Regular Masonic jurisdictions
- This article deals with organization in Craft or Blue Lodge Freemasonry. See the appropriate article for information on organization in appendant Masonic bodies such as York Rite and Scottish Rite.
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Regularity is the process by which individual Grand Lodges recognise one another for the purposes of allowing formal interaction at the Grand Lodge level and visitation by members of other jurisdictions.
- 1 Regularity and its origins
- 2 Europe
- 3 North America
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Regularity and its origins
There are a number of groupings of Masonic jurisdictions which consider themselves regular, and recognise others as regular, yet consider others to be irregular. There is no globally centralised Masonic organisational system, and therefore the criteria for regularity are not consistent across all Grand Lodges.
Antients and Moderns
The concept of Regularity first appears in Payne's regulations, and was printed in Anderson's Constitutions. In regulation VIII we find -
- If any Set or Number of Masons shall take upon themselves to form a Lodge without the Grand-Master’s Warrant, the regular Lodges are not to countenance them, or own them as fair Brethren and duly form’d, nor approve of their Acts and Deeds; but must treat them as Rebels, until they humble themselves, as the Grand-Master shall in his Prudence direct, and until he approve of them by his Warrant, which must be signify’d to the other Lodges, as the Custom is when a new Lodge is to be register’d in the List of Lodges.
The revisions published in the 1738 constitutions introduced the term Regular Lodge.
Arguments regarding what ought to constitute proper Freemasonry appear in the 1720s, when some lodges of the Premier Grand Lodge of England began to replace the old method of drawing the lodge symbols on the floor in chalk and charcoal with tape, tacked to the floor, and portable metal letters. This earned the new Grand Lodge the nickname of the Moderns. In 1735, the same Grand Lodge refused admission to the master and wardens of an Irish lodge, who claimed to be a deputation from the Grand Master of Ireland, unless they accepted the English constitution, which they refused. In 1751 the nucleus of a second Grand Lodge, which did not accept the innovations of the original, was formed. Their book of constitutions, the Ahiman Rezon of their Grand Secretary Laurence Dermott, suggests that the Moderns had now changed their passwords in alarm over masonic exposures printed in the 1730s, which would not allow their members admission into any lodges outside their own jurisdiction. The process of uniting of these two Grand Lodges began in 1809, when the Moderns set up a travelling Lodge of Promulgation to return their ritual to its "Ancient" form. This made possible the creation, in 1813, of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Landmarks of Freemasonry
Payne's 1720 regulations mention the necessity of maintaining the old Land-Marks of the order, but it was much later that anybody attempted to define them. It was not until 1858 that Albert Mackey published a list of 25 landmarks, which while not universally accepted, formed the basis of some American jurisdictions.
Attempts to formulate the basis of regularity came even later in England, and appear to have arisen from recognition of a new Grand Lodge in France, which had just split from the Grand Orient de France, already branded as irregular (see below). A letter of 1913 from the new Grand Master of the Independent and Regular National Grand Lodge of France and of the French Colonies stated the obligations of his lodges as his claim to regularity.
- 1. While the Lodge is at work the Bible will always be open on the altar.
- 2. The ceremonies will be conducted in strict conformity with the Ritual of the “Regime Rectifié” which is followed by these Lodges, a Ritual which was drawn up in 1778 and sanctioned in 1782, and with which the Duke of Kent was initiated in 1792.
- 3. The Lodge will always be opened and closed with invocation and in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe. All the summonses of the Order and of the Lodges will be printed with the symbols of the Great Architect of the Universe.
- 4. No religious or political discussion will be permitted in the Lodge.
- 5. The Lodge as such will never take part officially in any political affair but every individual Brother will preserve complete liberty of opinion and action.
- 6. Only those Brethren who are recognised as true Brethren by the Grand Lodge of England will be received in Lodge.
In 1813, upon the union of Antients and Moderns, the UGLE had created a new Constitution, based on the Constitution of Anderson of the Moderns and the Ahiman Rezon of the Antients, which required acceptance of the Great Architect of the Universe.
The Grand Orient de France (GOdF) initially adapted its Constitution in order to comply. In 1877, however, on a proposal of the Protestant priest Frédéric Desmons at the convention of the GOdF, they removed references to the Great Architect of the Universe (GAOTU) from their Constitution. The members of the convention saw their decision as a way to return to the original Constitution of James Anderson of 1723. The first two sentences of the constitution of the GOdF (in English translation) had been:
- "Its principles of Freemasonry are the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and human solidarity. It considers liberty of conscience as an inherent right of each man and excludes no one because of his beliefs."
- "Its principles are liberty of conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no one because of his beliefs.
This decision led to a schism between the Grand Orient de France and the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Since the great schism of 1877 freemasonry is divided in two branches, Continental style Freemasonry and Anglo Freemasonry. These two branches are not in mutual regular amity, since most English style lodges consider Continental style lodges to be irregular. The Grand Orient de France (Grand Orients) and the United Grand Lodge of England (Grand Lodges) are the basic models for each variety of freemasonry.
The largest collection of mutually recognised Grand Lodges derives its regularity from one or more of the Home Grand Lodges (United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) and Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLoI)) based on criteria known as "Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition" which together they codified and published on 4 September 1929 (although not new – they had been developed and refined over at least the preceding 150 years):
- Regularity of origin is established by a duly recognised Grand Lodge or three or more regularly constituted Lodges.
- A belief in the Great Architect of the Universe and his revealed will shall be an essential qualification for membership.
- That all Initiates shall take their Obligation on or in full view of the open Volume of the Sacred Law, by which is meant the revelation from above which is binding on the conscience of the particular individual who is being initiated.
- That the membership of the Grand Lodge and individual Lodges shall be composed entirely of men; and that each Grand Lodge shall have no Masonic intercourse of any kind with mixed Lodges or bodies which admit women to membership.
- That the Grand Lodge shall have sovereign jurisdiction over Lodges under its control, i.e. that it shall be a responsible, independent, self-governing organisation, with sole and undisputed authority over the Craft or Symbolic degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) within its Jurisdiction; and shall not in any way be subject to, or divide such authority with, a Supreme Council or any other power claiming any control or supervision over those degrees.
- That the three Great Lights of Freemasonry (namely, the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square, and the Compasses) shall always be exhibited when the Grand Lodge or its subordinate Lodges are at work, the chief of these being the Volume of the Sacred Law.
- That the discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge shall be strictly prohibited.
- That the principles of the Antient Landmarks, customs and usages of the Craft be strictly observed.
The first attempt to codify the governance of Masonry was by James Anderson in his Constitutions, published in 1723, and which contain a number of basic principles. Dr. Albert Mackey built on this in 1856, when he identified 25 Landmarks or characteristics of Masonry which have been widely adopted in America.
UGLE considers itself to be the most ancient Grand Lodge in continuous existence as it was founded in 1717 by four pre-existent lodges, and no record exists of any earlier Lodge organisation styling itself as a national Grand Lodge. Three of the four original lodges still exist, namely UGLE lodges No 2, No 4, and No 12. Unusually, they function without the normal warrant, and also have some internal offices and regulations which differ slightly from UGLE constitutions. As they pre-date the foundation of the oldest grand lodge, and as their actual date of foundation is (in each case) unknown, these three lodges are referred to as being "time immemorial" lodges. Since 1717 other grand lodges have been founded, and the majority have sought recognition by UGLE, hence it has become the 'benchmark' of masonic regularity.
"Continental" style jurisdictions
The Continental style Grand Lodges and Grand Orients have created several organizations in order to organize their international relations, such as CLIPSAS, the International Secretariat of the Masonic Adogmatic Powers, and the International Masonic Union Catena.
Other bodies predicate their assessment of regularity on the 8th decree of Anderson's Constitution; a Lodge is regular if it works in conformity to the rules of its granted constitutional patent. Grand Lodges certify regularity to their recognized Member Lodges and Grand Lodges with patents.
Several Grand Lodges are active in Belgium.
The Regular Grand Loge of Belgium (R.G.L.B.) is currently the only Belgian Grand Lodge which is recognised as regular by UGLE and its concordant jurisdictions.
The oldest Grand Lodge of Belgium, the Grand Orient of Belgium (G.O.B.) lost its recognition by the UGLE in the 19th century when it decided to remove the requirement for Masons to have a belief in a Supreme Being. In an attempt to regain recognition by the UGLE, five lodges from the GOB founded the Grand Lodge of Belgium (G.L.B.) in 1959. When in 1979 the G.L.B. also lost its recognition by UGLE, nine lodges founded the Regular Grand Loge of Belgium on 15 June 1979.
"Regular Freemasonry", when this term is not further defined, usually refers to the United Grand Lodge of England and its recognized jurisdictions. Since UGLE is considered to be not only the oldest, but also the largest grouping of lodges, UGLE recognition (or the lack thereof) is generally the barometer by which a jurisdiction is deemed regular. UGLE provides a list of recognised Grand Lodges on its website.
There are no fewer than 12 national Grand Lodges operating in France.
The Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) was until recently the only French Grand Lodge to be recognised as regular by UGLE and its concordant jurisdictions. However, on 19 July 2011, relations were suspended, and on 12 September 2012 UGLE finally voted to withdraw recognition of GLNF.
The Grand Orient de France (GOdF) was recognised by most Grand Lodges in the world until the middle of the 19th century, when the GOdF recognised an irregular and "unrecognised" Masonic organisation in Louisiana. This caused several US Grand Lodges to withdraw recognition from the GOdF. The final breaking point, however, came about due to a decision by the GOdF in 1877 to remove the requirement for Masons to have a belief in a Supreme Being. UGLE and most other Anglo-Saxon Grand Lodges suspended all relations with, and recognition of, the Grand Orient de France as a result.
The Vereinigte Großlogen von Deutschland or United Grand Lodges of Germany (VGLvD) is the regular Grand Lodge in Germany, it comprises five united Grand Lodges of varying traditions: two traditional German Grand Lodges, one Prussian Swedish Rite Grand Lodge, one English tradition Grand Lodge and one North American tradition Grand Lodge, the latter two Grand Lodges having been formed by occupying forces. There are also irregular masonic lodges in Germany including women masons, Co-Freemasons, and Prince Hall Freemasons (mainly on US military installations).
There are no fewer than 3 national Grand Lodges operating in Italy.
In the United States each state has a Grand Lodge that supervises the lodges within that state and is sovereign and independent within that jurisdiction. The Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania  was the first of these, founded in 1731, and also the third Grand Lodge ever formed around the world after England and Ireland. These are commonly referred to as the "regular" or "mainstream" Grand Lodges. There is no national Grand Lodge. All regular Grand Lodges in the US are in mutual amity with each other and with UGLE.
In addition, most States also have a sovereign and independent Prince Hall Grand Lodge that is or was predominantly African-American. For many years the mainstream Grand Lodges did not recognize Prince Hall Freemasonry and considered them irregular. Within the last 20 years this situation has changed and today most mainstream Grand Lodges have come to recognize their Prince Hall counterparts and vice-versa. The few exceptions are in the former Confederate states (except Virginia and North Carolina), as well as West Virginia, where the mainstream Grand Lodges do not yet recognize their Prince Hall counterparts. The Grand Lodge of Texas has recognition with its Prince Hall counterpart, but does not yet allow intervisitation of members.
Due to a 19th-century argument and a resulting schism, not all Prince Hall Grand Lodges recognize each other (see Prince Hall National Grand Lodge), and generally the mainstream Grand Lodges have followed the lead of their Prince Hall counterparts when it comes to recognizing Prince Hall Grand Lodges in other states. UGLE has also granted recognition to Prince Hall Grand Lodges where they are recognised by their mainstream counterparts.
Thus, in most of the States of the US, there are currently two recognized Grand Lodges, each recognizing the other but maintaining independence and sovereignty over their subordinate lodges. This condition (the presence of two recognized Grand Lodges in one geographical area) is uncommon. Traditionally recognition has been granted under the concept of "Exclusive Jurisdiction", meaning that only one Grand Lodge is recognized within any given Jurisdiction.
Throughout the US there are also numerous bodies that claim to be Masonic Lodges and Grand Lodges, but which are not recognized as such by UGLE, the mainstream Grand Lodges, nor their Prince Hall counterparts. These are deemed to be irregular.
- Anderson's Constitutions Franklin's reprint, p 62 retrieved 10 June 2013
- Quatuor Coronatorum Antigrapha Vol. 7, 1890, Anderson's Constitutions of 1738, p156
- Arthur Heiron, The Craft in the 18th Century, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol 37, 1924, p66
- The Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of England, 1723–1739, Quatuor Coronatorum Antigrapha,Vol 10, 1913, p 259
- Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon The Formation of the Grand Lodge of the Antients, I. R. Clarke, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol 79 (1966), pp. 270–73, retrieved 31st May 2013
- Google books Ahiman Rezon (pdf) retrieved 31st May 2013
- Pietre-Stones Lodges of Instruction, Yasha Beresiner, retrieved 31st May 2013
- Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon History of the Landmarks - excerpt from Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry retrieved 13 June 2013
- Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon Mackey's Landmarks retrieved 13 June 2013
- Pietre Stones Alain Bernheim, My Approach to Masonic History, from address of 2011, retrieved 13 June 2013
- Address to the 2002 California Masonic Symposium
- The Grand Orient of France and the three great lights
- W.Bro. Alain Bernheim 33° – The history of the present Grand Lodge of France revisited
- Regular Freemasonry, UGLE Accessed 17 June 2006
- The United Grand Lodge of England – Home Page
- Website of the Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, accessed 27 February 2006, no English version.
- "Foreign Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Loge of England"
- The Early Years of the Grand Consistory of Louisiana (1811–1815)
- "U.S. Recognition of French Grand Lodges in the 1900s" published in Heredom: The Transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society – volume 5, 1996, pages 221–244.
- UGLE recognized Grand Lodges in Europe
- Website of GLRI, accessed 8 June 2013, no English version.
- Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. "Beginnings of American Freemasonry". Retrieved 26 August 2012.
- "Prince Hall Recognition Map". Accessed 14 March 2007.
- Regularity and Recognition by Tony Pope, editor of the Australian & New Zealand Masonic Research Council's publications.