Mixed gender Freemasonry (in the Netherlands)

Farwerck’s Freemasonry is spoken about on this website (and elsewhere) frequently. Time for a little more in depth information. Let me start with a bird’s eye view of mixed gender Freemasonry (or co-Masonry) and how it came to the Netherlands. Then we are going to have a look at Farwerck’s place in all this.

Freemasonry is traditionally a men’s thing, but towards the end of the 19th century some people started to do more to change that than just talk. A French lodge initiated a woman in 1882, Maria Deraismes (1828-1894). Even though the lodge that did this was already quite liberal, the Grand Lodge they worked under did not agree. Deraismes and Georges Martin (1844-1916) decided to start a new Masonic organisation, open for both men and women, the Grande Loge Symbolique Écossaise “Le Droit Humain” in 1893,

This symbolic Scottish Grand Lodge would eventually become “The International Order of Freemasonry Le Droit Humain”, LDH for short.

For LDH, especially Martin (Deraismes passed away not too long after the foundation) wanted to fix two problems he had with Freemasonry: the absence of the woman and the presence of the Bible. In a ‘tradition’ that had been growing for some time in France (but it started in Belgium) in which the reference to a ‘higher being’ and the Bible as ‘book of holy wisdom’ (or ‘book of sacred law’) were made optional, Martin simply wrote them out of the rituals that he created based on those of his former lodge.

Initially things seem to work out just fine for LDH. New members joined, mostly women, new lodges were founded. After a few years it became clear that this new form of Freemasonry didn’t really gain foothold outside of France and the growth within France started to slow down considerably.

In the same period Annie Besant (1847-1933) helmed the international Theosophical Society and she sensed a growing longing among its members for a less theoretical side of the society. People were looking for rituals, initiations even. Besant had heard of Le Droit Humain and contacted Georges Martin.

Both soon realised that they could help each other. Besant had a massive network and headed a society which at the time had many, many members, so Martin was enthusiastic. Besant had serious problems with one half of Martin’s project. She only wanted to cooperate if she could write rituals which did include references to God and use a Bible like in traditional Freemasonry. Martin agreed and Besant wrote much different rituals from Martins. It appeared she based herself on the British Emulation ritual which is much more ‘theistic’ than most Masonic rituals on the European continent. Besant also added some Theosophical elements. This ritual became known as “Dharma” after Besants own lodge in India.

It is completely stunning to see the explosion of Le Droit Humain when Besant took the lead. She founded a massive amount of lodges in many, many countries.

The Netherlands

In 1904 Besant came to the Netherlands. On 18 June of that year six men and four women were iniated in Amsterdam. They were passed and raised on the same day and the first Dutch lodge, named Cazotte, was founded. The lodge was officially installed on 10 Juni 1905 by Georges Martin himself, as he was the main man of the international organisation. All first members were also members of the Theosophical Society. Some seem to have been Freemasons in the men-only Grand Orient of the Netherlands already and members of that Grand Orient helped the young organisation in the first years. This was not always received with applaus, as Le Droit Humain didn’t play by the rules of Freemasonry, which had forbidden the membership of women for almost two centuries.

It took a while before there were enough members for new lodges, 7 years to be precise. In that year two new lodges were founded, one is still active today.

One of the first members was Henri van Ginkel (1880-1954). Even though Theosophist he was of the opinion that Freemasonry and Theosophy are two separate things. He started to rewrite the Dharma ritual (that he himself had translated and published in 1904) based on the rituals of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands. There were some major differences to overcome. The biggest was that the functionaries are not at the same places in both rituals. Also Van Ginkel removed some elements that he found too Theosophical.

Van Ginkel also took it upon himself to found a new lodge in 1911, initially in his own home in Laren. The lodge was called Christiaan Rosencreutz and was only officially installed in 1913. In this lodge (not too far from where he lived), Farwerck was initiated, passed and raised and he was a Master Mason on the application for a charter date is dated on 1 January. Speaking of antedating.

From that time on, LDH in the Netherlands went well, but also had big problems. New lodges were founded, LDH Netherlands became big enough to be a federation (national department of the international organisation so to say), but discussions about the rituals also caused a schism. Farwerck worked himself up to being the main man of this Dutch federation.

Mixed gender Freemasonry and Farwerck

Now that you’re up to speed with mixed gender Freemasonry up until Farwerck’s time, let’s have a closer look at Farwerck.

Where this information came from I don’t know, but several sources claim that Farwerck was initiated in 1918 (Hoogendoorn says 1919). Somebody probably at some point thought to have the answer and the rest just copied the information. I can tell you: it was 1911:

Here we have the line of the central administration of Le Droit Humain Netherlands about Farwerck. As you can see, the date of initiation is 23 April 1911, passing at 21 October 1911 and raising also at 21 October 1911. The lodges he was member of are also listed, the one at the top is Christiaan Rosencreutz. All the way to the right you can also see some dates for ‘higher degrees’, 30 December 1917 30º, October 1918 31º and 7 July 1922 33º.

The date of his initiation is somewhat amusing. As we saw, the lodge was started in 1911. The charter has as start date for the lodge 1 January of that year.

That may not be too strange, but it is strange, that Farwerck signed the application for that charter as Senior Warden. It would be logical if he was a Master Mason by then which means that this application should have been sent after 21 October 1911.

That request is undated. The charter itself is antedated obviously.

We saw that in 1922 Farwerck received the 33º. This is the highest degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite that LDH uses for ‘higher degrees’. Within LDH (contrary to most other organisations), the higher degrees have jurisdiction over the “blue degrees” (entered apprentice, fellowcraft, master mason) lodges. Member of the Grand Lodge (the national umbrella over de local lodges) even appear to have to have the 33º. This perhaps explains why in 1922 the Bulletin (internal magazine) announced that a representant for Europe had to be assigned (to found lodges in other countries that don’t yet have a federation) and Farwerck received the 33º in order to be able to receive the function.

Just a year later, he reluctantly followed up Henri van Ginkel as “Grand Commander” and thus, head of the Dutch federation. In 1924 Paris accepted Farwerck as Dutch representative in the international organisation.

As in anything he does, Farwerck actively took his role as ‘chief’. He had already began to once more look at the rituals within LDH and he didn’t shun some criticism towards his predecessor as Grand Commander and author of the rituals Van Ginkel. In later articles in the Bulletin Farwerck seems have to have tried to put some things a bit sharper. Requirements to join. The obligation of the 4º towards the “blue lodges”. The duties of the other (‘high’) degrees. He tried to get some uniformity in the use of abbreviations. He told his members what is the right mindset for a Freemason and how they should study. A big subject were the rituals and this was also his most difficult subject it seems.

As we saw, the Dutch federation started with the rituals written by Annie Besant. Some found them too Theosophical (later versions of them would be even more so) and Van Ginkel started to work towards rituals that were more in line of those of the Grand Orient of the Netherlands. If he came up with it himself, or if ‘Paris’ (the main seat of Le Droit Humain international) came up with this first, but ‘Paris’ shared Van Ginkel’s opinion that the rituals should be more akin to the prevailing rituals in each country and Theosophical elements should be removed. As not all lodges agreed. In 1918 a schism occurred. Three lodges that wanted to keep working with the Theosophical rituals founded their own Grand Lodge.

Farwerck (though he (used to) lead a Theosophical lodge) shared the opinion about not mixing Freemasonry with Theosophy and he was quite sharp in his way of expressing this view. In the Bulletin he started to describe other rituals that were in use within Le Droit Humain worldwide and he was critical to both the “French” (‘atheistic’) and “English” (Theosophical) rituals. Yet, he was in contact with the schismatic lodges to see if there could be some sort of cooperation (the new Grand Lodge said that the offer was for them to come back and conform to the ritual uniformity of Le Droit Humain, of course they declined). This didn’t work out. Ironically, in Farwerck’s time new lodges were founded that worked with other rituals than the ‘prescribed’, a new (even more Theosopical) form of the “English” rituals that came along with people coming from the Dutch Indies.

Discussions about the rituals continued to be a red thread in Farwerck’s years. Apparently he didn’t veto other rituals. Maybe he couldn’t and he was alone in his stand within the Grand Lodge. He kept replying to -for example- a lodge that used a book with symbols rather than a Bible and against innovations that he found unfit.

More serious problems rose in Germany. In that country the Dutch federation had a few lodges (as it had no federation of its own) and when the Nazis started to gain power and their stand towards Freemasonry was clear, members asked Farwerck what he think should happen. He wrote that he wasn’t afraid that the German situation would happen in the Netherlands. When National Socialism did start to rise there, he wrote that as long as Freemasonry doesn’t turn against the state, there shouldn’t have to be animosity between National Socialism and Freemasonry. At some point he apparently thought that within National Socialism he could achieve more (for his fellow men as he described it) than within Freemasonry, so in 1933 he resigned from Le Droit Humain and joined the National Socialist Movement. His brother and his wife who were also members of Le Droit Humain remained members (both were also active in National Socialism by the way). In 1940 Carl Wilhelm resigned after all. I don’t know if and when Johanna cancelled her membership.

In september 1933 Farwerck announced his resignation in the Bulletin.
In a handwritten letter of 12 April 1934 his lodge Christiaan Rosencreutz confirmed the honorable discharge.

Farwerck had been a member of Le Droit Humain for some 22 years, almost half of which leading it.

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