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Freemasonry upon the terrestial globe

Freemasonry around the world is governed by either mutual or one sided recognition or exclusion between Grand Lodges (GLs) and Grand Orients. Some of these Grand Lodges have effectively formed confederations of GLs, others have not, and of these confederations, some are formalised into registered associations (or the like), and others are loose 'meetings' of mutually approved GL delegates.

This can at times be quite confusing, as the lack of an easily identifiable association or confederation to which a GL is effectively part appears opaque (unless one already understands how this works!). Except for confederations clearly listed (and even named), such as CLIPSAS, cross-listings on GL lists of recognition can be a rather tedious process of cross-reference.

Since I mentioned CLIPSAS, it is worth also noting a number of other 'confederations' of GLs:

  • CLIPSAS — Centre de Liaison et d'Information des Puissances Maçonnique Signataires de l'Appel de Strasbourg
  • SIMPA — Secrétariat international Maçonnique des Puissances Adogmatiques
  • CATENA — International Masonic Union Catena [Latin for 'chain']
  • CGMNA — Conference of Grand Masters of North America

It should also be noted that in some ways, LDH – Le Droit Humain – International Co-Freemasonry, has itself evolved into an international confederation of regional 'GLs' (or localised federations)

Even so, it is to be noted that even these GL groups are not clearly in fully delineated blocks of mutual recognition, and that each GL even within each confederation may or may not recognise a GL (especially one outside the grouping). The diagramme that follows may give some further idea as to what at times occurs, with each circle representing an effective confederation (whether or not formalised), and each letter a GL.

Grand Lodges Venn Diagramme

For example, let A represent UGLE (England), B represent GOI (Italy), and C represent UGLV (Victoria, Australia). Here it can be seen that C Lodges (operating under UGLV) enjoy recognition, and in turn recognise, both UGLE and GOI, but that this is not the case between A and B (UGLE and GOI).

The diagramme is itself, however, not quite suitable, for not all recognition is mutual! In the example given above, though UGLE (A) excludes GOI (B), the converse is not the case.

As another example, E, representing LDH — Droit Humain Co-Masonry International — recognises each of the three mentioned above (A, B and C, i.e., UGLE, UGLV, and GOI), without the recognition being reciprocated. E, i.e. LDH, is of course recognised by other GLs, such as the GOdF (Grand Orient de France) amongst numerous other GLs.

Roughly (very roughly), such is the current international situation with regards to mutual recognition.

Part of the difficulties inherent in inter-GL recognition stems from a decision taken in the early parts of the 20th century (between WWI and WWII) by UGLE. The decision reflects the mindset of not only the times, but has also, alas, had further closed-minded ramifications, resulting in a Freemasonry focussed more on its increasing 'legalese' than its impulse. For those interested, the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition adopted by UGLE in 1929 are also addressed in my page: Mutual Recognition Principles revisited.


List of Grand Lodges around the world

My List of Grand Lodges is not a page I regularly update, but rather do so at periodic interval or when the occasion suits. I would encourage anyone looking at that page to perhaps also check out Masonwiki pages for similar information. I would personally like to think that my own page will at some stage become obsolete in terms of being an attempt to list all GLs. Given the current bigotry that also exists, however, I doubt that any publically editable pages will replace my and others' 'private' listings, the former overlooking or purposefully excluding some genuine Masonic GLs. I explain what I consider genuine in the main page on Freemasonry.

I have decided to either include or exclude some GLs either consciously, or by error. A different person may have had different unstated criteria for listing the same.

As an example, I do not include the so-called 'self-initiation' into Freemasonry by a group located in the USA selling a small monograph with the ritual - these can be bought, in any case, in numerous places. Freemasonry operates in Lodges, and initiation takes place in such. Nor do I include Reuss's various derivative OTO Lodges as Masonic, even though some OTO constitutions incorporate a version of the first three degrees within their work.


Characteristics of Various Grand Lodges

There are various ways by which to group Grand Lodges or Grand Orients. As mentioned above, listings that seek to group according to systems of 'amity' does not work, simply because the recognition is often neither necessarily transitive nor reciprocated.

The list below tables the variety that seems to be of dominant importance for many Freemasons.

Belief requirement Christian Supreme Being Liberal or Laïc  
Gender requirement Masculine only Feminine only Co-Masonic  
Degrees included 3 (+HRA) 33 (AA) 90+ (MM) other: (for eg) 7 or 10

Even here, however, the situation is not quite as clear-cut as may be expected. There are some constitutions that restrict their membership to, for example, men only, but who are in 'amity' with Co-Masonry and accept visitations from its members, irrespective of gender. Such is the case with one of the French Libertarian Memphis-Misraïm GL, working 90+ degrees that itself restricts its membership to men, but accepts visits from men and women from the LDH Co-Masonic GL that works 33 degrees.

There is also a further distinction to be made in that many Ancient and Accepted ('Ecossais' or 'Scottish') Constitutions work as 'appendant' body to a 3-degree based GL. In fact, in the USA in particular, this has given rise to two mirroring 'appendant' bodies: on the one hand the Ancient and Accepted 'Scottish' rite of 33 degrees, and a group of other appendant Masonic bodies organised sequentially and deemed 'York' rite (which in most other places are worked as separate and independent rites). The only equivalence that comes to mind are the various attempts at unifying in some form or other Masonic ritual, such as the (Christian-restricted) grades incorporating the first three as well as Knight Templar (which in other places is independent) within a multi-graded structure in Scandinavian countries (generally referred to as the 'Swedish Rite').

It is nevertheless fair to state that at the time of this writing, by far the vast majority of GLs across the world (but not in all nations) require belief in a Supreme Being, are exclusive to men, and work three degrees (+HRA).

My own ideal is Laïc and Liberal (leaving the choice of one's belief to individual conscience), is gender inclusive (as for the vote, gender exclusivity has no place in our modern day and age, and there are no masonically valid reasons for doing so) and works the 90+ degrees of Memphis-Misraïm (or its conceptual equivalent). In other words, I favour Lodges and orientations that are inclusive of all aspects of Freemasonry, rather than those that perpetuate divisions or exclusions on what are essentially non-Masonic grounds.

To paraphrase a German Masonic Handbook from circa 1900,

Freemasonry is the activity of closely united people who, employing symbolic forms borrowed principally from the mason's trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby bring about a universal league of humanity.

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