The Grand Lodge Family

M.W. Brother R. V. Harris P.G.M., P.G.S

The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia

I believe there exists only a hazy understanding of the organization of our Grand Lodge, of the relationship of the lodges to the Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge officers, of the relationship of one Grand Lodge to another, and how all this came into being. What is a regular Grand Lodge? What is an irregular or clandestine Grand Lodge? What about Grand Lodge powers, offices, titles, regalia, etc.? My aim is to give you a picture of the great Masonic Grand Lodge family.

In early days the Craft had no Grand Master and a warrant was not necessary. Masons had an inherent right to assemble, and there was no Grand Lodge or other ruling authority over them.

The first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717 by four old lodges in London. These lodges claimed they had been "neglected by Sir Christopher Wren", who, they said, was then Grand Master. They met at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern, formed a Grand Lodge, and elected Anthony Sayer as Grand Master.

The first Grand Lodge was composed of the Masters and Wardens of recognized Lodges in England. A Grand Lodge was formed in Ireland in 1725, and in Scotland in 1736. All Grand Lodges recognized by us today must derive their origin directly or indirectly from one of those three Grand Lodges.

The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia

In 1727, Major Erasmus James Philipps was a member of a commission to adjust a boundary dispute between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He was made a Mason in Boston in that year, and on his return to Annapolis Royal in 1738 was granted a commission by Henry Price, Acting Provincial Grand Master, to found a lodge at Annapolis Royal. This was the first lodge founded in Nova Scotia. In the next hundred years, Masonry spread in Nova Scotia until by the mid-Nineteenth Century there were two Grand Bodies: a Provincial Grand Lodge under the Grand Lodge of England, and a District Grand Lodge under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In 1866, the Scottish lodges united to form the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia. Three years later, the English lodges joined the young Grand Lodge, "the only true and legitimate source of Masonic authority within Nova Scotia". As such it exercises Masonic authority, executive, legislative, and judicial, within the Province.

Powers of a Grand Lodge: The powers of a Grand Lodge are not derived or conferred on it by any outside body, such as Parliament or the Provincial Legislature, nor are they restricted to the written Constitution. they are inherent and no consent is necessary from the State and the State cannot cancel them.

The Grand Lodge has supreme power and authority over the Craft. It is autocratic in its powers. It is the Supreme Court of Appeal in the Craft in Nova Scotia and from it there is no appeal. All lodges must obey its edicts without question. All Masons swear obedience to its authority. On his installation, every Worshipful Master declares that he will "hold in veneration the original rulers and patrons of the Order and their regular successors, supreme and subordinate, and submits to the awards and resolutions of his brethren in Grand Lodge convened", etc., and also that he will "pay homage to the Grand Master for the time being, and ... conform to every edict of the Grand Lodge."

The Grand Lodge is the only authority which can warrant a lodge, and all lodges continue under its authority and control. It is the only authority which can enact Masonic law that is binding on the Craft in Nova Scotia. It can expel brethren and erase lodges. The Grand Master and his officers are a "Board of Directors" managing the affairs of the whole craft, not a super- body demanding unquestioned obedience and accountable only to itself. The Grand Lodge is the Craft and the Craft is the Grand Lodge. Such an organization as the Grand Lodge (a) guarantees the regularity of every lodge, (b) preserves the landmarks, ancient traditions, customs, ritual, and all the inheritance of the past, (c) ensures application of the same laws among all Freemasons in the jurisdiction, (d) ensures your membership in the Craft to you everywhere in the world.

You are the Grand Lodge. At a Grand Lodge communication you are admitted in person; you elect in your lodges your official representatives. The Grand Lodge makes laws for you. The Grand Master, elected by you, is over the Craft. The Grand Lodge proceedings are printed for you and contain full reports, statistics, appointments, etc. Your ideas for improvement can come before Grand Lodge for consideration and possible action. The Grand Lodge (that is, the whole Craft) supports and confirms the lodges' powers and suggestions. One is the complement of the other. What weakens or strengthens one, weakens or strengthens the other. The correct title of the Grand Lodge is "The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons of Nova Scotia". It is incorporated by the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1875, but, even without incorporation, no other body is, or would be entitled to that name.

Membership: Membership in Grand Lodge is confined for convenience to the Masters of lodges and their Wardens while in office, and all Past Masters, but only while they are members of lodges in Nova Scotia. If a Warden is not advanced to Master and ceases to be a Warden, he ceases to be a member of Grand Lodge.

Voting in Grand Lodge: Each member of Grand Lodge has one vote. Every Lodge has three votes: these are given for the lodge by the Master and Wardens. If only one of the three is present, he has the three votes for the lodge. A Master Mason or a Past Master may hold the proxy for his lodge and cast three votes (including his own as a Past Master). If the per capita assessment has not been paid, neither the Master nor Wardens have a vote.

Officers of Grand Lodge: The Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden, and Junior Grand Warden are elected annually. The District Deputy Grand Masters are elected by the Past Masters of their lodges and appointed by the Grand Master. The Grand Treasurer and Grand Secretary are appointed by the Grand Master on the recommendation of the Advisory Board. The Grand Historian, Grand Lecturer, Grand Chaplain, Senior and Junior Grand Deacon, Grand Superintendent of Works, Grand Director of Ceremonies, Grand Sword Bearer, Grand Organist, Grand Pursuivant, Grand Stewards, and Grand Tyler re appointed by the Grand Master. The District Grand Chaplains are selected by the District Deputies and appointed by the Grand Master.

The Grand Master is the administrative and executive authority. The Grand Historian is the authority on Masonic history, in particular of our own Grand Lodge and the Constituent Lodges; the Grand Lecturer is the authority on our ritual and chairman of the Board of Ritual. A Board of Jurisprudence composed of the Past Grand Masters is our judicial authority.

In making appointments several things must be kept in mind: lodges presently represented by elected officers or District Deputies, lodges recently represented by elected or appointed officers, the activity and interest of the Past Masters and their fitness for office; by the interest of the Grand Lodge is paramount. The outside world judges the Craft by those who are its leaders.

In appointing District Deputy Grand Masters, the Grand Master usually gives each lodge in the district its turn, but a brother's activity, interest, and fitness must be considered. They are the representatives of the Grand Master and as such inspect the work of the lodges, examine the books, and investigate any difficulties that may arise.

Grand Lodge Titles: Grand Master and Past Grand Masters are termed Most Worshipful; Deputy Grand Master, District Deputy Grand Masters, Grand Wardens, Grand Treasurer, Grand Secretary, Grand Historian, Grand Lecturer, Grand Chaplain (Present and Past) are terms Right Worshipful; all other Grand Lodge officers both present and past are terms Very Worshipful; Masters and Past Masters are termed Worshipful.

Aprons: Grand Lodge aprons have a dark blue border and are decorated with gold trimming and ornaments. Lodge aprons have a light blue border and silver tassels, but no gold or silver braid or fringe. Lodges 100 years old are authorized by Grand Lodge to use gold tassels and may, if they wish, adopt an intermediate shade of blue border. Lodges 150 years old are authorized by Grand Lodge to add a strip of gold braid down the centre of the blue border. A few lodges have been authorized to adopt distinctive aprons.

Warrants: A regulation adopted by the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 declared the privilege of assembling as a lodge belonged only to lodges under warrant - except the four original immemorial lodges. In England the Grand Master grants a warrant to a new lodge; in Canada and the United States of America the Grand Master grants a dispensation. The lodge's work under the dispensation is submitted to Grand Lodge which may if it sees fit, grant a warrant. The lodge warrant or dispensation must always be present in the lodge when at work. If it is destroyed another must be obtained. If it is not in or is taken out of the lodge room, the Master's authority instantly ceases.

Laws: The laws governing the Craft are of two types:

  1. Unwritten Law: The law which existed and developed before Grand Lodges were formed; what we have inherited from past centuries; what some call the "Ancient Landmarks" derived from the old charges; our ritual, traditions, and usage. This law governs all Grand Lodges and every individual Freemason, and cannot be abrogated by any Grand Master or by any Grand Lodge. The nature, purposes, and principles of Freemasonry are defined by this unwritten law. It cannot be amended, repealed, or changed by any human power, Masonic or civil.
  2. Written Law: The Book of Constitutions, the Monitor, the Edicts and Decisions of Grand Masters, the Legislation, Rulings, and Decisions of Grand Lodge, and the Authorized Work.

Finances: How is Grand Lodge financed?

  1. Administration expenses such as salaries, rent, printing, postage, etc. are met from two sources:
    1. Fees from diplomas, dispensations and warrants for new lodges, travel certificates, etc.
    2. An annual assessment paid by all members to meet these expenses.
  2. A Board of Trustees operates the Nova Scotia Freemasons' Home at Windsor and makes grants to outside cases which cannot be accommodated in the Home. This expense is met by:
    1. a five dollar ($5.00) fee from every initiate,
    2. an annual assessment on every member,
    3. the income from the Endowment Fund,
    4. guests' assigned pensions and contributions.
  3. The Masonic Foundation of Nova Scotia makes grants from the income on invested funds for the relief of distressed worthy brothers, their widows, and orphans, and for other charitable undertakings.

The Grand Master

The Grand Master is the head of the Craft. His title is "Most Worshipful the Grand Master of Masons in Nova Scotia." He is the Grand Lodge when the Grand Lodge is not in session. He is the chief administrative officer of the Craft. He is not bound to consult other officers. He presides in Grand Lodge and over the Craft. He has more powers than Grand Lodge has. He makes all appointments to offices and committees. He appoints District Deputy Grand Masters. He appoints Grand Representatives from our Grand Lodge to other Grand Lodges and nominates suitable local brethren to be appointed Grand Representatives of other Grand Lodges near our Grand Lodge. He grants dispensations to form new lodges. He conducts all Grand Lodge ceremonies such as: dedications, corner-stone layings, constitution and consecration of lodges. He can convene any lodge and preside over it; he can inspect their work and records; he can suspend brethren and lodges; he can make rulings on the law of the Craft; in fact, his inherent and traditional powers are well nigh absolute. He is the guardian of dignity, honour, and sovereignty of Grand Lodge. Great deference and respect are paid to the Grand Master, and rightly so. Other Grand Lodges see only the Grand Master. As he is often the symbol and standard by which many Grand Lodges are judged, his standard of character and attainments should be the highest.

He should be cautious, of sound judgment and integrity; not overbearing and haughty, not a lover of mere display. He should be approachable, patient, forbearing, impartial, opposed to innovation, and exemplifying the Masonic virtues of Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance, and Justice. This is certainly the ideal, though it may be a pattern of perfection impossible of attainment.

Grand Lodges in General

Territorial Jurisdiction: The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia is the only Grand Lodge in Nova Scotia and, with the exception of Royal Standard Lodge which remains under the English Constitution, has sovereign and exclusive jurisdiction over Masons and Masonry in Nova Scotia. The American theory of jurisdiction differs somewhat from the English and is not well settled. American writers claim that the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge is co-terminous with political jurisdiction; that is, only one Grand Lodge for every State, with exclusive sovereignty within the State. This theory is not recognized by England, Scotland, Ireland, or indeed by Massachusetts, which has lodges in the Canal Zone, Cuba and Chile, or New York which has lodges in Syria and Lebanon, or California which has lodges in Hawaii, or Washington which has lodges in Alaska.

Formation: To form a Grand Lodge, at least three lodges in a State where there is no existing Grand Lodge must cooperate. The various steps to be taken are:

  1. Each lodge appoints delegates to a convention.
  2. The convention solemnly decides to form a Grand Lodge.
  3. An official request is then sent to all lodges to send their Masters and Wardens to a second convention.
  4. At the second convention a resolution is adopted declaring the meeting a Grand Lodge.
  5. A constitution is adopted.
  6. A Grand Master and other officers are elected.
  7. Steps are taken to obtain the recognition by other existing Grand Lodges throughout the world.

Independence: There is in Freemasonry no supreme world authority. Every Grand Lodge is independent and self-governing. There is, therefore, a great worldwide family of Grand Lodges.

Recognition: The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia adopted the following principles of recognition in 1925, declaring that it would not recognize any new Grand Lodge unless:

  1. It is formed by three regular lodges.
  2. It is independent and self-governing with entire and undisputed and exclusive authority over all lodges in the jurisdiction.
  3. It admits men only.
  4. It is based on:
    1. an acknowledgement of a belief in God the Father of all men,
    2. secrecy,
    3. the symbolism of operative Masonry,
    4. the essentials of our three degrees in Freemasonry,
    5. the legend of the Third Degree,
    6. primary purposes which are charitable, benevolent, educational, religious, excluding controversial politics and sectarian religion from its activities,
    7. an acknowledgement of the Book of the Law as chief among the Great Lights.
  5. It occupies exclusive jurisdiction or shares by mutual consent territory occupied by another recognized Grand Lodge.

Recognition is effected by a resolution of Grand Lodge after investigation by the Board of Jurisprudence. This is followed by an exchange of Grand Representatives and intervisitation by the members of the two jurisdictions. The Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America is most helpful in supplying information.

In 1972, the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia enjoyed fraternal relations with 114 Grand Lodges:

England, Scotland, Ireland 3
Canada 8
Australia and New Zealand 7
United States of America 49
West Indies 3
Central America 6
Europe 13
South America 17
Asia 7
Africa 1

Clandestine Masonry: Clandestine is a French word meaning hidden, secret, irregular, illogical. A Clandestine lodge is one formed without the consent of a Grand Lodge or, if legally formed, continues working after is warrant is revoked. A clandestine Grand Lodge is one irregularly formed or formed of clandestine lodges or not adhering to recognized principles.

Grand Representatives: Grand Representatives are "ambassadors" from other Grand Lodges in fraternal relations with our Grand Lodge. The Grand Master nominates Nova Scotia brethren to other Grand Masters for appointment. Usually he selects active brethren who have attained the rank of Right Worshipful. They are expected to answer the roll call at annual communications at least once in every three years and to forward to the Grand Lodges they have the honour to represent a summary of the proceedings.


Freemasonry is the crystallized result of centuries of growth, practice, and experience. No group of men at any time sat down and planned it. It grew to fit the needs of the situation as it developed. It is like a great mosaic, yet flexible and adaptable to local conditions and needs, adhering to certain great principles called "Landmarks", and continuing and maintaining its identity with the Craft in previous years. Our Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia, though a small Grand Lodge, has splendid traditions, a wonderful history, and a high place among Grand Lodges.

The continuation of this huge reputation depends on you, your industry on behalf of the Craft, your interest in our history, your respect for Masonic traditions, your regard for those who uphold the dignity and honour of the Craft. The Grand Master is a figure who passes across the stage and disappears, but the Grand Lodge and the Craft go on forever. You are the Grand Lodge; you are the Craft. On you depends the present and the future of our ancient and beloved Order in this ancient and beloved Province of Nova Scotia.

This paper was prepared by M.W. Brother R. V. Harris P.G.M., P.G.S., of The Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia. It was sonated to The Board of Masonic Education by R.W. Brother G. Vickers, P.G.S., of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia.