Born out of the Master builders of cathedrals, operative masonry became organised and created its own society. These masons travelled continuously from one building site to another, freeing themselves of the authority of the corporations, of the mobility and the Church. They formed free trades and paid no taxes.They became the Freemasons whose importance developed from the 12th to 14th centuries, and which thereafter gradually faded out.
At the dawn of the Renaissance, Protestantism had, by opposing the Church, rocked what was left of Rome, and provoked a rupture within the Christian world. Galileo, basing himself on science and mathematics, had opened up a new world for the research workers of his time, and proved that the Universe seemed infinite. Science progressed rapidly and a separation was established between the dogma of religion and the world of reason.
At the end of the 17th century, there appeared the idea of a deity which, little by little, led to the notion of a Creator, like a “Grand Architect” or a “Grand Clockmaker”, creating a world according to immovable rules. The transition of operative masonry to speculative masonry took place imperceptibly. The Lodges of operative masons progressively welcomed members not belonging to the building trade calling them “accepted” masons, who took part in discussions and were initiated. In the 18th century, two events were to make the development of speculative masonry.
Firstly, a marked secularisation. It contained, according to the ideology of the Constitutions of Anderson, a base on which all men could agree: Deism, a kind of natural religion, free of all inhibition and seeking the happiness of everyone (Anderson is the author of the Constitution of Freemasons 1723 a fundamental work, based on masculine speculative Freemasonry). Thereafter, a tendency for universality which showed itself through an approach towards the thoughts of the Enlightened, characterised by the respect for tolerance and fraternity. The Revolution was going to consecrate this state of mind, manifested by many masons, with the defence of the Rights of Mankind and of the Citizen, and the rejection of all dogmatism.
The 19th century was the battleground for the extension of rights, notably for mutual respect and the thoughts of other people, and, above all, the right of women to obtain equal civic rights. It is in this field that, by creating the International Order of Co-Freemasonry “LE DROIT HUMAIN”, Maria Deraismes et Georges Martin were going to shatter the established order of many centuries, and begin the liberation of women.
“If it is true that it is the English who brought masonry to France, then it is the French today who bring it back to England invigorated, completed and strengthened by the admission of a woman into the Lodge at the side of a man. “