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FRATERNAL RELATIONS BETWEEN GRAND LODGES

by W.Bro. Juan Carlos Alvarez, P.J.G.W.,
Regional Grand Counsellor New South Wales, Australia.


I would like to present for information a paper on fraternal relations between Grand Lodges and what we normally refer to as Sister Constitutions.

It is a rather peculiar subject for a paper, as it normally falls within the domain of high level discussions in Grand Lodges. One has to be careful in how to address comments as sometimes references can be misinterpreted, depending on the Grand Lodge we are referring to or if the writer belongs or not to a Grand Lodge widely recognised by other Grand Lodges.

To eliminate any possible contention, let me state that this paper intends to be for general information, especially for those Brethren who are not fully conversant with the complexities of foreign relations and it does not intend to canvass any particular idea.

As we must have rules and regulations for our members, so we must have rules and regulations to satisfactorily cover relations between Grand Lodges.

One of the main purposes of Grand Lodge recognition is essentially to facilitate visitations by Masons between lodges of different jurisdictions and to encourage communications.

An unwritten law existing between Grand Lodges is for the Junior Body to apply to the Senior Body, normally accompanied by a statement by the petitioner Body of the nature of its principles and practices. This unwritten law is waived in the case of a Senior Body being declared illegal by its breaking some of the ancient landmarks, as for example one Grand Lodge in South America which withdrew the VSL from its altars. Nearly all Regular Grand Lodges immediately withdrew recognition. After a period, this Grand Lodge re-instated the Bible in the Pedestal and it had to request recognition even from Junior Bodies to get back into the main stream of Freemasonry.

In a normal application, the Senior Body considers the application against a set of standards, which has been developed for Grand Lodge recognition. If the Petitioner Body meets those standards, recognition is usually granted. In the case of a new consecrated Grand Lodge where Freemasonry did not exist before, or having been being dormant for a considerable period of time, some Grand Lodges wait for some time of stabilisation so see if Freemasonry will prosper or if we wish to apply Masonic terminology, for the "Tongue of Good Report".

There is not a universally accepted set of standards and this may be the cause of the different decisions adopted by some Grand Lodges at to whether the applicant should be granted recognition

This paper will not attempt to propose policy revisions for consideration, but to examine the differences between some Grand Lodges.

As there is not a World Freemasonry organisation and one sincerely hopes there will never be, as this will challenge the sovereignty of each Grand Lodge in the world. Grand Lodges should develop their own policies within the restraints of the Ancient Landmarks and adjust their policies to the own environment.

The need for a review of a more equal and standard system of recognition is therefore apparent. At the moment what is needed is to reduce the complexities arising from the many Grand Lodges recently being formed in Africa and Eastern Europe

First of all, one must establish parameters to guide us in the behaviour of other Grand Lodges and other parameters to indicate to other Grand Lodges what our behaviour is, or what our aims and principles are with respect to Freemasonry.

As far as it can be ascertained, many Grand Lodges, especially those of Anglo-Saxon extraction, are guided by the 1929 Guidelines of the United Grand Lodge of England.

Many will feel that the English Guidelines of 1929 are somewhat old fashioned, because not only are they over 70 years old, but it is a document already updated from the guidelines that England used nearly 200 years ago.

When we live in a world that is changing very quickly, and today Freemasonry is also changing quickly whether we like it or not, added to the fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe where there is a great revival of Freemasonry in those countries, then one must realise that new values in recognition must be found to accommodate that revival.

We definitely need modern guidelines, and that is not saying that we should deviate from the ancient landmarks, but to move along with modern times and requirements. Some Grand Lodges may need to update their guidelines, for the reasons that will be clear as we are proceeding along with the paper.

There is a need for two documents, one to formulate the Basic Principles for Recognition of other Grand Lodges, and the other the Declaration of Principles of the Grand Lodge.

As one would be able to see, one is the Guidelines to recognise other Grand Lodges and the other to declare to other Grand Lodges our Principles and aims.

Now let us deal with the contents of those documents, starting with the Basic Principles for Grand Lodge recognition, and then the Declaration of Principles.

At this stage it is felt that it may be appropriate if both documents are incorporated in the Book of Constitutions, in conjunction with "The Charges of a Freemason" and "Summary of the Ancient Charges and Regulations".

In drawing the documents several points have to be considered,

A most important question could be raised, and that is, what constitutes a Regularly Constituted Lodge?

There is a genuine need to define what constitutes a Regular Constituted Lodge and one definition could be that a Lodge must be Just, Perfect, and Regular.

JUST: The word "Just" as taken in the old sense of "Complete in all parts";

PERFECT: The proper number of Brethren (Seven or more as in the teachings of our rituals).

REGULAR: Must have had petitioned to a regular Grand Lodge for a warrant, and the Grand Master granted the Prayer of Petition. The Lodge should then be consecrated and solemnly constituted according to ancient usage. (NOTE: The practice of applying for petition to the Grand Master for a Warrant to meet as a regular Lodge commenced in the year 1718).

The Grand Lodge issuing the warrant must be properly constituted and widely recognised by other Grand Lodges.

Another question could arise; can a Masonic Body, other than a Craft Grand Lodge issue warrants for the formation of regular constituted Lodges?

The obvious answer is that only one Grand Body can claim that privilege and that is the Supreme Council 33rd of the Ancient and Accepted Rite.

According to the Article VI of the Constitutions of 1786, the formative Charter of the Supreme Councils and the one in which all Supreme Councils abide, they have the inherent right to the 33rd degrees including the first basic degrees of E.A.F., F.C. and M.M. degrees.

This article VI states " The Supreme Council need not always exercise its authority directly over the degrees below the 17th", and "It may delegate that authority, even tacitly, but its right is imprescriptible" and, "Require of every Lodge, of whatever degree it may be that in persons of the 33rd degree, they do recognise the office of Grand Inspectors General of the Order, do respect their prerogatives, do pay them honor (sic), do obey them, and, finally do faithfully comply with all the requirements that may emanate from them".

I am sure that everybody is very well aware that this particular Article is the cause of the many problems between the Craft Grand Lodges and the Supreme Councils, being a matter of contention for so many years, specially in South America, where some Supreme councils tend to claim authority over the first three degrees.

A number of South American Jurisdictions have a "Treaty of Friendship" or Concordat, (to be read as "Non-interference") with the Supreme Councils.

This is of course, according to the Constitutions of 1786, however, in reality, all the Supreme Councils of the world effectively and immediately will withdraw recognition from any Supreme Council attempting to enforce this Article VI on any Grand Lodge or Jurisdiction.

The Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction of America, styled "Mother Council of the World", in its transactions of 1967 approved a set of 18 Principles (read Guidelines) that made impossible for any Supreme Council of the world in amity to claim authority over the three Craft Degrees of E.A.F., F.C., and M.M., unless that Supreme Council chooses to become an unrecognised Body within the stream of Rite Freemasonry.

The practical solution that comes readily to mind is to add the words"Symbolic Lodges may be legitimately and regularly formed only by warrant or charter from a legitimate and regular Grand Lodge" and " The Grand Lodge (Name) may determine what is or what is not legitimate and regular Symbolic Masonry"

A regular Lodge is also one, which does not admit members unless a belief in God is declared by the Initiate, or in Masonic terms T.G.A.O.T.U. This must be the first condition of admission into the Order.

As a note of caution here let me stress that there must be no attempt made to define the meaning of the word GOD, as it will become divisive. A belief in God (without definition) will not imply or demand doctrinal definition. When attempts are made to formulate a belief about God it becomes theology, and theology divides people of different faiths. This simple statement enables Freemasons to join with men of religions across the globe, and gives every man the right to the interpretation of his own religion.

A regular Lodge should admit only men, freeborn and of mature age. These is one of the items derived directly from the Old Charges dating back to circa 1390 and are the oldest documents in the world belonging to the Craft. There are many arguments at present whether women should be admitted into the Craft Lodges. These arguments may be very convincing for some and controvertible for others, and it may be a possibility in the future, but at this very moment any attempt to initiate women into Freemasonry, or to have any Masonic association of any kind with mixed lodges, or bodies which admit women to membership will make a Lodge, and the Grand Lodge allowing it, to be Irregular in the Mainstream Freemasonry.

There many Grand Lodges demanding a belief in the immortality of the soul, whilst others are silent in this requisite. This particular item was implicit in the religious beliefs of the early period of the developing of Freemasonry.

Many Grand Lodges request an adherence to the Ancient Landmarks, some listing them in various degrees or with a great variation in the number of them.

Landmarks were mostly an invention of the masonic researchers of the 19th Century, and were often called the ''ANCIENT LANDMARKS''. They have caused a lot of controversy and produced very little or beneficial consequences. It could be a reminder of a candle, which produces more heat than light.

It became a concept turned into ancient and universally recognised laws, so immutable that no human hand or mind could elaborate the slightest alteration in them.

In the latter part of the 19th Century, even the most prolific authors became so confused with the issue that no one knew what these landmarks were, so many started to define them generally or to enumerate them specifically.

The whole complex chain of development began with a single remark, inserted in a passing, casual, and indefinite way in the last article 39 of the General Regulations of the Premier Grand Lodge of England adopted in 1721-1722 and incorporated in the Constitutions of 1723. This reads as follows:

''Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and

authority to make New regulations or to alter these,

for the real benefit of this Ancient Fraternity;

provided always that the OLD LANDMARKS be carefully

preserved''

This was its only time mentioned in the Constitutions of 1723. So far nobody knows what it meant, and it is quite possible that the Grand Lodge itself was unsure.

After the publication of the 1723 Constitutions, this term "Landmarks" was not again used in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge for 86 years. It proved the lesser importance of the word Landmarks.

When the Premier Grand Lodge of England, after many problems with the Antients, decided in 1809 to revert to the ancient landmarks, it may have given the idea that the secrets of the degrees were landmarks, as they were previously reverted because of the constant stream of Masonic Disclosures. In 1813, the Articles of the Union between the Ancient and Modern Grand Lodges, provided for ''ONE PURE UNSULLIED SYSTEM ACCORDING TO THE GENUINE LANDMARKS''.

One can guess by now that any attempt to deal with the subject of the landmarks is outside the scope of this presentation, however, allow to state for the benefit of this paper and the consideration for recognition of a Grand Lodge that a landmark, is something that has been part of Masonry for so long a period, that it should never occur to inquire its origin as far as the conduction of a Lodge or conducting oneself as a Mason. It should be something to feel without stopping to analyze why one is feeling that way. Something that could not be removed without changing Freemasonry as a whole, something necessary to the preservation of our Order. The landmarks do not necessarily have to be written; after careful evaluation one may find that the only landmarks that exist, are the ones that a Brother can build within himself.

Other of the many requisites for Grand Lodge recognition is the ability to preserve the beautiful tradition of not allowing its members any discussion on politics or religion in Lodge or in his capacity as a Mason, whilst preserving the right of the individual to hold his own opinion on public affairs or to hold his views on theological or political questions.

This is one of the items which many will find very peculiar, and while personally cannot but fully concur with the policy of not permitting the introduction of politics or religion in our Lodges, as its discussion can only can bring bitterness and division to the members, one cannot help to remember that this, the discussion of religion and politics, was maybe one of the reasons which provided Freemasonry to flourish during the period of England's political and religious persecution when the Lodges become an oasis to exchange political and religious views without fear of repression.

This is only a very small part of the responsibilities of Foreign Relations as there are many other actions to be considered, just to name a few; appointments of Grand representatives of Sister Grand Lodges, the investigation of Grand Lodges seeking recognition, as well as irregularities of Grand Lodges, or newly formed Grand Lodges, and the review the Annual Proceedings of other Sister Constitutions to exchange information, and to provide an analysis of other Grand Lodges.

This is only a very brief summary on information on Grand Lodge recognition as every item presented is capable of being fully discussed in separated papers. If that is the case, one should feel gratified that it provides fodder for further discussion and enlightenment.

 

Juan Carlos Alvarez, 1999.


 

INDEX Papers by W.Bro. Juan Carlos Alvarez