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Information for Inquirers about Freemasonry and Co-Freemasonry 

1. Information for Inquirers

2. The Nature of Freemasonry

3. Women in Freemasonry

4. A brief history of Co-Freemasonry

5. Masonic secrecy

6. Reasons for entering Freemasonry

7. Ceremonial and inner energies

8. Freemasonry and religion



What Is Freemasonry?

FREEMASONRY as we know it today has been in existence since the early eighteenth century, when four Masonic lodges in London united to form a Grand Lodge to charter new groups and coordinate their activities.

The system practiced by those lodges is called Speculative Masonry, as opposed to Operative Masonry, the craft of stonemasons. Freemasonry combines concepts from the building trade with a myth based on King Solomon's building of the holy temple in Jerusalem. It is thus a “system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” Freemasonry is not a religion but includes persons of all religious traditions, as well as those who have no religious affiliation.

Freemasonry looks farther back, however, through the Rosicrucians of the Renaissance, the guilds of cathedral builders in the Middle Ages, along with the Troubadours, Albigensians, and Templars, to the ancient Mysteries of Orpheus, Isis, and Eleusis. It has symbolic links with other similar initiatory orders throughout human history, being the chief modern form of the ancient Mysteries.


In its outer form, Freemasonry is an organization of persons for study, charitable and

social cooperation and betterment, and for mutual support. In its inner form, however, it

seeks, through the working of ancient rituals, to develop and integrate the individual

Freemason in a balanced way, to bring about an inner realization of the link we each have with the Life force of the universe, to form a working unit for the evolution of humanity as a whole, and generally to serve the well-being of the planet and our fellows.

Freemasonry has no doctrine. It is a system of symbols with implications for a way of living that leads to self-improvement through service to the world. As such, it is compatible with a variety of worldviews and religious or philosophical traditions, without being itself limited to any one of them. 

What Is Co-Freemasonry?

CO-FREEMASONRY started in France in the late nineteenth century to correct a flaw in the interpretation of the traditional “landmarks,” which are the fundamental principles, of Freemasonry. That flaw was the exclusion of women from the Order. Although women have long been admitted to Masonic practices in various ways, Co-Freemasonry is dedicated to complete equality between the sexes, as well as among all races and religions. In the early 1880’s a French lodge of masculine Freemasons determined to carry out Masonic principles of equality with consistency, and therefore initiated a woman. As a result of that act of conscience, a few years later a new lodge was formed in Paris, from which eventually developed several Orders of Freemasonry that admit men and women equally, as well as several all-women Orders.

The Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry is a twenty-first-century reform that

practices traditional Masonry, but with a conscious realization of its inner, esoteric,

psychological and spiritual significance as a contemporary expression of the Mysteries. It admits into its fellowship all properly prepared persons on equal footing, without distinction of race, religion, or sex.  🔝

Square and Compasses


Freemasonry is a design for living which, when followed, leads its initiates to a knowledge of their own inner divine nature and of their harmonious linkage with all life on the planet. It gives Freemasons a training that can eventually bring them to a gateway opening upon the Path that all human beings can walk to self-knowledge and to mutual support and Cooperation.

To achieve spiritual unfoldment on any path, the aspirant must earnestly seek after truth. All of us have the ability of realizing our inner potential, but like a seed planted in the soil, our potential has to be cared for and fostered before it can grow and bloom. Freemasonry provides a regimen of self-cultivation in the company of other aspirants to the Path. Freemasonry has its spiritual roots in the ancient Mysteries and is today the modern form of those mysteries. It is said to have been established on this planet by Great Ones, representatives of the universal and eternal Grand Lodge, who came to guide their younger brothers and sisters. Throughout the ages, Freemasonry has preserved the Ancient Wisdom of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, which might otherwise have been lost to humanity during periods of darkness. The symbols by which that Ancient Wisdom is expressed have varied with time and place, as civilizations have come and gone, but the fundamental design of the work and its great truths have remained unchanged. Modern Freemasonry is a treasury of spiritual values drawn from the Great Lodge above and following the Plan of the Great Architect.

Some Freemasons are unaware of the depth of their heritage and of the spiritual power

inherent in their ceremonies. They are satisfied with the ideal of brotherhood and the ethics and charitable work of Freemasonry. However, Bro. W. L. Wilmshurst, a noted authority in the masculine Order, has this to say about the nature of Freemasonry and its inner meaning:

“It proclaims the fact that there exists a higher and more secret path of life than that which we normally tread. When the outer world and its pursuits and rewards lose their

attractiveness for us, as sooner or later they will, we are compelled to turn back upon

ourselves, to seek and knock at the door of a world within. It is upon this inner world, and the path to and through it, that Freemasonry promises light, charts the way, and indicates the qualifications and conditions of progress.”

Co-Freemasonry adds two salient strengths to those shared by all Freemasonry. First, it is international, linking together people of various cultures in the shared task of building the spiritual temple of human unity. Second, it restores full Masonic privileges to women, and has thus taken an important step to restoring the spiritual splendor of the ancient Mysteries,

in which the participation of both men and women was an essential factor. The term “Co-Freemasonry” or “Co-Masonry” was adopted to distinguish the Order from exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine groups and to indicate that both men and women are admitted to membership on equal footing. These strengths of universality and equality are essential elements for all Masonic work.

In the Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry, the three Craft Degrees are worked, as well as Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and several Degrees of the York Rite. The term “Eastern” in its name refers to the symbolic East, the place of the rising Light, rather than to a geographical direction. That spiritual orientation is expressed in the motto of the Eastern Order: Ex Oriente Lux (Light from the East). 🔝

The Nature of Freemasonry


“The entry of women into Masonry, hand in hand with men, is full of the fairest augury for the future, for it will reknit the ancient tie between Masonry and the inner worlds, will reopen the ancient channels in which the water of life can flow, and shed once more the pure white light on all who pray for its bestowal. Masonry, thus restored and revived, will play a great part in preparing the world for the future, in proclaiming and popularizing the ideals necessary for its molding, in shaping the new order in which wisdom as authority shall wed with liberty, and ensure cooperation and progress. To this high end is Co-Masonry ordained.”


So stated Annie Besant 33°, former Grand Commander of the Eastern Federation of the

Co-Freemasonic Order, in reference to the full readmission of women to the Masonic Craft. The participation of women in Freemasonic work is not an innovation; it is simply the restoration of an ancient landmark or essential of Freemasonry. In the Mysteries of Egypt and Greece, women and men worked together on an equal footing. Only in comparatively recent centuries were women excluded from the mysteries and privileges of the ancient rites that have been reincarnated in modern times as Freemasonry.


When the first Grand Lodge of modern Freemasonry was organized in London in 1717 and subsequently adopted its constitution in 1723, it decided that women should not be admitted to membership, in keeping with the social customs and mores of that time. However, the position of women in the social, economic, educational, and governmental life of all nations has radically changed during the past several centuries. In almost every country, women have made substantial progress toward equal rights. The doors of institutions and professions previously closed to women have been opened wide, and nearly everywhere women are recognized as full citizens. It was only a matter of time before women would be admitted into full participation in Freemasonry, as in modern Co-Masonry. In time, the last vestiges of unjust discrimination will doubtless disappear and all Freemasonic activity, even that in now

exclusively masculine Orders, will come to be shared equally by women. Of this prospect, Bro. J. S. M. Ward, a member of an exclusively masculine Order, says:


“If in Freemasonry we possess valuable secrets and profound spiritual teaching, are we

justified in excluding from our temples large sections of the human race? . . . The question today, then, is not ‘Can women be trusted with Masonic secrets?’ for they have them. The question is whether it is just and wise to acknowledge their claims, as is being done in every walk of life, or whether we should continue to brand them as clandestine . . . whether we are acting justly in refusing our mothers, sisters, and wives . . . the spiritual and social help we ourselves derive from Freemasonry.”


The answer given by the Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry to Bro. Ward’s

question is clear and unambiguous. Justice, fairness, and the progress of Freemasonry require that women must have the same rights and privileges as men. Furthermore, Freemasonic work at its optimum strength and power requires that men and women should work together in complete equality within Freemasonry as they now do elsewhere in civilized societies. 🔝

Women in Freemasonry




During the latter half of the nineteenth century, several French Freemasons urged the

admission of women into Masonry. They claimed that the rules adopted in earlier centuries were obsolete and that rules governing the physical qualifications of candidates, based only upon the customs of a particular time and place, could and should be changed. They emphasized the educational advantages and the splendid preparation for citizenship to be derived from Masonic teaching.


In 1882 the concern for equality of the sexes resulted in the application of Marie Deraismes - a writer and lecturer on behalf of women’s rights - for membership in the Lodge Les Libres Penseurs (The Free Thinkers) at Le Pecq, near Paris. That lodge, working under the recently formed Symbolic Grand Lodge of France, asked for authorization to enter Mme. Deraismes. Being refused, the lodge withdrew from the French Grand Lodge and proceeded to carry out the initiation. Marie Deraismes was made a Mason in the presence of a large number of visitors. But French Freemasonry was not yet ready for such a forward step. Les Libres Penseurs lost its standing and became dormant.


In 1893, however, Dr. Georges Martin, a French Senator and strong feminist supporter,

began again. He had been present at the initiation of Marie Deraismes, and he knew Bro. Houbron, who had been The Master of Les Libres Penseurs at the time of Mme. Deraismes’s initiation. He persuaded these two, together with several other French Freemasons, to start a new organization open to men and women equally. The result was the formation of a new Grand Lodge devoted to the equality of the sexes, and that same year Worshipful Lodge Human Rights, Co-Masonry (La Respectable Loge Le Droit Humain, Maçonnerie Mixte) was opened in Paris. Sixteen other prominent French women were initiated, passed, and raised.


Annie Besant, an English woman who was a prominent champion of women’s rights,

especially for the poor and underprivileged, a leading figure in the Theosophical Society, and the first woman and only non-Indian to become President of the Indian National Congress, was initiated into the Co-Masonic Order in Paris. She returned to London and founded there the first Co-Masonic Lodge in the English-speaking world, consecrated on September 26, 1902. Soon, many other Lodges were started in Britain and, as Annie Besant traveled around the globe, her enthusiasm for and understanding of the inner side of Freemasonry spread to India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Americas, and other parts of the world, making Co-Masonry into an international body.


Annie Besant also restored to Co-Masonic practice certain traditional elements that had been omitted from the French workings, such as belief in a Supreme Divine Intelligence (God, by whatever name and under whatever image conceived), the presence of a Volume of Sacred Lore on which Obligations are taken, and the shared great principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. A version of the traditional Masonic ritual developed in India and known as the “Dharma Ritual” was adopted and became the basis for the rituals used around the world by Lodges that descend from her work. 


The Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry is directly descended from the Masonic Lodges founded as a result of Annie Besant’s pioneering work for Co-Masonry. It has fraternal relations with other independent Orders also derived from Annie Besant’s work, such as the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women in Great Britain. The term “Eastern” in its name, as noted elsewhere, refers not to geography but to the symbolic East, the place of the rising Light. It became an independent Co-Masonic Order dedicated to preserving the traditional ideals of Masonry restored by Annie Besant and to carrying on the work of Masonry as a spiritual discipline or form of Yoga: the Way of the Craftsman. 🔝

A Brief History of Co-Freemasony





The ancient Mysteries all observed a strict secrecy about their activities. For example,

although the Mysteries of Eleusis were practiced for more than a thousand years and had vast numbers of initiates, no historical record has been preserved of exactly what happened in those Mysteries. Several reasons have been proposed for the secrecy that surrounds the Mysteries and Freemasonry.


At various times in the history of the Mysteries, which are far older than recorded history, those in the Mystery Schools were persecuted by powerful, dogmatic, and often corrupt interests. For this reason, the neophytes of the Mysteries were forced underground so that they could safely practice their craft and pursue their goals of self-synthesis and the attainment of wisdom. Because they usually met in groups for mutual support, they needed secrecy to avoid discovery and persecution.


In medieval Europe, the operative stonemasons wanted to shield their craft from exploitation by incompetent workers, and they also invested the craft and tools of their trade with private symbolic, moral, and esoteric significance. They adopted secrecy to reinforce the symbolism of their craft and to ensure that intruders did not learn the skills of their trade. Eventually, the operative or practicing Masons admitted into their Lodges some gentlemen with an interest in architecture and symbolism. The art and craft of Masonry thus came to have a speculative form, using symbolic tools and Masonic terminology as guidelines for the development of the inner life, and the Masonic secrets became a way of talking about inner spiritual development.


Today, the secrecy of Freemasonry is primarily symbolic. Many experiences of life cannot be put into words that will communicate them to others. The experience of spiritual discovery, of awakening to the Reality within each of us, the experiences that Freemasonry is designed to evoke are beyond language. Those experiences are symbolized by the objects, actions, and legends of Freemasonry, but they cannot be

expressed adequately and directly in words. Masonic secrets are symbols of what cannot be expressed—the Masonic spiritual experience. Masonic secrets are symbolic substitutes for the real experiences that await the Freemason in the course of the inner initiations that are the real content of Masonry. 🔝

Masonic Secrecy






Individuals become Freemasons for many different reasons. Each Mason, no doubt, has a different reason or set of reasons for entering the Order, but, whatever their initial

motivations, all Freemasons share certain ideals and aspirations of fraternity, charity, and truth. In addition, all Co-Freemasons share a conviction about the equality of the sexes and members of the Eastern Order of International Co-Freemasonry place a particular emphasis on the inner, spiritual life of Freemasonry and on its application to living.


One reason for entering Masonry, and Co-Freemasonry more specifically, is to promote the world’s progress. It is a means for service to humanity. The energies generated by a meeting of a Co-Masonic lodge, when released at the end of the meeting, add a pure and powerful spiritual force to the inner planes for the benefit of any who are in need of it.

Another reason for entering Freemasonry is that it offers a method for the mastery of one’s emotional, mental, and spiritual nature.


The Co-Masonic system of self-discovery deals with the application of order, knowledge, strength, and symmetry to those aspects of one’s nature that are in a state of disharmony or confusion. It is a systematic, scientific approach to wholeness, indicated by the Masonic axiom "Ordo ab Chao"—order out of chaos. 🔝

Reasons for Entering Freemasonry




From one point of view, Freemasonry may be considered as a mystery. What we call a

mystery is, in fact, a science we do not yet understand. Television transmission or the World Wide Web would have been the most profound mystery to people three hundred years ago because they would not have understood the principles involved. Similarly, many people today do not understand the principles involved in certain natural forces, whose effects they call a mystery or beyond belief.


Masonic ritual is mystical in that sense. It is the control and use, through ceremonial

procedures, of higher energies for the benefit of humanity through the alleviation of the

world’s suffering and illusion (thus bringing order out of chaos).


“Freemasonry is a mystical system established in the dim ages of the past by those spiritual teachers who were the guides of our infant humanity, which remains today the chalice of the wisdom, unchanged in its inner potency, ever available to all who seek. The neophyte entering a Masonic lodge has this wonderful opportunity to find the ancient path, but that ‘door which gives upon the Infinite’ will open only for the candidate whose deepest longing is for spiritual understanding.”


Freemasonry is also a flowering of group consciousness and group interaction. Our human problems of selfishness, greed, prejudice, and violence can be cured only by a realization that we are all related to one another and are a single life energy in many different forms. That realization will come from new spiritual energies guiding the evolution of humanity. Group consciousness and interaction can be exercised in every sphere of human endeavor. The focus shifts from one individual to all of us sharing equally - a fundamental principle of Freemasonry.


The future of humanity is evident in a Co-Masonic lodge. In a well functioning Lodge,

harmony of purpose and devotion combine to form a perfect synthesis of cooperation. A new order of the ages (“novus ordo seclorum,” as the Great Seal of the United States calls it) is available to us, and Co-Masonry, a seedling in the spring of this new cycle, is an example of the way in which men and women can share their efforts to bring the new order to fruition through the “mysteries and privileges of ancient Freemasonry.” 🔝

Freemasonry and Religion




Modern Freemasonry began in the West, specifically in England, and therefore is Judeo-Christian in its background, and particularly Jewish in the symbolism of its Craft Degrees.


Despite that background, Freemasonry is neither restricted to nor identified with any one religion but has historically and assertively been free of both political and religious

alignments of any kind. People of any faith (or none specifically) are welcomed in a Masonic Lodge.”


However, Freemasonry is certainly not irreligious. Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), a Freemason and prolific author has commented on this in his book The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, in which he writes:


“Freemasonry, though not a religion, is essentially religious. Most of its legends and

allegories are of a sacred nature . . . . [In one of those legends, twelve] Fellow Craftsmen are exploring the four points of the compass. Are not these twelve the twelve great world religions, each seeking its own way for that which was lost in the ages past, and the quest of which is the birthright of man? . . . All who are attempting to gain mastery through constructive efforts are Masons at heart, regardless of religious sect or belief. . . .


Freemasonry is a philosophy that is essentially creedless. . . . The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal . . . . He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque, or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual Truth.”


The Eastern Order, in particular, has recognized the mutual relevance and respect between Freemasonry and all of the world’s great religions. 🔝

Ceremonial and Inner Energies
Info for Inquirers - Menu
1. Info for Inquirers
2. The Nature of Freemasonry
3. Women in Freemasonry
4. A brief history
5. Masonic secrecy
6. Reasons for entering
7. Ceremonial and inner
8. Freemasonry and religion
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