By: Nelson (PGM, Arizona)
Each profession has its code of ethics governing the actions of its members.
Rules of conduct are quite different from etiquette however, and may vary from
Time. Etiquette, the consideration we show for others, remains constant. This
STB does not address customs or rules of conduct -- only etiquette. All of the
opinions expressed have evolved from the generous actions and consideration
shown to this author by
many illustrious Masons of our Craft.
While our relationship with other Masons is clearly explained by the ritual
unwritten actions that will improve our relationships with others and knowing
give us self-confidence. These actions are termed etiquette. With minimal effort
thoughtfulness we can treat our Brethren with respect and improve friendships.
remember that Masonic etiquette is nothing more than plain manners and
emphasized by quickness of sympathy and fineness of observation. Masonic customs
have been made a part of each jurisdiction's ritual and regulations but they
differ from the
unwritten code of etiquette.
The meeting place of a lodge is considered a Masonic home by its members. When a
visitor appears at a meeting it is only proper for each member to welcome him as
he would a visitor in his own home. Visitors should always be welcomed into each
conversational group and never left by themselves. To prevent a visitor from
being slighted some Masters wisely [assigns] a member to accompany him
throughout the evening. If the visitor is from another jurisdiction he will
appreciate knowing in advance what is expected of him during the course of the
meeting. For example, if he will be expected to know certain signs and words or
if he will be asked to speak. After the meeting visitors should again be
welcomed by all members and encouraged to share in refreshments or other
activities. If the visitor does not have a car he will appreciate some help with
It is customary and only common courtesy to rise when addressing the Master of a
lodge. It is especially important that a Mason stands when greeting another
member or when being introduced to him. There may be exceptions to this rule
that age, custom, or ritual may preclude but it is good practice unless
The first impressions of Freemasonry are received by the candidate in the
preparation room. He is usually nervous and ill at ease, often not knowing
anyone present. He will respect the lodge if he is shown respect at this time,
particularly when he is garbed in the ritualistic clothing. The candidate will
be impressed with the seriousness of the occasion by the thoughtfulness of
Grand Honors, a form of Masonic applause, is the method of showing respect to
certain Grand Lodge officers but the form of recognition may vary from one
jurisdiction to another. Visitors from another jurisdiction should be informed
about local customs before entering the lodge room. It is quite embarrassing to
extend the public grand honors of three times three when the private grand
honors or another silent form of the grand honors are being extended by others.
Additional applause, after the grand honors, is entirely at the discretion of
the presiding officer.
FOR THE MASON
Masons learn that customs affecting etiquette may differ in each Masonic
jurisdiction. It is understandable that visitor's signs and even words may be
different. The manner in which the apron is worn and even ritual language or
pronunciation may also differ. However, it would be discourteous to object to
such differences. Masonry has, for ages, taught lessons of tolerance but from
time to time we still hear the voice of prejudice -usually in ethnic jokes,
sometimes in name-calling or in sweeping generalizations. If alone with a
Brother there is no need to laugh at such attempts at humor and one can quietly
say that jokes are not appreciated that belittle people.
Perhaps, 'I don't agree with that remark' is sufficient. If one is in an
embarrassing situation perhaps silence and a change of subject is possible. In
like manner, common courtesy and laws of the Craft forbid the use of
discourteous remarks, offensive personal comments, and expressions of bitterness
or ill will toward a Brother. Such comments should never be made during
discussions in a Masonic gathering.
FOR THE MASTER
The Master of a Masonic lodge has been endowed with the title of Worshipful
Master. It is a term of respect for the office he holds or has held in the past.
However, he does not call himself Worshipful any more than a judge would call
himself My Honor. He refers to himself simply as the Master.
Masonic ritual dictates the Master's actions but usually only during open lodge.
At other times he is expected to use good judgment and practice good etiquette.
He will never be criticized for expressing sympathy or for observing and
alleviating the discomfort of others.
When a visitor is introduced to the Master it is appropriate for the Master to
rise and welcome him with a handshake. This action elevates the status of the
visitor and can only improve the image of the Master To extend additional
respect the Master may invite visitors who are Past Masters to a seat in the
East and may even offer them the opportunity to speak to the lodge.
As a mark of respect to the Great Architect of the Universe the Master should
always remove his hat whenever the name of Deity is spoken and during all
prayers. And as a mark of respect to his country he does the same during the
Pledge of Allegiance or during the playing of the National Anthem. It is also
good manners for a Master to rise and remove his hat when being introduced to a
lady visitor in a public meeting where he is presiding and to offer her the hand
of friendship. It is particularly important that the Master remove his hat when
offering condolences at funerals.
Respect for the office of Master is a universally accepted custom in Masonic
circles. For anyone to correct him or criticize him during his 'labors' is
considered rude. If the Master asks for assistance with the ritual then one
knowledgeable member, usually designated beforehand, will help him. In like
manner, it is also discourteous to prompt or correct any of the other lodge
officers in the discharge of their duties. If they require assistance, the
Master will provide it. Criticism is best offered in private when it will not
offend or embarrass anyone.
The Rules of Order in Masonic meetings may be determined by the Constitution of
the Grand Lodge or by the Lodge by-laws. If none are specified, then the Grand
Master and/or the Master will determine the Rules of Order. A Mason would be
ill-advised to request that the presiding officer follow Robert's Rules of Order
or any other course of action.
Harmony and dignity among the Craft must prevail and the Master will enforce it.
The careful selection of prayers used at Masonic gatherings, other than those
included in the ritual, is the responsibility of the Master. Sectarian prayers
can easily offend those in attendance and it is important that the Master
explain this to anyone who may be called upon to offer a prayer. In like fashion
a careless choice of refreshments can embarrass members or guests of certain
religions or denominations and for that reason the menu selection at refreshment
should be carefully considered.
When attending a Masonic funeral or memorial service it is well to determine, in
advance whether the lodge conducting the service will be wearing only white
aprons or whether officer regalia is appropriate. White gloves may be required
in some localities.
FOR THE VISITOR
The expression, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do' is generally appropriate for
Masonic visitors. Many Brethren believe that there is a universal Masonic custom
called the 'right of visitation.' Such is not the case in all jurisdictions
although unexpected visitors usually will be welcomed at most Masonic meetings.
However, there are circumstances when visitation is not guaranteed or even
One such circumstance is when a Masonic Trial is in progress. There are other
situations when a visitor might not gain admittance: Perhaps a lodge has no
remaining space or has a 'reservations only' policy for the evening or the
master might believe that the visitor's presence would disturb the peace and
harmony of the lodge. Some American jurisdictions that recognize the right of
visitation are: Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota,Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico,
North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont,
Wisconsin and Wyoming,
In some jurisdictions banquets are held occasionally as part of the lodge
activities and therefore such meetings are not considered open for visitation
because of the advance planning that is required. In some foreign lodges a
response to a toast may be expected of the visitor. Therefore, arrangements to
visit these lodges should be made well in advance. Such arrangements often can
be made by the Grand Secretary of the visitor's jurisdiction.
In the United States a visitor's dues card will be examined for current status
but it alone will not guarantee his admittance. A visitor must expect to be
examined when visiting another lodge unless someone will vouch for him. In some
countries other credentials may be requested. A visitor should appear for
examination early enough so that it will not delay any part of the planned
activities. If he requests to see the lodge charter it should be made available.
It goes without saying that the visitor should always be treated with kindness
There are few places that require greater self-restraint and consideration for
other people than a Masonic gathering. Let us remember that the cardinal
principle of etiquette is thoughtfulness and it implies a concern for the effect
of our actions on others around us. Certainly Freemasons are concerned with all
members of the Craft and, we need to treat each other with Brotherly respect.
So mote it be!