Category Archives: info

Grand Orient du Québec

Late 2015 I started to set up this website. I looked around the internet to find information about mixed gender and women-only Freemasonry worldwide. Since then I only now and then ‘discover’ an organisation that I hadn’t listed. Recently I had to update the page about Canada, because I hadn’t heard of the Grand Orient du Québec.

Somebody who wanted to join the sub-Reddit is a prospective member of this order. That member also gave some information about the order:

In 1773 the Grande loge de France went through a profound transformation.

It embraced laïcité as a core value. There is no word for it in English but it’s like stricter secularism. It means that government must not touch religion at all instead of simply being neutral. This means that politicians aren’t allowed to say God bless and be seen with religion in any way. It’s a very important French value since the revolution.

It also removed the requirement of believing in a supreme bein, allowed women to join, and democratically elected it’s grands maîtres. Because of all those changes it renamed itself. It was of course opposed by other Masonic organizations that did not like those changes.

It is a progressive, laïc, mixed-gender, republican (as opposed to monarchist) organization. Maybe you heard about it under the name French Rite? It is the largest Masonic entity in France.

The Grand Orient du Québec (GOdQ) was founded by members of the Grand Orient de France (GOdF). We’re unfortunately a minority here as most of the lodges in Quebec are Anglo-saxon.

The Grand Orient du Québec has two lodges in Montréal, both with with another ritual and a study lodge. You can find their website here (which is in French).

So now you also heard about the Grand Orient du Québec. Join us on Reddit to ask your questions about it.

Diversity in unity?

HeidleShoek_WomenHeidle and Snoek’s book also has a ‘very Dutch’ essay. Anne van Marion-Weijer conducted an investigation within the Dutch federation of Le Droit Humain for her master’s thesis for her study at Amsterdam Hermetica.

Besides a student, Van Marion is also a member of the organisation she investigated. She is editor of the periodical Nieuw Perspectief and used to be the archivist.

Her questionnaire was about the fact that within the Dutch federation three different “traditions” are present, a “Dutch” (before 1995 called “Scottish”), “English” and “French” “tradition”.

Van Marion starts with a general introduction. She calls the Dutch federation “special” because it works with different rites, but in fact most (all?) federations of Le Droit Humain have more than one rite. The British federation, for example, lists no less than six on their website.
The general introduction mentions that of the 27.000 members of Le Droit Humain worldwide, 60% live in France or Belgium.
For the Netherlands Van Marion mentions that there were at the time of writing 21 lodges, 15 of which worked in the “Dutch” “tradition”, four in the “English” and two in the “French”.

Then follows more information about the different “traditions”. The author says that in the beginning, there was only the “English” tradition in the Netherlands. Nowadays only 19% works in that “tradition” and two of the four “English” lodges are so small that they have to work together with “Dutch” lodges.

The author says that the “Dutch” rituals are largely based on the rituals of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands, but this is not entirely true. In an article of Jan Snoek that Van Marion mentions in her bibliography, he demonstrates that the “Dutch” rituals are actually translations of Annie Besant‘s “Dharma workings” to which adjustments have been made based on the rituals of the Grand Orient.

In the general introduction to Le Droit Humain the author mentions that initially Georges Martin didn’t want ‘high grades’, but allowed them to be added to attract more members. At the time he only had the 30th degree himself (from the organisation he was initiated in himself), so a way had to be found to grand him the 33th degree in order to be able to pass it on.

Then the text again focuses on the Netherlands and how the Dutch federation fared with the change of rituals from “English” to “Dutch” (first split-off), how the “English” “tradition” returned and how eventually also the “French” would be introduced.
The latter is a nice story. The ritual of Georges Martin was revived at a commemoration, after which several members were of the opinion that these rituals were better than that of their own lodges. Two lodges replaced their own rituals.

Then follows the questionnaire that Van Marion conducted for her thesis. All members of the Dutch federation received questions about the different “traditions”. About a third sent them back. Fortunately the proportion in “tradition” worked of the respondents was about the same as the proportions between the different “traditions” in general.
The questions included were such as ‘are you aware of the different “traditions”?’, ‘were you before you joined?’, ‘did you make a deliberate choice?’, etc.

The conduct was made in September 2005. At the time there were 328 members, 256 women and 70 men.

From the answers of members of the “English” tradition we can see that here is the largest group who made a deliberate choice for this tradition. This could be that they were Theosophist. 30% Had no idea that there were other “traditions” before they received the questionnaire and only 6% was of the opinion that the different “traditions” was enriching. A third sees animosity between the different “traditions”. 12% Was of the opinion that they had nothing in common with the other “traditions” and 84% experience their own rituals as ‘religious’/ ‘spiritual’.
Also the “French” tradition proved to be a deliberate choice. Some people even switched lodges in order to work in this rite. Even though none of the six respondents experienced no animosity between other traditions 60% said to have nothing in common with the other two. Some even expressed themselves quite sharply. None of the respondents experienced their rituals as ‘religious’, but the word ‘spiritual’ was used.
From the largest group, working in the “Dutch” “tradition”, only 26% choose this “tradition” deliberately. From this group the largest part (52%) had not been aware that there were lodges working with another rite. Also the largest part of this group (50%) saw the diversity as enriching, but on the other hand, this group had the only respondents who were of the opinion that the diversity detracted Freemasonry (5%). A third experiences animosity between the different “traditions” and from this group the largest part (70%) experiences “a feeling of togetherness and sacredness / spirituality” during their rituals.

After the questionnaire some more general information follows and then the author continues with testing a sociological theory on her findings. Here we can read how the original main group (“English”), was overshadowed by the “Dutch” tradition and had to play the role of “outsider”.

What pleads for the existence of the very website you are reading now is that Van Marion says that her respondents: “show little interest in the other traditions and they are surprisingly ignorant about the French roots of the IO LDH.”

Considering that the “French” “tradition” is so small, the author closes her essay saying that: “Time will show us whether or not the French ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ will have a greater appeal in the future than the Dutch ‘wisdom, strength and beauty’ or the ‘English’ ‘faith, hope and charity’.”

Looking at the last few years, I think this just might become the case.

Saint John

click image for the sourceIt is that time of the year that Freemasons talk about Saint John. Well actually, it is one of these times of the year. There are two Saints John who play a part in Freemasonry. So what about these Johns?

The two Johns are John the Apostle or John the Evangelist and the other one is John the Baptist. In the Catholic calendar celebrations for them are on 27 December for the Apostle and 24 June for the Baptist (his birth, there are other celebrations concerning John the Baptist). Both Saints John are patron saints of Freemasonry, so it is not strange that their holy-days are celebrated. More than one lodge has been named after either Saint John as well.

Looking at the dates, you may note that the fall around the days on which summer and winter start, the longest and the shortest day of the year. These happenings are called Solstitiae or Solstices. This is a clear example of the fact that in Freemasonry not only building symbolism is used, but also light-symbolism, in this case the course of the sun in particular. John the Baptist gave Jesus the light of baptism so his holy-day is in the lightest period of the year. I guess the Evangelist is supposed to bring the light in the darkest period of the year with his writing.

In Masonic practice, the summer solstice often is the closing of the working year. After which the holiday period starts in which there are no, or at least much fewer, meetings. The winter solstice has a bit more of a Christmas glean around it. However it is early in the new working year, it is a peak in the Masonic calendar. In a certain sense the celebration closes the “profane” (not-Masonic) year.

Both Saint John celebrations are used to organise a good meeting with a beautiful ritual. Many lodges have their own celebrations, mostly open for members of other lodge-members as well. Some orders have celebrations for their entire organisation, so you can imagine that such as gathering is much larger than just one lodge.

These celebrations are a good way for people to get to a lodge that they keep promising they will visit, but full agendas prevent them from doing so. A bigger event is a good excuse to clear a day in the agenda.

Freemasons are practical people. The celebrations are usually not held on the actual dates of the holy-days of the Saints John or the actual dates of the solstices (for lodges who prefer to refer to the solstice rather than to a Christian saint), but in the closest weekend, or not even, when other lodges have solstices as well. You better pick a date with the biggest change of many visitors. It is not uncommon that one Freemason visits several Saints John, at his/her own lodge, at a befriended lodge and of the entire order for example. Busy times.

So, when on some forum, Facebook group or whatever and you see Freemasons talking about Saint John or a solstice, now you at least have some idea of what this is about.

The Freemasonry of Charles Leadbeater

You may have read it within these pages. In the early days of Le Droit Humain (so: in the early days of mixed gender Freemasonry and its derivatives) Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant, two leading Theosophists, aligned with Le Droit Humain and reformed it. This reformation did not last, but this duo certainly had a big hand in the explosive growth of Le Droit Humain in the early days and they wrote rituals for the lodges that they founded.

These Theosophical rituals have and had a variety of names. Examples are “Sydney Workings”, “Annie Besant Concord”, “Dharma Workings”, “Lauderdale”, “Besant / Leadbeater” or “English” (the latter because the rituals were based on what is nowadays Emulation).
None of that is very important for the present article, but what were and are the differences in the rituals and how was the Freemasonry of Leadbeater different from other kinds of Freemasonry?

Let me start with a few ‘ritual differences’. The arrangement of the lodge differs from one rite to the next. People familiar with Emulation may not be surprised by an empty chair in the North or an officer sitting in the South, but other Masons just may be.
A bigger difference is the ‘dress-code’. White clothing, robes even sometimes, is still the norm in many lodges working any of the Theosophical rites. There seems to have been a time that some sort of hoods were worn.
People not used to Theosophical rituals will have at leat two more surprises. First, there is singing in the lodge, second, the opening involves a lengthy ceremony with incence.

So far the outer differences (feel free to complement me using the comment field below).

Leadbeater wrote a lot, but it seems that his bibliography contains just two books about Freemasonry, both published in 1926. The first is called Glimpses of Masonic History (later:  Ancient Mystic Rites). The second The Hidden Life in Freemasonry

The first book, as the title suggests, is a history of Freemasonry. In the last chapter the author touches upon “the co-Masonic order”. As we see more in those days, Leadbeater wrote an esoteric history of Freemasonry describing all kinds of mysteries.
The second title I recently picked up because I ran into a quote from it and decided to check the context. The book is very Theosophical. You can read about “thought forms”, “chakras”, “kundalini”, the ‘Great White Lodge” and whatnot. Of course Leadbeater also writes about Masonic ritual and elements therefrom. The temple, furniture, functionaries, the opening and closing, etc., etc. That is -of course- one thing, but here we actually have a book of a person who wrote Masonic rituals and and this book explains why certain things are the way they are. You can read why Leadbeater added the incence opening and why he left the Q&A at the opening. No matter what you think of such elements, it is interesting to read the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of the author himself.

Then there are the explanations themselves. To stick with the censing; the order of the places and the forms in which the container is swung is extremely particular and Leadbeater says why. He also writes about how he clairvoyantly sees ‘beings’ over the heads of officers and how they become active when the officer has a task in an open lodge. Leadbeater speaks about magnetising the lodge and how hard work this is when other people present don’t understand what is going on. Indeed, a rather ‘fluffy’ explanation of Freemasonry, but of course, each to his/her own.

More common elements that Leadbeater explains certainly can give food for though. He -for example- connects the different officers to parts of the body, such as the astral body (J.D.) or the lower mind (S.D.). During the opening the O.G. (physical body) has to see to it that the temple of the human body is not polluted with elements that should not be in there. The I.D. (etheric double) has to guard against impure thoughts, etc. This gives an idea of how the proceedings during the opening, are a reflection of what is to happen within the members present themselves. Also practical things that are not given much thought usually are explained, like why the feet are the way they are in the different degrees, why the signs are the way they are, etc.

Leadbeater is more than once ‘too Theosophical’ for me, but he certainly gets me thinking every now and then. Besides, and in repetition, it is interesting to read how and why elements got to make part of the rituals that Leadbeater co-authored.

Therefor I think this book will be particularly interesting for members working in any of the Leadbeater(-derived) rituals, but since many elements are the same in other lodges, a (much) different look on what we are doing never hurts, does it?

The author uses a lot of abbreviations, which sometimes make too much of a puzzle to me.

Theosophy and co-Masonry

A while ago a regular Freemason was making fun of my kind of Freemasonry towards a brother of his. He mentioned Annie Besant (1847-1933) and Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), since Theosophy alone is an argument that mixed gender Freemasonry can’t be much.
I enlightened the good man a bit on the fact that, to take the Netherlands as example, mixed gender Freemasonry indeed started as a ‘Theosophical project’, already 14 years after the establishment of the first lodge, a general non-Theosophical Rite was imposed by the Supreme Council of Le Droit Humain. So of the 112 years of history of mixed gender Freemasonry in the Netherlands, only 14 are ‘really Theosophical’.

With that said, Annie Besant is clear, but why did the man name Rudolf Steiner? Just because this name popped into his head? I never heard that Steiner had anything to do with mixed gender Freemasonry. It would not be illogical though, since Steiner left the Theosophical Society to walk a more Western path, so this was something to look into.

It soon proved that Steiner had perhaps nothing to do with co-Masonry, but there are certainly ‘Masonic connections’. He received a charter to use his own version of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim for the Esoteric Section of the German branch of the Theosophical Society. His Rituals, lectures and papers have been published in German and translated to English. In the introduction to the English version Christopher Bamford writes:

He received his charter from Theodore Reuss of the Ordo Templum Orientalis or O.T.O. Nevertheless, Steiner was never a member of, nor did he have any involvement with, the O.T.O. Reuss had received permission to operate the Memphis-Misraim rite from John Yarker, who, some twenty years previously, had initiated Madame Blavatsky into the same Order.

So Bamford claims that Blavatsky was a Freemason? That definately is another thing to look into!

A few steps back

The Theosophical Society was officially formed in New York City, United States, on 17 November 1875 by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge and others.

So says Wikipedia. This happened in a time in which esotericism was very popular, also among Freemasons. It is not surprising to find a Freemason among the founders of the Theosophical Society: Olcott. Olcott is frequently connected to Le Droit Humain, but I have not been able to verify this. Besides, Le Droit Humain would not be founded before 1893, so Olcott must have been a Freemason elsewhere before he (allegedly) went over to Le Droit Humain. This website says he was a member of an American lodge of the Scottish Rite. That does not way much, because most Freemasonry is in some way “Scottish”.

On the 17th April we began to talk with Sotheran, General T., and one or two other high Masons about constituting our Society into a Masonic body with a Ritual and Degrees; the idea being that it would form a natural complement to the higher degrees of the craft, restoring to it the vital element of Oriental mysticism which it lacked or had lost. At the same time, such an arrangement would give strength and permanency to the Society, by allying it to the ancient Brotherhood whose lodges are established throughout the whole world. Now that I come to look back at it, we were in reality but planning to repeat the work of Cagliostro, whose Egyptian Lodge was in his days so powerful a centre for the propagation of Eastern occult thought.

Thus Olcott writes in Diary Leaves part 1 (1874-78). Cagliostro, the forerunner of Memphis-Misraim. Would Olcott not have been part of a Scottisch but of an Egyptian lodge? We also ran into Memphis-Misraim with the enigmatic John Yarker who supposedly initiated Blavatsky, so who was John Yarker?

John Yarker

Born in the UK in 1833, Yarker became Freemason at the age of 21. He left again in 1862 only to become head of the British/Irish section of Memphis-Misraim in 1872 (on an American charter). This Rite has always been a bit of a black sheep within the Masonic landscape, naturally “irregular”.

It appears that Yarker heard about Blavatsky, was impressed by this Russian woman and sent her a diploma for the “Sat Bhai” (one of his orders?). The two developed a correspondence. Blavatsky would mention Yarker in her piece on Freemasonry in Isis Unveiled and made him honorary member of the Theosophical Society. Yarker on his turn, sent Blavatsky diplomas of High Grades of the Rite of Memphis-Misraim.
Blavatsky later claimed never to have been initiated into “Western” Freemasonry, but she did have her contacts with “Eastern” Freemasonry, mostly likely something wholly different but with a similar name.

There you have the story of Blavatsky’s alledged membership.

Rudolf Steiner

Some would have it that Steiner never became a Freemason. He only got the ritual to form his own ritual for his own organisation. Let us have a look at that.

The book I mentioned earlier is one of the many books that have been published after Steiner’s death. His Anthroposophical Society was on the brink of splitting in two and Steiner’s widow was afraid of being accused of witholding information and decided to publish all material that she had available. The largest part of that material concerns lectures of which Steiner gave countless, but there is also correspondence, notes, etc. This is why there are so many books by Steiner, even though he wrote but a few books himself.

In this way there is also a collection of material concerning an esoteric experiment by Steiner that he started when he was head of the German section of the Theosophical Society. Drawings, lectures and what is left of the rituals themselves where published under the name Zur Geschichte und aus den Inhalten der erkenntniskultischen Abteilung der Esoterischen Schule 1904 bis 1914 in 1987, a book of 526 pages. The title translates as ‘The history and from the contents of the knowledge-cultic division of the esoteric school 1904 until 1914’.
In 2007 an English translation was published with a much more suggestive title, namely: The Misraim Service, “Freemasonry” and Ritual Work, the collected works of Rudolf Steiner with as description: “Letters, documents, ritual texts, and lectures from the history and contents of the cognitive ritual section of the esoteric school, 1904-1914”. That is a less-literal translation of the original title.

This experiment has had different names. A few of those we just ran into. “Der erkenntniskultische Abteilung” was the description chosen by the editors of the German book. The translators chose to translate this as “cognitive ritual section”. Other descriptions include “Freimaurei” (Freemasonry), F.M. (Freimaurerei), Misraim-Dienst (translated as ‘Misraim service’) and M.D. (Misraim-Dienst, but sometimes also Michael Dienst after the archangel Michael) and ‘Mystica Aeterna’.

The story behind this becomes somewhat clear in the book, but not entirely. Christopher Bamford wrote an extensive introduction to the English translation. He places quite some focus on Rudolf Steiner as a Freemason, while the editor of the German edition, Hella Wiesberger, largely ignores the entire Masonic connection. There is something to say for both approaches.

The story in a nutshell

Steiner became head of the German section of the Theosophical Society in 1902 and two years later Annie Besant appointed him head of the esoteric section.

Steiner seems to have been unaware of Besant’s Masonic pursuits that started in 1902. When he wanted to give his esoteric section lineage and more structure, he looked at Freemasonry, but not Le Droit Humain into which Besant was initiated in 1902 and which she actively helped spread in the following years. Instead -as we saw in the quote above-, Steiner came in contact with Theodor Reuss, then head of the irregular organisation Memphis-Misraim. Reuss, on his turn, got involved in this organisation by way of the earlier mentioned John Yarker, so perhaps Steiner followed Blavatsky’s route rather than that of Annie Besant.

Bamford does not divide between “regular” and “irregular” Freemasonry. He names “the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution” in the same line of Freemasons as “Madame Blavatsky”. Also Steiner seems not to have cared much about different kinds of Freemasonry, the book frequently mentions “Freemasonry” without stating what kind as if “Freemasonry” is one organisation. Neither does Steiner seem to care much if a person is actually initiated into Freemasonry and its three degrees or not, neither does Bamford.

So was Rudolf Steiner a Freemason or not?

When working with the Theosophical Society Rudolf Steiner would meet his second wife Marie Sivers. It was Sivers who made most of Steiner’s material available to the public. She wrote an article called: “Was Rudolf Steiner a Freemason?” in 1934 in which she denied the fact. This appears to be a half truth.

As I mentioned, Steiner wanted an esoteric lineage for his esoteric work and he sought this lineage in Freemasonry. If he opted for an uncommon Rite consciously or not has not become clear to me. Perhaps he did not like the Theosophical bend of Freemasonry of Le Droit Humain of these days or perhaps he simply did not know about it. What is clear, is that Steiner together with Sivers paid to undergo a ritual (probably an initiation) which took place on November 24 1905. Apparently he was not impressed, because the day after he wrote to Sivers: “Nun hast Du gestern selbst gesehen, wie wenig noch uebrig geblieben ist von den einstigen esoterischen Institutionen.” (“Yesterday you saw for yourself how little remains of the erstwhile esoteric institutions.”)

A fact remains that he was probably initiated, but he was most likely never promoted to being a fellow or master. He did receive some high grades from Reuss though (upto 96º), even though Steiner largely ignored Reuss after he got what he needed. It appears as if Steiner lectured for his lodge for a few years and he felt himself Freemason enough to make remarks such as: “The Theosophical Movement is discussed by us Freemasons quite objectively.” (page 257 of the English book, emphasis mine.) So maybe he has been a Freemason for a few years afterall.

Steiner also makes it clear that his esoteric working group was never intended to be a Masonic lodge. Prospective members also did not have to be Freemasons, but active members German Theosophical Society or (after 1912) the Anthroposophical Society.

How Masonic was this esoteric working group?

Large parts of some of the rituals are in the book. Not all material was saved. There are also drawings, lectures, notes from students, etc. Therefor the book gives a fairly good idea of what was going on. The material shows that there was some kind of initiation and texts of three more degrees are printed.

I am not familiar with the rites of Memphis-Misraim. I can only say that the printed rituals are in some ways very recognisable and in many other ways not at all. The structure with openings and closings are recognisable, but there are massive walls of text in which mystics, Michael, Lucifer and Ahriman talk to eachother and to the candidate. The way the temple is arranged is different and there seems to have been different rooms for different parts of the ritual. The rituals are surely based on (some sort of) Freemasony, but very different.

What is interesting about the book is that Steiner explained and lectured about the ritual texts which gives alternative views on some elements of Masonic ritual. That, and the difference with other Masonic rituals makes the book a nice read. Inspite of the differences, the ritual texts might give away too much if you have not undergone some Masonic rituals though, but plan to do so.


About Besant and Leadbeater you can read more within these pages, since they are one of the bases of the forms of Freemasonry that this website is about. Steiner’s system was not Freemasonry and his group stopped coming together with the First World War broke out, so that subject will remain to this small essay.

So, there are certainly links between Theosophy and Freemasonry, especially in the early days of mixed gender Freemasonry. There is a tiny link between Theosophy and the rite of Memphis Misraim, mostly the exchange of honours and then Steiner’s thin and shortlived lineage.


Grand Orient of the USA

So it seems that the USA used to have a Grand Orient of their own. More even, it is said that it was open to men and women. There is not a whole lot of information to be found on the internet, but a little digging brought some information.

Suppsedly the order was founded in 2007 and dismantled around 2015.

It seems that there were two domains:

  •, which has indexed from 2007 to 2015, but somewhere in 2008/9 the website seems to have gone out of use;
  •, which has indexed form 2009 until 2016, but also this domain seems to have gone dark quite a while ago.

Masonicinfo says that the Grand Orient admitted women, but an old version of the website on says differentlly:

What is today the Grand Orient of the United States of America began on December 27th, 2005; several lodges declared their independence from the ‘Antient’ Masonic system and formed a confederation of sovereign lodges under the banner of United Grand Lodge of America. In so doing, they sought to restore Modern Free-Masonry to the American continent and return to the traditional Enlightenment and cosmopolitan ideals expressed in the original Craft. This event allowed the original streams of Masonic thought still existing in Europe to once again flow freely into lodges in America.

In November of 2007, several more lodges declared their independence from the ‘Antient’ Masonic system and the Council of the Order was convened to formalize our relationship with our brethren in France and throughout Europe. The Council voted unanimously to change the name of the United Grand Lodge of America to the Grand Orient of the United States of America to better and more precisely identify it with the existing currents of Modern Free-Masonry throughout the world.

The Grand Orient of the United States of America is a masculine Masonic obedience that works together with the mixed-gender obedience lodges operating under George Washington Union throughout the United States. Together, these two systems represent the most liberal and progressive form of Freemasonry in America, which is open to all people regardless of race, creed, or sex.

Our aim is the brotherhood of all humanity through a universal chain of union extending around the globe. If you are already with us in spirit then you are welcome to join with us in Masonic lodges throughout the world.

[Emphasis mine.]

Masonicinfo also says that the Grand Orient had only one lodge, the domain for whose website has been for sale for a while. The quote above speaks of “several lodges”.

It looks like it that the Grand Orient of the USA has had backing of the Grand Orient de France, but lost it in 2011. At least, that is what this website says.

There is a Facebook page which has been closed, but not deleted. It has over 4200 ‘likes’!

My guess is that the website of the defunkt organisation is more credible than a Masonic anti-other-Masonic website, which means that the Grand Orient of the USA was a male order who was open to mixed gender Freemasonry, but not open to women itself.

Not really fitting for this website, but the little investigation was fun.

The term “co-Masonry”

A frequently asked question is what the term “co-Masonry” is and where it comes from. I just found the answer in Karen Kidd’s On Holy Ground.

The founder of mixed gender Freemasonry in the USA was Antoine Muzarelli who used the term “co-Masonry”. In the UK (and abroad) Annie Besant was the driving force behind early mixed gender Freemasonry. Besant called it “Joint Masonry”.
At some point the two got a discussion how this new form of Freemasonry should be called internationally, preferably not by two names. Besant set in for her term, Muzarelli objected. Two quotes from letters between the two as Kidd has them in her book.


Here [meaning: the USA] we have co-education and, on the same analogy Co-Masonry.

(page 51 of Kidd’s book).

When Besant started to push for “joint”, Muzarelli wrote:

A ‘joint house’ is, here, an immoral house; a ‘joint cave’ is a house bearing the ugly reputation of selling liquor to both sexes on the sly and without a licence. So you see, the prefix ‘joint’ is not at all used in America in the sense in which the English use it.

(same page)

Muzarelli continues explaining that women would not join an order that calls itself “joint”. Besant gave in and “co-Masonry” became the internationally used term for the mixed gender Freemasonry of Le Droit Humain and close allies. I suppose later when the landscape became more splintered other groups started to use other terms to distinguish themselves.

Brothers and sisters

Last week on a forum somebody said something along the lines of: “Is it true that co-Masons call eachothers Brother regardless gender?” That seems to be a question with no easy answer.

At some point I ran into a book written by Karen Kidd, a woman who is referred to as “brother”. She also writes on a few places on the internet calling herself “brother Kidd”. Kidd is a member of the Honorable Order Of American co-Masonry. In her book about the history of this order “sisters” and “soeurs” (‘sisters’ in French) are mentioned, but it seems that along the lines, members of this order started to call eachother brothers.

This does not go for all mixed gender orders though. I -for one- have never heard any of my sisters being referred to as “brother”. Perhaps there are differences per country, perhaps per order.

Having said that, the female head of our lodge is a “worshipfull master”, not a “worshipfull mistress” (so: sister worshipfull master). I suppose this is not much different from calling a female painter a “painter” and not a “paintress”.

So the answer to the question is: “no”. Not all mixed gender lodges refer to every member as “brother”.

“French Ritual”

Recently I experienced my first co-called “French Ritual”. As I understand it, this Ritual goes back to the Ritual originally written by Georges Martin when he started with Le Droit Humain. The Ritual is ‘atheistic’, all reference to the GAOTU are skipped. The triangle above the seat of the W:.M:. was empty and there was no book whatsoever on the altar. For the rest, the Ritual was quite like what I am used to, with of course the expected little difference between one lodge and another.

Historical sources on the history of Joint Freemasonry

In the Masonic magazine The Builder of April 1917 Arthur Edward Waite wrote a short text on what he called “Joint Freemasonry”. The magazine can be found online here. Use control+F for “Arthur Edward Waite” to jump to the specific text. It has some references to the English Rites.

The same website also quotes Mackey’s Encyclopedia Of Freemasonry online (one of the revised and enlarged editions of later than 1920. The original version is from 1873) (it can be found on several places). This text is much longer and pretty detailed. You can read it here. Control+F to jump to “Co-Masonry”.