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From: MASONIC WORLD GUIDE by Kent Henderson. Pages 6-14.

Developed by W.Bro. Kent Henderson
Dip. T., B. Ed., Grad. Cert. Ed., Grad. Dip. Ed., M. Ed, Diploma of Masonic Education (Sth. Aust.)
Past Junior Grand Deacon, A. F. & A. Masons of Victoria, Australia.


The habit of freemasons to travel and to visit other lodges, or even affiliate with them, is one of the oldest and most widely practiced customs of the Craft. In operative times, well before the emergence of the Speculative Craft as we now know it, masons were itinerant workers who were forced to travel to renew their employment as each building project was completed. This fluid nature of the Operative Craft led to the formation of trade societies, known as lodges, to protect the professional integrity of their occupation, and to enhance the moral and social practices of their members. It is surmised, not without some evidence, that the modes of recognition were originated in the operative period as a means of identifying the genuinely skilled mason who came to visit a lodge in search of work.

It is therefore reasonable to deduce that the tendency of masons to visit other lodges is very old custom indeed. Many of the oldest extant masonic manuscripts contain charges associated with visiting, and the reception of visitors.

Visiting as a Right

As has just been outlined, the right to visit and sit in every regular lodge is one of the oldest masonic customs. This custom hinged on the theory that all lodges are only divisions of the 'Universal Brotherhood'. Indeed, in some areas of old, visitors could even vote at lodge meetings.

However, the growth and spread of the Craft saw many variations in forms and procedures develop, and the evolution of the Grand Lodge system as we know it today. In turn, this necessitated that the concept of visiting as a right undergo changes. The movement towards qualification of the right to visit appears to have begun in the early eighteenth century. There are records of lodges in this period setting out limitations to visiting, in terms of the number of visits a non-member mason could make to a lodge in a twelve month period; and limiting the types of meeting a visitor could attend. Certainly, by the end of the eighteenth century, visiting had ceased to be a right, but rather a privilege.

Visiting as a Privilege

The situation today is that visiting is a privilege-indeed, it is one of the greatest privileges of masonic membership. It must be immediately stated that a mason has no absolute, prescriptive right to visit a lodge wherein he is not a member. However, with that fact clearly stated, it must be observed that visiting as a privilege is most definitely encouraged and welcomed in every regular jurisdiction. A regular freemason in good standing will always encounter masonic hospitality and brotherhood in his travels.

The Limitations on Visiting Today

There are four basic limitations on visiting in the masonic world today. The first two, as listed below with explanations, are common to every regular jurisdiction; while the last two are less prevalent.

They are:

1. The Recognition of' Regularity. This is a limitation on visiting whereby the only people a lodge may receive are those who are members of another lodge whose Grand Lodge is recognised by its own. This whole question is detailed at length in a later chapter.

2. The Master's Prerogative. It is, by custom and often by Grand Lodge statute, the prerogative of the Master of a lodge to refuse to admit any visitor if he is not satisfied that he is a regular mason of good standing; or he feels that such a proposed visitor will disturb the harmony of his lodge. The former power is only occasionally used as a matter of necessity; the latter very rarely. Nevertheless, the prerogative power of the Master of a lodge is wide.

3. Business Meetings. Under some forms of masonic practice, business meetings are held separately to meetings held for degree conferment, and where this is the case, visitors are often excluded from the former, but never the latter. Similarly, in some jurisdictions where ordinary lodge business and degree conferment are held in the space of a since meeting, visitors are sometimes not admitted until after the lodge has completed the business part of its activities.

4. Visiting by Invitation. In some jurisdictions, notably England, it is largely usual for visitors to receive an invitation from a lodge member. In other areas, while such a restriction does not exist with respect to ordinary meetings, it does apply to Installation Meetings. These practices are not adhered to without reasons, and they will be examined when we come to discuss those jurisdictions concerned later in this guide.

The Procedures of Visiting

There are ten steps, or procedures, involved in successful masonic visiting-most of which are sequential. They move from obtaining the appropriate documentation, to the actual sitting of a visitor in a strange lodge. These steps must be followed before a visitor can be admitted into a lodge wherein he is not known, and their whole purpose is to establish the bone fides of a true and lawful brother.

Step One: Advise your own Lodge Secretary

The first step is to inform your own lodge secretary of your desire to visit outside your own jurisdiction, and to provide him with details of your travels. He will liaise with your Grand Lodge office to procure all the necessary documents, and obtain advice.

Step Two: The Procuration of Masonic Documentation

To establish himself as a true and lawful brother to the satisfaction of his hosts, the visiting mason must first produce the appropriate documents which will attest to his regularity as a freemason. The following documents should be carried by a mason seeking admittance into any regular lodge wherein he is not personally known:

A Grand Lodge Certificate, or Diploma: Every Grand Lodge issues this, or similarly named, documentation. It is a credential provided to the Master Mason to prove in writing that he is a regular mason. It invariably contains the dates appropriate to his admission into the Craft, the signature of his Grand Secretary, the Grand Lodge Seal, and his signature.

A Receipt of Dues: It is not enough for a visiting mason to produce his Grand Lodge Certificate when seeking admission to a strange lodge. While his Certificate provides proof that the person named on it is a freemason, it does not prove that he is a current financial member of a regular lodge. To be a mason in good standing is the usual masonic terminology describing a financial member. Some jurisdictions provide their financial members with a receipt of dues as a right, while others provide it only on request.

The Dues Card: The Dues Card is a form of receipt of dues provided by lodges under a number of jurisdictions, notably in North America. This is considered in these jurisdictions as the most important masonic 'Passport'. Indeed, in the United States, lodges have little interest in sighting a Grand Lodge Certificate, but no visitor will enter their Temples without first producing a Dues Card or satisfactory equivalent. In lieu of a Dues Card or other direct form of receipt of dues, a recent lodge summons (notice of meeting), or letter of introduction may suffice.

In addition to the largely compulsory documents just detailed, it is recommended that a visitor also carry, and if necessary present, the following additional documents:

A Letter of Introduction: Many Grand Lodges provide a letter of introduction to intending visitors through their Grand Lodge office. Such letters carry the Grand Secretary's recommendation, and all the masonic details of its bearer. It can usually be used as a substitute for a 'receipt of dues' if personally carried. Some Grand Secretaries will forward a visitor's 'letter of introduction direct to Grand Lodge under which he proposes to visit, thus giving its Grand Secretary pre-warning of the visitor's imminent presence.

A Passport: All foreign travellers carry a passport, and while it is rarely called upon for masonic purposes, it has the effect of attesting to its bearer's actual identity.

There are other masonic documents issued by some Grand Lodges. Many provide a Past Master's Certificate to appropriately qualified masons. Past Masters are advised to carry this document, or similar documentation, especially if they wish to witness an Installation Ceremony in full, in those jurisdictions wherein only Installed Masters may witness certain parts of it.

Visitors who are not yet Master Masons (ie: they are Entered Apprentices, or Fellow Crafts) will not yet have received, nor be entitled to receive, their Grand Lodge Certificate. However, they can usually obtain appropriate documentation from their Grand Secretary's office prior to departure from their own jurisdiction.

It is as well to mention that masons in this category may not be able to visit in some jurisdictions. English-speaking and Continental freemasonry, in particular, usually restrict visiting between themselves to holders of the Master Mason Degree. Jurisdictions working a Webb-form ritual have a similar restriction. Even in those jurisdictions where such a mason may be permitted to visit, limitations often apply. Such a mason is strongly advised to consult with his own Grand Lodge office prior to departure. It may even be possible for him to receive the degrees that he is yet to obtain by courtesy in another jurisdiction. The matter of courtesy degrees is dealt with later in this section.

Step Three: Check for Regularity

It is essential that each mason check that regular freemasonry exists in the area he proposes to visit. A chapter explaining regularity and its importance follows shortly. At the rear of this guide is to be found a list of Grand Lodge recognition. Given the parameters explained at that point, these lists may be used to determine whether or not the jurisdiction that is proposed to be visited is recognised by your own Grand Lodge. A mason's own Grand Lodge office will assist further in this regard.

Step Four: Visit its Grand Lodge Office First

The recommended form of making contact, and of advising a particular Grand Lodge of your presence in its jurisdiction, is in person. Most Grand Lodges are based in the capital city, or principal city, of a country or area. As such a city usually doubles as the main point of entry into the area, a visit to the local Grand Lodge office is generally quite practicable. On visiting a Grand Lodge office a visiting mason can always be assured of full assistance. Indeed, should a visiting mason be in need of advice or assistance of any nature, not necessarily masonic, he can always find it amongst his brethren in the Craft, no matter in which country he may find himself.

Step Five: Direct Lodge Visiting

As a second preference, to be used if for some reason a visit to the appropriate Grand Lodge office proves impossible, a visitor can use the information contained in this guide to directly attend a lodge meeting. However, due to the restrictions of space it has not been possible to list the details of lodges in every jurisdiction. In addition, it is appreciated that several Grand Lodges have warranted lodges without their geographical jurisdiction, so that a visit to the appropriate Grand Lodge office is not possible. This particularly applies to lodges in Africa and Asia under the British Grand Lodges. Meeting details for most of the lodges in these areas are included in this Guide, as a consequence.

Step Six: A Letter to a Grand Lodge

As a last alternative to make contact, a mason proposing to travel masonically can write a letter to the Grand Jurisdiction he is to visit, seeking advice. However, this method should only be used as a last resort if the appropriate Grand Lodge office cannot be personally visited, or if no details concerning constituent lodges are available. If this approach is to be undertaken, such a letter Must be sent via your own Grand Lodge office. Such a letter should be addressed to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge concerned; and should contain your name and address and full masonic details, together with your places of residence in its jurisdiction and the dates applicable to your itinerary.

Any such letter must be directed via your own Grand Lodge office for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, correspondence directed through a mason's own Grand Lodge office assures the Grand Lodge being asked for advice that the enquiring brother is indeed a regular mason deserving of receiving the desired assistance. Secondly, by directing a letter through your own Grand Lodge office, your Grand Secretary can enclose an accompanying letter of support, which in turn will ensure a useful and speedy reply. It needs to be added that if a mason sends a letter direct to any foreign jurisdiction, he is unlikely to receive a response. Thirdly, it must be appreciated that Grand Lodges get enough mail as it is, and letters from hundreds of inquiring visitors will not alleviate this situation. Clearly then, this whole matter is one of masonic protocol, and protocol must be followed. Any letter that is to be sent must be arranged well before your planned departure, to ensure a reply is received in time for your visit.

Step Seven. Know your own Ritual.

As will soon be appreciated, it is necessary for visitors to undergo a masonic examination prior to entering a strange lodge. It is, therefore most desirable for masonic travellers to be full conversant with their home ritual, and in particular, with the examination procedures used by lodges under their home Grand Lodge.

This knowledge will be of great assistance to the visitor. While rituals and examination procedures do vary around the world, the modes of recognition and basic ritual content are not dissimilar. Therefore, a mason with adequate knowledge of the practices in his own jurisdiction will experience no trouble elsewhere.

Step Eight: Arrive Early

Having completed all the above procedures as appropriate, you are now in a position to visit. It is essential that you arrive at your chosen lodge meeting at least half an hour prior to its commencement. This will enable you to complete the remaining procedures as detailed below. A tardy, or late, arrival might well prevent you from visiting.

Step Nine: "Strict Trial and Due Examination".

Having arrived at the lodge you wish to visit, your first task is to advise its Tyler of your presence- and present to him your masonic credentials as already detailed However, in all regular masanic jurisdictions, it is necessary that in addition to presenting these documents, an unknown mason seeking to visit a lodge undergo a personal examination. A travelling mason must be prepared for this eventuality.

In masonic terminology, this process is called "Strict Trial and Due Examination". Both amount to the same thing. Either means the ascertainment that a stranger is freemason, or he is not. The nature of freemasonry does not allow documentary evidence alone to be the final testament as to whether a man is a freemason. It is possible, although unlikely, that a person seeking admission may be carrying false, or stolen documents. There have been occurrences in the past of unqualified persons, or impostors, seeking admission to lodge meetings.

An imposter may be a person who has never been a mason, one who is under suspension or expulsion from a lodge or one whose Grand Lodge is not recognised as regular. A mason who cannot prove that he is in good standing may also be prevented from visiting.

The procedures of masonic examination and recognition vary throughout the world, and these differences are based on ritual divergence. However, these procedures are all designed to achieve the same ends, and provided a mason is well acquainted with the practice of the Craft in his own jurisdiction, he will experience little difficulty elsewhere. As we shall discover in a later chapter; while the forms of masonic rituals around the world vary somewhat, the content is reasonably similar.

In most jurisdictions, masonic examination is carried out by an examining committee; appointed by the Master of the lodge either formally or on an ad hoc basis as the need arises. This committee can consist of the Master himself and his two Wardens, two or three Past Masters, or a small number of senior lodge members. In some areas, the examination is carried out by the lodge Tyler.

In most jurisdictions the examination, while thorough, is informally presented. It is usual for the examiners to select features of masonic knowledge at random, even to the point of requiring information out of sequence from each of the three degrees. This practice tends to uncover the 'Parrot Mason', or fraud with a good memory. Some committees even ask quite broad questions such as; 'tell us all you know about how you were raised to the degree of a Master Mason', although this is rare. In some jurisdictions, notably Ireland and those of the United States, visitors are required to repeat the Tyler's Oath. The wording of this Oath is contained under the heading of the United States. As a final comment, it can be readily said that provided the man under examination is indeed a true and lawful brother, he will be discovered and acknowledged as such. The reverse, of course, is also true.

Step Ten. Avouchment and Vouching

In masonic terminology, 'Avouchment' is the lawful information which a mason provides to the lodge he seeks to visit, and the actual procedures which allow him to sit therein. Vouching technica1ly means a mason being able to state that he has 'sat in open Lodge' with another. Therefore, if a mason visits a lodge wherein he knows one or more of its members and has sat in open lodge with them, they will vouch for him, and he will not need to pass Strict Trial and Due Examination. Whereupon he is unknown, after he has presented his credentials and has been examined the Examining Committee or one of its members will vouch for him.

The avouchment procedures inside lodges vary widely between jurisdictions, but are all designed to evince to the lodge membership that the visitor is masonically entitled to be present. In some jurisdictions, the visitor will enter after the lodge is opened. In others, he will be present from the beginning, and all visitors will be asked to rise to be vouched for by a member present prior to the lodge opening. Unknown masons will have already passed an examination. In Ireland and the United States jurisdictions, this is accompanied by what is known as 'purging the lodge'. This practice will be detailed in its proper place later in this book. All these procedures pose no problems for the true and lawful brother, and they will certainly be of interest to the mason who has not experienced them before.

In other jurisdictions, notably of direct English descent, visitors will be vouched for inside the lodge while the visitor himself remains outside, to be admitted after he has been cleared. Many lodges using this form of vouching often accompany it with a card system, whereupon the visitor (having been properly examined) records his name, lodge and masonic rank on a card, which is then passed inside the lodge and read out. Upon the name of each visitor being read, the member vouching for the named visitor will stand and signify his assent to the Master.

All these forms of avouchment will be more fully explained later in this guide, as they apply to the jurisdictions wherein they are used.

Courtesy Degrees

Most regular Grand Lodges of the world, upon a written request from a recognised sister Grand Lodge, will confer 'courtesy degrees' upon a mason from that sister jurisdiction. Courtesy degrees is the term used to describe the conferment of degrees upon a mason from another Jurisdiction in a lodge under a host jurisdiction. In many cases, only the second and third degrees can be conferred, but some jurisdictions, notably in the United States, will confer any or all of the three Craft degrees by courtesy.

A mason travelling to another country or area, and who has not taken all the three Craft degrees, may wish to have a degree, or degrees, conferred upon him in another jurisdiction, This course of action may well suit a mason who has been transferred to another locality in the course of his employment. For courtesy work to be carried out, a mason will need to be in the host jurisdiction for at least several months. A quick tourist visit rarely affords enough time for courtesy work to be effected.

A mason wishing to receive a degree by courtesy must follow a standard procedure. The steps to be undertaken are as follows:

1. On a brother's behalf, his lodge secretary will write to his Grand Lodge office informing his Grand Secretary of the brother's desire in the matter. The letter will set out all the relevant details including the country to be visited by the brother, his residence therein, his current masonic rank, and the dates of his residency.

2. Assuming that:

(i) a regular Grand Lodge exists in the country to be visited by the brother, and

(ii) this jurisdiction will normally conduct courtesy work, and

(iii) his Grand Secretary is satisfied that the brother's circumstances and reasons warrant the conferment of a courtesy degree, and

(iv) the ritual forms used by the proposed host jurisdiction are somewhat comparable with local practice:

then the brother's Grand Secretary will communicate with the Grand Secretary in the jurisdiction concerned, requesting that he act on behalf of the brother.

3. Invariably, such a request will be met, and the host jurisdiction will prevail upon one of its constituent lodges close to the place of temporary residence of the brother, to confer upon him the appropriate degree, or degrees.

4 .The brother's Grand Secretary will then be informed of the arrangements made by the hosting jurisdiction, and he will see that this information is passed back to the brother. Generally, the brother will be contacted by the hosting jurisdiction, or hosting lodge, and informed of the final arrangements. This will occur after he has taken up residency within its area.

Courtesy degrees, when conferred, have the full force of the conferment of degrees in the normal way. Upon receiving the Master Mason degree, a brother's home Grand Lodge will issue him his Master Mason's Certificate.

The Limitations of Courtesy Conferment

Several limitations apply to the conferment of courtesy degrees. he American Grand Lodges also publish a list of lodges, variously called a Roster, Directory, and a variety of other names. However, some of the smaller US Grand Bodies simply produce their lodge meeting details towards the rear of their annual Grand Lodge Proceedings.

A number of jurisdictions regularly publish a magazine/periodical for general distribution to their memberships. Most are produced bi-monthly or quarterly. They contain a wealth of information concerning the jurisdictions that publish them, and they will be of interest to the travelling mason. Most are available on twelve month subscriptions. Travellers desiring to purchase such a subscription can make inquiries at their own Grand Lodge office, and arrangements will be made with the jurisdiction concerned on the brother's behalf. In addition, most Grand Lodge libraries around the world subscribe to a range of foreign masonic periodicals, and these are readily available for consultation by the intending visitor.

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