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Membership, in Masonic Jurisprudence

Ancient Craft Masonry ("Blue Lodge"), the Royal Arch, Cryptic Rite, Knight Templarism, and the Scottish Rite have each one its own laws, rules, and regulations,|written and unwritten; the whole of these, taken as a single subject, comprise Masonic Jurisprudence. As in civil jurisprudence where Federal laws are not the same as State laws, where the laws of one State are not the same as the laws of another, and the municipal law of cities inside the same State differ from one to another, so in Freemasonry each Rite has its own jurisprudence, and inside each Rite its local or constituent bodies have their by-laws. Nevertheless, and as in civil law, Masonic jurisprudence is in substance the same throughout; the differences are differences of wording, of construction, of "place" (i.e., what is a Grand Lodge statute in one Grand Jurisdiction is a by-law in another), of application, and of the amount of written law (the Grand Lodge of Connecticut has a minimum of written rules, California has a maximum), but these are differences in the same set of fundamental laws.

It is needed that these facts be remembered when the rules and regulations governing the individual Lodge member are in consideration. In the jurisprudence of a Master Mason what is his capacity as member of a Lodge? On few other subjects do Grand Lodges and Lodges (and Bodies of the other Rites) appear to differ more, nevertheless their laws are everywhere the same in purpose and intent. Individual membership is a Lodge office; the member has his own place to sit, his own time to act or speak, his own duties to perform, his own rights and privileges, his own regalia, his own responsibility; he even has his own title of "Brother" which is as much a title as "Secretary," "Senior Warden," or "Worshipful Master."

Unlike the member of a club or a society there is nothing fluid or uncertain in his activities; he is not foot-loose, cannot go or come or act as his whim might lead him to, but belongs to an Order, and in his capacity as member of a Masonic Lodge he is ordered-- hang his own place, time, etiquette, rank, title, In Book III, Chapter 3, The Jurisprudence of Freemasonry, by Albert G. Mackey, the office of membership is described under the heads of nine uprights."

The Master Mason as member of a Lodge has the Right of Membership, the Right of Affiliation, of Visit, of Avouchment, of Relief, of Demission, of Appeal, of Burial, of Trial. But if he has Rights he also has Duties, for if there be no Duties there is no means to satisfy Rights; as, in example, if A has the Right to ask for Relief it is the Duty of B. or W. or Z to give it to him else the Right is useless. It is a member's Duty to attend Lodge, to pay dues, to vote, to take part in Lodge discussion, to obey when instructed or ordered by the Master, to give relief, to visit the sick, to answer the Sign of Distress, and to hold office if in his Brethrens' judgment he ought to do so; unless he has the qualification and willingness to perform these Duties he does not possess the qualifications for membership.

During the first century of Speculative Freemasonry Lodges in every country took the ground that this is what was meant by the Doctrine of Qualification and they "excluded" a man who lacked them, and fined members for non-attendance, or for not responding to the Master's summons, or for refusing to vote or to accept office. Also, a member has Prerogatives: the prerogative of seeking to visit, of making himself known to other Masons, of the privilege of the floor, of introducing resolutions, of entering and retiring, of being addressed by his title of "Brother," etc.

A member, and solely in his capacity as member, also has his own designated right of power which once was described as his rights to sovereignty, and which in a literal sense is sovereignty within its own limits. The laws, rules, and regulations by which he is governed and ordered appear on the surface to be little more than restrictions and restraints, as if in the eyes of the Fraternity he were "merely a member," and as such has little voice in things; but if those rules and regulations are analyzed, and if they are observed in action, it will be found that one of their grand purposes is to guarantee that no officer, custom, or set of circumstances shall interfere with a member's freedom--his freedom to act, his rights, or duties, or his power.

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