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Extracts from Freemasonry Universal, by Kent Henderson & Tony Pope, 1998.


The terms ‘regular’ and irregular’ are used to describe individual Masons, their lodges, and their Grand Lodges or other ruling bodies. ‘Recognition’ (and its verb, ‘recognise’) are used to describe the relationship between Masonic ruling bodies. These terms are often confused, with ‘regular’ being treated as a synonym for ‘recognised’, which it is not.


Every autonomous Masonic body has its own tests of regularity, based on its perception of its own character. Thus, each Grand Lodge considers itself to be regular, and requires its constituents to abide by its criteria, whether clearly defined or not. Consequently, every Mason considers himself to be regular because he (or even she!) was ‘regularly’ initiated in a ‘regularly’ constituted lodge, chartered by his (or, indeed, her) Grand Lodge.

Within the closed system of the autonomous Grand Lodge, determination of regularity—or its converse, irregularity—is a relatively easy process, and entirely valid. Problems arise when the definition of ‘regularity’ of one autonomous body is applied to another autonomous body, because ‘regularity’ is a factor in determining whether Grand Lodge A should ‘recognise’ Grand Lodge B, and vice versa.


If two autonomous Grand Lodges wish to establish and maintain a fraternal relationship with each other, it is customary for them to ‘recognise’ each other by formal treaty. This usually involves a comparison of the two systems, to determine if they meet each other’s criteria for recognition. Each Grand Lodge has its own list of requirements which, in most cases, may be summarised as follows:

(a)  Regularity of origin;

(b)  Regularity of conduct; and

(c)  Autonomy.

Each of these requirements will be examined further, below.

If the two Grand Lodges recognise each other, they are said to be ‘in amity’, and they usually allow intervisitation at lodge and Grand Lodge levels, some form of cross-membership, and mutual assistance. In most cases, they also exchange representatives. This does not require a member of Grand Lodge A to physically relocate to the territory of Grand Lodge B. What occurs is that Grand Lodge A suggests one of its own members as representative of Grand Lodge B ‘near’ Grand Lodge A. If B concurs, that member of Grand Lodge A is so appointed, and a reciprocal arrangement is made regarding a member of Grand Lodge B. Such Grand Representatives, if they do their jobs conscientiously, can be of great assistance to travelling Masons of the appropriate jurisdictions.

Over the years, groups of Grand Lodges have formed, where they each recognise most (if not all) of the others in the group. Some of these associations have acquired formal names, but the largest of them has no such designation. This is the group led by the three ‘home’ Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland, which includes: the six Grand Lodges of Australia; 10 Grand Lodges in Canada; 51 (and arguably more) in USA; and substantial numbers of others throughout the world. In this book, this group is referred to as ‘mainstream’.

Mainstream Grand Lodges

Not all ‘mainstream’ Grand Lodges recognise all other ‘mainstream’ Grand Lodges. For a Grand Lodge to fall into the ‘mainstream’ category, it is essential that some of the group recognise it, and that the others do not consider this recognition to be so unacceptable as to provoke an extreme response. From time to time, some members of the group will withdraw recognition from others in the group for some perceived infringement, without affecting the general status quo. Consequently, it is impossible to determine precisely how many Grand Lodges are members of the group or, in some cases, to say whether or not a particular Grand Lodge qualifies for the designation ‘mainstream’. But, nevertheless, the group as a whole is clearly identifiable by the term ‘mainstream’.

Mainstream ‘Basic Principles of Recognition’

In 1929 the United Grand Lodge of England formulated what it called ‘Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition’, which (it stated) it had always applied to the question of recognition of another Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland each adopted a similar—but by no means identical—list. Other Grand Lodges have their own lists, again, not identical—and some have adopted the English list. The following are typical requirements of such a list:

1. The Grand Lodge shall have been regularly formed (‘regularity of origin’).

2. Belief in the Supreme Being is an essential qualification for membership within the jurisdiction.

3. Candidates are obligated on, or in view of, the open Volume of Sacred Law.

4. The membership of the Grand Lodge and its lodges consists exclusively of men, and no Masonic intercourse is permitted with women’s lodges or mixed-gender lodges.

5. The Grand Lodge is an independent, self-governing body with sole jurisdiction over the Craft degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.

6. Discussion of religion and politics within the lodges is totally prohibited.

7. An open Volume of Sacred Law, the square and compasses (the three great lights of Freemasonry) are always exhibited while a lodge or the Grand Lodge is open.

8. The principles of the Ancient Landmarks, customs and usages of the Craft [all undefined] are strictly observed.

Even with such a list, there is room for disagreement, for different interpretations (especially when translating between one language and another); and some Grand bodies omit one or more of these provisions, or add others.

Regularity of origin

The requirement that a Grand Lodge be regularly formed—that it be regular in origin—refers to a sort of ‘apostolic succession’, that the subject Grand Lodge must be able to trace its ancestry back to one or more of the ‘home’ Grand Lodges of England, Ireland or Scotland (or, conceivably, to some equally venerable origin). The ways in which a Grand Lodge may be formed are outlined in chapter three, where it is explained that the terms ‘Grand Lodge’ and ‘Grand Orient’ merely describe differing forms of Masonic government. Therefore, Grand Orients and Grand Lodges coexist within the mainstream.

Organisations which are unable to trace their origins in this way, such as the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons, however regular in conduct, are unable to qualify for mainstream recognition.

Regularity of conduct

Requirements 2–4 and 6–8 of the above list all relate to regularity of conduct. A candidate for recognition by a mainstream Grand Lodge must fulfil all these requirements. If the candidate has failed to comply in the past, but has since altered its conduct to meet the requirements, it may be eligible for recognition if it is perceived to be sincere, and unlikely to ‘re-offend’. Any substantial breach of any of these requirements by an existing member of the mainstream group is likely to result in mass withdrawals of recognition, unless quickly recanted.


Requirement 5 refers to autonomy. Recognition between Grand Lodges is essentially a process conducted between equals, and the mainstream perceives this as being between self-governing trigradal bodies. Thus, a multi-degree body such as a 33° Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite does not qualify. Neither does a trigradal Grand Lodge which is subordinate to a multi-degree Supreme Council, nor does a District, Provincial or State Grand Lodge that is controlled by a superior trigradal Grand Lodge. However, longstanding recognition of the trigradal ‘St John’ Grand Lodges under the eleven-degree Swedish Rite system indicates that some accommodation is possible in this regard.

There is another aspect of autonomy not specifically addressed in the above list, but observable in practice. In the USA it takes an extreme form, where it is called ‘exclusive territorial jurisdiction’. At its most extreme, it considers all Masons physically within the geographical location of a Grand Lodge to be under its jurisdiction, whether or not they are members of a lodge under that jurisdiction, and extends this claim to non-Masons in respect of their potential as candidates for Masonry. It regards any other Masonic body within the geographical limits as ipso facto irregular, and clandestine. The ‘principle’ has not always been applied consistently, and many of its proponents have an escape clause that provides for an agreement to share territory. Elsewhere, a modified form is observed among mainstream Grand Lodges, relating only to Grand Lodges in a common geographical area. In such cases, even if both Grand Lodges meet the other criteria for recognition, usually only one will be recognised unless both agree to share the territory.

Other groups of Grand Lodges

Some groups exist in isolation from the mainstream. These include:

·     The Grand Orient of France, and its allies in Europe and elsewhere.

·     The Droit Humain, otherwise known as Co-Masonry, which is universal.

·     The Orders exclusively female, based in England or Europe, extending worldwide.

·     Several groups of Grand Lodges emanating from the USA, which will be enumerated later.

Other Grand Lodges are to be found entirely within the mainstream, forming identifiable sub-groups for various purposes of mutual interest, such as: the Grand Lodges of Australasia; the Scandinavian Grand Lodges of the Swedish Rite (see chapter five); and those 51 American Grand Lodges sometimes known as ‘George Washington’, which (most of the time) all recognise each other.

The New World provides several examples of groups intersecting the mainstream group. The Inter-American Masonic Confederation (Confederación Masónica Interamericana), and the sub-group within it, the Confederation of Symbolic Masonry of Brasil (Confederação de Maçonaria Simbólica do Brasil) consist largely of Grand Lodges that are widely recognised by (other) members of the mainstream group. Mainly in North America, but with representation worldwide, is the group of 46 Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Affiliation (PHA), not to be confused with a group of Grand Lodges subordinate to a ‘National’ Grand Lodge, known as Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Origin (PHO). This situation will be clarified later. Suffice it to say here that the 46 Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Affiliation are no longer entirely isolated, and are gradually being accorded recognition by mainstream Grand Lodges worldwide. Eventually, they may be considered part of the mainstream group; at present they intersect it.

The Grand Lodge of France (GLdF) is in a different category. In the early part of the 20th century, although never recognised by the ‘home’ Grand Lodges, it was widely recognised by mainstream US Grand Lodges. Then recognition was withdrawn for reasons we shall not examine here, and the Grand Lodge of France was completely isolated from the mainstream group. At present, mainstream scholars and students of Masonry are divided on the issues of whether or not the Grand Lodge of France is regular in origin and present conduct, proponents and opponents being largely divided by the Atlantic Ocean. Now that the Grand Lodge of France is unrecognised by the mainstream group, the presence in the same country of a Grand Lodge securely in the mainstream, the French National Grand Lodge (GLNF), increases the difficulty of re-establishing recognition, in the absence of an agreement between the GLNF and the GLdF.

Ancient Landmarks

The phrase ‘Ancient Landmarks’ (often ‘the Landmarks’) occurs frequently in Masonry, including in the mainstream list of principles of Grand Lodge recognition.

The ‘Ancient Landmarks’ were first mentioned in print, in a Masonic context, in 1723, but no attempt was made to define them. The concept was widely explored in the latter half of the 19th century, and numerous lists of Landmarks have since been devised and promulgated by writers and Grand Lodges. The best known is a list of 25 by an American, Albert Mackey, subsequently refuted by another American, Roscoe Pound.

It is generally agreed that a Landmark must be (a) something which existed from time immemorial (and therefore before the earliest memory of Masons alive in 1723, when the topic was mentioned in print), and (b) must be such that its absence would change the fundamental nature of Freemasonry. The difficulty lies in defining the fundamental nature of Freemasonry. Scholars are unable to agree on where, when, how and by whom Freemasonry was formed. And Freemasonry today means different things to different men, even to members of the same lodge.

For the purposes of this book, it is assumed that modern speculative Freemasonry is derived, directly or indirectly, from English and Scottish operative stonemasons of the late Middle Ages; that its purpose is to assist good men to become better men; and that its members seek to ‘unite in the grand design of being happy and communicating happiness’. But even these assumptions are subject to dispute.

Many Grand Lodges have adopted a list of Landmarks, no two identical, and many of them subject to the criticisms outlined above. Other Grand Lodges have not ventured to list the Landmarks, and some scholars have expressed the opinion that to define a Landmark is to alter it. Nevertheless, virtually every Grand Lodge (whether it defines Landmarks or not), refers to the Landmarks in its ritual, or in a list of criteria for recognition of other Grand Lodges. The authors themselves were each required to assert, as Master-Elect of a lodge, that they were ‘well skilled in the Ancient Charges, Regulations, and Landmarks [undefined] of the Order’.

Rules for visiting

There are four rules common to most mainstream Grand Lodges, relating to visiting in recognised or unrecognised jurisdictions, and these are summarised in chapter six. The first of these, which is concerned primarily with the question of recognition, from the point of view of the visitor, is explored in rather more detail here. It has four aspects, to each of which there may be exceptions, as follows:

·         A Mason may only visit constituent lodges under a Grand Lodge recognised by his own—unless both Grand Lodges have provided otherwise.

·         If a Mason owes allegiance to two Grand Lodges, then he may only visit lodges in a third jurisdiction recognised by both—unless all the Grand Lodges involved permit otherwise.

·         If a Mason, Brother P, lawfully visits a lodge in another jurisdiction, and finds another visitor lawfully present, whose Grand Lodge is not in amity with Brother P’s Grand Lodge, then Brother P must withdraw—unless Brother P’s Grand Lodge and the host’s Grand Lodge both permit otherwise. Increasingly, Grand Lodges are adopting the ‘when in Rome’ provision, permitting their visiting brethren to comply with the practice of the host lodge, ignoring any conflict with their own previous requirements.

·         A lodge may only admit visitors from jurisdictions formally recognised by the host Grand Lodge—unless the host Grand Lodge has instructed its lodges otherwise.

The safest course is for the mainstream visitor to obtain advice from his own Grand Lodge prior to visiting. If this is not practicable, he should abide by the strictest version of the above rules. It is important to keep this advice in mind when reading this book, because it provides visiting information about lodges and Grand Lodges which may not be recognised by the reader’s own Grand Lodge.

Grand Lodges in this book

The authors are both mainstream Masons. Their first concern is to provide information that will assist Masons with whom they may lawfully sit in lodge, ‘their Brothers’. Next, they seek to help those with whom ‘their Brothers’ may lawfully sit in lodge, ‘their Brother’s Brothers’. This requires detailed treatment not only of all mainstream Grand Lodges, but also all Grand Lodges of groups, some of whose members are recognised by some mainstream Grand Lodges. For example, both authors owe allegiance to the mainstream United Grand Lodge of Victoria, which is in amity with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Connecticut, which in turn recognises all other Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Affiliation. Therefore all 46 Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Affiliation are included, with as much detail as was obtainable at the time of going to press, and could be included in accordance with the size constraints of this volume.

There are many other Grand Lodges which do not fit the above categories. These are mentioned in passing, to inform the student and to alert the traveller. None of this information is included as encouragement to visit where it is not lawful.


The precepts of Freemasonry are clearly against any distinction on the basis of racial origin, but Masonic history abounds with examples of racial discrimination.

The three ‘home’ Grand Lodges have never had a policy of racial discrimination but, as Masonry spread in Africa and Asia with the expansion of the British Empire, there was a definite reluctance to admit non-Europeans to the lodges. We may surmise that this was for a number of interlocking reasons: rulers and subjects were distinguishable by skin colour, language, customs, and usually by social status, wealth and religion. All of these would tend to militate against harmonious assimilation. In India, for example, the first non-European initiates were high-ranking Moslems and Parsees (it was not understood that, at its ‘highest’ levels, Hinduism is monotheistic). And, in Germany in particular, some Grand Lodges discriminated against Jews, presumably on a combined basis of race and religion. To their credit, some Grand Lodges not in the mainstream group have a better record than the mainstream on the issue of race.

In most parts of the world, widespread racial discrimination is no longer practised in Masonic lodges, and some Grand Lodges have taken positive steps against discrimination. For example, in South Africa, where the laws of Apartheid made an arbitrary division of citizens into Whites, Coloureds, and Blacks for the purposes of segregation, the Grand Lodge of South Africa obtained an exemption from the government. In 1977 it warranted two lodges in Cape Town and Kimberley, the founding members of which were former members of two lodges chartered by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. As a result, these brethren were accepted throughout the five Masonic jurisdictions in that country.

The exception is in the United States of America, where Freemasonry has been divided on largely racial lines for more than two centuries, a situation which only now is in the process of being rectified. The reform, which was begun after World War Two, is leading not directly to unification, but merely to recognition of some Grand Lodges, with rights of intervisitation in every case, and additional rights in some cases. An historical summary of this situation is contained in the section on the United States of America. At the time of going to press, 19 of the 46 Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Affiliation had exchanged recognition with 27 of the 51 mainstream US Grand Lodges and with all mainstream Canadian Grand Lodges except Newfoundland and Ontario; the United Grand Lodge of England had recognised 13 of those same 19 Grand Lodges of Prince Hall Affiliation, and nine other mainstream Grand Lodges were in amity with one or more.

It follows that all visitors to North American lodges should be aware of their own Grand Lodge’s position with regard to recognition, and also to rules on visiting where other visitors may be regarded as ‘unrecognised’. Mainstream Masons whose appearance is not ‘White’ may experience some difficulty in visiting in mainstream US jurisdictions which have not recognised any Prince Hall Grand Lodge. Most of these are in the southern United States, and while most southern Grand Lodges have taken positive steps to ensure that ‘regular visitors of color’ are accepted in their lodges, there remains the Master’s prerogative to exclude visitors who ‘might disturb the harmony of the lodge’, which in some jurisdictions may be exercised on the objection of a single member. Perhaps the best advice is to call at the Grand Lodge office, with suitable accreditation, and proceed from there. In this book, the authors merely state their perceptions of the facts; their opinions have been published elsewhere.