Masonic Landmarks

Masonic landmarks are a set of principles that many Freemasons claim to be ancient and unchangeable precepts of Masonry. Issues of the "regularity" of a Freemasonic Lodge, Grand Lodge or Grand Orient are judged in the context of the landmarks. Because each Grand Lodge is self-governing, with no single body exercising authority over the whole of Freemasonry, the interpretations of these principles can and do vary, leading to controversies of recognition. Different Masonic jurisdictions have different landmarks.[1]


According to Percy Jantz, the Masonic term landmark has biblical origins. He cites the Book of Proverbs 22:28: "Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set", referring to stone pillars set to mark boundaries of land. He further quotes a Jewish law: "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbors' landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance" to emphasize how these Landmarks designate inheritance.[2]

Albert Mackey Expands on the above historical significance of landmarks: "The universal language and the universal laws of masonry are landmarks, but not so are the local ceremonies, laws, and usages, which vary in different countries. To attempt to alter or remove these sacred one of the most heinous offences that a Mason can commit[3].

Mark Tabbert believes that the actual rules and regulations laid down in the early masonic landmarks derive from the charges of medieval stonemasons.[4]


According to the General Regulations published by the Premier Grand Lodge of England in 1723 "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and Authority to make new Regulations or to alter these, for the real benefits of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Land-Marks be carefully preserved." However, these landmarks were not defined in any manner. In 1844, George Oliver wrote that some jurisdictions restrict the definition of a Masonic landmark to be onty the "signs, tokens and words" while others include the ceremonies of initiation, passing, and raising of a candidate. Some also include the ornaments, furniture, and jewels of a Lodge, or their characteristic symbols[5]. In 1863, Oliver published the Freemason's Treasury in which he listed 40 landmarks. Mackey expanded on both of these lists and remarked that the safest method of defining the landmarks is "those ancient, and therefore universal, customs of the order, which either gradually grew into operation as rules of action, or, if at once enacted by any competent authority, were enacted at a period so remote, that no account of their origin is to be found in the records of history." [3]

Mackey's 25 Landmarks

The first major attempt to define the landmarks of Freemasonry was in 1858, when Mackey defined 25 landmarks in total:[6]

  1. The fraternal modes of recognition
  2. The division of Masonry into 3 symbolic degrees
  3. The Legend of Hiram Abiff
  4. The authority and governance of a Grand Master
  5. The prerogative of the Grand Master to preside over an assembly of the Craft
  6. The prerogative of the Grand Master to issue dispensations for holding Lodge at irregular times
  7. The prerogative of the Grand Master to issue dispensations for holding Lodge in irregular places
  8. The prerogative of the Grand Master to make Masons at Sight
  9. The necessity for Masons to congregate in Lodges
  10. The government of Lodges to be by a Master and two Wardens
  11. The necessity that every Lodge when congregated to be tiled
  12. The right of every Mason to be represented in all general meetings of the Craft
  13. The right of every Mason to appeal from his Lodge's decisions to the Grand Lodge
  14. The right of every Mason to sit in every regular Lodge
  15. That no unknown visitor be allowed to sit in Lodge without being examined and found to be a Freemason
  16. That no Lodge can interfere in the business of another Lodge
  17. That every Freemason be amenable to the laws and regulations of the Jurisdiction in which he resides
  18. That candidates for Freemasonry be required to meet certain qualifications; namely: being of mature age, not a cripple, and free born.
  19. That a belief in the existence of God be a requirement for membership
  20. That belief in a resurrection to a future life be a requirement for membership
  21. That a "Book of the Law" shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge
  22. The equality of Masons ("The monarch, the nobleman, or the gentleman is entitles to all the influence...which rightly belong to his position.")
  23. The secrecy of the Institution
  24. The foundation of a speculative science upon an operative art
  25. That none of these landmarks can be changed.

Later Interpretations

Roscoe Pound (1870-1964) subscribed to six landmarks:[7]

  1. belief in a Supreme Being
  2. belief in the immortality of the soul
  3. a "book of sacred law" as an indispensable part of the "furniture" (or furnishings) of the Lodge
  4. the legend of the Third Degree
  5. the secrets of Freemasonry: The modes of recognition and the symbolic ritual of the Lodge
  6. that a Mason be a man, freeborn, and of lawful age

Modern Interpretations

In the last century, several American Grand Lodges attempted to enumerate the landmarks, ranging from West Virginia (7) and New Jersey (10) to Nevada (39) and Kentucky (54).[8]

In the 1950s the Commission on Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America upheld three "ancient landmarks":[9][10]

  1. Monotheism An unalterable and continuing belief in God.
  2. The Volume of The Sacred Law an essential part of the furniture of the Lodge.
  3. Prohibition of the discussion of Religion and Politics (within the lodge).


The first great duty, not only of every lodge, but of every Mason, is to see that the landmarks of the Order shall never be impaired.

Albert Mackey (1856), The Principles of Masonic Law


  1. Landmarks by US state regular Grand Lodge accessed 25 Oct 2017.
  2. The Landmarks of Freemasonry
  3. Mackey, Albert (1914). An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences: comprising the whole range of arts, sciences and literature as connected with the institution. New and rev. ed. / New York: Masonic History Co. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. Mark A. Tabbert, American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities. National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA: 2005, ISBN 0-8147-8292-2, p.109.
  5. Oliver, G. (1844). Historical Landmarks and other Evidences of Freemasonry. London.
  6. Mackey, Albert (1858), "Foundations of Masonic Law", American Quarterly Review of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences, 2, p. 230
  7. "Appendix D: The Landmarks: From Masonic Jurisprudence by Roscoe Pound". Robert's Rules of Order - Masonic Edition. Contributor: Michael R. Poll. Cornerstone Book Publishers. 2005. p. 171. ISBN 9781887560078. Retrieved 8 June 2014. For myself, I should recognize seven landmarks, which might be put summarily as follows: (1) Belief in God; (2) belief in the persistence of personality; (3) a 'book of the law' as an indispensable part of the furniture of every lodge; (4) the legend of the third degree; (5) secrecy; (6) the symbolism of the operative art; and (7) that a Mason must be a man, free born, and of age.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. Masonic Landmarks Archived 9 April 2002 at the Wayback Machine, by Bro. Michael A. Botelho. Accessed 7 February 2006.
  9. Standards adopted for use by The Commission for Information for Recognition of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America in the 1950s accessed 30 July 2006.
  10. Commission on Information for Recognition: The Standards of Recognition accessed 25 Oct 2017.
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