A Grand Lodge, or "Grand Orient", is the usual governing body of "Craft", or "Blue Lodge",
Freemasonryin a particular jurisdiction. The first Masonic Grand Lodge was established in Englandin 1717as the Premier Grand Lodge of England. [Morris, S. Brent. "Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry". New York: Alpha, 2006. p. 9]
The head of a Grand Lodge is called the "Grand Master", and the other officers of the Grand Lodge prefix "Grand" to the titles of Lodge officers. Some Grand Lodges have established "Provincial Grand Lodges" as an organisational layer between themselves and member Lodges.
Grand Lodge jurisdictions are typically based on an area of civil government. They also function independently of any other Grand Lodge, with one notable exception: A Grand Lodge that is not "in amity with" (or recognised by) another Grand Lodge will not permit its members to visit Lodges in the second Grand Lodge's jurisdiction. The cause of a lack of amity is usually due to a perceived or actual violation of one of the Landmarks of Freemasonry. [Bundy, Harry W. [http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/determining_recognition.htm "Determining Recognition"] Phoenixmasonry.org. From Proceedings of the SeventhRocky Mountain Masonic Conference, Rocky Mountain Consistory No. 2, Denver, Colorado on July 11, 1958.] Furthermore, with some exceptions, especially regarding US Grand Lodges' recognition of Grand Lodges in South America, any Grand Lodge not recognised by the
United Grand Lodge of England(UGLE) is also not recognised by any Grand Lodge in amity with UGLE.
While the United Grand Lodge of England, the
Grand Lodge of Irelandand the Grand Lodge of Scotlandeach govern Freemasonry within their respective countries, Continental European countries typically have more than one Grand Lodge per country. Historically, the United States had recognised one Grand Lodge per state, independent of the Grand Lodge of any other state. Today, most have two: a "mainstream" Grand Lodge and a Prince Hall Grand Lodge. All of the "mainstream" Grand Lodges in the United States of America are recognised by each other, and most recognise each other's Prince Hall counterparts.
Prince Hall Masonry, which was formed while Masonry in the United States was effectively segregated, has a predominantly black membership. Various philosophical and technical reasons historically prevented US "mainstream" Grand Lodges from recognising or acknowledging Prince Hall Grand Lodges as "regular bodies" operating in accordance with the Landmarks of Freemasonry. Originally having one Grand Lodge for the whole United States, separate Prince Hall Grand Lodges now operate in most US states and jurisdictions. Many PHGLs also sponsor and govern Prince Hall Lodges abroad, principally on or near US
military bases. Since the early 1990s onward, most, but not all, US Grand Lodges and Prince Hall Grand Lodges began to extend mutual recognition and promote visitations and fellowship between their members.
Other organisations which only accept Master Masons, such as
Scottish Riteand the Shriners, have their own governing bodies, not called Grand Lodges, which are not directly accountable to the Grand Lodge in the jurisdiction in which they operate. Other Masonically-affiliated orders, such as the OES and DeMolay, are also independent. However, these organisations' governing bodies, as a rule, defer to their Grand Lodges as the essential authority over Masonry in their regions.
There is no central body to oversee all of the Grand Lodges in the world, and therefore, individual Grand Lodge policies and practices can and do vary, though they have a similar basic framework in common. The lack of a central authority means that Grand Lodges are held together simply by fellowship with one another. This tends to negate many of the New World Order conspiracy theories leveled against Masonry as a whole.
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