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MASONIC ETIQUETTE
by R. W. Alfonso Serrano
Aurora Grata-Day Star Lodge No. 647, New York
 

The Masonic Fraternity exists in today world as the oldest existing fraternity in the world. It shares the fraternal stage with many other different and similar organizations such as the Loyal Order of The Moose, The Elks, The Knights of Columbus, The International Order of Odd Fellows, The Fraternal Order of The Eagles, The Mechanics, and the Fraternal Order of Foresters to name a few. The one thing that sets us apart from most if not all of these organizations is our Ritual and our tradition both written and spoken. One of the most important aspects of our traditional history is our Masonic Etiquette.

Masonic Etiquette belongs to the empire of good manners, together with certain concepts peculiar to Freemasonry. We all should practice etiquette because of its power to help maintain harmony. It is a form of courtesy to the individual members and a manifestation of respect to the Craft. Harmony is the first law of the Lodge and the Worshipful Master of his Brethren demands it when he declares the Lodge open. " I now declare the Lodge duly opened and in order for business, at the same time forbidding any idle, immoral or other un-Masonic conduct where by the Harmony of the same may be disturbed".

The dictionary defines Etiquette as follows: "The forms and practices prescribed by social convention or by authority, or, the established rule of procedure and ceremony in a court or in any official or other body". I am a believer in our standard works and lectures, our constitution and our etiquette. This sets us apart from other organizations. Though there are Masons today who would look to doing away with certain parts of the ritual, such as the Middle chamber Lecture, or how we enter a Lodge room. "I recently read a suggestion by a Mason who is an AGL that we should do away with approaching the altar when coming into or leaving a Lodge after it has been opened and saluting the Sr. Warden when one need to leave the Lodge room during degree work". This is the kind of thinking that cheapens the Fraternity and I expect that the Brothers of this Lodge would strive to execute the proper Masonic Etiquette due not only to the Lodge itself but also to his Lodge Brothers. I know that many of us have seen members act un-Masonically toward another Brother. That is because we are human and as humans we will constantly make mistakes. Still we must strive to build our temples and seek perfection. One avenue that can be used to achieve this goal is through respect or etiquette. Remember to subdue your passions and improve yourself in Masonry is probably the most difficult tasks as Masons we are obligated to perform. I particularly direct this essay to my newly raised Brethren, the most un-nerving thing for me to see is a Past Master or Past Grand Lodge Officer address the Worshipful Master while he remains seated and not on the sign of fidelity. How can we fault our newly raised Masons who see this un-courteous behavior and repeat the same thinking that it is the norm. To the newly raised Brother should you make this mistake and are corrected by another Brother do not be distracted by his zeal for this Brother practices Masonic Etiquette. Brother Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, " if good manners were lost, it would be necessary for the next gentleman to rediscover them". This applies in full force to Masonic Etiquette; without it our Fraternity would be impossible.

Where a group of Masons act as a unit, as in a Lodge Communication, etiquette takes the form of proper decorum. Loud talk, restless moving about, laughter, smoking, flippancy, irreverence toward the Worshipful Master and other constituted officers of the Lodge, passing between the Altar and the East, omission of the sign of fidelity, giving no heed to the business at hand, improper entering and leaving. No man needs to consult a book of etiquette in order to accept the fact that such indecorous behavior is dangerous to the harmony of the Lodge. It is in such an atmosphere that ill will and hard feelings, not to mention the more serious menace of splits and feuds, are most likely to take root to the great danger of the Craft. A worshipful Master who permits the intrusion of such indecorum is not faithful to the duties of his office.

The following are what I consider some of the important rule of etiquette, which you should commit to memory Addressing the Chair or Worshipful Master: The rules of order in Freemasonry do not permit discussion, during a communication, among the Brethren. The Brother who has anything to say to the Lodge, whether it be to enter discussion or to make or second a motion, must rise to his feet, give the sign, wait to be recognized by the Master, speak directly to the Master. He must also remain on the sign of Fidelity until seated.

Altar: No Brother shall pass between the Altar and the East while the Lodge is at Labor, except when required to do so by ritualistic performance. The Great Lights are the particular responsibility of the Worshipful Master; no Brother should ever obscure his view of them.

Anteroom: As soon as a Brother enters a Masonic hall to attend a Communication he comes under the sway of Masonic Etiquette. If he is late, he should not indulge in loud talking that may be heard in the Lodge. His demeanor toward other Brethren, whom he may meet there, should be courteous and respectful—there as well as elsewhere, Masonry does not give any man, license to take personal liberties with another! This is especially true if any candidates are present are present waiting their call to the preparation room; to give the impression that vulgar conduct, levity, practical joking, or other forms of disrespect are countenanced by the Craft as a misrepresentation of the Lodge.

Apron: When wearing clothing that would conceal the apron, always wear the apron on the outside of the garment, except when wearing a formal cut-away (tails). A Grand Lodge Officer should always wear the apron of his office. Not only to pay proper respect to the Lodge or Grand Lodge, but also as a means to identify the office he holds or the highest office held, except when filling an office in the advancing line of Lodge Officers. At Masonic memorial Services, all Lodge Officers and Brethren, regardless of station shall be clothed in white aprons.

Ballot: The Grand Lodge Constitutions make discussion of the ballot a Masonic Offense. Except for the Holy Bible, the ballot is the most sacred thing in the Lodge. Every Mason owes to his Lodge the duty of protecting it against poor material, and every Mason owes to every petitioner a fair ballot, which is the only protection a petitioner has against unfair discrimination and unreasonable prejudice.

"Brother" is a title: In the usage's of Freemasonry, "Brother" is neither a sentimental nor familiar form of address but is a title—as much so as Worshipful, Very Worshipful, Right Worshipful and Most Worshipful, and must always be used as such. A man does not attend attend a Lodge Communication in his capacity as a private individual; he is not Joe, or Bill, or John. He is there in his capacity as Master Mason, and for this reason, one should refer to "John Doe" as "Brother Doe" in the same literal sense as any other officer in Lodge or Grand Lodge.

Discussion in Lodge: Many Lodge proposals are decided by ballot because the business of Masonry is so democratically managed. The discussion of such proposals and business in Lodge has a large importance and must be safeguarded lest it be corrupted into argument or degenerate into a conflict of personalities; in other word, discussion also has its etiquette. Etiquette for the Fraternity is set forth with great weight and feeling in the old charges found in our constitutions. Regulations governing discussion in Grand Lodge are prescribed in the Rules of Order, printed with the Constitutions; regulations for discussion in Lodge are imbedded here and there in the Constitutions, are stated in Lodge By-laws, and elsewhere. They all belong to a prescribed mode of conduct defined as Masonic Etiquette, especially in our discussions. There are three great prohibitions in all Masonic discussions: All sectarian discussion, all argument or statement pro or con as to the merits of politics, of any given religion or theological creed, of racial questions, of private business, or of any other non-Masonic subject by which men are divided into classes, feuds, schisms, or are opposed on sectarian issues, is at all times forbidden. It is strictly forbidden to discuss a petitioner (other than to read his petition and indicate whether the report of the investigating Committee is favorable or un-favorable), and for a Mason to reveal how he has voted, or in any way to seek to persuade members to vote one way or another. All offensive personal remarks, all expressions of bitterness or ill will and all or any slurs upon the Lodge or its Officers, Grand Lodge or its Officers, and the Fraternity itself, and all flippant, unseemly, or discourteous remarks addressed to the Lodge or to its officers, are condemned alike by the principals of common courtesy and etiquette and by the disciplinary laws of the Craft.

Dress (Attire): The matter of attire depends entirely upon circumstances and is a point Grand Lodge leaves to each constituent Lodge to decide, though much may be said in favor of formal attire, since it is a mark of respect to the Fraternity. One thing is certain: if any of the officers are required to wear formal attire, all of the officers should wear it without exception; and if he and his colleagues wear it, the Worshipful master should use a hat to correspond—not a soft hat, a straw hat, or cap. The members will dress according to private taste—normally a jacket with tie—and it is proper that they enter the Lodge room with apron properly arranged beforehand, and any other regalia, jewels etc., in due order. There is a philosophy in dress, as in so many other things, and the dress proper to Masonic occasion is no exception. Its principle is good taste; its practice is to wear such attire as a show of respect to the Brotherhood and expresses the dignity of Masonry.

In closing I want to pass on a story I heard while attending one of the Deputy Grand Master's Task Force Committee meetings, on the subject of pride one of the members recalled an incident that happened one Sunday while attending Mass. The priest announced that right after the Mass the local Knights of Columbus where going to have their public installation of officers. His curiosity was flamed and he stayed behind to observe the installation and compare it to a Masonic Installation of Officers. To his surprise he was the only one who stayed behind to observe the installation. To his greater shock he witnessed Council officers turning out for a public installation in tee shirts, shorts and sneakers. They had no idea of what the floor work was supposed to be and the actual installation itself seemed to be ad-lib. After the presentation the parish priest who knew him to be a Freemason asked him "I hope you Masons have it more together than the K. of. C." of which he assured him that we most certainly did. This is a serious example of pride. Would you turn out as an officer for a public installation in a tee shirt, shorts and sneakers? Could the reason that no one stayed behind to see the installation be that they have previously seen it and saw no pride in this organization? Masonic Etiquette instills pride, yet pride is something that you have to have within, because if you have pride in this Fraternity it shows without.




 

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