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by W.Bro. TONY POPE
REGULARITY AND RECOGNITION
Extracts from Freemasonry Universal, by Kent Henderson & Tony Pope, 1998.
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.
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.
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
(a) Regularity of
(b) Regularity of
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
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’.
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
‘Basic Principles of Recognition’
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:
The Grand Lodge shall have been regularly formed (‘regularity of
Belief in the Supreme Being is an essential qualification for membership
within the jurisdiction.
Candidates are obligated on, or in view of, the open Volume of Sacred
The membership of the Grand Lodge and its lodges consists exclusively of
men, and no Masonic intercourse is permitted with women’s lodges or
The Grand Lodge is an independent, self-governing body with sole
jurisdiction over the Craft degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and
Discussion of religion and politics within the lodges is totally
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
The principles of the Ancient Landmarks, customs and usages of the Craft
[all undefined] are strictly observed.
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
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
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
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
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.
groups of Grand Lodges
groups exist in isolation from the mainstream. These include:
The Grand Orient of France, and its allies in Europe
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.
phrase ‘Ancient Landmarks’ (often ‘the Landmarks’) occurs frequently in
Masonry, including in the mainstream list of principles of Grand Lodge
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’.
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
A Mason may only visit constituent lodges under a
Grand Lodge recognised by his own—unless both Grand Lodges have provided
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.
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
Lodges in this book
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
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.
precepts of Freemasonry are clearly against any distinction on the basis of
racial origin, but Masonic history abounds with examples of racial
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.