the spiritual, ethical and moral evolution of humanity; It propagates in profane societies the ideals of scrupulous respect for human rights and for the individuality of men and women, in a multinational, multiethnic, multicultural, secular, free and democratic world intended to be the best formula to work toward the positive development of all countries. Free-Masonry works for the defense and diffusion of the principles that consecrate Man, seen and considered as an individual and unrepeatable being, superior vertex of the pyramid of evolution, subject to obligations and duties and beneficiary of inviolable rights defined and protected by free and democratically promulgated laws. Free-Masonry, by making use of any legal mean within its reach, struggles actively against all forms of slavery, torture, violence, discrimination of gender and every limitation of rights stipulated by International Declarations, Treatises and Laws.
Recognizing in Free-Masonry the very principles of Progressiveness, unrestricted Respect for Human Rights, the Dignity of Man and Woman, Justice, Solidarity, Social Progress and the absolute Liberty of Conscience; and accepting the fact that most instituted laws in the U.S. make Intolerance, Injustice and Inequality illegal, it becomes necessary and justifiable to address a long over due topic of concern to all Free-Thinking-Masons: Women and Free-Masonry. This, is a rather ample subject to which I have and will dedicate much time to write about in the near future; However, on this occasion I will only address – briefly – Albert Gallatin Mackey’s XVIII Landmark, in hopes of verifying whether or not this edict is in faithful concordance with the basic tenets and principles of the Order.
The XVIII landmark states in essence that “No Woman, Slave, Cripple, Mutilated Man, Atheist, Mad Man/Fool, Minor and Man in his dotage can be made a Mason”. Given the fact that criminals, minors and men of advanced age are not being initiated into the Craft, and there are no slaves (at least not legally) left in our society, it is necessary for Mainstream “Regular” Masonry to align itself to that tendency to which most Latin American and European countries subscribe: An anti-dogmatic F-r-e-e-Masonry that represents and incarnates the dynamic forces which stand against the static/conservative proclivities that support the concept that Masonry is a cult founded upon religious tenets, and whose dubious original principles – the ancient landmarks – are immutable until the end of time, and, thus, NO modifications in principles and/or fundaments can be applied to “Original Masonry” without forcing it to cease being so. This prohibition is, of course, against the very Progressive principle of the Order.
It is time to take into consideration that the Landmarks were employed in rather remote times by English operative Masons when addressing the practices, customs, laws and usages of Masonry; and the fact that the migration from Operative Masonry to Speculative Masonry has transformed many of those same customs, laws and usages, just as it has transformed humanity.
We should equally consider that in addition to the “Landmarks of Mackey”, there are also 12 of MacBride, 8 of Pound, 3 of Pike, 24 of Lecerf, 54 of Grant de Louisville, 24 of Lawrence, 27 of the General Assembly of Franc-Masons held in Paris in 1523 and 8 of the Grand Lodge of England. Some of these landmarks are common, others are rather different, and, in some cases, some are in total contradiction with each other. How, then, is a semi-educated Free-Mason to determine which are the right-ones? Which are the “True Landmarks”? How do we establish this? Which are the patterns of reference that should be employed to identify the “Genuine Landmarks”? These, are questions that we, as sensible and aware Free-Masons, must endeavor to answer with utmost discernment. Surely, of course, “Mackey’s Ancient Landmarks” alone will not suffice.
This very controversy is perhaps the most recurring symptom of Spiritual Glioblastoma that, ever since the dubious legal emergence of the “Grand Lodge of London” in 1717, has been rotting the foundation of organized “Mainstream Regular Masonry”: Chronic Politics mutated with Acute Special Interests. Nowadays, just like in the past, the implementation of many and different landmarks obey sectarian, religious, financial and political interests, clearly responding to the sole purpose of exerting exclusivity over the governments of the Craft and introducing a defined orientation, against the principles of Universality and Progressiveness which have characterized Free-Masonry through the ages. Consequently, I find it imperative to determine which of these “landmarks” are authentic and indispensable for the conservation of Nature and the effectiveness of Fraternity, in function with the type of Free-Masonry that we want for the future.
Particularly, I believe that to cast aside women, cripples and other physically incapacitated individuals from organized Masonry and any other institution for mere historical motives, is to live in a virtual reality mode, anchored to a past that is not ours, for, after all, we are only responsible for the Here and Now. The sole qualifications and conditions to belong to organized Masonry are: to be free and of good (verifiable) breeding. I understand, however, that in the XVII and XVIII centuries the first basic qualification was difficult to meet, not only due to the nature of operative labors and intrinsic incapacity, but, due to mere historical and social impositions.
In the context of Women, nowadays the situation has changed, at least in most countries of the secular world. The access of women to education (including University) and their access to the working world have given our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters a legal standing to preserve, protect and enforce their own liberties, rights and prerogatives before society – precisely the freedoms that they did not enjoy around the time when these alleged “Ancient Landmarks” and the so called “Anderson’s Constitutions” were drafted.
To impede women and the physical disable (Not intellectually disable) the access to any organization (fraternal and/or otherwise) for reasons of gender and physical condition, is to automatically place such organization at the margin of legality – Given the fact that these are rights stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the “land of the free and home of the brave” is an endorser and a well known “world enforcer”.
As a somewhat aware and semi-educated Man and Free-Mason, I believe that it is and must be a question/issue of Time and Maturity to accept into the Craft the human being who seeks to better him/herself as a person and the society he/she lives in, without regard to sex, race, nationality and/or age. Everything else that counters this belief is simple and clear Discriminaion.
Organized Mainstream “Regular” Masonry can no longer ignore that the rights of Women constitute an essential part of Universal Human Rights. At this juncture in the development of humanity, any attempt to defend or perpetuate discriminatory practices against them, can only be based upon the Intention of denying them their condition of Equal under the Law. The struggle for Human Rights has been a Masonic battle, for it was inspired on principles embraced by the Order and brought to the world arena by Brothers.
Free-Masonry is THE institution created for the reflection and action that sets the course and pace for the development of humanity. And if a Woman is part of said humanity, she also has the right to assume this challenge next to us, Men, the ones who have unjustly and fanatically excluded her for such a long time.
Let us remember, my Dear Brothers, that we cannot detain Evolution itself by tying it to the inextricable limits of a Dead Past! Nature is not stationary! Institutions age while Humanity rejuvenates, incessantly! Methods can be spent, the exigencies of Time and Spirit may be modified and doctrines can be corrupted; But, only the “End” remains identical to itself, for we are here “in the Valley” and “it” dwells up-there “in the summit”.
With these reflections and without anything further to add (at this time), I thank you for reading and I embrace you on the Five Points of Fellowship.
Reprinted by Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr., J.D., PH.D., M.A., 33º