Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library

Wor. Master: Brethren, the next order of business is a presentation of the meaning and origin of LANDMARKS, together with certain aspects of Freemasonry that may be regarded as LANDMARKS of the Craft.

As with many other practices and customs for which no clear reason exists, other than

it’s the way we’ve always done it”, any definition of a landmark will always be open to challenge. A Landmark should be a reflection of the long established custom or practice, which is central to the principles, objectives and  beliefs of an organisation.

The views or opinions that are about to be expressed

were gathered from  the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

by Albert G. Mackey,  33 degrees.  (Circa.  1917 )

The sequence in which the following points are presented has not been determined by any perceived importance of a particular landmark, but is merely a convenient grouping of points to aid the presentation.

Brother Narrator, you have the freedom of the Lodge.

Narrator;  (___Bro.______________________)

Brethren, in ancient times it was the custom to mark the boundaries of lands by means of stone pillars, the removal of which could cause much confusion as the people had no other guide to distinguish the limits of their property.  To remove these pillars, therefore, was considered a most heinous crime.  “Thou shalt not,” says the Jewish law, “remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance.” Hence those peculiar marks of distinction by which we are separated from the profane world, and by which we are able to designate our inheritance, are called the Landmarks of the Order.  To attempt to remove or alter any of our sacred landmarks is one of the most heinous crimes a Mason can commit.  The question as to what are, or are not, the Landmarks of Freemasonry has long been the subject of diverse opinion among Masons.  It has been said that   ”some would restrict them to the signs, tokens and words.  Others include the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising;  and the form, dimensions, and support;  the ground, situation, and covering ; the ornaments, furniture, and jewels of a lodge, or their characteristic symbols.  Some think that the Order has no Landmarks beyond it’s peculiar secrets.”  But all of these are loose and unsatisfactory definitions, excluding things that may be considered essential, while admitting others that could be deemed to be unessential.

Perhaps the safest method is to restrict them to those ancient, and therefore universal, customs of the Order, which either gradually grew into operation as rules of action, or have been enacted from time beyond memory and are, therefore, “of higher Antiquity than memory or history can reach.”

The first requisite, therefore, of a custom or rule of action to constitute it a Landmark is, that it must have existed  from “ a time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.” It’s antiquity is it’s essential element.  Were it possible for all the Masonic authorities to unite in a universal congress, and with the most perfect unanimity  to adopt any new regulation, although such regulation would, so long as it remained unrepealed, be obligatory on the whole Craft, yet it would not be a landmark.  It would have the character of universality, it is true, but it would be wanting of antiquity.

Another peculiarity of these landmarks of Freemasonry is that they are unrepealable. As the congress to which I have just alluded would not have the power to enact a landmark, so neither would it have the prerogative  of abolishing one.  The landmarks of the Order, like the laws of Medes and the Persians, can suffer no change.  What they were centuries ago, they still remain, and must so continue  in force until Masonry itself shall cease to exist.

Until the year 1858, no attempt had been made by any Masonic writer to distinctly enumerate  the Landmarks of Freemasonry, and to give to them a comprehensible form .  In October of that year the Quarterly Review of American Freemasonry published an article which  enumerated twenty-four distinct Landmarks of Freemasonry.  And they are as follows :-

Narrator :

Bro. Chaplain,  does a belief in a Supreme Being  fall within the meaning of a Landmark ?

Chaplain :   ( reads  three Landmarks )

# 1.      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 always been admitted that a denial of  the existence of a Supreme Being  is an absolute disqualification for initiation.  The annals of the Order never yet have furnished or could furnish  an instance in which an avowed Athiest was ever made a Mason. The very initiatory  ceremonies of the First Degree  forbid and prevent the possibility of  such an occurrence.

# 2.      Subsidiary to this belief in God, as a Landmark of the Order, is the belief in the resurrection to a future life. This Landmark is not so positively impressed on the candidate by exact words as the preceding;  but the 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.

# 3.      It is a Landmark that a “Book of the Law”  shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge.  I say , advisedly, “Book of The Law”, because  it is not absolutely required  that everywhere the Old and the 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 Great Architect of the Universe.  Hence, in all Lodges in Christian countries, the “Book of the Law” is composed of the Old and the New testaments; in a country where Judaism is 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 it’s members.  “ The Book of the Law” is to the speculative Mason his spiritual Trestle-Board ;  without this he cannot labour;  whatever he believes  to be the revealed will of the Great Architect of the Universe  constitutes for him  this spiritual Trestle-Board, and must ever be before him in his hours of speculative labour, 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 an essential part of the furniture of the Lodge.

Narrator :

Wor. Master, surely the use of signs, tokens and words constitute a Landmark ?

Wor. Master :    ( reads  two Landmarks )

# 4.      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.

# 5.     The secrecy of the Institution is another and most important Landmark.  The form of secrecy is a form inherent in it, existing with it from it’s very foundation, and secured to it  by it’s ancient Landmarks.  If divested of it’s secret character, it would lose it’s identity,  and would cease to be Freemasonry. Whatever objections may,  therefore, be made to the Institution on account of it’s secrecy, and however much some unskillful brethren have been unwilling in times of trial, for the sake of expediency, to divest it of it’s secret character, it will be ever impossible to do so, even were the Landmark  not standing before us as an insurmountable obstacle;  because such change of it’s character would be social suicide,  and the death of the Order would follow it’s legalised exposure.  Freemasonry, as a secret association, has lived unchanged for centuries:  as an open society, it would not last for as many years.

Wor. Master : Brethren, I would also point out  . . . . . . ( reads a further Landmark )

# 6.      The division of Symbolic Masonry into three degrees is a further Landmark that has been better preserved than almost any other; although even here the mischievous spirit of innovation has left it’s traces, and, by the disruption of  it’s concluding portion from the degree, a want of uniformity has been created in respect of  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 of  E. A.,  F. C. and M. M. including the Holy Royal Arch.  But the disruption has never been healed, and the Landmark, although acknowledged in it’s integrity by all, still continues to be violated.

Narrator :

Bro. Senior Warden, what is significant about the Third degree ?

Senior Warden :  ( reads one landmark )

# 7.      The Legend of the Third Degree is an important Landmark, the integrity of  which has been well preserved.  There is no right 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 remained essentially 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 Freemasonry.  Any rite which should exclude it, or materially alter it, would at once, by that exclusion or alteration, cease to be a Masonic Rite.

Narrator :

------Bro. ----------------------------  ( a Grand Lodge Officer ) ,  do any of the Landmarks relate

to Grand Lodge ?

Grand Lodge Officer :       ( reads two landmarks )

#8. The government  of the fraternity by a presiding  officer called a “Grand Master”, who is elected from the body of the Craft, is a Landmark of the Order.  Many persons 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 it’s existence  to a Landmark of the Order.  Grand Masters, or persons performing the functions under a different but equivalent title, 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 still be necessary.

#9.       The prerogative of the Grand Master to preside over every assembly of the Craft, where so ever and whenever held, is a further 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,  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.

Narrator :

-------Bro. ----------------------------- ( a Grand Lodge Officer ), are there any other Landmarks which concern the  Grand Lodge or the Grand Master ?

Grand Lodge Officer: ( reads two further landmarks )

#10.     The prerogative of the Grand Master to grant dispensations for conferring degrees at irregular times, is another and very important Landmark.  The statutory law of freemasonry requires a month,  or other determinable 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 before the enactment of the law requiring a probation, and as no statute can impair his prerogative, he still retains the power.

#11.     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.”

#12.     The prerogative of the Grand Master to make Masons  at sight is a Landmark  which closely connected with the preceding one.  There has been much misapprehension  in relation to this Landmark, which has sometimes led to a denial of it’s existence  in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was , perhaps, at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition.

Narrator :

Bro. Inner Guard, could you give me a Landmark ?

Inner Guard: ( reads one landmark )

#13.     The necessity that every Lodge, when congregated, should be duly Tyled, is an important Landmark of the Institution which is never neglected.  The necessity of this  law arises  from the esoteric character of Masonry.  The duty of guarding the door, and keeping off Cowans and eavesdroppers, is an ancient one, which duty therefore constitutes  a Landmark.

Narrator :

Wor. Master, is there a Landmark  concerning the Master and his Officers  ?

Wor. Master :   ( Wor. Master reads  one landmark )

# 14.    The government of the Craft, when so congregated in a Lodge, by a Master and two Wardens, is also a Landmark.  A congregation of Freemasons meeting together under any other government, as that, for instance, of a president and vice president, or chairmen and sub chairman, would not be recognised as a Lodge.  The presence of a Master and two Wardens is as essential to the valid organisation of a Lodge as a Warrant of Constitution is at the present day.  The names of course, vary in different languages, but the Officers, their number, prerogatives and duties are everywhere identical.

Narrator :

Bro. Secretary, could you offer some observations concerning Landmarks of the Craft  ?

Secretary :  (Reads one landmark )

# 15.    The right of every Mason to appeal from the decision of his brethren, in Lodge convened, to the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge assembled, 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.

Narrator :

Bro. Junior Warden, could you define any landmarks which address the age old customs of visitors ?

Junior Warden : ( Junior Warden reads two landmarks )

# 16.    The right of every Freemason to visit and sit in every Lodge is an unquestionable Landmark of the Order.  This is called “The Right of Visitation.”  This right of visitation has always been recognised as an inherent right which inures to every Mason as he travels throughout the world.  And this is because Lodges  are justly considered  as only divisions for convenience of the universal Masonic family. This 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.

# 17.    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 recognised unless after due trial, strict examination, or lawful information.

Narrator :

Bro. Director of Ceremonies, can you offer any further landmarks for the attention of the Brethren ?

Director of Ceremonies : ( the director of ceremonies reads  Three more landmarks )

# 18.    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 kindness, which are at the very  foundation of our Institution.  It has been repeatedly recognised by subsequent statutory enactments of all Grand Lodges.

#19.     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 offence, does not exempt a Mason from Masonic Jurisdiction.

# 20.    Certain qualifications of candidates for initiation are derived from a Landmark of the Order.  These qualifications are that he shall be a man, unmutilated, 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 Freemasonry.  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  it’s symbolic teachings, and have always existed as Landmarks.

Narrator :

Bro. Senior Warden, your jewel, the Level, is a symbol of equality and would appear to be a possible basis for a landmark, is this so . . ?

Senior Warden :  ( reads one landmark )

# 21.    The equality of all Masons is another Landmark of the Order. This equality has no reference to any subversion of those graduations 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 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 the 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 honours,  and be rewarded with preferment.  When the labours 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.

Narrator :

Bro.--------------------------------- ( M. M. ) can you give another landmark for the brethren to reflect upon  ?

Master Mason. ( reads one landmark )

# 22.    The necessity for Freemasons to congregate in Lodges is another Landmark.  It is not to be understood by this that any ancient landmark has directed the permanent organisation 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 labour, 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 in other places, according to the necessity of the circumstances.  But Warrants of constitution, By-laws, permanent officers, and annual arrears are modern innovations wholly outside the landmarks,  and dependent entirely on the special enactments of a comparatively  recent period.

Narrator :

Bro. ---------------------------- ( M. M. )  can you present another Landmark for the brethren  ?

Master Mason ,  ( reads  one landmark )

# 23.    The foundation of a speculative science upon an operative art, and the symbolic use  and explanation of the terms of that art, for the purposes of religious or moral teaching, constitute another Landmark of the Order.  The Temple of Solomon was the symbolic 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 it’s 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 the 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.

Narrator :

The Narrator now reads the final Landmark.

# 24.    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 to our successors. Not one jot or one tittle  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  leges  mutari. “

Thankyou Brethren , thankyou Wor. Master, for your attention and thankyou to the Brethren who assisted in the presentation.  I finish with just this……

As stated at the beginning, there is no authorised or official statement defining the Landmarks of Freemasonry.  Even the “Mother Grand Lodge”  the United grand Lodge of England  is silent on this issue.  I trust we have given you food for thought,  in an area that rests with the individual, his principles and his Masonic conscience.