Masonic etiquette involves proper manners and respect for Freemasonry, your lodge members, your Worshipful Master and your lodge. It shapes your conduct within and outside the Masonic Lodge.
Masonic etiquette has generally been unspoken and unpublished, so there are a lot of things that Masons do not know. There is more emphasis on symbols, degree work, ritual, floor work, and Masonic history.
A few Masonic mentors still take it on themselves to keep a list of lodge etiquette and expected behavior. After making a few mistakes and learning on their own, they take their time to impart their knowledge on their brethren.
How to Conform to Masonic Etiquette
Most Freemasons conform to Masonic etiquette by watching others over time. All Freemasons are expected to conform to a proper way of doing things regardless of their degree. It’s good to have knowledge of these things to avoid embarrassing situations.
Authority of The Worshipful Master
The Worshipful Master is the most powerful member of the Lodge during his tenure. He has the right to rule a Brother out of order on any issue. He has the final say over what can be discussed in the lodge. But, Brothers can appeal to the District Deputy Grand Master over an unfair or unjust Worshipful Master. If the District Deputy Grand Master considers the appeal a valid one, He will bring the appeal to the notice of the Grand Master.
Any brother that is still persistent on speaking after the Worshipful Master has ruled him out of order is committing a Masonic offense. A good Masonic Brother should be mindful of his actions and gladly accept requests made by the Worshipful Master to serve on committees.
Here are some things under Masonic etiquette:
Brothers must be fully dressed. They must not enter the Lodge room without putting on their apron and tying the strings of the apron. It is considered a discourtesy to enter the lodge room without being fully dressed in proper Masonic apparel according to your degree and office.
It is expected that your dressing is complete before entering the Lodge room. Don’t wait until you enter the lodge room before adjusting your dressing.
Addressing the Worshipful Master and others When Speaking
The Worshipful Master is the most respected person in the Lodge. He must recognize you before you are allowed to speak during meetings. First, you raise your hand before he recognizes you. When speaking during lodge meetings, you address the Brethren as thus, ‘Worshipful Master, Right Worshipfuls, Worshipfuls, Wardens and Brethren.’ If the Most Worshipful Master is present, you say, ‘Worshipful Master, Most Worshipful, Right Worshipfuls, Worshipfuls, Wardens and Brethren.’
Standing When Speaking
Every Brother must stand up when speaking in the Lodge room regardless of if he is addressing a lodge officer or a Brother. Every man in the room is considered a servant of the general Brethren regardless of his role or office in the Lodge.
Standing up to address anyone in the Lodge is a sign of respect. It helps others in the Lodge to see the person that is speaking.
Bringing up a Matter for Discussion
If you wish to bring up a matter for discussion during a lodge meeting, you are advised to brief the Worshipful Master about it before the meeting. It is very likely that the Worshipful Master has his plans for the meeting, and he has a set time frame for issues. Bringing up some things will eat into the time he has set apart.
Also, briefing him beforehand will enable him to recognize you faster and have a prior knowledge of what you are about to bring forth before the Brethren. He will be less inclined to refuse you, and he will be more agreeable with you.
Side talks during meetings are frowned upon. The lodge room is a meeting point for Brothers who are working to make the best stones for God’s spiritual temple. The lodge room is a Temple for God who is the Supreme Architect of the Universe.
It is considered bad manners to have side talks in a church, synagogue or mosque during services and so is the same in the Masonic lodge. It is distracting, and it shows disrespect for lodge proceedings. The lodge room is for learning the ways of the Master Architect and not a room for socializing. Silence is expected of all. Even whispering is not permitted.
Sitting in the East Without Invitation
Brothers must never sit in the East without invitation. Even if other seats are full, Brothers must not take a seat in the East. Every Brother in the tiled room are equal, and Lodge officers are servants of the Brothers as they have toiled long hours for the Lodge.
The Worshipful Master can choose to honor the commitment, devotion and hard work of Lodge officers by inviting them and other visitors and special members to sit with Him in the East.
Sitting in the East without invitation is the same as sitting beside the Pastor, Imam or Rabbi during a worship service.
Switch off cellphones
All cellphones should be switched off before entering the lodge.
Obey the Gavel
All Brothers must obey the gavel. The Worshipful Master has the final word in the lodge. He has the final say on what can be discussed and what can’t be discussed. He can put any motion or refuse to put any motion. He can rule any brother out of order on any subject.
Failure to obey the gavel is extremely poor Masonic etiquette. If you have any problem with the Worshipful Master, you can appeal to the Grand Lodge. But within the lodge, the gavel of the Worshipful Master reigns supreme. Obey the gavel at all times.
Turning Your Back on the Worshipful Master
It is considered disrespectful to turn your back on the Worshipful Master when addressing the lodge without receiving permission from the Worshipful Master to speak. Even when arguing a motion, Brothers should face the Worshipful Master and not face each other.
Saluting the Worshipful Master
In some Masonic lodges, the Worshipful Master is saluted when they enter and when they leave Masonic lodge rooms. They also salute the Worshipful Master when addressing him.
Saluting the Worshipful Master shows decorum in the Masonic lodge. It is a sign of respect for the Worshipful Master and an acknowledgement for his office. The salute should be proper and not a mere formality. Don’t give a lazy or disrespectful salute.
Leaving or Entering the Lodge Room During a Ballot
It is considered discourteous to leave the Lodge room during a degree, speech or ballot. You can leave the Masonic lodge during specific periods like when the lodge is put at ease until the sound of the gavel, the end of one section and before another section begins.
You should vote when you are expected to do so. When you do not cast a ballot, you fail to share in your duties, and you are disobeying the request of the Master.
You are mandated to vote whenever an issue is put to the vote. Not voting is seen as discourteous. It is an act that makes you look weak amongst all. When you fail to vote, you injure the lodge’s ballot. More than that, you injure the lodge’s secrecy and brotherhood feel. You injure the Masonic fraternity.
Smoking in the Masonic Lodge
You should not smoke in the Masonic Lodge. Some lodges allow smoking during business meetings, but you shouldn’t do that as ceremonies are considered solemn and you will be seen as a disrespectful person if you do so. You can smoke in outside the building or in other parts of the building during refreshment.
If requests are made of you by the lodge and you have the capability or ability to fulfil these requests, you should accept them. You should play your part in making the Masonic lodge function well. A request from the lodge should be treated as an honor.
Correction of grammatical or verbal errors
No one apart from the Worshipful Master or other designated officers can make corrections, and they only do so when the error is a serious one. It is wrong to point out the mistakes of others in front of the lodge. If you think that you can perform lodge degree and ceremony better, you can inform the Worshipful Master so he can use your services to mentor others in the Masonic lodge.
The Masonic lodge is not a place for pranks or jesting. Avoid any form of horseplay here.
The use of Proper Masonic Names
Masonic etiquette requires Brothers to address other Masonic Brothers by their Masonic titles.
Slouching, lounging, leaning and other poor postures are frowned upon. Good posture is good Masonic etiquette.
Entering and Leaving the Lodge During a Meeting
If you enter the Lodge during a meeting, you should go to the altar to salute the Worshipful Master. If you leave the Lodge before a meeting is over, you should salute the person presiding the meeting at the altar before you leave. It must be a proper salute.
Walking Between the Worshipful Master and the Altar
It is wrong to walk between the Worshipful Master and the Altar when the Lodge is open. It is important that the three Great Lights must continually shine their wisdom and light on the Worshipful Master to help him govern the lodge. These Lights must never be in the shadow during degree work and initiation.
In the Masonic lodge, all prayers must be non-sectarian as Freemasonry is an international brotherhood that does not have any sectarian view. All religions are embraced. You can embrace your religion in private, but when you are in the lodge, you must be sensitive to the fact that there are others who do not share the same religious affiliation with you.
All prayers should be offered towards the Supreme Creator or Master Architect of the Universe and not towards specific religious figures like Jesus, Muhammad, Mary the Mother of Jesus etc. All prayers must avoid religious, political and controversial undertones.
ConclusionWe show our brotherly love and affection by exhibiting proper Masonic etiquette. This is seen in our conduct, behavior and carriage.