Tag Archives: co-masonry books

The Other Brotherhood – Darren Lorente-Bull (2018)

Like Julian Rees, the author was initiated in a lodge working under the United Grand Lodge of England, but later joined a lodge working under the British federation of Le Droit Humain. Together with Rees he wrote More Light, which is actually quite like the present title.

Both books are small (118 pages for the present title, 140 for the other). Both start with a general history of Freemasonry, later switch to “liberal” Freemasonry and the British federation of Le Droit Humain in particular. This book has more information about the origins and development of “liberal” Freemasonry, speaking of the Grand Orient of France, the Grand Lodge of France and Le Droit Humain.

Then there is a chapter about political Freemasonry, esoteric Freemasonry and philosophical Freemasonry showing that there are different approaches within Freemasonry.

Towards the end the author says a few things of the Appeal of Strasbourg which is a document made by “liberal” Masonic organisations to try to (re)form the “centre of union”. Partly as a result of this appeal two organisations were founded years later, Catena and C.L.I.P.S.A.S. trying to bring together different Masonic organisations and create ‘contemporary Landmarks’ which are less strict than the ‘ancient Landmarks’.

Like I wrote about the other book:

The little book seems to aim at reaching people who are unfamiliar with the subject of Freemasonry in general, giving the idea that there is more than the best-known variety. It does not say a whole lot about the way a mixed gender lodge works though.

Perhaps it is a bit more of an introduction into “liberal” Freemasonry than More Light so it could be informative not only for members of mixed-gender lodges, but also for members of “regular” lodges who want to learn a bit about “continental” Freemasonry.

Glimpses of Masonic History – Charles Leadbeater (1926)

Leadbeater was influential early in the development of mixed gender Freemasonry and at the peak of the Theosophical influence. Annie Besant was also a Theosophist and she also introduced Theosophical elements into her Freemasonry, but Leadbeater (together with Wedgewood) went way over Besant in that regard.

Even though attempts were made to get rid of the Theosophical elements within the rituals of Le Droit Humain, there are still lodges who work with either the Besant of the Leadbeater rituals. For members of both types of lodges, the present book and the similar Hidden Life In Freemasonry of the same author are interesting, because Leadbeater sometimes explains why certain elements were added and why they are as they are. Also for people not working in a Theosophical lodge, the book makes a nice read. You get an idea of this ‘exotic’ type of Freemasonry, but also Leadbeater’s very spiritual (and clairvoyant) explanations of Masonic symbolism, sometimes shed a whole new light on the subject.

Both books are available in reprint and ebook, but when you want an original version, they are not too hard to find.

Read more about Leadbeater and his Freemasonry here.

Haunted Chambers – Karen Kidd (2009)

“These women aren’t supposed to have existed. But they did.”

In online communities with Freemasons present (especially British and American), the subject of women frequently pops up and the reactions are always the same. There were no women Freemasons, there are no women Freemasons and women who are member of a mixed or “femalecraft” lodges are not Freemasons either. Karen Kidd, one such female Freemason herself, decided to sift through archives, media and whatnot to discover stories about women Freemasons; not members of the Order of the Eastern Star, mixed or “femalecraft” lodges, but women that were initiated into (mostly) regular lodges in the 18th and 19th century, long before there were other kinds of Freemasonry, many even before there were ‘lodges of adoption’. These are the women that are not supposed to have existed, but who did.

The author found a few well documented cases, quite a few reasonably documented cases and she ends her book with a few rumoured cases. The stories are often quite alike. A (young) woman is so curious about the secrets of Freemasonry that she decides to spy on a lodge; or a woman accidentally overhears the proceedings of a lodge; in either case, she is discovered and the lodge decides that the best way to prevent her from spreading the secrets, is to initiate her so she has to swear an oath of secrecy. In most cases, that is as far as the woman comes. She does not regularly attend lodges, receive additional degrees or anything. In some cases there is more to say about the women though.

An interesting case in the book is Hannah Mather Crocker (1752-1829) who supposedly led an all-women lodge in 1778 (St. Ann’s Lodge in Boston, USA).
The most interesting story to me, was that of Lavinia Ellen “Vinnie” Ream Hoxie (1847–1914) who was the muse of the famous Freemason Albert Pike (1809-1891). Pike supposedly wanted to create a women’s Freemasonry based on the French lodges of adoption, but rewritten to be more Masonic. Pike’s Rite did not make it. Rob Morris (1818-1888) wrote a Rite for women himself (not based on the lodges of adoption) which became more popular and would eventually lead to the Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic-like organisation that women related to Freemasons can join.

“Haunted Chambers: The Lives of Early Women Freemasons” makes an alright read. Sometimes the author seems to try to fill her pages by giving a lot of biographical information that is not really interesting regarding the subject; biographical information about (grand)parents even. More amusing are cases in which the author rattled up old newspaper clippings, reports from Masonic journals, etc.

This book is not about the preamble of mixed Freemasonry. Marie Deraismes (1828-1894) is only mentioned in passing. Most of the women in this book did not ask to join and were granted to do so either; they were mostly ‘accidental Freemasons’ who were not really recognised as equal members. Is the fact that they knew (some of) the secrets of Freemasonry enough to call them “female Freemasons”? Some certainly were and those are the most interesting cases from this book. Kidd found only a handfull though.

Reading this book you will learn a thing or two about the early years of Freemasonry and the place of women in the society of that time.

2009 Cornerstone Book Publishers, isbn 1934935557

On Holy Ground: A History Of The Honorable Order Of American Co-Masonry – Karen Kidd (2011)

When I was reading Kidd’s book about women initiated into regular Freemasonry, I ran into the present title. On Holy Ground, as the title says, gives a history of the mixed gender Masonic order “The Honorable Order of American co-Masonry”. Actually, the book is more about Le Droit Humain in America, since “The Honorable Order of American co-Masonry” only exists since 1994 when the American Federation split off from the worldwide Le Droit Humain. Technically, perhaps, the Honorable Order is the same organisation and what is nowadays Le Droit Humain is the split-off. (Or alternally, both organisations sprang from the same source.)

Le Droit Humain is a mixed gender Masonic organisation that was founded in France in the last years of the 19th century. A lodge of the male-only organisation Grande Loge de France wanted to initiate women. This was (and is) a step too far for the Grande Loge, so the lodge broke off and started a new lodge which would later become the organisation Le Droit Humain.

Of course the book focusses on the USA, the homeland of the Honorable Order. After a general chapter, the book starts with Antoine Muzarelli, a French immigrant (with Italian roots) in America who was initiated in a lodge of the Grand Orient de France. This Grand Orient is liberal (and another organisation than the Grande Loge de France by the way), but at the time not so liberal that they could allow women to be initiated. Muzarelli founded a lodge in the USA under the Grand Orient de France, but when he heard of Le Droit Humain, he made contact with the founders in France and started to work to found LDH lodges in the USA instead. LDH was already growing to be a worldwide organisation (with a main seat in Paris), but Muzarelli negotiated a certain level of autonomy for his American branch. This branch grew steadily, but not without problems. Muzarelli also ran into counteractions of “malecraft” Masonry. Still the “American Federation of Human Rights” grew with ups and downs. Muzarelli proved not to be the best manager, but he certainly made a flying start.

Muzarelli’s successor was Louis Goaziou. Under the many years with Goaziou as head, the Federation grew further. Towards the end of Goaziou’s leadership, future problems started to arise. However all over the world, “co-Masonry” (a term of Muzarelli) was virtually taken over by Theosophy. Muzarelli himself had contact with Annie Besant who brought growth for Le Droit Humain in the rest of the world. In America things were quite the opposite. When in the rest of the world, the Theosophical influence started to wane with Theosophy itself, in America the influence grew. Goaziou tried to keep ‘the middle’, his followers would do less so. The growing influence of Theosophy brought friction, but the successive leaders navigated the order through all that. The Great Depression and two World Wars brought a massive drop in the numbers of members. As Theosophy had its own free fall in members, so did co-Masonry. Even though relatively autonomous, the American Federation had to go through ‘Paris’ for certain things. The leaders alternally were on good and on lesser terms with ‘Paris’. Things were not easy, but neither bad, until the 1990’ies, when ‘Paris’ decided to tighten the strings and made a decision contrary the proposal of the American Federation on the appointment of the new leader of the American Federation. This eventually lead to the American Federation breaking contacts with ‘Paris’ and go on on their own. A fraction split-off and continued as the American Federation of Le Droit Humain.

Kidd, a member of the Honorable Order, digged deep into the archives. The book has many photos, quotes from personal letters, circulars and magazines and anecdotes. Especially the first two leaders of the order are painted in detail which gives a very personal insight into these pioneering co-Masons. Later leaders are treated more shortly. There are not a whole lot, but still enough, references to Le Droit Humain in other parts of the world. Especially the WWII period gives an interesting peek into the troubles of Freemasonry on the European continent (such as the disappearance of the main seat in Paris). Shorter written about are the Federations in the Far East and Australia.
Even when your interest does not lay in the history of Le Droit Humain in the USA, this book could be a nice; even (or: also) when you have an interest in the history of mixed gender Freemasonry in general, this book is a good purchuse. Especially the first half with with lengthy descriptions of the pioneer days makes a good read.

2011 The Masonic Publishing Company, isbn 1613640056

Women’s Agency And Rituals In Mixed And Female Masonic Orders – Alexandra Heidl & Jan Snoek (editors) (2008)

This book is published by the Dutch academic publisher Brill and these books are always very expensive. The publisher sells the book for € 181,-, the Amazon prices start at $ 194,-. It seems that when you are affiliated to a University, you can get a cheap (€ 25,-) printing-on-demand through Brill.com/mybooks.

As the title suggests the book is about women in Freemasonry and similar orders. It is a collection of essays of a variety of authors. There are some very interesting texts in the book based on meticulous investigations, so it is too bad that these are only available to a specialist audience. Brill has many interesting titles, but you either have to dig deep into your pocket to buy it or to be lucky.

After a lengthy introduction by Jan Snoek, the first text is from the hands of Bärbel Raschke. Raschke writes about Masonic-like organisations that involved women in the early days of Freemasonry. He mostly looks at the well-documented case of Ordre des Hermites de bonne humeur (‘Order of the happy Hermits’) in Sachsen-Gotha (1739-1758). This was an organisation founded by an aristocratic woman who knew many early, German Freemasons. The author writes about the history and a bit about organisation and ritual.
Malcolm Davies wrote the next essay about a very early (1752) lodge of adoption in Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands. Lodges of adoption were lodges created for the women of Freemasons. They were mostly ‘Freemasonry-like’ with adapted rituals and under patronage of a male Mason. La Loge de Juste seems to have been more of a mixed gender lodge and for a short while it worked under the same Grand Master as the men-only organisation in the Netherlands. Scandals and financial problems brought the end of both the “regular” and adoption organisations. Eventually the (still existing) Dutch “regular” organisation (the Grand Orient of the Netherlands) would only be founded in 1756.
Probably the most controversial essay is of Andreas Önnerfors who wrote about plans to start a Maçonnerie des Dames (‘Ladies Masonry’) of the very conservative Strict Observance. Önnerfors found 57 pages with detailed plans (including rituals for five degrees) in the Masonic archives in Copenhagen, Denmark. Many of these pages are reprinted at the end of the article.
James Smith Allen describes how the rise of women’s rights movement in France ran parallel with the rise of mixed gender Freemasonry. Many persons can be found in both movements.
Anton van de Sande describes the discussion within the Grand Orient of the Netherlands about the admittance of women. A decision that was almost made (!) but when mixed gender Freemasonry reached the Netherlands, the point was put in the refrigerator.
Leaving Freemasonry Hendrik Bogdan presents his essay about women in the Golden Dawn.
The next text initially does not seem to be about women in Freemasonry. In an article translated from French Bernard Dat investigates the claims of Etienne Stretton that he was a high ranking member of an operative organisation in the early days of Freemasonry. At the end the role of women is shortly treated.
More women rights in the text of Ann Pilcher Dayton Freemasonry and Suffrage: The Manifestation of Social Conscience.
Andrew Prescott has a detailed biography of Annie Besant who was very important in the expansion of mixed gender Freemasonry. She was an extremely active and very versatile person.
The last text is a masters thesis investigation into the perception of the three different rites within the Dutch federation of Le Droit Humain by its members.

I always find it interesting to read about people swimming against the stream and this book makes it look like that quite some people did in the early days of Freemasonry. Apparently the major players ‘won’, because the subject about women in Freemasonry is as controversial today as it was in these days. More even. Most essays are about the periode 1700 up until 1800, but after that it took a century before actual mixed gender Freemasonry would be developed.

Indeed, an interesting book. Too bad it is not exactly easy (or cheap) to get.

2008 Brill, isbn 9004172394

A further look at a few chapters can be found on this website:

More light – Julian Rees & Darren Dorente-Bull (2017)

Rees_MoreLightI know Julian Rees for his beautiful book about tracing boards and now he published a new book about “Today’s Freemasonry for men and women” together with Darren Lorente-Bull. Rees has a bit of a name, because he went over from a “regular” United Grand Lodge of England lodge to a lodge of the mixed gender order Le Droit Humain. This British Federation of LDH is what this book is partly about.

The book is only 140 pages and the subjects dealt with vary from general information about Freemasonry (history, symbolism, what happens in a lodge, etc.) to a little bit of history of ‘modern’ Freemasonry and finally mixed-gender Freemasonry, the latter giving an idea of the past of the British Federation. Some pages are filled with lengthy quotes and even an entire “piece of architecture” (a lecture).

Nowhere the information is in much depth. In 10 pages there are 5 theories about the origins of Freemasonry, to give an example.

The little book seems to aim at reaching people who are unfamiliar with the subject of Freemasonry in general, giving the idea that there is more than the best-known variety. It does not say a whole lot about the way a mixed gender lodge works though.

“More light” makes a light read with here and there some information that was new to me (particularly about the British Federation of LDH). It may teach the hardly informed “profane” a little.

The authors claim that this is the first book about mixed gender Freemasonry in English, but of course there already was the book about “the Honorable order of American co-Masonry” (2006).