Grand Lodge Recognition

Grand Lodge Recognition

How, What & Why? by Herbert G. Gardiner, MPS

(From "The Philalethes", December 1993.

    We hear the phrase, "Grand Lodge Recognition" spoken by brethren, which
often leads some members to ask what is actually meant by Grand Lodge recogni-
tion, how is this status obtained, and why should a Grand Lodge want Recogni-

    Grand Lodge Recognition, in this essay, will be dealt with in the context
of "Full Recognition" as granted by regular Grand Lodges. Limited and tiered
forms of recognition will not be discussed.

    Recognition of a Grand Lodge means the acknowledgment by other regular
Grand Lodges of its Masonic regularity, its authority, and its territorial 
integrity. Simply stated, the recognition of a Grand Lodge is a categorical 
confirmation of its Masonic regularity and credentials.

    In observance of Masonic etiquette, the newly created (junior) Grand
Lodge, seeks recognition by the established (senior) regular Grand Lodges. The 
process is started when the Grand Lodge seeking recognition communicates its
credentials documenting its regularity, to the Grand Lodges by whom it wishes
to be recognized.

    We now come to the meaning of regular, in the Masonic context. As Kent
Henderson says in his World Masonic Guide, "Every Grand Lodge considers itself 
to be regular. This is a self-justified precondition for existence." But this 
self-assigned status is not necessarily endorsed by the regular Grand Lodges, 
for they have written criteria that explicitly state what conditions must be 
complied with  in order for them to consider a Grand Lodge regular, and 
subsequently grant it recognition. These criteria are similar for all regular 
Grand Lodges.

    On September 4, 1929, the United Grand Lodge of England adopted the
following Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition, and a Grand Lodge that 
is loyal to these principles is generally considered regular:

1. Regularity of Origin; i.e. each Grand Lodge shall have been established 
   lawfully by a duly constituted Grand Lodge or by three or more regularly
   constituted Lodges.

2. That a belief in the G.A.O.T.U. and His revealed will shall be an essential
   qualification for membership.

3. 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.

4. That the membership of the Grand Lodge and individual Lodges shall be
   composed exclusively of men; and that each Grand Lodge shall have no Ma-
   sonic intercourse of any kind with mixed Lodges or bodies that admit women 
   to membership.

5. That the Grand Lodge shall have sovereign jurisdiction over the Lodges
   under its control; i.e. that it shall be a responsible, independent, self-
   governing organization, 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 other Power daiming any control or
   supervision over those degrees.

6. 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.

7. That the discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge shall be
   strictly prohibited.

8. That the principles of the Antient Landmarks, customs, and usages of the
   craft shall be strictly observed.
    There are other considerations that are addressed before a Grand Lodge is 
considered regular and granted recognition. But the eight Basic Principles 
indicated above are the fundamental requirements for a Grand Lodge to be 
declared regular. The Constitution and Ordinances, and the type of Ritual work 
of the newly established Grand Lodge are also of interest to the Grand Lodges 
being asked to grant recognition. In some jurisdictions the term legitimacy of 
origin is used in stem of regularity of origin; the meaning is identical.

    An additional factor dealing with territorial integrity exists in the
United States; it is known as the American Doctrine of exclusive territorial 
jurisdiction. Almost all Grand Lodges in the United States embrace this 
concept, which is described as follows: Basically, it means one Grand Lodge in 
each State, plus one Grand Lodge in the District of Columbia. More 
specifically, whenever there are three or more chartered Lodges in any state 
or territory in which no Grand Lodge exists and there is substantial unity 
among the Freemasons of such state or territory in forming a new Grand Lodge, 
they have the absolute right to meet in convention, and a majority of them, 
not less than three, can organize a Grand Lodge for such state or territory;
and when once regularly formed, such Grand Lodge has control and government of 
all Masons and all Lodges within that state or territory, subject to the An-
cient Landmarks of Masonry: and no other Grand Lodge can in any way interfere 
with its jurisdiction, establish new Lodges in such state or territory, or
maintain those already established.

    The American Doctrine of exclusive territorial jurisdiction applies to the
United States and its territories, not to other countries, except for Canada. 
This concept follows Brother Mackey's definition of the territorial limits of 
a Grand Lodge, "The territorial limits of a Grand Lodge are determined by the 
political boundaries of the country in which it is placed." In his 
Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Mackey took the position that the territorial 
limits of a Grand Lodge (in the United States) are circumscribed within the 
settled boundaries of that state. Nor can its jurisdiction extend beyond these
limits into any of the neighboring States.

    Apart from the Prince Hall Lodges, which are not discussed in this paper,
the only exception to the American Doctrine of exclusive territorial 
jurisdiction exists with the Grand Lodges in Alaska which were originally 
under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Washington. In 1981 the Grand 
Lodge of Alaska was founded, and by mutual agreement, some of the Lodges in 
Alaska remained under the Grand Lodge of Washington. There are presently four 
Lodges located in Alaska that are constituent Lodges of the Grand Lodge of 
Washington. This arrangement caused some anxiety among some American Grand 
Lodges for a few years. However, it appears to be satisfactory for the 
brethren and the Grand Lodges of Washington and Alaska.

    Getting back to "recognition" and "regular," in order for a Grand Lodge to
obtain recognition, it must be classified as regular in the eyes of the Grand
Lodges by whom it wishes to be recognized.

    When mutual recognition is achieved, the Grand Lodges are in "amity" which
means friendly relations. The term is frequently applied to friendship between
nations. Recognition includes establishing and maintaining fraternal relations
among regular Grand Lodges, which is akin to diplomatic relations between

    The advantages of Grand Lodge Recognition are both tangible and psycho-
logical. The members of constituent Lodges whose respective Grand Lodges are 
in amity have the privilege of visiting each others Lodges.  Mackey's  14th
Landmark states "The right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular
Lodge is an unquestionable Landmark of the Order." However, at the present
time, visiting is considered a privilege and not a right. Experience has shown
that there are sound and justifiable reasons why the Master of a Lodge may
wish to exclude all visiting brethren except the members of the Lodge from
attending a particular Lodge meeting.

    It is considered a serious offense for a Mason to visit a non-recognized
Lodge; that is a constituent Lodge of a Grand Lodge not recognized by his own 
Grand Lodge. Technically, a non-recognized Lodge does not exist. But, as a 
practical matter, there are several Grand Lodges around the world that have 
limited, or no recognition, by regular Grand Lodges, and function quite 
contentedly within their own Masonic sphere of influence. An interesting 
example of Grand Lodges that are considered to be irregular by the vast 
majority of regular Grand Lodges and not recognized by the regular grand
Lodges, exists in France. Presently, there are at least three functioning 
Grand Lodges in France. The Grande Loge Nationale Francaise, which the regular
Grand Lodges recognize; the Grand Orient of France, which in 1877 deleted all 
reference to the Supreme Being and removed the Volume of the sacred Law from 
its Lodges, is considered irregular, and recognition was subsequently with-
drawn by the regular grand Lodges. Next is the Grande Loge de France, which in 
spite of its claims to the contrary, appears to still have organizational
ties to the Supreme council of France; it is not recognized by the regular 
Grand Lodges.

    Grand Lodges that recognize each other continuously exchange information
about their Masonic activities and the developments in their respective ju-
risdictions, by providing each other with their Proceedings, Transactions, 
Bulletins, special notices, Edicts, etc. Dual membership is frequently allowed 
which permits a Mason to become an affiliated member of a constituent Lodge in 
the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge other than his own. The courtesy conferral 
of degrees and presentation of awards to sojourners,  for each other by Grand
Lodges in amity, is another tangible benefit to many candidates and brethren.

    The vast majority of Grand Lodges that maintain fraternal relations with
other Grand Lodges, participate in the Grand Representative Program. It is an 
old Masonic custom, whereby each regular Grand  Lodge  approves  a  nominee
(whose name is submitted by his Grand Master) to serve as a representative and
represent it at his (representative's) Grand Lodge meetings. In some instances 
a Grand Master will volunteer to serve as a Grand representative for a 
particular Grand Lodge. Since representatives are not necessarily located at 
the Grand Lodge, they are usually designated as being "near" the Grand Lodge.

    Usually when two Grand Lodges grant mutual recognition and enter into
fraternal relations, they exchange representatives. Thus, each Grand Lodge 
will have a representative near the other. A Commission, or certificate of 
Appointment, is issued to the representative by the Grand Lodge he is 
representing. It is usually presented to him at a Communication of his Grand 
Lodge. With the exception of Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Mexico, and Wyoming, 
almost all regular Grand Lodges maintaining fraternal relations exchange 

    It is believed that originally, the Grand Representatives functioned in
the nature of Ambassadors; some of them still do, to a limited extent. The 
method of conducting transactions between Grand Lodges has changed 
considerably, and all business is presently conducted between the Grand 
Secretaries. But, the Grand Representative Program is still in place, although 
in most instances it operates on an honorary basis.

    Psychologically, there is a certain amount of pride in knowing that your
Grand Lodge has the credentials which enable it to be "recognized"  as a
"regular" Grand Lodge by over one hundred regular Grand Lodges around the 
world. As a result of this status, the brethren of your Grand Lodge will be
welcomed by these many Grand Lodges.

    Recognition also brings home the point of the universal appeal of
Freemasonry in which your Grand Lodge has a role, and a special stake. 
Additionally, recognition gives a brother peace of mind in knowing that in 
these troubled times of political, ethnic, and religious strife, he will find 
brother Freemasons in many parts of this troubled world, who will "keep the 

    Recognition is not an irrevocable condition. It is not a form of status
that once granted, continues indefinitely. Recognition can be withdrawn by the 
Grand Lodge(s) who granted it, for it provides a means of maintaining agreed 
upon standards. And when certain fundamental standards are not adhered to, 
withdrawal of recognition is the ultimate expression of disapproval of an 
action taken by a Grand Lodge.

    In 1952, the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America (which
Hawaii became a member of in 1989) established the Commission on Information 
for Recognition. Its purpose is to gather, collate, and from time to time
revise information on Grand Lodges in other lands, as a service to the Grand
Lodges of the Conference.

    The Commission neither advises nor recommends that recognition be given to
any Grand Lodges, but just indicates whether or not it considers that a Grand
Lodge in question satisfies the conditions of regularity.

    The Commission consists of six members of broad geographical origin. One
new member, usually a Deputy Grand Master, is elected each year, and serves
for six years.

    After each Annual Meeting of the Conference of Grand Masters, the com-
mision's report, given to and adopted by the Conference, is printed and copies
sent to the Grand Secretaries and to the Chairmen of the Committees on Frater-
nal Relations of the Grand Lodges of the Conference.

    The report of the Commission is based upon the most current information
available, and in some instances, after a conference with members of some of 
the Grand Lodges mentioned in the report. This Commission is considered to be 
the best and most reliable source for information on "regularity" in North 

    R.W.  Robert L.  Dillard, Jr., Past Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Texas, is
the Secretary-Treasurer of the Commission.

    Brethren who are contemplating visiting Lodges abroad, should check with
the Secretary of their Lodge and advise him of the various countries where 
visitations to Lodges are planned. He will contact the Grand Secretary, who 
will in turn provide him with the necessary documents and advise him which 
Grand Lodges their Grand Lodge maintains fraternal relations with, and any 
other pertinent information needed by the member planning to visit Lodges in 
foreign countries.

    The study of "Grand Lodge Recognition" is another fascinating aspect of
the Craft. The brethren who are interested in the history of Grand Lodges
will find much to sustain their curiosity and intellect in this subject.


Constitution & Ordinances, Hawaii Masonic code. Honolulu: Grand Lodge of 
 Hawaii, F. & A.M.

Henderson, Kent. Masonic World Guide, Victoria, Australia: Macoy Publishing & 
 Supply Co., 1984.

Hafther, Christopher. Regularity of Origin, Hong Kong: Chater-Cosmos 
 Transactions, 1986.

Hamill, John. The Craft, A History of English Freesmasonry, London England: 
 the Aquarian Press, 1986.

Dillard, Robert L. Annual Report,Commission for Recognition, 1993, Dallas, 

Revised edition of Albert G. Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.

Note: The author is Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Hawaii, F. & A.M., 
 and also serves as Assistant Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Grand Lodge

 Desc: Grand Lodge Recognition How, What Why?