I am often asked questions which are related to clandestine Freemasonry (or irregular Freemasonry), so it is prudent to begin with a definition. A clandestine Lodge is loosely defined as a Lodge that falls outside the ancients tenets and principles of Freemasonry, it doesn’t belong to any recognised Grand Lodge that is in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England (as I am a member of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) I shall use this as my reference point and it is to be accepted that these constitutional rules of UGLE will be very similar to all Grand Lodges in the world in amity to UGLE, that is all regular Grand Lodges). In writing this article I am well aware of the importance of the constitutions of your own regular Grand Lodge in amity with UGLE. We also hear of irregular Lodges, which, out of politeness, I usually refer to Grand Lodges who have accepted members who do not believe in a Supreme Being (but they themselves are well regulated and governed).
UGLE does not use the term clandestine, but substitutes the term “quasi-masonic” in its place. This article is written with reference to information from a quasi-masonic lodge whose members believe that by joining a regular lodge their own quasi-masonic lodge automatically becomes recognised, not just by the regular Lodge they joined, but by all regular Freemasons in the world. I hasten to report that this is most definitely not the case. I refer to rule 176 in the 2016 UGLE Book of Constitutions:
176. A person who has in any way been connected with any organisation which is quasi-Masonic, imitative of Masonry, or regarded by the Grand Lodge [of England] as irregular or as incompatible with the Craft, may not be initiated into the Craft except by leave of the Grand Master or the Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Master, as the case may be. A Brother who subsequent to his initiation has in any way been or is connected with any such organisation as above mentioned shall be bound to disclaim and finally to sever such connection, or on failure so to do when called upon to do so by any proper Masonic authority shall be liable to suspension or expulsion and shall not thereafter be entitled to a resumption of his Masonic privileges until he shall have petitioned the Grand Master, made due submission, and obtained grace.
So it is abundantly clear that the members of any quasi-masonic (clandestine) lodge must relinquish all ties and membership of their current quasi-masonic (clandestine) lodge. Note that this rule also applies to those lodges who fall under the jurisdiction of an irregular Grand Lodge as defined above.
Freemasonry is a self governing organisation, it is free to set its own legislation so long as that legislation falls within the laws of the land wherein it is based. UGLE (and all Regular Grand Lodges) have strict rules regarding visiting also. So let me begin with one of the ‘Antient [sic] Charges and Regulations’ read by the Lodge Secretary to every Master Elect prior to his installation into the Chair of a Lodge. (The Master Elect must signify his acceptance after each rule is read to him.) Rule 15 applies in this case:
15. You promise that no Visitor shall be received into your Lodge without due examination, and producing proper Vouchers of his having been initiated in a regular Lodge.
As long ago as 1938, the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland each agreed upon and issued a statement identical in terms except that their own Grand Lodge name appeared throughout. This statement was entitled ‘Aims and Relationships of the Craft.’ Rule 8 is relevant here:
8. The Grand Lodge is aware that there do exist Bodies, styling themselves Freemasons, which do not adhere to these principles, and while that attitude exists the Grand Lodge of England refuses absolutely to have any relations with such Bodies, or to regard them as Freemasons.
Interestingly, Rule 9 is also of import, although not totally relevant to the subject matter, it does reinforce the statement in the preceding paragraph on self governing (and recognition of so called superior Masonic authority):
9. The Grand Lodge of England is a Sovereign and independent Body practising Freemasonry only within the three Degrees and only within the limits defined in its Constitution as ‘pure Antient Masonry’. It does not recognise or admit the existence of any superior Masonic authority, however styled.
The following strict rules also apply to any visitor, even if a member of UGLE (this will apply in all jurisdictions (Grand Lodges) in regular communication (amity) with UGLE). Under the title of ‘Admission of Visitors,’ rule 125 applies:
125. (a) No Brother subject to the Grand Lodge [0f England] shall be admitted into a Lodge unless he be personally known to, and vouched for, by one of the Brethren present, or unless he shall be well vouched for after due examination. He shall, if required, produce his Grand Lodge Certificate and proof of good standing in his Lodge or Lodges.
(b) No Brother who is not subject to the Grand Lodge [of England] shall be admitted unless his Certificate shows that he has been initiated according to the ‘antient rites and ceremonies’ in a Lodge belonging to a Grand Lodge professing belief in T.G.A.O.T.U., such Certificate not to be regarded as valid unless granted by a Grand Lodge recognised by the Grand Lodge [of England], nor unless he himself shall acknowledge that this belief is an essential Landmark of the Order, and is able to produce proof of his good standing in his Lodge or Lodges. It is incumbent on the Master of any Lodge to which a visitor from another Constitution seeks admission to satisfy himself by adequate enquiries, if need be, from the Grand Secretary, that such Constitution is recognised by the Grand Lodge.
(c) Every visitor during his presence in a Lodge is subject to its relevant by-laws.
There are many rules regarding visiting, especially when visiting a Lodge governed by a regular Grand Lodge in another jurisdiction. In my case I took with along with me, not just my Grand Lodge Certificate, but a letter from UGLE supporting my membership, and even with this proof, the Lodge I was visiting contacted their own Grand Lodge, who in turn contacted UGLE before I could be admitted. As you can see, we have all been taught to be very cautious.
So, the bottom line is that if members of a quasi-masonic organisation profess to have joined a regular Lodge in order to make their own quasi-masonic lodge regular and legitimate, they must have relinquished membership of their existing quasi-masonic or clandestine lodge thus rendering any thought of recognition as regular null and void. Also, had they lied about their membership of an irregular, quasi-masonic, clandestine lodge, then at the same time have rendered themselves not fit and proper persons to become members of a regular organised society, a statement they must adhere to at their initiation.
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
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