is a closed, male order based on the Christian faith, which engages in personal development, friendship and fundraising for welfare. All information on this page originates in a private initiative and is in no way official!
You may want to look at the official home page of the Swedish Order of Freemasons which contains some material in English.
If you'd like to see some pictures from the headquarters of the Swedish Order of Freemasons in Stockholm, click here. The pictures are pretty large, 70-100K, and may take some time to load if you are on a modem line.
Below you will find a presentation of Swedish Freemasonry and some points about how it differs from the Craft as practised in the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and in other systems of the English-speaking world.
Masonry came to Sweden in the early 1730's from France. The chief architect of the Swedish system was C.F. Eckleff, who designed a system with 9 degrees. Later, Duke Charles (later king Charles XIII) who was a devoted mason, redesigned the system to contain 10 degrees. This is basically the same system as is used today, though an 11th degree has been added (which is only given to the grand officers of the Order). Since Charles was affected by the gnostic fashions of his time, the Order came to absorb some such ideas. Today however, there is a slow but distinct movement back to Eckleff's ideas.
Freemasonry came to Sweden from Christian lodges in France. French Freemasonry developed in two directions: one explicitly Christian, and one that was Rationalist and unreligious. We got Masonry from the Christian branch. At that time, Christianity was the compulsory state religion of Sweden, and basically there were no non-Christians in the country. That is the historic background. I am aware that some foreign masons regard tolerance of all religions (only requiring belief in any Supreme Being) as one of the fundaments of freemasonry. In a country like the USA where religious minorities abound, I can understand the sentiment. It is different over here. Up until the 1960:s, Sweden was 99% Christian. The Swedish system was designed around the Christian faith.
The Craft degrees are still compatible with international systems. The particular Christian content is stronger in the higher degrees. While you must be a Christian in order to become a Mason in Sweden, foreign visitors of other faiths (from recognized lodges) are welcome in the Craft degrees. Also, there is no attachment to any specific Christian denomination. Mormons, Moonies and Jehova's Witnesses are not Christians, regardless of what they sometimes claim.
The Swedish system has 11 degrees, organised in three different lodge levels. The Craft masonry lodges are called "Lodges of St John". Degrees 4-6 are in the "Scottish Lodges of St Andrew". Above that is "Chapter lodge" which is a Templar freemasonry. The 11th degree is an honorary degree given only to the Grand Officers of the Order (and royal princes).
Sweden is unique in having a State Order which is given to Freemasons only, the Order of Charles XIII.
There are numerous lodge houses all over Sweden. Only the provincial headquarter houses have Chapter lodges. Most houses contain either a St John's lodge or a St John's and a St Andrew's lodge. These meet in separate rooms since the physical design of the lodge hall needs to be different. In many places, there is no lodge house (since these tend to be very expensive) and masons meet in "brotherhood clubs". These do a simplified version of the masonic rituals, usually without receptions; they need a special permit to give degrees. Where there is only a lower lodge, there is usually a brotherhood club for brethren of the higher degrees. It also happens that lodges and/or brotherhood clubs meet in halls not owned by the Order, often rented from Odd Fellows or some other reputable Society.
The headquarters of Swedish Masonry is the 17th century "Stamhuset" in central Stockholm, and the house is every bit as impressive as the Grand Lodge in London. Pictures to be found here.
The Swedish system is also used in the rest of Scandinavia and in some German lodges. Grosse Landesloge der Freimaurer von Deutschland use it, and has a very good website with pictures from their headquarters, albeit only German text. In Norway you can visit Den Norske Frimurerorden which has some text in English. The Danish order has a very pretty site with English info at Den Danske Frimurerorden and the Icelandic order is at Frimurarareglan a Islandi. Those lodges in Finland which use the Swedish system are part of the Swedish order -- info on www.frimurarorden.se. Several lodges in Finland use the British system however, they can be found at Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Finland.
The Danish Grand lodge has a very impressive headquarter building in Copenhagen, with a separate hall for each of the 10 degrees. The Danish Masons suffered a lot during World War II when the Nazis took over the building and used it rather violently, e.g. target practise with machineguns in some halls. Fortunately, the Masons had been warned in time and all their regaila was hidden in the basement where a section was walled up. The Germans never found it. In Norway, the Masonic headquarters were used as a hotel for high German officers, and the Germans actually added to the building so it was better after the war than before...
A difference between Swedish masonry and British/American is that we do not have a system where all brethren take turns at holding the lodge's offices. Lodges are large; for example, the city of Uppsala has over 500 masons but only two lodges. There are many officers, but a WM has his office for 6 years and others for at least one year, usually longer. A "past master" holds no special rank. To be a WM of a lodge, you need to have at least the 8th degree. When British/American masons are waiting for their next office, Swedish masons are waiting for their next degree. Nobody stays put after becoming a MM, everybody passes on to the high degree section of the Order. This also means that Sweden has no selection of many different high degree systems, such as you will find in Britain; it is one integrated system. It normally takes about 2 years to become a Master and 15-20 years to reach the 10th degree.
As a consequence, lodges tend to be fewer but larger than under UGLE. For instance, Stockholm (with over one million inhabitants) has only 3 Craft lodges. Each of these has hundreds of members, and about one lodge meeting per week. At the present time there are moves to create more Craft lodges in order to reduce their size; too large lodges inevitably become impersonal. Lodges with special "flavor" such as consisting of policemen or military or some other profession, do not exist. Meals are taken at virtually all Masonic meetings, unlike many places abroad where there are "formal" and "informal" gatherings after Lodge.
The dress code has been relaxed in later years. Most Masons wear dress coat (tails) with black vest, but a dark suit and tie is also acceptable. Third degree insignia, which is what Swedish Masons wear when visiting Craft lodges abroad, are easily recognizable by their vivid blue and yellow colours.
Look up the Order's official home page. There you will find addresses and contacts who will tell you about lodges and events. You need to be at least a Master Mason in order to visit. Also, you need to belong to a lodge which is recognized by the Swedish Order of Freemasons. Basically, any lodge recognized by UGLE is probably recognized here as well. Rationalist, antireligious lodges are not. For the degrees above the 3rd, you need to be member of a foreign high degree system; there are conversion tables between the degrees. The 10th degree however does not receive visitors, much like the 33 degree masonry which does not receive visitors in its highest degree.
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