A Freemason who is not a member of any Lodge. As this class of Freemasons contribute nothing to the revenues nor to the strength of the Order, while they are always willing to partake of its benefits, they have been considered as an encumbrance Spoil the Craft, and have received the general condemnation of Grand Lodges. It is evident that, anterior to the present system of Lodge organization, which dates about the end of the eighteenth century, there could have been no unaffiliated Freemasons.
And, accordingly, the first reference that we find to the duty of lodge membership is in the Charges, published in 172.3, in Anderson's Constitutions, where it is said, after describing a Lodge that "every brother ought to belong to one"; and that 'in ancient times, no Master or Fellow could be absent from it, especially when warned to appear at it without incurring a severs censure, until it appeared to the Master and Wardens that pure necessity hindered him" (Constitutions, 1723, page 51). In this last clause, Doctor Anderson evidently refers to the regulation in the Old Constitutions, that required attendance on the Annual Assembly. For instance, in the oldest of these, the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript (lines 107 to 112) it is said, and we modernize the language, "that every Master that is a Freemason must be at the General Congregation, if he is told in reasonable time where the Assembly shall be holden; and to that Assembly he must go, unless he have reasonable excuse."
But the Assembly was rather in the nature of a Grand Lodge and neglect to attend its annual meeting would not place the offender in the position of a modern unaffiliated Freemason. But after the organization of subordinate Lodges, a permanent membership, which had been before unknown, was then established, and as the revenues of the Lodges, and through them of the Grand Lodge, were to be derived from the contributions of the members, it was found expedient to require every Freemason to affiliate with a Lodge, and hence the rule adopted in the Charge already cited. Yet, in Europe, non-affiliation, although deemed to some extent a Masonic offense, has not been visited by any penalty, except that which results from a deprivation of the ordinary advantages of membership in any Association.
The modern Constitution of England, however, prescribes that "no Brother who has ceased to be a Subscribing member of a Lodge shall be permitted to visit any one Lodge more than once until he again becomes a subscribing member of some Lodge" (Rule 152). He is permitted to visit each Lodge once, because it is supposed that this visit is made for the purpose of enabling him to make a selection of the one in which he may prefer working. But afterward he is excluded, in order to discountenance those Brethren who wish to continue members of the Order, and to partake of its benefits, without contributing to its support. The Constitutions of the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are silent upon the Subject, nor is any penalty prescribed for un-affiliation by any of the Grand Lodges of the Continent of Europe.
In the United States of America a different view has been taken of the Subject, and its Grand Lodges have, With great unanimity, denounced unaffiliated Freemasons in the strongest terms of condemnation, and visited them with penalties, which vary, however, to some extent in the different Jurisdictions. There is, probably no Grand Lodge in the United States that has not concurred in the opinion that the neglect or refusal of a Freemason to affiliate with a Lodge is a Masonic offense, to be visited by some penalty and a deprivation of some rights. The following principles may be laid down as constituting the law in the United States of America on the subject of unaffiliated Freemasons:
- An unaffiliated Freemason is still bound by all those Masonic duties and obligations which refer to the Order in general but not by those which relate to Lodge organization .
- He possesses, reciprocally all those rights which are derived from membership in the Order, but none of those which result from membership in a Lodge.
- He has no right to assistance when in imminent peril, if he asks for that assistance in the conventional way.
- He has no right to pecuniary aid from a Lodge.
- He has no right to visit Lodges, or to walk in Masonic processions.
- He has no right to Masonic burial.
- He still remains subject to the government of the Order, and may be tried and punished for any offense by the Lodge within whose geographical Jurisdiction he resides.
- And, Lastly, as the non-affiliation is a violation of Masonic law, he may, if he refuses to abandon that condition, be tried and punished for it ,even by expulsion, if deemed necessary and expedient, by any Grand Lodge within whose Jurisdiction he lives.
- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
The most dramatic legend in history concerns Ahasuerus, a doorkeeper
in the Palace of Pontius Pilate, who offered insult to Jesus as He
Struggled under the burden of His Cross on the way to Calvary. Jesus
turned to him and said:
“Tarry thou Till I come!” Ever since, the Wandering Jew has tarried
in the world, unable to die. All knowledge is his; all ambitions are
fulfilled; all pleasures are satisfied. He has done all that may be
done; seen all that may be seen; experienced all that the world has
to offer, save one thing only - he cannot die! Accident, injury,
disease touch him not; a frightful fate, to long for death and rest,
and be compelled to live and wander!
Unaffiliates are the Wandering Jews of Masonry, that pitiful group of
Master Masons who are neither the quick nor the dead. They are, yet
they belong not. They know; yet they cannot use their knowledge.
They are of, but not in, the Order.
Their penalty is self-inflicted; theirs is the sin of indifference;
worst of all, they know not all their punishment or they would end
As a universal factor in Freemasonry, lodge membership dates only to
1717, when the Mother Grand Lodge was formed. There were some
continuing lodges before the Grand Lodge in which brethren held
membership but most were like the occasional, emergent sporadic,
temporary lodges convened for any building operation. For the time
being all Master Masons attended these. When the labor was over, the
Master Masons went their several ways, and the lodge in which they
had met, was no more.
As a consequence of the stabilization of lodges as continuing
organizations, resulting from the formation of Grand Lodges, lodge
membership became an important matter. It is distinct from the state
of being a Master Mason. No man may belong to a lodge unless he is a
Master Mason, but he may be a Master Mason without holding membership
in any lodge. Indeed, it is possible that man be made a Master Mason
without ever being a member of a lodge. Thus, a Grand Master may
convene an Emergent Lodge to make a Master Mason “at sight.” This
brother may be unable to pass the ballot for affiliation in any
lodge. Such a one would be a Master Mason even though he never
belonged to any regular lodge, the Emergent Lodge in which he was
made going out of existence. as it came into it, at the pleasure and
will of the Grand Master.
With membership as an inalienable right of the newly made Master
Mason - a “right” since he becomes a member of the lodge in which he
was elected to receive the degrees, and as soon as he is Raised a
Master Mason - came also a duty, inevitable accompaniment of all
right; that of continuing a member of a lodge.
This was recognized in the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1717, if
it can be believed that the Constitutions of 1723 truly represent the
state of the law and the beliefs of the brethren of the Mother Grand
Lodge six years before their first publication in print. In the
description of a lodge, the Constitutions say: “Every brother ought
to belong to one,” and later: “in ancient times no Mason or Fellow
could be absent from it, especially when warned to appear at it,
without incurring a severe censure, until it appeared to the Master
and Wardens that pure necessity hin-dered him.”
The modern Constitution of England provides that “a brother who is
not a subscribing member of some lodge (i.e., affiliated with it)
shall not be permitted to visit any one lodge in the town, or where
he resides more than once during his secession from the Craft.”
A similar rule is found in many American Grand Jurisdictions - which
have been a solid unit frowning upon the state of being unaffiliated,
because if a non-affiliated could visit as often as he pleased, he
might argue “why pay dues to any lodge, when I can attend when I wish
The one visit to each lodge in “the town or place where he resides”
is permitted that the non-affiliate may be able to judge for himself
whether any of the lodges he visits are such as he may wish to apply
to for affiliation.
The unaffiliated Masons, when remaining so for any length of time
(except is a very unusual case, of which more in a moment) works a
real injury to the ancient Craft. Any man who receives and gives not
is a liability, not an asset, to that institution from which he
An unaffiliated Mason in possession of a demit or certificate of
transfer, or even a mere certificate that his dues have been paid
(sometimes given a brother who has been dropped N.P.D. and been
refused re-affiliation, after a year, with the lodge that dropped
him) is, technically “in good standing.” He owes no money to any
lodge. He is not under charges. He has not been censured,
suspended, or expelled. He is a member of the Fraternity, although
he belongs to no Masonic family.
The old saying, “Once a Mason, always a Mason” is true in the sense
that no act of any man or any body of men, no Grand Master or Grand
Lodge can release a brother from his Masonic obligations. Once
given, there can be no going back. We may expel him for un-Masonic
conduct, visit him with the greatest punishment we know - Masonic
death - but we cannot release him from his pledged word. How much
less, then, can it be considered that the unaffiliate (who has
committed no crime, although his state is considered a Masonic
offense) is not bound by his obligations.
But, if he is bound to us by so much, then are we bound to him. The
unaffiliated Mason has still all the rights and privileges which
inure Masons to Masons, as distinct from lodge members. Of the
rights which go with lodge membership he has none. Conversely, he is
bound by all his obligations to the Craft as a whole, but not by
those which relate only to the lodge in particular, since he has no
“lodge in particular.”
No Mason would refuse a non-affiliate the right of assistance in
peril. We do not ask of a drowning man, “Are you an affiliated
Mason? Show me your good standing card!” But the unaffiliated Masons
have no right to ask for, and no Mason is foresworn who refuses to
give “help, aid or assistance” to the Mason who has voluntarily
severed himself from his Fraternal relations to avoid payment of dues
to his lodge. No unaffiliated Mason has the right to ask any lodge
He has no right of visitation, except as permitted by the Grand Lodge
in the Jurisdiction in which he may be. Commonly, as noted above,
this is limited to one visit to the lodges in his locality, that he
may determine their desirability as a permanent Masonic Home.
Like the entered Apprentice and the Fellowcraft, the unaffiliated
Mason has no right to a Masonic burial nor may he walk in a Masonic
The unaffiliated Mason is as subject to government by the Order as
his affiliated brother. If he commits a Masonic offense, he may be
tried by any lodge in the Jurisdiction in which he may be at the
Mackey asserts that it follows that a persistently non-affiliated
Mason may be tried for the offense of non-affiliation. Doubtless it
is true, but it is improbable that a Grand Lodge would push the
theory that far. Masonic trials are also Masonic tribulations; non-
affiliation. while an offense against Masonic law, is usually held to
be a matter of the head and not the heart; in other words, an offense
against a regulation, not against Masonic nature.
In some situations a willful non-affiliation might be applauded
rather than condemned. A brother commits a crime against civil law;
he regrets, makes restitution and leaves his home to rehabilitate
himself. If permitted to take a demit, on the promise not to attempt
affiliation until his brethren are convinced his reformation is
complete, he helps his brethren avoid the self-protective measure of
a trial and suspension or expulsion. In his status as unaffiliated,
he cannot ask for relief from another lodge; he cannot willfully
break his promise and affiliate, even with his demit, because the
lodge to which he applies will, of course, request particulars as to
his character from the lodge from which he demitted!
But such instances are extraordinary and exceptional.
It is the generality of non-affiliates who are the Wandering Jews of
the Order. The vast majority are merely indifferent. Some don’t
care, because they have not the background, the imagination or the
education to take unto themselves the reality of the principles of
Masonry. Such cases are usually failures of the investigating
committee. Some become indifferent because of too many other
interests. They take a demit - or become suspended N.P.D. -“to save
We are to blame for a certain proportion of such non-affiliates if we
do not sufficiently educate our members as to what really happens
when they allow themselves to be suspended for non-payment of dues.
Many a man submits to that penalty who would be shocked if he
realized that a permanent, ineradicable record becomes a part of the
lodge and Grand Lodge archives. Many men look upon being “posted” in
a club for “arrears in dues” as a joke. They pay up and forget it,
as does the club. These may think that being dropped N.P.D. in a
lodge is a similar light matter.
It is not. Down in black and white to remain as long as the records
exist are the few words which say “John Smith wouldn’t pay his debt
to his lodge, so his lodge dropped him.” No lodge drops any
unfortunate brother. He needs only to ask to be carried, and the
brethren do it cheerfully. None may rightfully plead poverty as an
excuse for non-affiliation “Via” the disgraceful road of failure to
Some brethren plead they could not sacrifice their pride by going to
the Master or Secretary, confessing their inability to pay, and
asking to be carried. But that is false modesty. The permanent
record is an indelible mark against their names; confession of
inability to pay and a request to have dues remitted is usually, as
it always should be, a secret between the unfortunate and his
brethren. As the unaffiliated Mason, no matter what the case,
injures the Fraternity, it is far better for the lodge to remit the
dues of the unfortunate than to have him become a Masonic Ahaseurus.
A splendid opportunity for constructive Masonic work is to be found
among the unaffiliated Masons in any locality. Masons may not ask
the profane to join the Fraternity. But there is no reason why we
should not seek to recreate interest in the Order in hearts which
once possessed it. Brethren who know of a Mason unaffiliated of his
own will and not by compulsion may do “good work, true work, square
work” by persuading him of the advantages of affiliation, securing
his application and, eventually, making him a member of the lodge.
The Chapter, Commandry, Council and Scottish Rite, not to mention
such quasi-Masonic orders such as Shrine, Tall Cedars, Grotto and
Eastern Star automatically drop from membership the brother not
affiliated with a lodge. As many demits are taken when moving from
one city to another with the intention of re-affiliating, these
bodies usually wait six months before dropping the unaffiliated.
After whatever time is statutory, the bodies, membership in which
depends upon on membership in a Blue Lodge, strike from their rolls
the unaffiliated Mason.
This fact too, may be called to the attention of the non-affiliate,
who may remain in that state merely because he has never had brought
home to him the fact that it is a Masonic offense, frowned upon by
Grand Lodges, a loss to his brethren, and a failure of that
brotherhood he has voluntarily assumed. The brother who is anxious
to do something for his lodge and the great Order which may do so
much for him can find no better place to begin than an interview with
a non-affiliated Mason and attempt to persuade him back into the
Romances and poems have detailed most movingly the sufferings of
Ahaseurus, driven continually from place to place to escape from
himself, shut out from the fellowship of mankind, joined not only by
their common life, but their expectancy of a common death, a united
Salathiel the Immortal must tarry, earthbound, a wanderer till Christ
shall come again. But the wandering non-affiliated Mason - unless he
is, indeed, of those infortunates who have so lived that no Mason
wants again to take him by the hand as a brother - may apply to a
lodge, again pass the ballot, and once again become of that circle
the bonds of which are the stronger that they cannot be seen.
Pity the Wandering Jew - and be not his Masonic prototype, not only
for your own but for the sake of all who have joined hands across the
Altar to tie the knot that may not be untied!