Steel engraving Benjamin Franklin defending the american cause in France"nBenjamin Franklin was ambassador in France from 1776-1785

Freemasonry – Regularity and Recognition

As I’ve said many times, the misinformation, most of it quite ridiculous, associated with Freemasonry is abundant and has been for almost as long as the first Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1717. The latest questions that came my way are somewhat confusing; they are related to Lebanon. The questions received are these:

  • What is regularity with respect to Freemasonry?
  • What is recognition respect to Freemasonry?
  • Are any of the above related to government or the political makeup of government?
  • Is regularity or recognition related to the historical aspect of a country?
  • If there is a political conflict in a democratic government is this related to recognition of Freemasonry?

WOW! That sounds like a real mess of misunderstanding in need of clarity! This cannot be answered that simply, below is my understanding and I have related stories that refer to some of the civil or general war aspects.

Let’s begin with the first two, regular and recognition. There are three main types of Freemasonry in existence, they are regular Freemasonry, irregular Freemasonry and quasi Freemasonry, which many refer to as clandestine.

Regular Freemasonry relates to all Lodges/Grand Lodges that maintain the ancient tenets and principles of Freemasonry, basically this is belief in a Supreme Being and the abstention of all political or religious discussion within a closed Lodge, this includes within a Grand Lodge. All regular Grand Lodges must be in amity with one of the original three Grand Lodges of Great Britain, which includes the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

Irregular Freemasonry is a little more complex, but basically relates to Grand Lodges that allow members to NOT believe in a Supreme Being (this being left entirely at the discretion of individual Lodges). An irregular Lodge allows, generally, non party political discussion within a closed Lodge, but this is probably mostly at Grand Lodge level; religious discussion is unlikely. It could be said that any Lodge within these Grand Lodges that follow the ancient tenets and Principles are basically regular Freemasons, even if their Grand Lodge is not; regular Freemasons, however, would still NOT be allowed to visit. Generally, political discussion is with respect to the fairness and care of the sitting government to its citizens, it is not party politically related, thus maintaining harmony within the Lodge. 

No regular or irregular Lodge/Grand Lodge is aligned with any particular political party as this would cause disharmony within its Grand Lodge and respective Lodges.

Quasi Freemasonry is any Lodge/Grand Lodge that is not recognised by either a regular Grand Lodge or an irregular Grand Lodge. Quasi Freemasonry generally does not follow any of the ancient tenets and principles of Freemasonry and they fall outside the regulation of ancient Freemasonry, regular or irregular.

The origin of clandestine Lodges comes from the early times of Freemasonry as Lodges aligned themselves with a Grand Lodge. However, some Lodges chose to remain independent, thus were not regulated in their workings by a Grand Lodge, hence they met in secrecy from any Grand Lodge regulation and were deemed clandestine.

Nothing in the above is associated with any government or political party, but as quasi Freemasonry is unregulated then who knows what they get up to, they are simply NOT recognised as Masonic at all. There are many unregulated Grand Lodges in Lebanon, but to date there are three groups of regular Freemason Lodges present in the country.

Some governments may require a Grand Lodge to be licensed or similar in order to operate. It is unlikely that a Grand Lodge of Freemasons would reside in a dictatorship, they are usually found in democratic societies where governments interfere minimally in their citizens lives.

Therefore, when it comes to recognition, this is purely related to regular, irregular and quasi Masonry. There are many Grand Lodges in the world that follow the ancient tenets and principles of Freemasonry, these Grand Lodges recognise each other as regular Freemasonry; it may be similar with irregular Grand Lodges, but this is unlikely as they probably don’t see themselves as irregular as this word is simply applied to those Lodges as described that are NOT recognised by any regular Grand Lodge. Quasi Grand Lodges are not recognised by anyone as they remain independent and unregulated.

But what happens to Freemasons if there is political influence within their Lodges, especially if this occurs before or during a civil war? Quite simply it is likely that the Grand Lodge that governs these Lodges would withdraw, especially if it is based in a different country with a District Grand Lodge in the country in conflict. However, those initiated into Freemasonry remain Freemasons and those following the ancient tenets and principles remain as regular Freemasons.

In World War 2 Hitler’s Nazi Party targeted all Freemasons to such an extent that more than 80,000 were murdered. This forced Freemasonry to go underground and hide or disguise their membership. Their new “secret” sign used to recognise one another was the “forget me not” flower, this is still in use today (but no longer required to be kept secret). This is the main reason that all Freemasons became far more secretive than they ever were before this war, and it is only 70 years later that they emerged once again into “the light.”

But there is a great example in history that relates to Freemasonry within a civil war. The civil war in question was the English civil war, which was a battle between those who supported the King, Royalists, and those who supported Parliament, Parliamentarians. This civil war occurred between 1642 and 1651, at the time that Freemasonry was still evolving into more of a philosophical society, as the groups, guilds and companies of masons were already practicing beneficence and charity amongst their membership, and were linked with each other through the need to regulate stonemasonry. There is a record of non stonemasons being accepted into these guilds and societies of stonemasons in the late 16th century in Scotland, and the first in England was in 1646 and recorded by the man himself, Elias Ashmole.

This, as many may known, was in the Age of Enlightenment, and Elias Ashmole, a strict Royalist, was studying natural philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and astrology at Brasenose College in 1645; Elias was an avid diarist. His entry in 1646 was as follows:

“I was made a Free Mason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Coll: Henry Mainwaring of Karincham [Kermincham] in Cheshire.”

Colonel Henry Mainwaring was related to Elias’s wife, Eleanor (nee Mainwaring). Eleanor’s father was Peter Mainwaring, Henry’s brother, thus Eleanor’s uncle, was Henry. Colonel Henry Mainwaring was a strict Parliamentarian, who served in the House of Commons between 1621 and 1622.

The fact that two people on opposite sides in a civil war is enough to really sum up the essence of Freemasonry, It adds proof of one of the main tenets and principles of regular Freemasonry, that politics is always left outside of a regular lodge and men (and women) of different religious faiths, even at political variance and war, can meet together in love, peace and harmony.

So in conclusion to our misunderstanding:

  • War, civil or otherwise, has no affect on whether a Freemason remains a Freemason.
  • Regularity refers to Lodges who follow the ancient tenets and principles of Freemasonry,
  • Recognition is when one regular Grand Lodge recognises the regularity of another.
  • Political discussion is forbidden inside a regular Lodge (if politics enters a Lodge or Lodges. especially at the time of a civil war, then that lodge is no longer regular nor recognised and its Grand Lodge is likely to withdraw support).
  • Governments may feel the need to “licence” Freemasonry in their jurisdiction but they can have no influence on Freemasonry in any respect, any government interference would lead to that Grand Lodge withdrawing from that country or territory.
  • Once a Freemasonry, always a Freemason (unless expelled though any illegal act).

These articles are written and researched 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 or Provincial Grand Lodge.

© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved

About Steve

Steve is part of the publishing team of Al-Khabar. He was initiated into Neptune Lodge 5150 EC In 1986 and completed his third degree by being exalted into Neptune’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1989; he also enjoyed two successive years in the Chair of KS in 1993/4. He has also enjoyed being a Mark Master Mason and a Royal Ark Mariner. He has been honoured with the position of Past Provincial Deputy Grand Registrar. All the articles are his own and represent no Official Masonic Body

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