With a 226-year-old history, the system of Freemasonry like social constitutions, philosophies, and religions across the world, incorporates traditions and values of the country where practiced. Freemasonry in Sweden is unique from other constitutions.
Introduced to Sweden in the early 1730s by Swedish noblemen initiated in France, Swedes understand and value the brotherhood of a society that fosters friendship, fundraising for community service, personal growth, and the male-only membership restriction.
The Swedish Rite, different from other constitutions, has a strong spiritual component and requires members to be practicing Christians and adhere firmly to the faith. Until 2000, Lutheran was the State faith. Non-Christian Brothers from other can visit a Swedish lodge, but are not eligible for membership. Another difference is that unlike the international Masonic emblem of the square and compass, Swedish freemasonry uses the red Maltese cross of the Knights Templar.
Carl Friedrich Eckleff first designed the Swedish system in 1756 with nine degrees. The Constitution was later modified to ten degrees by King Carl XIII. In 1801, King Carl redesigned the Swedish Rite and added an eleventh degree awarded only to order Grand Officers. Today that system remains virtually unchanged and includes the following lodge levels:
St. John’s (Crafts) degrees
II Fellow Craft
III Master Mason
St. Andrew’s (Scottish) degrees
IV-V Apprentice-Companion of St. Andrew
VI Master of St. Andrew
Chapter (Templar) degrees
VII Very Illustrious Brother, Knight of the East
VIII Most Illustrious Brother, Knight of the West
IX Enlightened Brothers of St. John’s Lodge
X Very Enlightened Brothers of St. Andrew’s Lodge
XI Most Enlightened Brother, Knight Commander of the Red Cross.
Swedish Masons value and uphold a strong spiritual orientation. Much Masonic education takes place through allegorical morality plays, with emphasis on symbolism, solemn theatrical presentation, and a strong, spiritual dynamic.
The Masonic Temple of the Swedish Order of Freemasons headquarters, the Baat Palace in Stockholm, provides the backdrop for lodge functions and rituals. This 1660s baroque palace also provides office space and activity rooms, hosts formal dinners and houses an art collection.
The strong spiritual over philosophical orientation sets Swedish masonry apart. Without well-versed Masonic knowledge, and an affiliation to the Christian faith, it is difficult to join the Swedish Order. Many clergy are also masons. The acceptance rate is about one out of three applicants. Membership demographics include a well-distributed age group: mid-twenties to mid-eighties, with the average age about mid-forty.
Today the Swedish Order has almost sixteen thousand members. It is well-regarded by Swedish citizenry, reaches an upper-middleclass membership which continues to grow steadily. Freemasonry is very much a part of the fabric of the Swedish lifestyle.