The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain has been implanted in the United Kingdom since 1902 and is today the standard-bearer of the Order in this country.
With its continental cousins it shares a rich strand of liberal, non-dogmatic Freemasonry which has come to be practised and respected worldwide.
It seems to be generally accepted that organised all-male Freemasonry originated in the British Isles in the early eighteenth century, and it is also true that it has progressed largely unchanged since that time. Continental Freemasonry was an offshoot of this, but in France particularly it evolved in a markedly different way.
British Freemasonry seems to have had a distinct philanthropic flavour to it at the beginning, whilst at the same time evoking an affiliation with the Gresham College principles of divinity, law, astronomy, music, geometry, rhetoric and physics.
Continental Freemasonry tended to lay stress on moral, esoteric and spiritual matters and we know from eighteenth century records that in Britain too Freemasonry was very much more inclined towards inner work in the individual than it was towards political, civic or philanthropic pursuits. We have only to consider the writings of William Preston or the content of the Emulation lectures, where we meet with such evidence:
On what ground do our Lodges stand? Holy ground.
Why on Holy Ground?
Because the first Lodge was consecrated.
How are our Lodges situated?
Due East and West.
Because all places of Divine worship, as well as Masons’ regular, well-formed, constituted Lodges are or ought to be so situated.
So it is clear that Freemasonry is a secular spiritual pursuit, although owing nothing to any particular religion, and this has underpinned the development of Freemasonry since the eighteenth century, notwithstanding occasional forays into political debate on the part of some Grand Lodges.
Maria Deraismes and Georges Martin
IMAGE CREDIT: Le Droit Humain
But in 1882 Maria Deraismes was initiated in the Lodge ‘Les Libres Penseurs’ (The Free Thinkers) and not long after that, in 1893 she founded, with Georges Martin, La Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise de France, known since that time by its short title Le Droit Humain.
So what the world knows by the name of Co-Freemasonry is today the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain.
IMAGE CREDIT: Le Droit Humain
Instrumental in the founding of Le Droit Humain as an International Order was the Englishwoman Annie Besant, who was initiated in Paris in 1902. In that same year the Order was implanted in England, Besant being the Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Human Duty No. 6.
The basic precept of the Order is that one can hardly erect a structure to the perfection of humanity in excluding half of that humanity, namely women, and it is true that in practice, debate and discussion of matters of an esoteric and spiritual nature are greatly enriched by the common expression of masculine and feminine viewpoints. And it is in its pursuit of esoteric and spiritual freemasonry that Le Droit Humain becomes distinguished from other forms of mono-gender Freemasonry.
In the United Kingdom, the British Federation of Le Droit Humain has its headquarters in Surbiton in Surrey. The Order follows the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite system of 33 degrees.
Its initiation ceremony, though in its basic form having parallels with other masonic initiation ceremonies, has evidence of more esoteric influences, such as the presentation of the candidate to the elementals of earth, air, fire and water.
There is a greater importance placed on education – a candidate will only be permitted to advance from one degree to the next after a considerable period of instruction and learning, proving him or herself to be proficient in the principles of the degree and having learned the words of some passages of the degree by heart.
The Order recognises all regularly-constituted Grand Lodges and masonic bodies, and is itself reciprocally recognised by them with the exception of the United Grand Lodge of England. In consequence, while members of Le Droit Humain may not visit UGLE Lodges, their Brethren are always welcome to visit Droit Humain.
In sum, the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women affirms that Freemasonry is a dynamic pursuit, not static; it is liberal and non-dogmatic; it is an enlightening pursuit; it unites persons of very disparate backgrounds and cultures; it aims to open up one’s understanding of what is really important in life. It is indeed a way of ‘seeing in a different light’.
Article by: Julian Rees
Julian Rees was initiated into Freemasonry in 1968 in Kirby Lodge No. 2818, London and was Master in 1976/77 and again at the centenary of the Lodge in 1999/2000. He joined many other UGLE Lodges.
He has been a regular contributor to Freemasonry Today since its founding in 1997 and from 2003 to 2007 he was Deputy and News Editor.
He was appointed active Junior Grand Deacon in the United Grand Lodge of England in 2007. In 2011 he left UGLE and joined the International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain. He remains a well-published and respected Masonic author.
web site: www.julianrees.com
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