SHORT TALK BULLETIN - Vol.VIII February, 1930 No.2

THE VISITING BROTHER

by: Unknown


     The Lodge of Antiquity (England) possesses an old Masonic document  
 written during the reign of James II between 1685 and 1688; in it  
 appears the following: 
     "that every Mason receive and cherish strange fellows, when they come  
 over the country, and set the mon work, if they will work, as the  
 manner is; that is to say, if the mason have any mould stone in his  
 place, he shall give him a mould stone, and set him on work; and if  
 he have none, the    Mason shall refresh him with money unto the next  
 lodge." 
     In the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of England it is set forth  
 that: 
 "A Brother, who is not a subscribing member to some lodge, shall not  
 be permitted to visit any lodge in the town or place in which he  
 resides, more than once during his secession from the Craft."  (Which  
 declares, by inference, that Masons who are "subscribing members to  
 some lodge" may visit as often as they wish.) 
 Mackeyís Fourteenth Landmark reads as follows: 
     "The right of every Masons to visit and sit in every regular Lodge is  
 an unquestionable Landmark of the Order.  This is called the Ďright  
 of visitation.í  This right of visitation has always been recognized  
 as an inherent right, which inures to every Masons as he travels  
 through the world.  And this is because Lodges are just considered as  
 only divisions for convenience of the universal Masonic Family.  This  
 right may, of course, be impaired or forfeited on special occasions  
 by various circumstances; but when admission is refused to a Mason in  
 good standing, who knocks at the door of a lodge as a visitor, it is  
 to be expected that some good and sufficient reason shall be  
 furnished for this violation, of what is in general a Masonic Right,  
 founded on the Landmarks of the Order." 
 Where two rights conflict, the lesser must give way to the greater.   
 This is in accord with human instinct, common sense and a proper  
 social attitude. 
     Thus, it is the right of every tax payer and citizen to walk freely  
 upon the streets of his city; he has a vested interest in what is  
 common to all, for the benefit of all, and paid for by all.  But if  
 an emergency arises the police may rope off a street and forbid,  
 temporarily, travel upon it; the immediate right of protection to  
 all, or of expediency for the good of all, is, for the time being  
 greater than the individual right to use the street. 
     In a very large degree the Master is the absolute ruler of his lodge.   
 He has the unquestioned power to exclude or admit at his pleasure.   
 Visitors come into his lodge when and only when he orders them  
 admitted; he has the power to exclude a member, or even an officer of  
 his lodge. 
     But this great power is hedged about with restrictions; he is  
 responsible to the Grand Lodge; and, "ad interim," to the Grand  
 Master, for all of his acts.  If he rules arbitrarily, excludes a  
 member or a visitor for an improper reason, or for no reason at all,  
 he can and should be called to account before the supreme Masonic  
 authority. 
     A Mason in good standing who desires to visit a lodge other than his  
 own makes his wishes known to the Tiler, who communicates with the  
 Master that a would-be visitor desires admission.  The Master is not  
 compelled to order a committee to examine the would-be visitor; but,  
 if he does not, so it is generally held, he should have good and  
 sufficient reasons for failure to permit the brother to exercise his  
 right of visitation. 
     The usual "good and sufficient reason" for refusal to permit a would- 
 be visitor to be examined - or, if vouched for, to enter the Tiled  
 door - is that his presence has been objected to by some member  
 present. 
     If over ruled by the Master, such an objection might easily destroy  
 the peace and harmony of his lodge.  The member who has a personal  
 quarrel with a would-be visitor - no matter how regrettable is such a  
 state of affairs between Masons - has the greater right in the lodge.   
 The member has the right of membership; the right of voting on all  
 questions; the right to take part in and be a part of the  
 deliberations of his lodge.  The visitor has only the right of  
 visitation in the lodge; even if obtains entry he cannot vote,  
 propose motions or speak on a question without invitation from the  
 Master. 
    Having the greater rights in the premises the member of a lodge is to  
 be considered before the would-be visitor; the peace and harmony of  
 the lodge are of more importance than the right of visitation. 
 In spite of the Landmark quoted, and the authority of antiquity, not  
 all Grand Jurisdictions are at one on this subject of the right of  
 visitation.  In some Jurisdictions it is held that the lodge, being a  
 little Masonic family of its own, has the right to say who shall and  
 who shall not visit it for any reason or for no reason; that  
 visitation is a courtesy accorded from a host to a guest, not a right  
 possessed by the individual Mason as a small part of a greater whole. 
 With this standpoint the majority of Masonic authorities do not agree  
 but as all Grand Lodges are sovereign unto themselves, Jurisdictions  
 which so rule are right within their own borders. 
     The question of the regularity of the would-be visitorís lodge is  
 important in some Jurisdictions, in others it is considered as less  
 vital.  Where clandestine Masonry flourishes or has flourished Grand  
 Jurisdictions usually insist on being satisfied that the applicant  
 comes from a lodge under the obedience of a recognized Grand Lodge.   
 Where clandestine Masonry is but a name the committee may, and often  
 does depend upon a careful examina-tion than a "List of Regular  
 Lodges" to satisfy itself that the visitor is from a "just and  
 legally constituted lodge." 
     Whether a would-be visitor is in good standing is a question easily  
 answered if he possesses a current dues or good standing card.  The  
 majority of American Grand Jurisdictions give such a card on payment  
 of dues and demand its presentation to the committee at the time of  
 examination; but there are exceptions. 
     Some Grand Lodges hold that if a would-be visitorís Tilerís oath that  
 he has been regularly initiated, passed and raised; does not stand  
 suspended or expelled; knows of no reason why he should not visit his  
 brethren is to be believed, his statement under oath that he is in  
 good standing may also be credited! 
     Masonic authorities are almost universally agreed that the  
 unaffiliated Mason has no right of visitation beyond a single visit  
 to a lodge.  The unaffiliated Mason pays nothing towards the upkeep  
 of the Fraternity from whose ministrations he would profit if he were  
 permitted to visit as freely as the affiliated Mason.  But it is  
 recognized that many unaffiliated Masons earnestly seek a new Masonic  
 home in the location in which they have come live; therefore, it is  
 conceded that such demitted members of other lodges have a right to  
 visit at least once, to learn something of the lodge to which they  
 may make application for affiliation. 
     A great and important duty involves upon the examination committee to  
 which is intrusted the task of ascertaining if a would-be visitor is  
 a regular Mason and entitled (under the Masterís pleasure) to visit  
 with his brethren.  Committee members are, for the time being,  
 Tilers; their examination should be so conducted that in the event  
 the would-be visitor is a cowan, nothing has been said or done which  
 would give him any information.  On the other hand brotherly courtesy  
 dictates that it be not necessarily long.  That committee of two is  
 well advised to regard the examination as being a ceremony conducted  
 by "Three" brethren to ascertain their mutual brotherhood, rather  
 than an inquisition in which a man must prove himself innocent of the  
 charge of being a cowan.  
     It is better that ninety-nine culprits escape punishment, than, that  
 one innocent man be punished.  Masonically it is better that ninety- 
 nine true brethren unable to satisfy a committee and be turned away,  
 than one cowan be admitted to the lodge.  But there is a middle  
 course between asking a Mason who is obviously well instructed and  
 knowledgeable every possible question in all three degrees, and being  
 "satisfied" with the "Tilerís Oath" and just one or two questions. 
 A good committee seeks for the spirit rather than the form.  There is  
 no uniformity in ritual through this nation or the world.  It is not  
 important that the would-be visitor know the exact words of the  
 ritual of the Jurisdiction in which he would visit; it is important  
 that he know the substance of the work as taught in his own  
 Jurisdiction.  If this were not so, no English brother could visit in  
 an American lodge, no American brother could work his way into a  
 Scotch lodge.  In all recognized Jurisdictions the world over the  
 essentials are the same; only words and minor details differ.  Thus,  
 Aprons are worn "as a Master Mason" indifferent ways in several  
 Jurisdictions in the United States, "but in all Jurisdictions a  
 Master Mason wears an Apron!" 
     A visitor has the undoubted right (Mackey) to demand to see the  
 Charter or Warrant of the lodge he desires to visit, in order to  
 satisfy himself that it is a "regularly constituted lodge."   
 Admittedly, such a request is a rare as for a committee to discover a  
 cowan attempting to enter a lodge; but the right is generally  
 conceded by Masonic authority, no matter how seldom it is exercised. 
 The visitor to a lodge pays it the highest compliment he can, short  
 of seeking affiliation.  Once admitted his status is that of a  
 brother among brethren, a guest in the home of his host.  Alas, too  
 often the visitor is relegated to the benches and left severely  
 alone.  Too often a Master is "too busy" with his meeting to attend  
 to his duty as a host and the brethren too interested in their own  
 concerns to pay much attention to the visiting brother. 
     Careless Masonic hospitality is only less serious than carelessness  
 in the committee.  A stranger in town visits a lodge with the hope of  
 finding friends, companions and brethren; he desires human contacts,  
 to refresh himself at the Altar of Brotherhood, to mingle with his  
 fellows on a level of exact equality.  If he finds them not, he has a  
 right to judge the lodge he visits as lacking in that fine Masonic  
 courtesy than which nothing is more heartening. 
     Happy the lodge with ideals of welcoming the visitor.   
 Fortunate the lodge whose Master makes it his business, either  
 personally or through a committee, to say a brotherly word of  
 welcome, to see that the brother is in friendly hands, and make him  
 feel that although far from his habitat yet he is at home.  The fame  
 of such a lodge spreads far! 
     In many lodges the Secretary writes a letter to the lodge from which  
 a visitor has come, advising them of his visit; a pretty custom and  
 heartening, especially if the brother who has visited finds it in his  
 heart to tell his own lodge of the pleasant time he had, the  
 brotherly treatment he received, perhaps the homesickness cured by  
 the Fraternal kindliness with which he was greeted. 
     Generally the visitor gets a greater reward for the time he has spent  
 than the lodge he visits.  Masons who visit many lodges, especially  
 if in other than their own Jurisdiction, receive a new idea of the  
 breadth of the Order, a new feeling for the underlying principles of  
 the ancient Craft.  If he can express his pleasure in his visit,  
 bring a message from his home lodge to those brethren he visits, they  
 also may gain from the occasion.  In any event the lodge visited has  
 been paid a compliment; the visitor has received trust and faith,  
 regardless of the character of the welcome. 
     A Mason who has the opportunity to visit in other lodges may well  
 recall the words of the Great Light upon the Altar, no less true for  
 him that they were said in olden time; "Let us go again and visit our  
 Brethren in every city" (acts 15:36).  Brethren of that lodge which  
 has the privilege of acting as host to him who comes to the Tilerís  
 door a stranger and enters the lodge as a brother may rejoice in the  
 words:  "Let Brotherly Love continue.  Be not forgetful to entertain  
 strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."  
 (Hebrews 14:1, 2.) 
 
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