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Declaration of The Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women

Annie Besant brought Freemasonry for Men and Women to England in 1902 after she had been initiated in Paris in a Lodge of 'Mixte Masonry' in an Order called Le Droit Humain. It seemed to Annie Besant, that Masonry had something to add to her spiritual progress. As a member of the Theosophical Society, she recognised that Freemasonry would attract men and women from all walks of life, who wished to work together to serve humanity through Freemasonry.

A Co-Masonic Lodge was Consecrated on 26th September 1902 in London and was given the title Lodge Human Duty No. 6. of which Dr. Besant was the first ruler.

In London she soon found that she and the English Masons who joined Human Duty Lodge which she had established, were unhappy about the French approach in Freemasonry, which did not recognise the importance of God or a belief in a Supreme Being in their Ceremonial work.

Early in the last century, Annie Besant discussed these differences with the Supreme Council in Paris, which had been formed in 1899.  She requested that Co-Masonry in England should abide by that important Landmark of Freemasonry, which required all Candidates for Freemasonry to hold a belief in God or a Supreme Being, and that this  belief  in God must be central to the rituals they used.

In 1904, the Dharma Ritual  was published in which the Supreme Being or God was firmly established as essential to the Ceremonies in that Ritual. This Ritual was  revised and expanded in 1916 and has been revised again by our Order to suit the years of the Millennium.  

In 1925, speaking in Kensington to a Theosophical audience, Dr. Besant expressed her differences with the French approach, and summarised the agreements that had been made with earlier Supreme Councils as follows:

‘If (Masonry) is really anything, it is a presentment by symbol and by legend of the great fundamental truths of human life and human evolution;  and therefore, just as in the great Mysteries – of which its forms are really the vessels surviving – no distinction of sex is permitted; and because of that act in what we call Co-Masonry, it came into the position of being a possible instrument for helping in the evolution of mankind …. into the really  Universal Brotherhood which it   proclaims.   The difficulty in the French Masonry, where this movement, Le Droit Humain originated, was that they left out that universal landmark of Masonry, the recognition of the Great Architect of the Universe.  But when some of us here, Theosophists, became Masons, taking our Initiations, as we had to, from France, we said quite frankly that we could do nothing (with Freemasonry ) in England unless that great landmark was restored,  as we believed in the Existence (of God).  As they were willing to accept us believing in Him, it was necessary that we should be given perfect freedom to use His name in our Rituals and to acknowledge His Power in our workings. So that, in this respect, English Freemasonry differs from the French - certainly so far as we are concerned, we follow the English usage and not that of the French’.

This Annie Besant ‘Concord’ was extended to all Anglo-Saxon Countries in which Annie Besant started Co-Freemasonry and it converted the Order from a Francophone organisation to an International body.

This basic information is meaningful to those, the Founders of this Order, who agreed that Masonry must retain the Landmark of an essential belief in God, a Supreme Being, to qualify for Membership in Freemasonry as we have all Obligated ourselves to do. Our Lodges are solemnly Consecrated, Constituted and Warranted according to ancient custom.

Freemasons who follow the Besant tradition of Freemasonry, which affirms the ancient landmark of a Supreme Being, believe that Freemasonry is a modern form of the Ancient Mysteries devoted to sacred rather than secular causes, and which values the autonomy of varied traditions within a brotherly unity of mutual respect.

A number of Senior Freemasons inaugurated this Order to maintain the essential Landmarks.  On February 18th 2001 the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women was Consecrated, Constituted and Warranted to ensure that the Landmarks of Ancient Freemasonry and the Concord that Annie Besant negotiated for Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry was maintained. Today this New Order proudly carries the inheritance she worked so hard to give to future generations. This inheritance commenced in 1902 when she said ‘a Masonic movement open to men and women alike could be made a powerful influence for good in the world’ and through her influence the interest of mixed masonry spread rapidly to many countries.

The essential requirement of a belief in a Supreme Being and the use of the V.S.L. writings of the great religions is the most important Landmark of Ancient Freemasonry. Without this, Masonic rituals, as we all know them, become useless literature without a spiritual aim.

The history of Freemasonry is handed down to each one of us, in its ancient form of mystery and symbolism. We are its inheritors and must maintain its tenets and principles not only in our hearts and minds, but in our Masonic Order.  This new Order the ‘Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women’ carries out these principles as do the United Grand Lodge of England and also the Women’s Orders in this Country. We have therefore initiated the Order along similar lines of organisation.

This Order, however, will not proclaim Brotherly Love simply in the abstract or as a desirable principle, but will prevail on every member to show to each other Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, in all their dealings. Brethren of this Order will pledge themselves to act, in their relations with each other, with Tolerance, Understanding and Humility.  This is an impressive pledge for each one of us to undertake in our Masonic life.  The term Co-Masons is today a misunderstood title and therefore we consider and acknowledge all members to be ‘Freemasons’.

We must show our respects to the Great Institutions of Freemasonry which have survived and continued throughout the centuries.  In this Order we provide the opportunity to study and to work in the Craft Degrees.

We declare to maintain the tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth alongside all recognised Orders of Freemasonry.  To hold fast to the Landmarks and principles so well known to all good men and women. Thus we will show the World that we are faithful to the Perennial Landmarks of symbolism and the Ancient Mysteries of Freemasonry.

Every member in this Order is required to express a belief in a Supreme Being or their respective God. All recognised true Freemasons have a special name for the Supreme Being – in the Craft it is ‘The Great Architect of the Universe’. In each additional or higher degrees the Supreme Being is given a name suitable to the degrees, which is learnt as we progress.

This Grand Lodge will be composed of a Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Assistant Grand Master and all other Officers, some of whom will be Master Masons. Our term of Office for all Grand Officers will generally be for three years.  The Craft is the most important of the Masonic degrees which is governed by a Board of General Purposes. The higher degrees are housed under the title ‘The Grand Conclave’ which is governed and administered by the Supreme Council.

As a direct result we will be able to engage the energy and knowledge of younger members much earlier than waiting for them to gain the highest degrees.  This will also bring wider consensus and new ideas in place of the old autocratic administration, based purely on rank.  We believe this will unleash the bonds that restrained growth and the appeal of Freemasonry to new members.

This is the Declaration of the Grand Lodge of Freemasonry for Men and Women revised in the year Era Vulgaris 2007.