Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942) published his classic A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry in 1921 which contains a fairly long piece about co-Masonry. Waite was well informed. He has some information that I, over a century later, still have to get from his book. Yet, his information about co-Masonry is also not entirely correct. Time perhaps to have a look at his information?
It is said that in or about 1879 several Chapters under the obedience of the Supreme Council of France, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, revolted from that authority, the tendency to disturbance being as usual fomented by the Grand Orient. Whether this Obedience approved what followed I have no means of knowing, but the Chapters in question reincorporated themselves under the title of La Grande Loge Symbolique De France, according to the particulars before me. This statement does not appear to mean that they passed under the authority of La Grande Loge De France. It is impossible, however, from the confused evidence to determine this point certainly or to decide what ‘Degrees were conferred by the new body, but they were presumably those of Le Rite Français and not of the Scottish Rite. The central jurisdiction appears to have governed Lodges and not Chapters. One of the separated Lodges—the nature of whose dissatisfaction is shewn by its title of Les Libres Penseurs—held its meetings at Pecq, a village in the Department of Seine et Oise. On November 25, 1881, this Lodge resolved that Mlle. Maria Desraimes, a writer on humanitarian subjects and the rights of women, should be admitted into. Freemasonry. The proposers were M. Hubron, the W. M., and six other Master Masons. The initiation took place on January 14, 1882, in the presence of Brethren drawn from all parts. From her subsequent history Mlle. Desraimes must have been also passed and raised, but there are no particulars in the sources to which I have had access. The Lodge was suspended, but whether by the Authority which it had helped to create or by some other Grand Obedience does not appear.
This history is also somewhat opaque to me. Judging the French Wikipedia (accessed 20/3/2023) I understand that Grand Orient de France lodges of the “symbolic degrees” (EA, FC and MM) disagreed that they were governed by the Supreme Council (which usually govern ‘high degrees’ only). The third attempt to change that caused a schism of 12 lodges which came the Symbolic Scottish Grand Lodge in 1880. “Symbolic” in French refers to the first three degrees, the “Blue Degrees” in English. It was one lodge which would indeed (after leaving the Grand Lodge) initiated Maria Deraismes (whose name Waite misspelled). This seems to have nothing to do with the reason of the initial schism. The women-question came later. If I understand correctly, Les Libres Penseurs (‘the free thinkers’) withdrew from their Grand Lodge for the initiation, asked to be allowed to return after which was disallowed and internal disagreements led to a split within the lodge. There is some irony here since within Le Droit Humain, Councils (national and ‘supreme’ or international) preside over both the ‘high degrees’ and the ‘symbolic’ ones. Perhaps that was not the reason for Martin to break with the Grand Orient de France (where he had been initiated on 21/3/1879).
La Maçonnerie Mixte -—More than ten years passed away, during which I am unable to give any account of the lady’s Masonic history. It seems certain that there was no Lodge in which she could have held Office and much less have passed the Chair. This notwithstanding she was approached in the early part of 1893 by Dr. Georges Martin, a Mason holding the Thirty-third Degree of the A. and A. SR, and described by himself as féministe en méme temps que maçon. He had championed the rights of women on many occasions and in particular, being a physician himself, their capacity for admission to the medical profession. At the period in question he was coming forward once more on the same mission, but this time asserting their title to be made Masons. With this object he resolved on establishing La Maçonnerie MIXTE and hence had recourse for assistance to the only Woman-Mason within his knowledge. The result was that on March 4, April x and April 4, 1893, Mlle. Desraimes, acting under his influence and presumably with his co-operation, successively initiated, passed and raised sixteen female Candidates, otherwise—in his view—a sufficient number for the constitution of a Lodge of Women. It appears to have been founded accordingly, whereupon Dr. Georges Martin demanded and acquired affiliation, in which manner the new foundation became literally a “mixed” Lodge, the location of which was Paris. A Constitution was framed under the title of Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise Mixte De France, borrowed evidently in the main part from the schismatic body mentioned previously. lts one Lodge at the moment was called Le Droit Humain, and its original activities appear to have been restricted within the limits of Blue Masonry. But in 1900 the Thirty Degrees of the Ancient And Accepted Scottish Rite were superposed on those of the Craft by Dr. Georges Martin in conjunction with other Inspectors-General. A Supreme Council was established to govern the Order, to preserve the Constitution and to issue’ Charters, Warrants and Certificates. The titular head, Maria Desraimes, died ten months after the foundation of the First Lodge and was succeeded by Maria Georges Martin as President and R.. W.°. Mistress, or Vénérable. In 1901 she appears to have become Grand Mistress of the Order and President of the Supreme Council.
Little is still known about the short Masonic career of Deraismes. There are even authors who wonder if she was ever passed and raised. She was initiated in 1882 and passed away in 1884. There appear to be no records of her masonic career or activities.
Martin and Deraismes indeed went on to found a mixed gender lodge and later the Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise Mixte De France. Then Waite touches upon an interesting subject: the foundation of the Supreme Council. First Waite says that Martin had the 33rd degree. Later he says that Martin “superimposed” the degrees 4-33. This is a half story.
In the book Agency and Rituals there is a text of the -then- Grand Secretary of the Dutch federation. About the founding of the Supreme Council, she writes (with my emphasis):
Only three years later, at a meeting on May 11th, 1899, the decision was taken to install a Supreme Council with the authority to rule over the 33 degrees of the AASR.26 The order had, however, a ‘slight’ problem: it did not have a single member in possession of the 33rd degree: Georges Martin had only the 30th. There are several versions of how he tackled this problem, but all agree that it was Décembre-Alonnier (1836-1906)—a composer, journalist and novelist, who had been an adviser to the Grand Orient de France during the period 1871-1874, and a member of the ‘Grand Collège des Rites’ of that Order, and who had a soft spot for LDH—who supplied the missing details. He had been for some time an active participant in ceremonies in the lodges of LDH. Before complying with the request of Georges Martin, there would have been an extensive exchange of views between the two of them. After having been carefully instructed, the secrets of the degrees 4 to 32 of the AASR were revealed to several members of LDH. On May 11th, 189928 ten of these members were initiated in the 33rd degree by Décembre-Alonnier. Immediately following this ceremony the ‘Suprême Conseil Universel Mixte’ was constituted. Its lay dormant and kept secret for two years, until June 12th, 1901. Décembre-Alonnier was its chairman from the beginning until January 1903.
Religious Status.—In respect of religious status, after the prevailing mode of Latin Freemasonry, no recognition is extended to any religious dogma, no form of faith is rejected, all aspects of philosophical thought are tolerated andthe Grand Architect of the Universe’is invoked nowhere. The device at the head of Warrants and Diplomas is A la gloire de l’Humanité. The thesis of Dr. Martin on this subject was that Human Right or Duty precedes Divine Right, since the latter “can begin only at the Gates of Eternity, for those who believe in another life.’ The distinction is useful, as it enables us to see that we ar dealing with a fool in metaphysics and one who may be called self-crowned by the utterance—as if with cap and bells. He has told us s otherwise how he had desired through all his life to witness when he lived to see his dream accomplished under the auspices of President Carnot. He regarded the alleged reform as an indispensable ~ -condition of peace between divergent philosophical and religious conceptions ; but we have not yet seen the concordat signed in France or even drafted.
Correct, but this changed in 1902 when Annie Besant and it is with this ‘non-atheistic approach’ that Le Droit Humain really started to grow. That is not to say, that the demand of faith of candidates may be less strict than in some “regular” lodges, but in this subject lodges are autonomous.
La Maçonnerie Mixte proved a successful experiment, and at the end of 1912 it is on record that there were 12,000 members in all parts of the world, including one hundred Lodges in the United States. England, India, Africa, Holland, South America, Oceania were embraced by its map. As regards Masonic status in France, at the date in question, no recognition of its activities was extended by the Grand Orient and affiliation to Mixed Lodges was forbidden. On the other hand, the Grande Loge De France received men who had been initiated in Mixed Lodges by a process termed régularisation, while the Supreme Council went further, permitting its members to affiliate and receiving joining members from the Mixed Lodges, so only that they were males. It might apparently have exceeded this limit by establishing official relations and receiving Sisters, put it was hindered for the time being owing to “international treaties.” Such is the commentary of Latin Freemasonry on the knavish assertion that it is impossible for any woman to be made a Mason.
Needless to say that nowadays is much different today. Le Droit Humain and the Grand Orient de France recognise each other and the latter even became a mixed gender organisation itself.
Universal Co-Freemasonry.—The story of La Maçonnerie Mixte in Great Britain and other English-speaking countries is merged in modern Theosophy. It migrated to India and came under the influence of Annie Besant at Benares, where the Dharma Lodge, No.101, was founded, to be followed in due course by other Lodges at Bombay, Adyar and East Rangoon. La Maconnerie Mixte was first translated into English as Joint Freemasonry and was introduced as such into Great Britain in 1902 by the “Grand Officers of the Supreme Council,” who-on September 26 of that year- consecrated the first. Lodge under the name of Human Duty, No. 6, London. Whether the Supreme Council was that of France and how a Masonic Lodge can be “consecrated” without invoking the Grand Architect of the Universe – must remain open questions, so far as my own knowledge is concerned. Whosoever were concerned in later proceedings took care to provide their personal commentary on the thesis of Dr. Martin by affirming in Art. 1 of their “Principles” that Joint Freemasonry “asserts, in accordance with the ancient declarations of Freemasonry, the existence of a creative principle, under the title of the Great Architect of the Universe.” About 1905 the English title was altered to that of Universal Co-Freemasonry in Great Britain and the British Dependencies. Maria Georges Martin was recognised presumably as President and titular head, but V. Ils. Ssr. Annie Besant, 33°, was not only Vice-President but ‘Grand Master of the Supreme Council’ -possibly that of Adyar. Later on she became also “Protectress” of the Order, so arrogating to herself the Masonic status of King Edward VII. At the present day the sign of the sisterhood has been changed and Annie Besant together with the rank and file of women in Co-Freemasonry style themselves Brothers.
Here Waite shows that he was not as well informed as he wanted his readers to believe. First he is wrong in his chronology. Besant was initiated in July 1902, founded the lodge Human Duty no.6 in December of that year and only moved to India in 1904.
“It migrated to India…” What did? Not the Supreme Council of le Droit Humain. This has always been seated in Paris. Theosophy then? That already happened in 1895.
Also, Waite missed that Human Duty was no “consecrated” using the ritual of Martin, but the “Scottish Workings of Craft Masonry”.
The remark about “Joint Freemasonry” is somewhat funny, see the link.
The remark about the possible Adyar Supreme Council is confusing. I have to found out when the Indian national council was founded and it would not be weird if Besant became “Sovereign Grand Commander”, but there is no such thing as a national supreme council.
Dharma Working.—The Ritual of the first Three Degrees has been printed and reached a second edition in 1908. It is called the Dharma working of Craft Masonry. The variations from our own form are at once numerous and slight, but novelties are also introduced, a few of which may be tabulated: (1) The rubrics are much fuller and make for clearness in working.
(2) The Entered Apprentice is taken three times round the Lodge and is brought back on each occasion to the centre.
(3) The second circumambulation is opposite to the first, or against the sun, the third being the same as the first— otherwise following the sun.
(4) In the Second Degree, after the circumambulations, the Candidate is placed in the centre and passes through five stages or experiences, corresponding
(a) to work on the Rough Stone,
(b) the Arts,
(c) the Sciences,
(d) the Humanities, and
(e) apparently rest after work, with the idea of work to follow.
(5) In the Third Decree the Obligation is shortened, more especially in respect of certain covenants on the virtue of chastity, while some of the wording differs in other clauses.
(6) The language differs through- out in many places of the Rituals and some of the prayers are changed. All essential points, however, remain—it being understood that—subject to these variations—the text follows the Scottish working. Recent rumours, however, speak of drastic changes.
It was Waite who led me to the 1908 edition of “Dharma”. I took a more detailed look at the texts which you can read here.
Ancient Masonry.—In the year 1908 there was some kind of feud in London, which resulted in the foundation of an independent Society under the denomination of Ancient Masonry, one reason being that the Co-Masonry of Annie Besant involved an irresponsible headship, in opposition to Masonic principles. The new foundation abandoned Dharma workings and had recourse to those in use by the Emulation Lodge of Instruction. It works only the Three Craft Degrees, its Candidates being initiated, passed and raised—whether male or female—precisely as those who enter Masonry under the obedience of the Grand Lodge Of England. The Rev. Dr. W. F. Cobb, Rector of St. Ethelburga’s, in the City of London, who had been made a Mason under the obedience of Grand Lodge but was no longer attached, became the prime mover in this work of reformation and was presumably at the head of the concern. The present Grand Mistress—who is, however, termed Grand Master, following Mrs. Besant’s classification—is Mrs. Halsey, a kinswoman of the Rt. Hon. T. F. Halsey, Deputy Grand Master of England. Dr. Cobb has retired. The members, both male and female, are said to be enthusiasts, who maintain the character and spirit of the several Lodges at an exceedingly high grade, and the Ritual working is regarded as excellent. There was a time when Master Masons, not excepting Grand Officers, attended Meetings somewhat freely and are reported to have been much impressed, but an edict went forth from Grand Lodge in the usual belated fashion and has put a stop to this practice— at least, in part. The so-called Ancient Masonry is a small body in comparison with Universal Co-Masonry, but there is no question that, – from everything ascertainable respecting modes of reception, its members—men and women—are to all intents and purposes as much Masons as if they had been admitted to membership in Freemasons’ Hall itself—the question of recognition and this only excepted. As regards La Maçonnerie Mixte, I have failed to obtain information about its welfare during the years of the Great War, except indeed that la Grande Maitresse, Mme. Maria Georges Martin, passed away on November 4, 1915, Dr. Martin himself following her on October 1, 1916.
I haven’t looked into this part of the history yet, but I hope that now I’ve put this here, people looking for information will be helped by all the names.
Diffusion.—The following particulars are drawn from a Directory of Icdges and Chapters under the Obedience of Annie Besant. (1) Human Duty, No. 6, London. (2) H. P. B. Lodge, No. 14, Bradford. (3) Christian Rosencreutz, No. 18, Edinburgh. (4) Hermes, No. 20, London. (5) Golden Rule, No. 21, London. (6) Manchester Lodge, No. 22, Manchester. (7) Emulation Lodge, No. 24, London. (8) Harmony Lodge, No. 25, Southampton. (9) Prato Ledge, No. 31, Leeds. (10) Unity Lodge, No. 35, Bournemouth, (11) Verity Lodge, No. 38, Brighton. (12) Fidelity Lodge, No. 49, Bath. (13) Arbor Vitae Lodge, No. 50, Letchworth. (14) Dharma Lodge, No. 101, Benares. (15) Sangha Lodge, No. 102, Bombay. (16) Shanti Lodge, No. 105, Bombay. (17) Rising Sun of India, No. 107, Adyar, (18) Bohdi Lodge, No. 108, East Rangoon. (19) San Francisco Lodge, No. 358, California. (20) Helios Lodge, No. 360, Los Angeles. (21) Unity Lodge, No. 359, Oakland, Cal. (22) Melbourne Lodge, No. 401, Melbourne. (23) Victorian Lodge, No. 403, Melbourne. (24) Sydney Lodge, No. 404, Sydney, N.S.W. (25) Brisbane Lodge, No. 405, Brisbane. (26) Adelaide Lodge, No. 406, Adelaide. I presume that the Lodge numbers are those of the Original Roll belonging to the French Obedience and the enormous gaps between represent in this case the issue of intervening charters which are not under Theosophical influence. It will be seen that La Maçonnerie Mixte, its derivations and developments are a power to be reckoned with and that the conventional titular description of “Clandestine Masonry” would be imbecile in reference thereto, or indeed to “Ancient” Masonry. I have seen also reports of an Amity Lodge, No. 220, Durban, South Africa, of a Star In The East Chapter of the Royal Arch, without number or location, of a Rose-Croix Chapter, Tolerance, No. 2, London, and another at Edinburgh, being St. Ann, No. 3. Whether the other Lodges enumerated above are confined to Craft workings I do not know.
Here Waite shows that was well informed. A lengthy list with lodge names and numbers for your convenience.
Principles.—The principles of Co-Freemasonry are established in eight clauses or articles, of which the first has been given already. They may be summarised as follows: (1) In accordance with “ancient declarations of Freemasonry,” it asserts “the existence of a creative principle, under the title of the Great Architect of the Universe”; (2) the “open volumes of the Sacred Knowledge” are maintained in every Lodge, differing therefore presumably with the religion of Candidates, but it is not said that the latter are pledged thereon ; (3) the “ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry” are maintained ; (4) irregular and clandestine Meetings and Lodges without a proper charter are not recognised, but no canon of criticism as to legality is laid down ; (5) there are no restrictions on the free search after truth and tolerance is exacted from all members to secure that freedom; (6) the Order is open to all free men and women who are of good report and irreproachable life, “without distinction of race or religion” ; (7) “obedience to the laws of the country, loyalty to the Sovereign, silence with regard to Masonic secrets, a high standard of honour, and ceaseless endeavour to promote the welfare of humanity” are exacted as pledges from members ; (8) “every Freemason belonging to the Ancient and Accepted Rite is bound faithfully to observe the decision of the Supreme Council to which he owes allegiance.” What happens in the case of the Royal Arch does not appear. A Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite as such has no jurisdiction over this Grade, but we have seen that it is worked by at least one Co-Masonic Chapter, and I should add that it is not the Royal Arch Of Enoch.
Apparently Waite noticed that there was a degree with the Royal Arch. He must have made a serious round to get his information.
Authorities.—The authorities for this notice are (1) Conférance du F. Docteur Georges Martin, 33°, November 21, 1910, at La R. L. Les Amis Philantropes, under the Grand Orient of Belgium ; (2) The Rituals Of The Craft Degrees, under the editorship of F. D. Harrison, 30°; (3) An official publication of the Supreme Conseil Universel Mixte, Puissance Génératrice et Régulatrice pour l’Univers entier des Ateliers Mixtes du Ier au 33e et Dernier Degré, issued by the Christian Rosencreuz Lodge, No. 43, in Dutch, French and English on May 25, 1912, by the Grand Chancelry, Zenith of Paris; (4) Old printed matter—miscellaneous—respecting Joint-Freemasonry ; (5) A quarterly journal entitled The Co-Mason.
This part I don’t understand. The Belgian loge Les Amis Philantropes helped to kickstart Le Droit Humain in Belgium, but as far as I understand, the Grand Orient of Belgium never had any jurisdiction over Le Droit Humain.
The name of the editor of the ‘craft rituals’ is something I need to look into.
Also interesting is that Waite apparently know that the Dutch publishers Duwaer & Van Ginkel (the later is the founder of the Christiaan Rosencreutz lodge) not always published only for the Dutch federation (they published the first English edition of the “Dharma Workings” as well), but I don’t know what publication he refers to here. Perhaps the publication about the history of Le Droit Humain and the foundation of the Supreme Council?
In summery we can say that Waite was well-informed about the new Masonic organisation. Especially for people who can’t read French. His information is still a good source. Here and there he missed things. I hope with the extra information that I provided the picture is a wee bit clearer. You can also see that Waite did not seem to have been overtly negative about Le Droit Humain. A closer look at Waite can be found here.