Valley Hi Lodge

Etiquette & Courtesies

Conventions are the rules which society makes for itself, without the force of law, by which its members live together with the least friction.

There are four different salutes given within a Lodge:
(1. Saluting the Flag during Pledge of Allegiance.
(2. Saluting the Worshipful Master for permission to enter or retire from a Lodge.
(3. Saluting the Worshipful Master during opening or closing ceremonies or when addressing him while Lodge is in session.
(4. Saluting the Holy Writ before balloting as a reminder to yourself of the seriousness of the action you are about to take.

If an officer is absent, the officers below his station do not necessarily move up, each a chair. There is no "advancement by right" for any office except that of Master. The Master fills any vacancy by temporary appointment. In the absence of the Master the Senior Warden presides. In some jurisdictions it is Customary for a Master to ask a Past Master to fill a temporarily vacant chair; in others, he may ask any brother he believes qualified.

The Obligation and the Oath:  The obligation is a promise made by the candidate to the members of his Lodge and to the Fraternity.  The oath is the "So help me God!" that follows the obligation.

In most jurisdictions, when the Lodge is open, it is a form of grave disrespect for a member to pass between the East and the Altar except during progression in the degrees. The Master should always have the Holy Writ, his inspiration and Light, directly in view.  In jurisdictions in which the Lesser Lights are placed in a triangular form about the Altar, it is customary not to walk between the Altar and a light. The theory is that the Altar and the three lights about it represent the Sanctum Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies of the original tabernacle in the wilderness. Into this the High Priest could go, but only to return the same way. Brethren enter this symbolic representation of the Sanctum in a lodge room, but do not use it as a passageway by passing through it.

The Altar may be draped as a mark of respect to a dead brother.  If so the draping is of black cloth which is beneath the three Great Lights. The Altar should not be draped in any flag; it is disrespectful to the flag to place anything upon it, and not even a national flag should cover the Altar.

The ballot box should be placed on the Altar, not on the three Great Lights, obscuring them. Nothing but the square and compasses should rest upon the open Book of the Law.

A Lodge may not be adjourned for any purpose.  No member has the authority to present a motion for adjournment since that would usurp the Master's power.  A Lodge must be in one of three conditions: Closed, open and at work, or at refreshment. 

Always be fully "dressed" before entering a Lodge while in session.  It is a serious disrespect to the Master to approach the altar while still tying or adjusting your apron.  This should be done in the anteroom prior to entry.  The Tyler should insure that a brother arriving late is properly dressed before announcing him.  When, as sometimes happens upon "big nights", there are not enough aprons, a handkerchief may be tucked in the belt to take its place.

Concerning dress:  Many Lodges have dress codes.  If you plan to visit a Lodge, make every effort to discern their standards for proper dress before your visit.   If that is impossible, then you should dress as you would to attend church.  Few, if any, Lodges will find fault with your dress if in a coat and tie, even though they may attend Lodge in formal dress.  Some Lodges have a "come as you are" standard, especially those Lodges where many of their members are farmers or laborers who would not be able to return home after a day's work to change and make it to Lodge on time.  In my humble opinion, attending Lodge is an obligation.  Being properly dressed is a courtesy to the Lodge officers and it's traditions.

If I might be permitted another opinion:  Two of the most damaging subjects to the universal good name of Freemasonry are:
1.) Any mention of a goat to any person concerning the workings of a Lodge.  The goat has for centuries been seen by many as a symbol of Satan.  It is not in good taste, even though in jest, to "threaten" a candidate with "Riding the Goat!"  When overheard by the profane, statements such as this add fuel to the long standing Anti-Masonic attitude.
Recently while visiting in another Grand Jurisdiction, I refused to stay for an outdoor degree after seeing a male goat dragged through the "Lodge" into the preparation room where more than a dozen candidates waited to be raised to the Sublime Degree.   I do not believe that "true" Freemasonry was being practiced that day.
2.) We do not have "Masonic Bibles!"  There are no such items.  We have Holy Bibles with the Masonic Emblems stamped on the front and some even with graphic illustrations within of King Solomon's Temple.  We have them on our Lodge altars and we have personal copies, but those are not "Masonic Bibles!"  They should not be referred to as such.  For the same reasons as above, those who distrust our great Fraternity have often been heard to say "Freemasons do not believe in God.  Why do they even have their own bible!"

The Masonic (Square and Compasses) ring is not an official item of Masonic Jewelry.  General consensus seems to be that if the wearer wishes to advise others that he is a Master Mason, then he should wear the ring with the Compasses tips toward the fingertips.  If the ring is worn to remind the wearer that he is a Master Mason, then he should wear it with the compasses tips toward the wrist. 

A man in lodge is the servant of his brethren if he engages in any lodge activity. Servants stand in the presence of their superiors. Therefore, no Mason sits while speaking, whether he addresses an officer or another brother. This does not refer to conversation on the benches during refreshment, but to discussion on the floor during business meeting.

It is illegal to enter or leave the room during a ballot.  It is discourteous to leave during a speech, or during a degree, except at the several natural periods which end one section and begin another.

The convention of good manners is what makes society pleasant, and Masonic good manners make lodge meetings pleasant.

One does not talk in church. God's House is not for social conversation; it is for worship and the learning of the lesson of the day. A good Mason does not talk during the conferring of a degree. The lodge room is then a Temple of the Great Architect of the Universe, with the brethren working therein doing their humble best to make better stones for His spiritual Temple. Good manners as well as reverence dictate silence and attention during the work; officers and degree workers cannot do their best if distracted by conversation, and the irreverence cannot help but be distressing to candidates.

In general, discussions of sectarian religion, partisan politics, race or any subject which divides men into opposed schools of thought are prohibited by Masonic law. In most lodges, speaking for or against any candidate prior to election is forbidden; good manners would seem to demand no such discussion even when permitted. The utterance of personalities, the showing of bitterness, ill will, criticism of officers or Grand Officers are of course discourteous.

There is a special lodge courtesy to be observed in all debates to any motion. One speaks to the Master; the Master is the lodge. One does not turn one's back on him to address the lodge without permission from him. One stands when addressing the chair. Customs differ in various jurisdictions as to the method of salute, but some salute should always be given when addressing the Master. The spectacle of two brethren on their feet at the same time, arguing over a motion, facing each other and ignoring the Master, is not one which any Master should permit. But it is also one which no Master should have to prevent!

Failure to obey the gavel at once is a grave discourtesy. The Master is all powerful in the lodge. He can accept or refuse to accept any motion. He can rule any brother out of order on any subject at any time. He can say what he will and will not permit to be discussed. Brethren who think him unfair, arbitrary, unjust, or acting illegally, have redress; the Grand Lodge can be appealed to on any such matter. But in the lodge, the gavel, emblem of authority, is supreme. When a brother is rapped down, he should at once obey, without further discussion. It is very bad manners to do otherwise; indeed, it is close to the line between bad manners and a Masonic offense.

A Master has but three superiors, God, death and the Grand Master (or his Deputy). Masters, therefore, remove their hats during prayer, in the presence of death (which includes announcements) and of the Grand Master (or his Deputy).

It is a courtesy to the Master to advise him beforehand that you intend to offer a motion, or wish to bring up some matter for discussion. You have the right to do it without apprising him in advance, just as he has the right to rule you out of order. But the Master may have plans of his own for that meeting, into which your proposed motion or discourse does not fit. Therefore it is a courtesy to him to ask him privately if you may be recognized for your purpose, and thus save him the disagreeable necessity of seeming arbitrary in a public refusal.

Lodge courtesies, like those of the profane world, are founded wholly in the Golden Rule. They oil the Masonic wheels and enable them to revolve without creaking. They smooth the path of all in the lodge, and prove to all and sundry the truth of the ritualistic explanation of that "more noble and glorious purpose" to which we are taught to put the trowel.

The most appropriate closing phrase I know for this compendium of Lodge Courtesies is by the late R. W. Henry G. Meacham, Grand Lecturer, Grand Lodge of New York:

"There is a certain grave beauty in the practice of Masonic etiquette. The Masonic life as it is lived out in our assemblies is a conscious work of art, with each and every part coordinated to every other, and instinct with the feeling of the whole; if a man enters into that system without preparation or forethought, and trusting only his instincts, his manner will strike an awkward note, like a discord jangling across a strain of music; but if he has trained himself in his part and caught the spirit of the whole, the genius of Freemasonry will shine through his actions, will express itself through ritual, symbol, law, philosophy, fellowship and daily deed. To have one's self thus become a part of a great and living whole is a kind of satisfying pleasure nothing else can give, a participation in the very life of beauty, appreciated as much by the beholders as by the actor. This ability to confer pleasure upon one's fellows when gathered in communication or in ceremony is not the least of etiquette's rewards."

The data for this page was taken in part from 1920's  publications of
the Masonic Services Association of North America.

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