Birth of Modern Freemasonry
Among the Western initiatic Traditions, Freemasonry is one of the best known. It is strange today to say that this amazing organization was founded in 1777 in an English pub, but this is true!
Of course, it was a formalization of groups that preexisted. However, it is from this moment that the legend really begins. Simple rituals were used at this time, along with signs and secret words. Progressively, a third degree was added to the two original ones, then 30 degrees more, then 95 Egyptian degrees more, and so on.
The two branches
Modern Freemasonry can be divided into two large branches.
The First Branch
The first branch of Freemasons is the largest all around the world. This is the group of Grand Lodges that are validated by the United Grand Lodge of England. They have specific requirements and landmarks that are shared by all of these Lodges and Grand Lodges. Among these rules, a few have been sources of numerous conflicts through the years. They are still applied even with some minor adaptations in some countries. Among these rules, the most significant are the following:
Landmark 18th: the candidate shall be a man unmutilated, free born, and of mature age. That is to say, a woman, a cripple, or a slave, or one born in slavery, is disqualified for initiation into the rites of Freemasonry.
Landmark 19th: A belief in the existence of God as the Grand Architect of the Universe is one of the most important Landmarks of the Order. It has been always deemed essential that a denial of the existence of a Supreme and Superintending Power is an absolute disqualification for initiation.
This first branch of Freemasons calls itself “Regular Masons” and considers the second branch as “illegal” or “clandestine.” These words mean that it is officially unlawful to meet, talk or assemble with a Mason of the second branch.
The Second Branch
The second branch of Freemasons is also present all around the world, even if the number of initiates is significantly less than the first family. They are also organized in Grand Lodges. The requirements are sometimes different, but sometimes the same as the first group. Women can be initiated in most of these organizations. This is the branch which is declared “clandestine” by the first one.
Progressively, three main orientations appeared in this second Masonic branch and they can be defined as: Conservative Freemasonry, Liberal Freemasonry, and Esoteric Freemasonry. Understanding these differences will give you good insight into this very important part of the Masonic world.
The Egyptian Freemasonry practiced by our Masonic Order can be placed in the third orientation, “Esoteric Freemasonry.”
It is well known that every spiritual or religious tradition has two sides: exoteric and esoteric. The first, exoteric, is the visible aspect. It contains all aspects related to society and humankind. Contemporary Freemasonry teaches morals standards through an interesting symbolic ritual. Initiations are used as rites of passage. The goal is to help us to become better, to improve our understanding of brotherhood in regard to humankind. At the same time, Freemasonry is very involved in philanthropy. All these goals are noble and worth following!
The second side, esoteric, is more focused on spirituality and inner development by the specific use of tools. This aspect is the main focus of our Masonic Organization.
In Europe, the interest in esotericism goes back to the earliest years of Freemasonry. Initiates, eager to go deeper in their understanding of the heart and origins of initiations, created several new degrees. They were used in small groups of initiates. Several aspects of the Egyptian and Greek ancient Mysteries were enacted in rituals and initiations. The names “Memphis” and “Misraïm” became famous in this regard.
What is less known around the world is that initiates who were interested in ancient Mediterranean initiations and religions created these rituals to explore the spiritual world. Of course, we can talk about various kinds of esoteric rituals in Freemasonry. However, Egyptian rituals, which became known as “Egyptian Freemasonry,” made esotericism its expertise. Among these organizations, the Sacred Order of the Sophisians was one of the first to reenact the sacred rituals of Isis under the shape of Freemasonry.
Notion of Masonic Central Authority in "Regular Freemasonry"
It is often claimed that there is no central body in what is called “Regular Freemasonry” to oversee all the Grand Lodges in the world (nor, indeed, all of Freemasonry). This claim is extended to countries based on a federal government such as the USA, Canada, or Brazil. While partly true, the claim is misleading. In fact, there is a Conference of the Grand Masters. A commission on information for recognition provides to the Grand Masters the list of Grand Lodges which are validated as “regular” according to the English standards.
The latter are defined and “imposed” by the “United Grand Lodge of England.” Consequently, all the Grand Lodges of “regular Freemasonry” receive a validation from the “United Grand Lodge of England” (U.G.L.E.). This recognition makes the Grand Lodges and consequently their Lodges “regular.” It is true that there is no real interference by the UGLE on the National Grand Lodges; however, the UGLE provides the Masonic Standards which every Grand Lodge must follow. If there is a doubt, the UGLE creates a commission to investigate the Grand Lodge operating in a country other than the UK. If one of them does not comply, this grand Lodge is disqualified from this English recognition. Most of the “regular Grand Lodges” want to keep their statutes.
In conclusion, they are not free, but must follow the central decisions from England. The UGLE defines the main principles that each Grand Lodge must follow to keep its statutes, which is a way to control them, as any central authority would do.
As you may understand, our "Grand Lodge of Ancient Egyptian Freemasons" follows the European original Masonic tradition and does not abdicate its freedom in favor of this central English power. This is what the Founding Fathers of America did for their country, allowing a new country to be built, based on progressive ideals.