THE LANDMARKS OF FREEMASONRY
The Landmarks of Freemasonry are unwritten laws that form the basis of every Grand and subordinate Lodge
constitution. The Landmarks are the foundation on which Freemasonry stands. Every Grand Lodge adopts all or
a portion of the Landmarks listed below. An extensive discussion of these masonic principals can be found in
Jurisprudence of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey.
The modes of RECOGNITION are, of all the Landmarks, the most legitimate and unquestioned. They admit of
no variation; and if ever they have suffered alteration or addition, the evil of such a violation of the ancient law
has always made itself subsequently manifest. An admission of this is to be found in the proceedings of the
Masonic Congress at Paris, where a proposition was presented to render these modes of recognition once more
universal - a proposition which never would have been necessary, if the integrity of this important Landmark had
been rigorously preserved.
THE DIVISION OF SYMBOLIC MASONRY INTO THREE DEGREES is a Landmark that has been better
preserved than almost any other, although even here the mischievous spirit of innovation hag left its traces, and
by the disruption of its concluding portion from the Third Degree, a want of uniformity has been created in
respect to the final teaching of the Master's order, and the Royal Arch of England, Scotland, Ireland, and
America, and the "high degrees" of France and Germany, are all made to differ in the mode in which they lead the
neophyte to the great consummation of all symbolic masonry.
In 1813, the Grand Lodge of England vindicated the ancient Landmark, by solemnly enacting that ancient craft
Masonry consisted of the three degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, including the
Holy Royal Arch; but the disruption has never been healed, and the Landmark, although acknowledged in its
integrity by all, still continues to be violated.
The Legend of the THIRD DEGREE is an important Landmark, the integrity of which has been well preserved.
There is no rite of Masonry, practiced in any country or language, in which the essential elements of this legend
are not taught. The lectures may vary, and indeed are constantly changing, but the legend has ever remained
substantially the same; and it is necessary that it should be so, for the legend of the Temple Builder constitutes
the very essence and identity of Masonry; any rite which should exclude it, or materially alter it, would at once,
by that exclusion or alteration, cease to be a Masonic rite.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FRATERNITY BY A PRESIDING OFFICER called a Grand Master, who is
elected from the body of the craft, is a Fourth Landmark of the Order.
Many persons ignorantly suppose that the election of the Grand Master is held in consequence of a law or
regulation of the Grand Lodge. Such, however, is not the case. The office is indebted for its existence to a
Landmark of the Order. Grand Masters are to be found in the records of the institution long before Grand
Lodges were established; and if the present system of legislative government by Grand Lodges were to be
abolished, a Grand Master would be necessary. In fact, although there has been a period within the records of
history, and indeed of very recent date, when a Grand Lodge was unknown, there never has been a time when
the craft did not have their Grand Master.
The prerogative of the Grand Master to preside over every assembly of the craft, wheresoever and whensoever
held, is a fifth Landmark. It is in consequence of this law, derived from ancient usage, and not from any special
enactment, that the Grand Master assumes the chair, or as it is called in England, "the throne," at every
communication of the Grand Lodge; and that he is also entitled to preside at the communication of every
Subordinate Lodge, where he may happen to be present.
The prerogative of the Grand Master to grant Dispensations for conferring degrees at irregular times, is another
and a very important Landmark. The statutory law of Masonry requires a month, or other determinate period, to
elapse between the presentation of a petition and the election of a candidate. But the Grand Master has the
power to set aside or dispense with this probation, and allow a candidate to be initiated at once. This prerogative
he possessed in common with all Masters, before the enactment of the law requiring a probation, and as no
statute can impair his prerogative, he still retains the power, although the Masters of Lodges no longer possess it.
The prerogative of the Grand Master to give dispensations for opening and holding Lodges is another Landmark.
He may grant, in virtue of this, to a sufficient number of Masons, the privilege of meeting together and conferring
degrees. The Lodges thus established are called "Lodges under Dispensation." They are strictly creatures of the
Grand Master, created by his authority, existing only during his will and pleasure, and liable at any moment to be
dissolved at his command. They may he continued for a day, a month, or six months; but whatever be the period
of their existence, they are indebted for that existence solely to the grace of the Grand Master.
The prerogative of the Grand Master to make masons at sight, is a Landmark which is closely connected with the
preceding one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this Landmark, which misapprehension has
sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was perhaps at the very time
substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition. It is not to be supposed that
the Grand Master can retire with a profane into a private room, and there, without assistance, confer the degrees
of Freemasonry upon him.
No such prerogative exists, and yet many believe that this is the so much talked of right of "making Masons at
sight". The real mode and the only mode of exercising the prerogative is this: The Grand Master summons to his
assistance not less than six other masons, convenes a Lodge, and without any previous probation, but on sight of
the candidate, confers the degrees upon him. after which he dissolves the Lodge. and dismisses the brethren.
Lodges thus convened for special purposes are called occasional lodges," This is the only way in which any
Grand Master within the records of the institution has ever been known to "make a Mason at sight".
The prerogative is dependent upon that of granting dispensations to open and hold Lodges. If the Grand Master
has the power of granting to any other Mason the privilege of presiding over Lodges working by his
dispensation, he may assume this privilege of presiding to himself; and as no one can deny his right to revoke his
dispensation granted to a number of brethren at a distance, and to dissolve the Lodge at his pleasure, it will
scarcely be contended that he may not revoke his dispensation for a Lodge over which he himself has been
presiding, within a day, and dissolve the Lodge as soon as the business for which he had assembled it is
The making of Masons at sight is only the conferring of the degrees by the Grand Master, at once, in an
occasional Lodge, constituted by his dispensing power for the purpose, and over which he presides in person.
The necessity of masons to congregate in lodges is another Landmark. It is not to be understood by this that any
ancient Landmark has directed that permanent organization of subordinate Lodges which constitutes one of the
features of the Masonic system as it now prevails, but the landmarks of the Order always prescribed that Masons
should from time to time congregate together, for the purpose of either operative or speculative labor, and that
these congregations should be called Lodges.
Formerly these were extemporary meetings called together for special purposes, and then dissolved, the brethren
departing to meet again at other times and other places, according to the necessity of circumstances. But
warrants of constitution, by-laws, permanent officers and annual arrears, are modern innovations wholly outside
of the Landmarks, and dependent entirely on the special enactments of a comparatively recent period.
The government of the craft, when so congregated in a Lodge by a Master and two Wardens, is also a
Landmark. To show the influence of this ancient law, it may be observed by the way, that a congregation of
Masons meeting together under any other government, as that for instance of a president and vice-president, or a
chairman and subchairman, would not be recognized as a Lodge, The presence of a Master and two Wardens is
as essential to the valid organization of a Lodge as a warrant of constitution is at the present day. The names, of
course, vary in different languages, the Master, for instance, being called "Venerable" in French Masonry, and the
Wardens "Surveillants," but the officers, their number, prerogatives and duties, are everywhere identical.
The necessity that every lodge, when congregated, should be duly tiled, is an important Landmark of the
institution, which is never neglected. The necessity of this law arises from the esoteric character of Masonry. As
a secret institution, its portals must of course be guarded from the intrusion of the profane, and such a law must
therefore always have been in force from the very beginning of the Order. It is therefore properly classed among
the most ancient Landmarks. The office of Tiler is wholly independent of any special enactment of Grand or
Subordinate Lodges, although these may and do prescribe for him additional duties, which vary in different
jurisdictions. But the duty of guarding the door, and keeping off cowans and eavesdroppers, is an ancient one,
which constitutes a Landmark for the government.
The right of every mason to be represented in all general meetings of the craft and to instruct his representatives,
is a twelfth Landmark. Formerly, these general meetings, which were usually held once a year, were called
"General Assemblies," and all the fraternity, even to the youngest Entered Apprentice, were permitted to be
present. Now they are called "Grand Lodges," and only the Masters and Wardens of the Subordinate Lodges are
summoned. But this is simply as the representatives of their members. Originally, each Mason represented
himself; now he is represented by his officers. was a concession granted by the fraternity about 1717, and of
course does not affect the integrity of the Landmark, for the principle of representation is still preserved. The
concession was only made for purposes of convenience.
The Right of every mason to appeal from the decision of his brethren in Lodge convened, to the Grand Lodge or
General Assembly of Masons, is a Landmark highly essential to the preservation of justice, and the prevention of
oppression. A few modern Grand Lodges, in adopting a regulation that the decision of Subordinate Lodges, in
cases of expulsion, cannot be wholly set aside upon an appeal, have violated this unquestioned Landmark, as well
as the principles of just government
THE RIGHT OF EVERY MASON TO VISIT and sit in every regular Lodge is an unquestionable Landmark of
the Order." This is called "the right of visitation."
This right of visitation has always been recognized as an inherent right, which inures to every Mason as he travels
through the world. And this is because Lodges are justly considered as only divisions for convenience of the
universal Masonic family. It is 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.
It is a Landmark of the Order, that no visitor, unknown to the brethren present, or to some one of them as a
Mason, can enter a Lodge without first passing an examination according to ancient usage. Of course, if the
visitor is known to any brother present to be a Mason in good standing, and if that brother will vouch for his
qualifications, the examination may be dispensed with, as the Landmark refers only to the cases of strangers, who
are not to be recognized unless after strict trial, due examination, or lawful information.
No Lodge can interfere in the business of another Lodge, nor give degrees to brethren who are members of other
Lodges, This is undoubtedly an ancient Landmark, founded on the great principles of courtesy and fraternal
which are at the very foundation of our institution. It has been repeatedly recognized by subsequent statutory
enactments of all Grand Lodges.
It is a Landmark that every freemason is Amenable to the Laws and Regulations of the masonic jurisdiction in
which he resides, and this although he may not be a member of any Lodge. Non-affiliation, which is, in fact in
itself a Masonic offense, does not exempt a Mason from Masonic Jurisdiction.
Certain qualifications of candidates for initiation are derived from a Landmark of the Order. These qualifications
are that he shall be a man, shall be unmultilated, free born, and of mature age. That is to say, a woman, a cripple,
or a slave, or one born in slavery, is disqualified for initiation into the rites of Masonry.
Statutes, it is true, have from time to time been enacted, enforcing or explaining these principles; but the
qualifications really arise from the very nature of the Masonic institution, and from its symbolic teachings, and
have always existed as landmarks.
A belief in the existence of God as the GRAND ARCHITECT of the universe, is one of the most important
Landmarks of the Order. It has been always deemed essential that a denial of the existence of a Supreme and
Superintending Power, is an absolute disqualification for initiation. The annals of the Order never yet have
furnished or could furnish an instance in which an avowed atheist was ever made a Mason. The very Initiatory
ceremonies of the first degree forbid and prevent the possibility of so monstrous an occurrence.
Subsidiary to this belief in God, as a Landmark of the Order, is the belief in a resurrection to a future life. This
Landmark is not so positively impressed on the candidate by exact words as the preceding; but die doctrine is
taught by very plain implication, and runs through the whole symbolism of the Order. To believe in Masonry, and
not to believe in a resurrection, would be an absurd anomaly, which could only be excused by the reflection, that
he who thus confounded his belief and his skepticism, was so ignorant of the meaning of both theories as to have
no rational foundation for his knowledge of either.
It is a Landmark, that a "Book of the Law" shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.
I say advisedly, a Book of the Law, because it is not absolutely required that everywhere the Old and New
Testaments shall be used. The "Book of the Law" is that volume which, by the religion of the country, is believed
to contain the revealed will of the Grand Architect of the universe.
Hence, in all Lodges in Christian countries, the Book of the Law is composed of the Old and New Testaments; in
a country where Judaism was the prevailing faith, the Old Testament alone would be sufficient; and in
Mohammedan countries, and among Mohammedan Masons the Koran might be substituted.
Masonry does not attempt to interfere with the peculiar religious faith of its disciples, except so far as relates to
the belief in the existence of God, and what necessarily results from that belief." The Book of the Law is to the
speculative Mason his spiritual Trestle-board; without this he cannot labor; whatever he believes to be the
revealed will of the Grand Architect constitutes for him this spiritual Trestleboard, and must ever be before him
in his hours of speculative labor, to be the rule and guide of his conduct The Landmark, therefore, requires that a
Book of the Law, a religious code of some kind, purporting to be an exemplar of the revealed will of God, shall
form in essential part of the furniture of every Lodge.
THE EQUALITY OF ALL MASONS is another Landmark of the Order. This equality has no reference to any
subversion of those gradations of rank which have been instituted by the usages of society. The monarch, the
nobleman or the gentleman is entitled to all the influence, and receives all the respect which rightly belong to his
exalted position. But the doctrine of Masonic equality implies that, as children of one great Father, we meet in
the Lodge upon the level-that on that level we are all traveling to one predestined goal, that in the Lodge genuine
merit shall receive more respect than boundless wealth, and that virtue and knowledge alone should be the basis
of all Masonic honors, and be rewarded with preferment When the labors of the Lodge are over, and the brethren
have retired from their peaceful retreat, to mingle once more with the world, each will then again resume that
social position, and exercise the privileges of that rank, to which the customs of society entitle him.
The secrecy of the institution is another and a most important Landmark. There is some difficulty in precisely
defining what is meant by a "secret society," If the term refers, as perhaps in strictly logical language it should, to
those associations whose designs are concealed from the public eye, and whose members are unknowing which
produce their results in darkness, and whose operations are carefully hidden from the public gaze - a definition
which will be appropriate to many political clubs and revolutionary combinations in despotic countries, where
reform, if it is at all to be effected, must be effected by stealth - then clearly Freemasonry is not a secret society.
Its design is not only publicly proclaimed. but is vaunted by its disciples as something to be venerated; its
disciples are known, for its membership is considered an honor to be coveted; it works for a result of which it
boasts, the civilization, and reformation of his manners. But if by a Secret society is meant, and this is the most
popular understanding of the term, a society in which there is a certain amount of knowledge, whether it be of
methods of recognition, or of legendary and traditional learning, which is imported to those only who have
passed through an established form of initiation, the form itself being also concealed or esoteric, then in this sense
is Freemasonry undoubtedly a secret society. Now this form of secrecy is a form inherent in it, existing with It
from its very foundation, and secured to it by its ancient Landmarks. If divested of its secret character, it would
lose its identity, and would cease to be Freemasonry.
Whatever objections may, therefore, be made to the institution, on account of its secrecy, and however much
some unskillful brethren have been willing in times of trial, for the sake of expediency, to divest it of its secret
character, it will be ever impossible to do so, even were die Landmark not standing before us as an
insurmountable obstacle; because such change of its character would be social suicide, and the death of the Order
would follow its legalized exposure. Freemasonry, as a secret association, has lived unchanged for centuries an
open society it would not last for as many years.
The foundation of a Speculative Science upon an Operative Art, and the symbolic use and explanation of the
terms of that art, for purposes of religious or moral teaching, constitute another Landmark of the Order. The
Temple of Solomon was the cradle of the institution," and, therefore, the reference to the operative Masonry,
which constructed that magnificent edifice, to the materials and implements which were employed in its
construction, and to the artists who were engaged in the building, are all component and essential parts of the
body of Freemasonry, which could not be subtracted from it without an entire destruction of the whole identity
of the Order. Hence, all the comparatively modern rites of Masonry, however they may differ in other respects,
religiously preserve this temple history and these operative elements, as the substratum of all their modifications
of the Masonic system.
The last and crowning Landmark of all is, that these Landmarks can never be changed. Nothing can be subtracted
from them-nothing can be added to them-not the slightest modification can be made in them. As they were
received from our predecessors, we are bound by the most solemn obligations of duty to transmit them to our
successors. Not one jot or one title of these unwritten laws can be repealed; for in respect to them, we are not
only willing but compelled to adopt the language of the sturdy old barons of England - "Nolumus legen mutari."