• Freedom of or from religion. Freemasonry as an international testing ground for fundamental societal issues (c. 1850–1930)
    In masonic internationalism, key framework parameters of masonic activity were negotiated. They concerned the fundamental societal issue of how religious freedom (freedom to practise religion) and liberty of conscience (freedom from religion) were to be reconciled, and how this twofold demand could be implemented in the local lodges. In doing so, all masonic bodies strove to normatively determine the “essence” of freemasonry from their own point of view. The challenge of creating structures of cross-border communication and cooperation prompted all (national) umbrella associations to take a stand on the religious-transcendent anchoring of freemasonry as postulated by the English or Prussians. Mediating forces worked to bridge the religious-secular divide. Yet all in all, the antagonisms in the international forums actually intensified. At the same time, it was in these forums that ways were sought to bridge or resolve the differences. By doing so, freemasons negotiated what they actually considered non-negotiable in the name of positive or negative religious freedom. The term “freemasonry” was thus filled with contending assertions that seemed mutually exclusive. However, in and alongside the international forums, there were spaces in which representatives of different “camps” could cautiously explore how this coexistence of different value systems could be conceived and spelt out.