Historical Configurations of Freemasonry in Belgium: Secularity, Politics, Fragmentation
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractAbstractIf Belgian freemasonry was a largely unproblematic sociability during the 18th century, it took a completely new direction since future Belgium's annexation to France and the Netherlands at the end of the 18th century and in the first decades of the 19th. A set of new lodges with a largely new, mainly bourgeois membership gradually generated a freemasonry that was increasingly anticlerical and openly political as it was the backbone of the country's liberal party. This article shows that, in its secularizing of its own discourse and practices, the Belgian Grand Orient was at the vanguard of what is commonly called "Latin" freemasonry. However, at the turn of the 20th century, when mass democracy changed the country's institutions and when the first socialist sympathies developed within the lodges, a process of de-politicization was engaged that was more or less completed after World War I. The Belgian masonic configuration then tended to become more fragmented. This process started in the early 20th century and was continued into the early 21th, with debates on the regularity issue and even more with the contesting of the male gender-exclusiveness of the grand lodges by members of mixed or feminine freemasonry. Nevertheless, if the old organizational unity was broken, a relatively benign coexistence was developed.