Liberal Freemasonry was born at the end of the nineteenth century. It is the result of two unprecedented events in the history of the Masonic world.
- In 1877 the Grand Orient of France removed from its Constitution the obligation to believe in God and the immortality of the soul. It concluded that, henceforward, these questions were to be decided through the personal discretion of each individual and that personal faith or belief systems should not in any way hinder freedom of thought.
- In 1882 the Venerable Lodge “Les Libres Penseurs,” (The Free Thinkers), Orient of Le Pecq, initiated a woman Maria Desraimes.
What can be termed Liberal Freemasonry is defined as an initiatic system adhering to no dogma in the sense it imposes no belief on its members. It permits, or tolerates, accordingly, the principles, Constitutions and regulations of different Grand Lodges, whether or not the initiation of women is permitted and considered a fundamental freedom. In the majority of progressive Grand Lodges, political, social or religious discourse is permitted. Grand Lodges such as the Grand Orient of France are activists concerning the progress of society; examples include working toward the abolition of the death penalty or safeguarding laws on abortion.
This Freemasonry is conceptually quite different from traditional Freemasonry in opposing the intent of the “Landmarks,” the principles of regularity, created by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1927.
These distinct differences do not preclude some Regular, Traditional and Liberal grand lodges from moving in concert in forging strong fraternal relationships, efforts to be tolerant, and in some cases adopting a formal status of mutual recognition.