What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a Fraternal organization that may trace its origins to the organization of medieval Stone masonry. Early organizational forms included "lodges," incorporation, and Craft Guilds. Early Freemasonry based on craft labour is known as Operative Freemasonry, while the modern, more philosophical form of Freemasonry is known as Speculative Freemasonry.
Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million world wide. The fraternity is administratively organized into independent Grand Lodges (or sometimes Grand Orients), each of which governs its own Masonic jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges.
The largest single jurisdiction, in terms of membership, is the United Grand Lodge of England with a membership estimated at around a quarter million. The Grand Lodge of Scotland and Grand Lodge of Ireland (taken together) have approximately 150,000 members.
In the United States, the Fraternity is divided between fifty-one Grand Lodges (one for each State, plus Washington DC), which taken together have a total membership of just under two million.
Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join. For some, it's about making new friends and acquaintances. For others it's about being able to help deserving causes -- making a contribution to family and society. For most....... it is an enjoyable hobby.
Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organizations. It teaches self-knowledge through participation in a progression of ceremonies. Members are expected to be of high moral standing and are encouraged to speak openly about Freemasonry. For many, its biggest draw is the fact that members come from all walks of life and meet as equals whatever their race, religion or socioeconomic position in society.
Freemasonry is a society of men and in some countries, in separate Lodges, a society of women, who are interested in universal moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its principles (moral lessons and self-knowledge) by a series of ritual dramas -- a progression of allegorical two-part plays which are learnt by heart and performed within each Lodge -- which follow ancient forms, and use stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides.
Freemasonry instills in its members a moral and ethical approach to life: a mason's values are based on integrity, kindness, honesty and fairness. Members are urged to regard the interests of the family as paramount but, importantly, Freemasonry also teaches moral development through concern for people, care for the less fortunate and help for those in need.
The General Assembly of the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland has adopted the following declaration with respect to Feminine Freemasonry in Switzerland as of 6th June 2009.
In Consideration of the following Conclusions
For quite a period of time and parallel to the GLSA, other Masonic organizations exist in Switzerland which do not work in a regular manner in line with the wording of our Constitution.
As far as we can ascertain, apart from the fact that they admit women, feminine lodges practice a standard which would be close to the regularity according to the GLSA definition.
The existence of these organizations has been documented by the GLSA, e.g. in articles about feminine freemasonry in the “Handbuch des Freimaurers”, published in 1999, as well as in articles on feminine freemasonry on the GLSA website.
At various locations in Switzerland, collaboration has been established at Lodge level in the fields of charity, conferences as well as public events and for the mutual use of infrastructure.
The Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland resolves as follows
It acknowledges the existence of feminine freemasonry in Switzerland, with which however it does not have any formal relations, and with which visiting and the exchange of friendship ambassadors are excluded.
It supports regular and informal contacts between GLSA and the Women's Grand Lodge of Switzerland at the Executive Grand Lodge level and considers these to have a positive impact on freemansonry in Switzerland.
It is open as to non-ritual contacts between GLSA lodges and feminine lodges for the purpose of collaboration in social, humanitarian, cultural and other reasonable fields.