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Shaping the Future of Freemasonry: Embracing Equality and Progress in Portugal


My Dear Brothers,

On the theme that has been proposed to me, I found it important to reflect from the outset, together with you, and in order to clarify things, on the importance of Ritual in Freemasonry. I have chosen, for this reflection, the Ritual of Initiation and its symbolism in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

A certain view of Initiation, perhaps more spiritual, more aligned with my own philosophical stance, but a free view that has only one recipient, the INDIVIDUAL, free and of good character, whether men or women.

In Freemasonry, Initiation is Initiation, it either exists or it doesn't, it happens or it doesn't, the conditions for it to happen are met or they aren't. But it should never, never depend on the gender of the initiate and, only through the initiate's own fortune, will it coincide with the date of their entry into the Lodge.

Therefore, with these terms in mind, Freemasonry as a whole, as well as the spirit that emanates from it, are built on the basis of certain philosophical schools or rites, in which the respective rituals play a fundamental role. It is through these rituals that the guarantee is established that the Initiatory Tradition continues to be transmitted from its origins in the most ancient times to the present day.

This is a topic I consider very important because it serves as an excellent starting point for reflecting on the objectives and ideals pursued by our Order, especially in a time when some even question the importance of Ritual in achieving these objectives.

From my perspective, I believe that Ritual is a fundamental part of the philosophical structure that underpins all thought and action within Freemasonry. However, if, on the contrary, we were to accept, as some Masons claim, that Masonic Ritual has no value or only has decorative value, then we would also have to admit that our practices in the Lodge have no foundation and are entirely useless.

We would even have to admit that Masons who hold such views have not yet grasped the profound significance of the initiatory ceremonies they are supposed to experience.

Through the Ritual transmitted by Tradition, only Man exists in relation to the Universe, to himself, and to his fellow beings, as a result of Initiation.

Therefore, I believe that Ritual carries within it the very Tradition itself. To be more precise, the symbolism studied and experienced by Masons is nothing more than the continuation of work produced over millennia by a similar spirit with identical motivations, regardless of the place, time, or Person who originated it.

As a consequence, the Ritual, in its social realization and as a philosophical foundation, has an inseparable practical component of a striving for improvement, not only for those like us who live it, but above all for the benefit of all those around us.

For me, the true experience of the Ritual of Initiation should have a dual effect: on one hand, the awareness of our inner being, our relationship with others, with Nature, with all Creation, with the Planet, with the Universe—questioning the why of Life; on the other hand, our relationship with the profane society, holding high the Values that should guide the Mason, through example and word, which could and should be (why not?), a pioneering relationship, anticipating opportunistic and socially unjust situations, in the unwavering defense of the Principles that define Free and Virtuous People.

But, my Dear Brothers, could it be that by defining the initiatory experience in this way, we are essentially admitting to the prevalence of a certain psychological influence of the Ritual during the Initiation ceremony?

Let's agree that every Initiation triggers psychological effects, involving a certain kind of influence on the mind by definition. Every human reaction involves the brain, which, while endowed with an extraordinary power of abstraction compared to other animals, still needs to materialize ideas through tangible symbols.

The perceptions of the mind, especially tested during an Initiation, activate a set of elements that shape one's personality.

It's interesting to highlight that the choice of elements intended to influence our minds is crucial. All these elements are present in the origin of Creation: water, earth, fire, air, darkness, and light.

Our ancestors obviously knew that through symbols, living knowledge can be transmitted. Due to its realism and lucidity, this knowledge is accessible across all ages, to all free spirits, regardless of where they are on Earth.

The influence exerted on the mind is therefore universal and is also the foundation of all enlightened philosophy that takes into account both human nature and the ideal embodied in the higher forces beyond us.

However, Initiation also has an educational component.

The Apprentice first applies the Ritual to themselves, internally, and later, in the Lodge, their understanding expands through words, actions with all the Brothers, but especially through example, following the rules of our Tradition. However, this is still not enough.

We must intensify our interest in the initiatory tradition, studying and reliving our own Initiation by sharing the experiences of others. Reflection should be constant in order to perpetuate all the reactions of our spirit to the first Masonic symbols we encountered as Apprentices.

Questioning the influence of Initiation on our own personality might actually be questioning the overall balance each of us achieves through Freemasonry. In essence, it might be questioning part of the secret that characterizes our Order.

For me, I must admit, my Brothers, that I have not yet found all the answers I would like to the numerous questions (or concerns) that assail my mind. However, with each Initiation I am fortunate to experience, the hope for a better tomorrow is reborn in me, in a world that I believe can be better, with better individuals, simply because, despite all the clouds of misfortune, I still believe in the capacity for self-regeneration within Humanity. With that said, it's understandable why I bring up the inevitable question of MASONIC INITIATION first, as the primary condition in approaching the proposed topic.

Therefore, I recall an episode from a few years ago, involving a distinguished French Mason, who, when asked by a journalist to comment on the attitude of male Masonry in not recognizing women's capacity or right to be initiated into Masonry, responded that "this is a question that should be posed to men, as it is their problem."

Well, whether it's a serious and concerned debate or more light-hearted backstage conversation, if it leans towards a chauvinistic view, these reasons are often invoked and ultimately heavily influence the discussion within the Order.

But let's address some of these arguments against the Initiation of Women in the Grand Orient of Lusitania. Let's start with Article 1 of the GOL Constitution, which speaks of Freemasonry and its Principles:

"Freemasonry is a universal, philosophical, and progressive Order, founded on the Initiatory Tradition, obeying the Principles of Fraternity and Tolerance, and constituting an alliance of free individuals of good character, of all races, nationalities, and beliefs.

1 – They say, it's not constitutional! They are right. In fact, the text speaks unequivocally of an alliance of "men" (lowercase), so undoubtedly, women do not have entry into the main and historic Portuguese Masonic Obedience.

How to resolve this seemingly insurmountable issue? - Urgently amending the text of the said first article, replacing the word "men" with PEOPLE. As complex and as simple as that. - Moreover, such limitation becomes unsustainable in light of the Higher Law, that is, the CONSTITUTION OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC, with the maintenance of a text that contradicts the Principle of Equality, as I quote, "all citizens have the same social dignity, and are equal before the law. No one can be privileged, favored, prejudiced, deprived of any right or exempt from any duty due to ancestry, sex, race, language, territory of origin, religion, political or ideological beliefs, education, economic situation, social condition, or sexual orientation."

On the other hand, Article 3 of the same GOL Constitution also states, I quote, "Freemasonry aims at the improvement of Humanity (capital letter), through...etc...", obviously referring to all of Humanity, not just the masculine. So how can the content of this universal Article 3, in reference to Humanity, be reconciled with Article 1, which restricts the decisive role in achieving the Order's great objectives to men only? Does the first Article only guarantee the improvement of 50% of Humanity?

2 – Opening the possibility for women to be initiated in Lodges of the Grand Orient of Lusitania goes against the Tradition of the Obedience. Wrong! The history of the Obedience cannot be ignored. Through the Lodges of Adoption, since 1881, when the first Lodge of women appeared in the Grand Orient of Lusitania, named "Filipa de Vilhena," many other Lodges were created under the tutelage of the male Lodges that gave rise to them.

After the International Masonic Congress held in Lisbon in 1913, a controversy was sparked that persists to this day. Quoting Manuela Cruzeiro, on one hand, there are Masons who accept the presence of women in Freemasonry, with equal rights in all domains; on the other hand, those who would accept that presence, but in the form of Adoption, as long as they are supervised by male Lodges; lastly, another current that entirely accepts any female presence within the Obedience. It is not, therefore, a Tradition of the Obedience to reject women from the secret of INITIATION. Indeed, with many restrictions, it is true, this has been common practice within the Grand Orient of Lusitania since 1881 and for many years.

This demonstrates the long-standing predisposition, at least of a large part of the Lodges (that is, of the Masons), to accept the Initiation of Women in the Grand Orient of Lusitania as normal and desired.

In the realm of the most ancient Masonic tradition, predating 1717, even in the conservative UGLE, at the grand doors of its main Temple, provided by the Grand Lodge of the Ancients, there is reference to the feminine work in the operative phase of the Order, presenting large representations of groups of women engaged in tapestries, stained glass, and other similar arts, which entered into the finished works.

3 – Other types of reasons are also argued, inspired by esoteric visions, for example, that the Initiation of Women in the Grand Orient of Lusitania would not be in line with the "spirit" of male Initiation. Wrong! Unless one wants to argue that women, free and of good character, have a different "spirit" than men, also free and of good character, it is evident that INITIATION, for both men and women, must be absolutely identical.

Furthermore, along this line of argumentation, there are those who argue that women are already initiated by nature because they bear children, seeking to devalue the Initiation of women in this manner. Wrong, because that would admit that women without children are inferior and imperfect. At the very least, this argument is ridiculous! There are also those who are so opposed to the INITIATION OF WOMEN that they argue that women are lunar and Lodges are solar.

False, even from the perspective of symbolic interpretation. Every Masonic Lodge is subject to the balance of the central Equilateral Triangle, where the All-Seeing Eye, with the Sun and the Moon on each side, reigns in perfect harmony. But worse is the so-called "Platonic argument," which designates women as beings above human nature due to the transcendence of their condition. This type of argumentation also makes us laugh, given the irrationality of the invoked foundations.

4 – Then come arguments of another kind. Those of a social nature that are nothing more than a repository of unsustainable reasons, as they are discriminatory and undermine the dignity of women. - that they cannot keep a secret; - that women in Lodge would provoke sexual temptations, promiscuity, lustful thoughts, etc., etc., etc.; - that women in Lodge would not be prepared to remain in equal attitude towards men, as they would naturally submit, not providing the proper environment for the development of the Lodge's egregore, nor interior development, that is, they would hinder the construction of the Whole Mason in full and constant progression; - that the presence of women spoils the convivial and relaxed masculine environment; - that the participation of women in the ranks of the Lodges would greatly worry wives, who are now reasonably at ease, but with this reality, they would become concerned, creating conditions for family instability, as with the behavioral subtleties of these "adventurers," they would surely and easily lead men into temptations, unable to resist their allurements; Well, there's nothing like dismantling such unfortunate arguments.

Firstly, to claim that women cannot keep a secret is false. There are great examples that if someone can keep a secret, it's women. A long list demonstrates this fact.

The question of the "sin" of temptations that women originate in the poor and fragile minds of men also doesn't hold. After all, men and women live, coexist, work, travel, attend schools and hospitals, serve in the armed forces and security, engage in risky professions where their lives depend on each other, etc. — and only in the Masonic Lodge would this be dangerous? So, what kind of Masons would these be? As for the fear that women in the Lodge would naturally submit to male "dominance," it's worth further consideration.

Perhaps it would be so if we were talking about ordinary women and men. However, since we are talking about Masons, both men and women (the much-desired elites), they are perfectly capable of standing on equal footing.

Thus, this question loses its significance. Moreover, when it arises, if it arises, it's a dysfunctional social situation within the group that may well manifest itself within the Lodge, regardless of gender.

Those who claim that Freemasonry, which was originally male and should remain male, would be disrupted by the Initiation of Women, only tarnishing the male, convivial, and "fraternal" environment.

Although a Masonic Lodge is more than a club of "gentlemen," whether influenced by the English or inspired by the male "gatherings" of private clubs, the truth is that many Masons see it this way. However, no reason justifies excluding women, who in many of these groups even outshine the men. It's only the male mind's lust that's responsible for such a view...

As for the argument about potential disruptions to the Masons' families' tranquility, it's worth noting that much of the resistance to the Initiation of Women in the Grand Orient of Lusitania originates from those Masons who tremble in fear at the mere thought of encountering their own wives in the Lodge after they've been initiated and integrated. All the fun would be lost, they argue... A significant problem indeed, and unfortunately, there are quite a number of them among us... So, my Brothers, the answer to all these arguments is that they are false, as demonstrated case by case.

The big question remains:

5 – If there are already Obediences with Female and Mixed Lodges, then the problem is solved! Each individual chooses where they feel most comfortable. Nothing is more constraining and false, for this is the odious argument of apartheid. This is what was happening in many human societies, from transportation, restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc., and, even worse, it still happens in certain Masonic Powers around the world. If that is unacceptable in Freemasonry, it is intolerable in the Grand Orient of Lusitania, whose doctrine, founded on a valuable legacy of over 200 years, must necessarily contribute to the establishment of Light, resuming its role as a Guide in the context of Liberal and non-dogmatic Freemasonry in Portugal. It cannot simply leave what it doesn't wish to confront to others. It's unacceptable!

My Brothers,

One argument, for which there is no answer, concerning the question of women's initiation. Simply "I'm against it, just because!" This position, which has much to do with much of what has been said here, merits the following reflection: We, as Masons, must know, and it is necessary to do so, how to reconcile Diversity with Equality and with Freedom, and to act with wisdom. Without ambiguity, I advocate for the existence of Lodges of People in the Grand Orient of Lusitania, as a guarantee of the Progress of Liberal and non-dogmatic Freemasonry in Portugal. LODGES OF PEOPLE, in a different conception from mixed Lodges, which usually point out gender as the great difference among people. However, the differences among people are manifold, and as a wise Mason said, "I have more intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic affinity with some women than with many men." Therefore, if the Lodges are to be designated as mixed, let it be for many other characteristics and not just gender. Defending Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity, and consequently, secularity, freedom of religion, education, moral elevation of Humanity, etc., etc., etc., is only possible in the understanding that Freedom is an essential condition of life.

There is no human dignity where there is no FREEDOM!

Now, Equality is another name for Freedom. All human beings aspire to Freedom, and the only way to prevent them from having full access to freedom is by creating inequality, giving to some what is denied to others. Lodges of People, for the simple reason that we will not accept any discrimination, recognizing primarily DIVERSITY as a fundamental characteristic of human beings, speaking of the right to equality at all levels, whether it be race, religion, age, social or professional status, etc. Everything will depend on the Lodges and their choices. From the understanding they develop about what it means to be "free and of good character," and from there, opening the doors to the INITIATION of PEOPLE, initiating men, women, or men and women as long as they meet their rigorous selection criteria. Without distinctions, but it may indeed happen, in practice, that the three types of Lodges coexist, but NEVER for reasons of pre-determined gender choice among their Workers.

I make a vow, that we do not come to resolve this question of the RIGHT TO EQUALITY through external, civil force, if you will, as happened with the Grand Orient of France (and there, yes, it would be for gender reasons), as such an option would be profoundly regrettable, for if that were to happen, it would be because we did not know how to be sufficiently TOLERANT to naturally accept what is natural, preferring to ignore that DIVERSITY, along with Equality, is a condition of Freedom.

This is how I envision the FUTURE OF FREEMASONRY in Portugal, with the GRAND ORIENT OF LUSITANIA taking its rightful place at the forefront of significant advancements in Social Progress, which also include this inevitable choice (no matter how long it takes) within Portuguese Freemasonry.

Unless we are content to leave the primacy of raising the flag of Equality to other, smaller Obediences without representation or visibility, without the responsibilities of the Grand Orient of Lusitania, it is URGENT that a stance be taken as soon as possible within our constitutional system.

My Brothers, I am grateful to Fernando Marques da Costa, António Ventura, Oliveira Marques for some of the historical material mentioned here, and to Mário Parra da Silva for a certain doctrinal perspective.

I conclude with a quote from Maria Belo, paying tribute to other women, great Portuguese Masonic figures, from Adelaide Cabete and Ana de Castro Osório to more recently Fernanda Andrade, Teresa Campo, Françoise Carreira, Mª. Helena Carvalho dos Santos, and Manuela Cruzeiro, Illustrious Sister, from whose writings I also drew.

"They have always accepted their incompleteness and it is of this they speak in their poetry, in the Song of Songs, in the long journey of the Bible. They and we, each one, must accept our incompleteness which has no god at the end of the tunnel.

It is this acceptance that gives us the space, not for an imaginary encounter or identification between one and another, but the space to deepen the difference, space for each to speak from their place; from their desire, their envy of not being the other, from their admiration for what the other is; the space to understand that what the other is has not necessarily been stolen from me." Maria Belo, 2011 (in the Preamble of the work "Women in Freemasonry – Portugal 1864-1950" by Fernando Marques da Costa) Stated, D.M, M:.M:.


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