FOR NEWLY RAISED BRETHREN
Robert H. Starr
Samuel Gompers-Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 45
You have now received the three Symbolic degrees of Ancient Craft
Masonry and, I hope soon, such instruction in the work of those degrees as
will enable you to pass a creditable examination therein—whenever you should
visit lodges in this or other jurisdictions throughout the world where you
are unknown and cannot be vouched for as a Master Mason.
You have also received, I hope, through the Lodge System of Masonic
Education prescribed by our Grand Lodge an appreciation of the lessons we
trying to teach and are versed, at least to some extent, in the history,
traditions, laws, customs and usages of the Craft.
As a part of the Masonic
Education program, you have been told of your privileges, your duties and
your responsibilities as a member of your Masonic Lodge.
Some of these may
be enumerated briefly as follows:
To hold membership in some lodge.
To pay regularly and promptly such dues and assessments as your Lodge
To attend the communications of your
Lodge, to join in its deliberations,
to have a voice in its decisions and to assist in discharging its
responsibilities, among which are:
Volunteer service on committees.
Donations to the Masonic Blood Bank, if eligible.
Assistance in conferring degrees.
Attendance and assistance at Masonic funeral services when
Your Lodge needs your help in these and many other ways. Masonry
makes no demands; she provides opportunities, she gives you the key
to a door, she opens a path to your feet, but she forces you neither
to use the key nor travel the path.
She beckons; you may follow or
not as you please. If you follow, you will travel strange ways, but
you will find them increasingly pleasant the further you go.
This paper is limited to providing information about some of the
courtesies and etiquette of lodge life as generally, although not
universally, practiced. Masonry
has developed its own conventions, governed
by tradition, custom and usage, by which its members act in lodge and in the
anteroom and live together with the least friction.
Not to proceed according
to their dictates is not a Masonic offense; it is merely a lack of Masonic
manners. Unless you belong to a
most unusual lodge, or had a most wise
brother for an instructor, it is doubtful if you were told much about these
little niceties of lodge conduct.
You are supposed to attend your lodge and
learn by observation.
Entering or retiring from lodge at labor or at refreshment by use
of the due guard - symbol of a Mason’s obligations.
One of the prerogatives of a W.M. is to control the admission and
retirement of both members and visitors to his lodge.
Masons, entering a
lodge give the due-guard to salute the W.M. at the Altar, if the lodge is at
labor. This practice assures
the W.M. that the brother knows on which degree
the lodge is open. A brother
making a wrong sign can be instructed
immediately. He can readily
determine this before giving the due-guard by
observing how the square and compasses are placed upon the Holy Bible on the
Altar. The salute informs the
W.M. that the brother is a Mason of the degree
on which the lodge is open; if he makes an inferior sign and cannot, on
request, give the right one, the W.M. can then use other means to ascertain
that no E.A. or F.C. is present in a Master Mason’s lodge.
The salute is a
silent assurance to the W.M. and through him to the brethren: “I remember my
Brethren give a similar salute to the W.M. at the Altar upon retiring in
order to get permission to leave. No one can enter or leave a lodge room
while a lodge is at labor without permission.
If the W.M. does not wish the
brother who salutes to retire, he tells him so, instead of responding to the
At refreshment the lodge is in charge of the J.W. in the South, which
thus becomes, for the time being, constructively the East. The J.W.’s pillar
is raised and the pillar of the S.W. is lowered.
The same salutes are given
to the J.W, as are usually given to the W.M. and for the same reasons, in
event a brother wishes to enter or retire.
The W.M. in the East occupies the most exalted position in the gift of
the lodge. A lodge which does
not honor its W.M., not because of what he
himself may be, but on account of the honor given him, is lacking in Masonic
courtesy. The position he
occupies, not the man himself, must be given the
utmost respect, if the traditions of the Fraternity are to be observed.
is, therefore, to the W,M., not to John Smith who happens to be the W.M.,
that you offer a salute when you enter or retire from lodge.
Like any other
salute, this may be done courteously and as if you meant it or perfunctorily
as if you did not care. The man
who puts one finger to his hat brim when he
speaks to a woman on the street compares poorly with his well-bred neighbor
who lifts his hat. Taking the
hat off is the
modern remains of the ancient custom of Knights who removed their helmets in
the presence of those they felt their friends and thus, before those they
wished to honor by showing that they trusted them.
A man removes his hat
before a woman to show his respect.
Touching the brim is but a perfunctory
salute. Similarly, the salute
to the W.M. is your renewed pledge of fealty
and service, your recognition before all your assembled brethren of your
obligations. It is performed
before the W.M. and the Altar to show him your
veneration for his authority, your respect for all of that, for which he
stands. To offer your salute as if you were in a hurry, too lazy
make it, or bored with its offering, is to be, Masonically a boor.
brethren should not approach the Altar with bundles or papers in hand.
lodges permit smoking during a business meeting.
Even here, however, a
brother is not too respectful who makes a solemn salute to the W.M. before
the Altar with a cigarette or cigar either in his mouth or in his hand.
B. Addressing Lodge
In addressing the lodge for any purpose, a brother speaks to the W.M.
W.M. is the lodge. A brother
stands to order when addressing the chair,
gives salute (due-guard and penal sign) and begins speech only after the
W.M.’s recognition. A brother
does not turn his back on the W.M. to address
the lodge without permission from him.
He who seconds a motion rises and
salutes when doing so. No
brother should ever sit while speaking.
the spectacle of two brethren on their feet at the same time, arguing over a
motion, facing each other and ignoring the W.M. is not one which any W.M.
permit. But it is also one
which no W.M. should have to prevent!
Failure to obey the gavel at once is a grave discourtesy. The W.M. is
all powerful in the lodge. He
can put or refuse to put any motion.
rule any brother out of order on any subject at any time. He can say what he
will and will not permit to be discussed.
Brethren who think him unfair,
arbitrary, unjust, or acting illegally have redress; the Grand Lodge can be
appealed to on any such matter.
But in the lodge, the gavel, emblem of
authority, is supreme. When a
brother is rapped down, he should at once
obey, without further discussion.
It is very bad manners to do otherwise;
indeed, it is close to the line between bad manners and a Masonic offense.
If an officer is absent, the officers below his station do not
necessarily each move up a chair.
There is no “advancement by right” for any
office except that of W.M. The
W.M. fills any vacancy by temporary
appointment. In the absence of the W.M., the S.W. presides.
In the absence
of both the W.M. and the S.W., the J.W. presides.
The W.M. may ask a P.M. or
any brother he believes qualified to fill a temporarily vacant chair.
D. Altar and East
Except in procession during a degree, it is practically universal that
brethren do not pass between the Altar and the East in a lodge at labor.
This courtesy is rooted in the thought that the W.M. should have the
Great Lights constantly in view.
In theory, the Holy Bible, Square and
Compasses on the Altar are dedicated to God, the Master and the Craft and
in the charge of the Master. He
draws inspiration from the Great Lights on
the Altar to preside over the lodge and, therefore, at no time should his
view of them be interrupted.
This custom is but a pretty courtesy, but it is
rooted in a fundamental conception of the Craft - that the Altar is the
center of Masonry and that from it and the Great Lights
it bears, flow all that there is of Masonic inspiration, truth and light.
E. Altar and Lesser Lights
You have observed that, in our jurisdiction, the Lesser Lights are
placed in a triangular form about the Altar.
It is customary not to walk
between the Altar and a light.
The theory is that the Altar and the three
lights about it represent the Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies, of the
original tabernacle in the wilderness.
Into this the High Priest could go,
but only to return the same way.
Brethren enter this symbolic representation
in the lodge room, but do not use it as a passageway by passing through it.
F. Altar and West
In passing from the South to the North side of the lodge at labor, or
vice versa, between the Altar and the S.W. in the West, a brother should
to the East and give the penal sign of the degree on which the lodge is
Brethren who respect the formalities of their lodge will not enter it
undressed; that is, without their apron or while putting on that apron.
should be put on before entering the lodge room. When, as sometimes
happens on “big nights”, there are not enough aprons, a handkerchief may be
tucked in the belt to take its place.
The spectacle of a late brother
hurriedly entering the lodge room at the last moment, tying on his apron as
he approaches the Altar is much on a par with a member of church entering it
while putting on his collar and tie.
As you have already learned, the use of the apron is extremely
old, not, as with the operative Masons, as a protector of clothing and body
against tools and stone, but as a badge of honor.
In all times and climes,
it has been a badge of distinction.
It is as such that a Mason wears it.
material of the Masonic apron - lambskin - is a symbol of innocence, as
the lamb has always been. It is
a courtesy much appreciated by all Tilers if
brethren leaving the lodge room lay their aprons neatly in a pile or in the
apron box, instead of dropping them anywhere for the Tiler to pick up and
The etiquette which surrounds the ballot is a reflection of Masonic
thought upon its value and importance.
Brethren ballot one at a time after
a salute to the W.M. No one
should leave or enter a lodge room during the
taking of a ballot, with the exception of the Tyler, if he is a member of
lodge. It is customary to
present the box first to the W.M.
inspection, then to the Wardens.
The three principal officers ballot without
leaving their seats. In some lodges the box is passed also to all officers
and P.M.’s. What is customary is good manners.
It is a gentle courtesy for
the Master to ask the Tyler to enter and vote, his place being taken by
another meanwhile. This is
properly done after all but the Tyler have voted.
In all Grand Jurisdictions the ballot on candidates is secret and
inviolable. It is considered
un-Masonic for a brother to divulge how he
intends to or has balloted or to attempt to ascertain how another will or
balloted. Peace and harmony are
the foundations of all Masonic meetings.
Brother A to learn that Brother B has balloted or will ballot against his
friend would disrupt that peace and harmony.
The rejection of a candidate is a blow to him who has applied.
everyone knew who had cast the black cube, the rejected man might speedily
learn and cause of friction in the profane world would then have come out of
a Masonic Lodge.
It is the duty of every member present to vote and the W.M. may oblige
him to do so. A Brother who
does not vote, because too lazy, or too
indifferent, or for any other reason, is discourteous because he injures the
ballot, its secrecy, its importance and its value.
The thoughts above outlined will disclose that good manners in Masonry,
like those in civil life, are rooted in kindness and flower
in good will. They oil the
Masonic wheels and enable them to revolve without
creaking. They smooth the path of all in the lodge and prove to all the
truth of the ritualistic explanation of that “more noble and glorious
purpose” to which we are taught to put the trowel.