History of the Order
In 1882, Mlle. Maria Deraismes, a staunch worker for the welfare of humanity in general and women’s rights in particular, was initiated into Freemasonry in the Lodge Libres Penseurs ('Free Thinkers') under the jurisdiction of the Grande Loge Symbolique de France, in Pecq, a small town outside Paris. Thus began the important events that led up to the forming of the Order now known as the International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain.
In 1883 Dr. Georges Martin, physician and champion for equal rights for women and a high-ranking member of the Grande Loge Symbolique de France, having been unsuccessful in his attempts to form a Lodge for women under the French Grande Loge, approached Maria Desraimes with a view to starting a mixed Order for men and women. With his co-operation, a number of prominent women were initiated and a new mixed Lodge was founded in Paris with Dr. Georges Martin becoming an affiliate member. A Constitution was drawn up, under the title 'Grande Loge Symbolique Ecossaise Mixte de France', with one Lodge called Le Droit Humain and its activities restricted to Craft Masonry.
Dr. Georges Martin
It was in 1900 that the new Grande Loge was able, with the assistance of Georges Martin and sympathetic members of the Grande Loge Symbolique de France, to establish the rest of the full thirty-three degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
A governing body, the Supreme Council, was established to administer the Order and ensure the preservation of the Constitution. Maria Desraimes was elected the first Grande Maîtresse and President of the Supreme Council. A number of well-known women in the international field of service to humanity were initiated into the Order.
At this time Dr. Annie Besant, an Englishwoman and prominent champion of women’s rights, the poor and the under-privileged, felt that Masonry should be open to men and women, and on learning about the mixed Lodge in Paris she applied to be initiated. Recognising the international potential of the Order, she obtained permission to form a mixed Lodge in Great Britain. A Co-Masonic Lodge was consecrated on 26th September 1902 in London, by the Officers of the Supreme Council from Paris and given the title Lodge Human Duty No. 6, of which Dr. Besant was the first ruler.
Dr. Annie Besant
While the international headquarters of the Order remained under the Supreme Council in Paris, the work in this country flourished, and many men, in sympathy with the principle of equality for women, joined the Order. The principles, rituals, and traditions of the Order are those of the Scottish Constitution of 1786, revised and agreed by the national Supreme Councils of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite at Lausanne in 1876.
The International Order of Freemasonry is a fraternal Brotherhood having Federations throughout the world. In some countries where there is no Federation, Lodges meet in isolated places, but always with the same principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth. The Order has its headquarters in Paris. Every country works the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, from the 1st to the 33rd degree.
The Order is administered by a Supreme Council, although within the International Constitution Federations have the freedom of self-governance. It is recognised by other Orders in many countries throughout the world that maintain the same principles. There are some Masonic bodies that admit men only and do not recognise any Orders of Freemasonry that admit women. The government of the British Federation is vested in the Representative of the Supreme Council, known as the Most Puissant Grand Commander, who holds the 33rd and highest degree of the Order. Lodges work different rituals and these are explained before entry in order to ensure that individuals’ wishes are met.
The purpose of the Order is to provide a means by which its members, through the study of masonic symbolism and tradition, may seek truth and apprehend reality, promote brotherhood and work in the service of humanity. In the pursuit of these aims members have complete freedom of interpretation; to secure this freedom, the practice of tolerance and understanding is enjoined.
The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain, whilst preserving the ancient traditions of Freemasonry, is nevertheless forward-looking and provides an important link between all the countries of the world. It allows each Federation to pursue the glories of its masonic past and to face the exciting developments and challenges of the future, working together for the benefit of humanity.
We are a liberal, non-dogmatic Order admitting men and women equally, irrespective of ethnic or social origin and irrespective of religious, political or philosophical persuasion. We follow a secular, esoteric spiritual path not adhering to any particular religious creed. We are a truly international Order following an initiatic tradition from the first to the thirty-third degree.
History of the British Federation
The British Federation of what was then known as Maçonnerie Mixte Internationale was officially founded in London on the 26th September 1902 with the inauguration of the premier Lodge Human Duty No. 6.
For the events leading to this inauguration, we may note that the first Englishwoman to join our Order was Mrs. Maria Martin who was initiated in France. English by birth but a naturalised French citizen by her marriage to a Frenchman, she was a sister of Miss Francesca Arundale, a close friend and co-worker of Mrs. Annie Besant through whom the Order in Britain was started and established. A leading worker and lecturer for the Theosophical Society and a brilliant orator, Annie Besant was already noted for her efforts to reform many of the social abuses which affected women and children in the nineteenth century and for her ardent support of the feminist cause. She was a passionate idealist, dedicating her brilliant talents to all such progressive causes. In 1902 she became convinced of the value of a system of Masonry that admitted men and women on an equal footing. Annie Besant was involved with the Theosophical Society and was very active in spreading Le Droit Humain worldwide.
Miss Francesca Arundale had become a member of Le Droit Humain in 1895 in a Lodge in Europe and was thus able \to give Annie Besant information concerning this mixed Order. As a result, Mrs. Besant together with five friends and Francesca Arundale travelled to Paris where six non-masons were admitted to the Order in the three Craft Degrees \on the 27th July 1902.
On their return to England, these masons held a Provisional Lodge at which the founding members – Annie Besant, Francesca Arundale, her nephew, George Arundale, Ursula and Esther Bright, W.B. Lauder and his wife Eveline, decided to submit a Petition to the Supreme Council to found a Lodge in London. It was not long before official sanction (together with a Provisional Warrant enabling them to work until such time as the inauguration ceremony could be arranged) arrived from Paris signed by Maria Martin who was the Head Secretary of the Order.
Seven more Brethren were obligated, initiated, passed, and raised in the three Craft Degrees on the 20th August
1902 under the special powers vested in Francesca Arundale for the purpose of inaugurating the new Lodge.
Further initiations took place on the 4th of September and on the 22nd of that month a special delegation came
over from Paris to make preparations for the Inauguration of the Lodge and the Investiture of the Officers which
was to take place on the 26th September 1902.
On this date a Provisional Lodge was opened according to the usage of the Scottish Rite at the Temple, 24
Albemarle Street, London by Annie Besant assisted by the provisional Officers of the new Lodge to be named
Human Duty No. 6.
The Grand Master of the Order, Marie Georges Martin 33° with four members of the Supreme Council including
Dr. Georges Martin Grand Orator, Maria Martin Grand Secretary together with six other delegates from the French Federation, were received with full ceremonial honours. The Grand Master received the Gavel and took over the rulership of the Lodge, the other members of the Delegation assuming the other offices. After the initiation of four candidates and addresses by the Grand Master and the Grand Orator, the ceremony of the Inauguration of the Lodge took place and this was followed by the Installation of Annie Besant as Right Worshipful Master and the Investiture
of the Officers. So the premier Lodge of the British Federation was born.
Address by Francesca Arundale
To learn more about the history of the British Federation, here is the Address delivered by Francesca Arundale 33⁰,
at the Joint Meeting of the four London Lodges, on Friday, May 21st, 1915 - Available here
Why join us?
Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is a membership based on religious beliefs; it is a fraternal organisation based on free-thinking, harmony and balance, tolerance and equality, admitting men and women equally.
The International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women Le Droit Humain provides a path for personal spiritual growth; holds the keys to ancient secrets and mysteries; develops the mind, body, and spirit; helps to connect us with who we really are – the real 'me'.
The keys are experienced through a series of dramas and rituals designed to open up and deepen our awareness and understanding of the more hidden aspects of life.