Freemasonry, the Daughter of the Enlightenment: From Religious Tolerance to Universalism

Lecture summary

Far from being obsolete, Enlightenment values should be at the core of our modern societies. Special emphasis will be put on two aspects, religious tolerance and universalism.

What was most important at the beginning of the 18th century was to abandon religious dogmas and encourage critical thinking. The Grand Lodge of England was born in that context. Masonic culture was derived from the Enlightenment and tolerant values prevailed. Because Freemasons respected all beliefs and convictions, they considered all human beings as equal and had a universalist approach. Nowadays, all Freemasons, whether they claim to believe in God or not, consider that religion should never antagonize reason. They encourage integration, avoid pitting communities against one another, whether on race or gender issues. In a world torn apart by wars, Freemasons might still have a role to play, to remind their fellow citizens of some Enlightenment values. Religious tolerance is indeed a prerequisite to universalism.

Only if human beings are considered as fundamentally equal can violence and hatred subside.


Cecile Révauger, is emeritus professor at Bordeaux Montaigne University. She supervised several doctoral theses on the Enlightenment and on the history of Freemasonry. She co-edited a biographical dictionary of Freemasons in the eighteenth century, Le Monde Maçonnique des Lumières, with Charles Porset (Champion-Slatkine, 2013, 3 vols.). She co-authored Les Ordres de Sagesse du Rite français (A History of the French Rite) with Ludovic Marcos (Dervy, 2015). She authored Black Freemasonry: From Prince Hall to the Giants of Jazz , translated from the French (Inner Traditions, 2014), La Longue Marche des franc-maçonnes (a history of women’s access to Freemasonry; Paris, Dervy, 2018). She edited The French Rite, Enlightenment Culture (a collective work, translated from the French, published by Wesphalia Press in 2024). Her latest books are Freemasonry, Heir to the Enlightenment, translated from the French, published by Wesphalia Press in 2023 and La mixite en franc-maçonnerie, toujours un défi? (Paris, Conform, 2024).