By Bro. K. W. Henderson, Associate
The subject of Grand Lodge Recognitions is one of the most complex in the masonic world. Recognition of Masonic Bodies
affects not only Grand Lodges themselves, but individual Lodges and brethren alike.
The Problem identified;
The basic fact is that not every Grand Lodge recognises every other Grand Lodge as being “regular”. In the "New Age",
August-September, 1945, John H. Cowles, then Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the
United States, wrote: “It is difficult sometimes when journeying through other lands, to discover what is a regular and which is
an irregular masonic body. There are Grand masonic powers in Europe which recognise masonic bodies in other countries that
Grand Lodges in the United States do not recognise as regular. Similarly, in the United States, there are Grand powers which
recognise as regular Grand masonic bodies in foreign lands which regular Grand bodies in those lands do not recognise.
Likewise, some of the Grand Lodges in the United States recognise as regular Grand masonic powers in other countries that
some of the Grand Lodges in the United States do not recognise.
This somewhat confusing state of affairs identifies the problem. It has perennially beset every Grand Lodge throughout
masonic history. It is entirely within the province of each Grand Lodge to decide which other Grand bodies it will recongise, and
which it will not. While each Grand Lodge has its own set of criteria upon which it bases its decisions in this regard, there are
several other factors which come into play in the process, and these will be examined below. However, with the facts of the
matter identified, it is necessary to record just what is actually meant by recognition.
What is meant by Recognition;
When one Grand Lodge recongises another it acknowledges its masonic regularity and authority. Such recognition is usually
mutual, but not always, 1 and when it is achieved Grand Lodges are said to be in mutual intercourse, or having fraternal
relations. Sometimes recognition is in the form of a simple statement or notification, but on occasions recognition is preceded
by a settlement of prior differences. These can be territorial disputes, 2 or those of fundamental principles. In effect, fraternal
relations involves something quite similar to diplomatic relations between countries.
Why is Recognition a Problem?
When two Grand Lodges recognise each other as "regular", a state of full masonic intercourse prevails. Brethren from each
jurisdiction can visit lodges under the other, and associate masonically with each other's members. If a Grand Lodge does not
recognise another, then as far as each is concerned the other does not exist, and there is no communication of any sort
between the two. Indeed, it is a Masonic Offence for any brother to visit a non-recognised lodge, or be associated masonically
with a member of any unrecognised Grand body. The problem can become most acute in countries wherein there are lodges
under more than one Constitution.
If in this case one does not recognise the other, then as such they can have nothing to do with each other and problems are
few. 3 However, it is where lodges under two or more allegiances in one area do not recognise the same Grand Lodges
elsewhere, that real problems can occur. For example the Grand Lodge of Scotland recognises the Grand Lodge of Japan,
whereas the United Grand Lodge of England does not. Of course, both England and Scotland recognise each other. In a large
number of countries there are both English and Scottish Lodges operating. If a Japanese brother visits such an area, he may
attend Scottish Lodges, but not English ones. However, in so doing the Japanese brother is most likely to find English
brethren visiting at the Scottish Lodge he attends. Here we have a most difficult situation. Either the English brethren present
or the Japanese brother must withdraw, as they cannot be masonically associated with each other. It is cases such as this
which manifest the problem. In seeking to understand how this came about, it is useful to look at the effect history has
The reasons for the problem stem from the historical development of the Craft as a worldwide society, and from the nature of
freemasonry itself as it spread and changed through the years.
The Grand Lodges of different Nations and States are completely autonomous bodies, and are bound by no common laws or
regulations. Variations in procedures occurred even before the first extant masonic records, and as early as the seventeenth
century there were considerable differences between the practices of English and Scottish masonry. For instance, by the
seventeenth century, most English Freemasonry had become symbolic, whereas in Scotland the Craft remained basically
operative until the eighteenth century. With the rapid spread of the Craft from the British Isles to all parts of the world, this
brought about variations in procedures and customs These changes in the body of Freemasonry increased with time, and this
multiplication of innovation increasingly made the subject of recognitions more complex.
The first great schism of the Craft occurred in England itself, with the "Ancients" breaking away from the "Moderns", the
latter accusing the former of waking unacceptable innovation in the practices of the Craft. This "fight" was felt in many pans of
the world where the Craft was in its infant nurture, particularly in America. While this problem was eventually solved in the
English Union of 1813, it left some scars on the body of "Masonry Universal”. 4
In Europe, and subsequently in Latin settled parts of the world such as South America, large innovation occurred on the
English model, such as it was. 5 The Latins, being a far more outgoing and extroverted type of people, adapted the Craft
somewhat to their own natures. This included a profusion of degrees and orders of a colourful nature. 6 The sum total of this
dispersion and innovation in the Craft meant that it became increasingly difficult for Grand Lodges to determine the regularity
of others, and therefore decide whether or not to grant recognition. It is this question of "regularity" to which we must now turn.
What is meant by "Regular"?
Every Grand Lodge considers itself to be regular. However, this belief in itself which every Grand body has does not
necessarily extend to others. Each body has a set of written, or in some cases unwritten, criteria or principles upon which it
will entertain recognition.
Even in these principles, there are some variations. 7 The following are the basic Principles of Recognition as jointly adopted
by the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland:
1. That a belief in the Supreme Being shall be an essential qualification for membership.
2. That the Bible, referred to by Freemasons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, shall always be open in Lodges, and that
every Candidate shall be required to take his obligation on that book, or on the volume which is held by his particular Creed to
impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken upon it.
3. 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.
4. That the membership of the Grand Lodges and individual Lodges shall be composed exclusively of men, and no Lodges
shall have masonic association of any kind with mixed Lodges or bodies which admit women to membership.
5. That the Grand Lodge shall have sovereign jurisdiction over the Lodges under its control; that is, it shall be a responsible,
independent and self governing organisation, with sole and undisputed authority over the Craft of 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 Masonic Power claiming control or supervision over those degrees.
6. That every member shall be strictly forbidden to countenance any act which may have a tendency to subvert the peace and
good order of society; that he pay due obedience to the law of any State in which he may reside or which may afford him
protection; and that he must never be remiss in the allegiance due to the Sovereign or Constitutional Authority of his native
7. That (while reserving the right of the individual to hold his own opinion on public affairs) neither in Lodge, nor at any time in
his capacity as a Freemason, shall a member be permitted to discuss or to advance his views on theological or political
8. That the principles of the Antient Landmarks and established customs and usages of the Craft be strictly observed in all
These principles in action arc best found by reference to examples of their application in cases of recognition.. Actions by a
Grand Lodge which violate any of these principles will almost certainly result in the withdrawal of recognition; or in the case of
a currently unrecognised Grand Lodge, that lack of recognition continuing.
Examples of the Recognition Question;
In 1877, the Grand Orient 8 of France changed its Constitution to delete the affirmation of the existence of the G.A.O.T.U.,
and authorised the removal of the Sacred Volume from its lodges.Subsequently, the English Grand Lodge and the vast
majority of other Grand Lodges around the world withdrew recognition. The Grand Orient had for some years been developing
into an agnostic society, and this was the final outcome of that development. The Grand Orient still exists today, but its
position in this regard has never altered.
In 1971, the Grand Lodge "Alpina" of Switzerland was briefly de-recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England for
allowing irregular masons, mainly members of the Grand Orient of France, to attend meetings of its Lodges. The Swiss Body
moved to correct this situation, and happily fraternal relations were restored in 1972.
The Grand Orient of Italy was not recognised for many years for allowing its Lodges to be used to some extent by members
to further political and religious views. It was not recognised by England until as recently as 1972.
The Grand Lodge of China, its Lodges originally of Philippino origin, is recognised by most American Grand Lodges, but not
by England, Scotland, Ireland or most of the Grand Lodges directly descended from them. The basic reason for non-
recognition appears to be that as this Grand Lodge is located on Taiwan, yet claims jurisdiction over several Lodges on
mainland (communist) China which are in darkness; there is a territorial dispute (albeit technical) involved, and thus
recognition has in some cases not been entertained.
In Egypt, the National Grand Lodge, founded in 1786, was at one time widely recognised as regular, until the 1950's
whereupon it became controlled by a "superior" body controlling "Higher" degrees. It was subsequently blacklisted by regular
masonic authorities. In any case, the Craft was later proscribed by the Egyptian Government.
The above afford a cross section of examples as to why recognitions are withdrawn or withheld, and all relate directly to the
principles of recognition. In addition to these principles, Grand Lodges usually require that a Grand Lodge seeking recognition
be descended from another regular body in some demonstrative way. The reasons for this are that it tends to support the
regularity of the Grand Lodge under examination, and reassure the regular Grand Lodge considering recognition that the
Principles of Recognition are and have been adhered to. The following examples illustrate this point:
The Grand Loge Nationale Francaise (National Grand Lodge of France) was basically formed by former members of the
Grand Orient of France under British influence. The Grand Orient had. of course, long since been irregular. As the G.L.N.F.
was basically British sponsored, and consisted of masons wishing to be regular and who adhered to the principles of Grand
Lodge recognition, it was recognised.
In 1970, the Grand Lodge of Turkey was recognised by England. It was earlier suspected of drawing its inspiration from the
Grand Orient of France, but it was eventually established that originally the National Grand Lodge of Egypt was the principal
sponsor. The Grand Lodge of Egypt no longer legally existed, and in any case had become irregular. However, it was
established that Turkish Masonry came to Egypt in those days when the Egyptian and English Grand Lodges were in accord.
As Turkey could not be held responsible for the sins of its original sponsor, it was recognised as regular.
Grand Lodge Descent:
Often the descent of Grand Lodges is obscure, and this is particularly the case in Central and South America. Provided that
Grand Lodges can show that they are descended from regular Lodges under some recognised Grand Lodge which was itself
regular at the time of the original warranting, and that they themselves follow the principles of Grand Lodge Recognition; then
they are likely to be recognised as regular. Where regular descent cannot be established, a Grand Lodge may, with
examination of the current position, still be deemed regular. However, this can take several years from first application to
decision, as some Grand Lodges like to observe over some time that the Grand Lodge under consideration had a long record
of regularity The English Grand Lodge, in particular, has been known to be quite tardy in the matter of a new recognition,
probably for this reason.
Indeed, the English position if often crucial to wider recognition.
The English Lead:
Many Grand Lodges tend to follow the lead of the Premier Grand Lodge in the matter of recognition. If England grants or
withdraws recognition, many others usually follow suit. The reasons for this are probably a combination of the facts that
England is the oldest, largest and most experienced Jurisdiction, and that many Grand Lodges are descended directly (all are
descended indirectly) from it. Therefore, these directly descended Grand Lodges tend to value English advice and look
towards London in these matters. and in several others as well.
It is interesting to observe the recent "P2" Lodge controversy in Italy in this context. Many Jurisdictions communicated with
London to obtain the facts and advice in this matter, rather than, or in addition to, writing to the Grand Orient of Italy. Of
course, it was rapidly learnt that the bogus "P2" Lodge was in no way connected with the regular Italian body.
The occurrence of "leading" is quite a widespread masonic phenomenon, and this is understandable. A daughter lodge, or a
daughter Grand Lodge, is most likely to base its principles and workings on its sponsoring body, or the body from which it
took its masonic inspiration. Thus a regular Grand Lodge will normally sponsor a daughter Grand body that is also regular The
reverse is also true. This is why the question of descent is carefully looked at by regular Grand Lodges considering a new
recognition. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and the case of Brazil affords an interesting example.
The Brazilian Problem:
The recognitions of the premier Grand Lodge of England, and those many Grand Lodges that follow its lead, do not always
provide for complete consistency or universal recognition. The Grand Orient of Brazil has long been recognised by England.
Years ago, the exact date being unknown, these two Grand bodies entered into a treaty where England recognised the Grand
Orient as the masonic authority for Brazil. Subsequently, many Grand Lodges were formed in Brazil through schism from the
Grand Orient, where today each Brazilian State has its own Grand Lodge, similar to the States of America or Australia. As a
result of this obscure treaty, England will not recognise any of these newer Grand Lodges, although their parentage is regular,
and their principles would appear to be regular. Aside from the existence of the treaty itself, it could perhaps be argued from
England's point of view that there is demonstrative territorial dispute between the Grand Orient and the various State Grand
Lodges. However, it could also be said territorial dispute between other Grand Lodges, and not involving England as such, do
not fit into clause five of the English "Principles of Recognition" (above), the relevant section in this case. The net result is that
most of the U.S.A. Grand Lodges recognise the State Grand Lodges in Brazil and discount the Grand Orient, whereas
England and just about the rest of the Masonic world steadfastly recognise the Grand Orient.
The Omission Factor:
It is pertinent to he aware that there are some cases wherein two Grand Lodges have not recognised each other simply
because neither has actually got around to it. Grand Lodges did not always go out of their way to secure recognition, but
rather wait until some Grand Body applies for it and then examine the ease in question. Where there are two Grand Lodges
which adopt this approach to the matter, it is not totally uncommon to find that neither recognises the other. Doubtlessly,
when one finds a need or desire, the matter would be quickly effected. if one examines the recognitions of various Grand
Lodges, one can on occasions find an inconsistency where it would appear that there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for
non-recognition. in quite a number of these cases, the "Omission Factor" applies.
How Grand Lodges form:
Grand Lodges either evolve or form in one of the following ways:
1. Evolution from Obscurity:
With many of the older Grand Lodges, it is impossible to determine origin except through conjecture, there being no extant
records or reliable information available. Of course, the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland fall into this
category. There are other more recent Grand Lodges, for whom records are virtually non-existent, especially in South
America and Europe. Some of these have evolved from a combination of operative sources and influences from other Grand
Lodges (such as French and German Masonry), while for others their inspiration is so diverse as to make the tracing or
Not a small number of Grand Lodges have been formed through breaking away from some other Grand Body. Sometimes
reunion is effected (as in England), while in other cases the daughter body has eventually superseded the original body, the
Mother Grand Lodge in many cases sinking into irregularity. Schisms can either be internal or external. An internal schism,
the most common form, occurs when a body of lodges breaks away from the parent body and forms a new Grand Lodge in
the same jurisdictional area. This form of schism immediately involves territorial disputation, regardless of other original
causes, and as such is hard to heal. The masonic histories of England and Germany afford examples of healed internal
schism, whereas those of France and Brazil attest to continued masonic division.
External Schism is a rare occurrence. It happens where a group of lodges under a particular Grand lodge, but geographically
without its territorial jurisdiction, breaks away to form a new Grand body The Mother Grand Lodge has no territorial claim.
therefore, over the area encompassed by the "daughter" body. This form of action is uncommon because secession can
usually be achieved regularly, unless some fundamental differences in principles or procedures have occurred between the
two areas. The division of one country into two or more new countries has seen this form of schism occur, notably in Central
America. 9 In either of two types of schism, a declaration of indepcndence will generally accompany the split. As a rule,
break away Grand Bodies will be recognised as regular if;
(a) the Parent body was irregular at the time of the schism, and the schism was caused by the new body wishing to be
(b) the Parent body at some time after the schism becomes irregular, leaving the daughter body able to claim recognition
(providing it is itself regular),
(c) the Parent body and the Daughter body at some time after the schism healing their differences and recognising each
(d) the Parent body ceases to exist, leaving the daughter body (if regular) as undisputed heir to the territory in question.
The general rule in the case of schism is that if the parent body remains regular, the daughter body will not gain recognition
without its consent. Only if the parent body becomes irregular or ceases to exist will he daughter body be considered for
recognition. Again, there are exceptions to these rules, as we have seen in the case of Brazil.
3. Warranted Lodges Sponsored
This method of Grand Lodge construction occurs when a group of warranted lodges under one or more regular Constitutions
in a new area petition their Grand Lodges to form a new Grand Lodge. If permission is granted, general recognition will
usually be afforded to the new body In a case of a new body forming without permission, this forms a schism. However, in
some cases bad communications and a lack of understanding of local conditions by the parent body or bodies have on
occasions meant new bodies being formed before permission was forthcoming. Once these problems are sorted out,
recognition follows. The setting up of the Grand Lodge or New Zealand is an example of this occurrence.
4 A Warranted District Sponsored:
In this case, a group of lodges under one Grand Lodge which are geographically removed from the parent body, gain
permission to form a District or Provincial Grand Lodge. This provides these lodges with a measure of local autonomy. They
were often set up in far away lands by the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland, because of a combination of
local desire, and the fact that communications in years gone by were less than satisfactory. After further development of the
local Craft, the District Grand Lodge then seeks permission to become an actual Grand Lodge itself. This has often
occurred in the past where District Grand Lodges in former British Colonies have felt the desire for complete local masonic
autonomy after their colony became politically independent. An example of the formation of a Grand Lodge via a District
Grand Lodge is found in the setting up of the Grand Lodge of Southern Africa, which was formerly under the Grand East of
5. Warranted Districts Sponsored:
This category is an extension of the one above. It occurs when lodges under Districts or Provinces of more than one Grand
Lodge in some geographically removed area from the parents, gain permission to form a new Grand Lodge through joint
petition. Most of the Australian Grand Lodges were formed in this way, as were several of the earliest American Grand
Lodges. Quite often Lodges exist in foreign countries under the English, Scottish and Irish Grand Lodges, and these Lodges
have in the past combined to form one new regular Grand Body. Sometimes this has only been ahieved with some difficulty,
as accommodation of ritual matters and procedures must usually first be effected. It is as well to mention that there are still
quite a few Districts and Provinces overseas under England, Ireland and Scotland, some of which are quite strong in
numbers, who have as yet to form new Grand Lodges but rather choose to remain under current allegiences. Lodges in
several African and Asian countries have maintained their strong ties to their British parents.
6. A General Assembly of Masons.
This method of forming a new Grand Lodge is not uncommon, and was particularly so in North America. Instead of meeting
in a Convention of individual lodges, or as Districts or Provinces, as a Convention, masons in the new area convene as
individual members of the Craft. They then as a group petition to form a new Grand Lodge. This procedure was sometimes
less complicated in America, as the Craft spread so rapidly in that country and it was not uncommon for there to be lodges
in a new area under quite a few Grand Lodges. Rather than petitioning each Grand body in turn, it was often more
convenient to meet as individuals members and seek the approval of just one or two Grand Lodges. As the new body was
regularly descended, general recognition was forthcoming.
7. Charter from a Mother Grand Lodge:
This last method of Grand Lodge formation is the most rare. This occurs when a Grand Lodge actually charters a daughter
Grand Lodge, rather than approve the new body after petition from a group of lodge delegates at a Convention, or a general
assembly of masons. The direct chartering of the Grand Lodge of Tennessee by the Grand Lodge of North Carolina affords
the best example of this method.
Clearly, the subject of Grand Lodge recognitions is a most complex one, and this paper is only a brief and general
discussion of the circumstances surrounding the problem. Given that the worldwide Craft has developed. and the fact that
Grand Lodges are and will remain autonomous bodies making their own individual decisions and assessments of the matter,
then the problem as such will not abate in the future. All we as individual masons can do is to be aware of it, and work within
the existing framework, particuarly when we travel to other corners of the globe. With this knowledge we can avoid violating our
masonic duty to have nothing to do with irregular bodies or masons, and perhaps in this way we will one day eventually help
these wayward "brethren" come to the light, as we have ourselves.
1. There are several cases of non mutual recognition, invariably stemming from Grand Lodges which are less than generally
recognised. Of course, if recognition is not mutual, it is totally without effect. Some of those less recognised appear to use
this "ploy" in the hope of gaining mutual recognition. As such, it is very rarely successful. Several of the State Grand Lodges
in Brazil claim to be in fraternal relations with all the Grand Lodges of the world, and this is patently not the case.
2. Territorial disputation is not uncommon in Masonry, and is basically caused through schism. Each Grand Lodge operating
in a disputed territory competes for members and recognition. Situations in which this occurs generally result in one or both
disputing Grand Lodges failing to be widely recognised. An example of this is the running battle the Grand Lodge of Ecuador
(a regular body) has had over the years with an internal schismatic body.
3. While problems between Grand Lodges in the same area which do not recognise each other are usually few, there can
nevertheless be some. Certainly territorial tension as mentioned above is one of them. On occasions adverse publicity gained
by an irregular body can also reflect on the regular one.
4 The schism between the Antients and the Moderns spilled over into America, with both Grand Lodge warranting many of the
early U.S. lodges. There were effects in territorial disputes at the time, but probably the greatest effect of this schism
(although it was later healed) was that it caused differences in procedures and practices among the forming American Grand
Lodges. The merits of otherwise of this outcome are a subject for wider debate than in this paper.
5. The English Model, was really not a "model" at all. Early English masonry was not as harmonious as it is today, and even
to the present day there arc probably more different rituals (albeit somewhat similar) in use in English masonry than in any
other jurisdiction. It could, therefore, perhaps be argued from an outsider's point of view that as "innovation" was certainly not
uncommon in England, then it could hardly be condemned elsewhere.
6. Innovation in the Craft in Europe was mostly French inspired and the "French Model" largely spawned other European
masonry. A great proliferation of "higher" degrees developed in Europe, with Supreme Councils forming which controlled from
33 to 99 degrees. Indeed, one of the greatest "sins" in the eyes of the regular masonic world was, and still is, when these
Supreme Councils came to control the first three Craft Degrees.
7. While the Principles of Grand Lodge Recognitions of England, Ireland and Scotland are basically those of all regular Grand
Lodges, other Grand Bodies have extra ones which include:
* A belief in the immortality of the soul and a resurrection to future life.
* The Legend of the Third Degree.
* The secrecy of the institution, including the modes of recognition.
* The symbolism of the operative art of freemasonry.
8. A Grand Orient is a masonic oligarchy. The practice was formed in France, where the Grand Master was substituted by a
Grand Master and a Council, all of which were appointive. The appointive power was with the Council, so it became self
perpetuating. Of course, a regular Grand Lodge is composed of free and equal representation of its lodges. Grand Orients also
generally control a system of higher degrees in addition to the three Craft Degrees. It will be noted however, that in terms of
recognition principles of regular Grand Lodge, the actual mode of government of the craft is not included as scuh. Therefore,
provided all the principles are adhered to, there is nothing to stop a Grand Orient and Grand Lodge being in Fraternal Accord.
Of course, in practice, most Grand Orients violate one or more of the Recognition Principles, usually the ones referring to a
belief in a Supreme Being, and concerning control over the three Craft Degrees. Indeed, the Grand Orient of Italy forms one of
the rare examples of a regular Grand Orient.
9. Central America was originally one country, and masonry was basically established therein from Colombia. As several
countries formed out of this original Central American Federation, lodges in these new countries declared independence from
the Grand Orient of Central America, which was centred in Guatemala, forming an example of external schism. As these new
Grand Lodges were in new territories, most were recognised as regular.
SOURCE: United Masters Lodge UML V24 No10 P169