The largest collection of mutually recognised Grand Lodges derives its regularity from one or more of the Home Grand Lodges (United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) and Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLoI)) based on criteria known as “Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition” which together they codified and published on 4 September 1929 (although not new – they had been developed and refined over at least the preceding 150 years):
- Regularity of origin; i.e.each Grand Lodge shall have been established lawfully by a duly recognised Grand Lodge or by three or more regularly constituted Lodges.
- That a belief in the G.A.O.T.U. and His revealed will shall be an essential qualification for membership.
- That all Initiates shall take their Obligation on or in full view of the open Volume of the Sacred Law, by which is meant the revelation from above which is binding on the conscience of the particular individual who is being initiated.
- That the membership of the Grand Lodge and individual Lodges shall be composed exclusively of men; and that each Grand Lodge shall have no Masonic intercourse of any kind with mixed Lodges or bodies which admit women to membership.
- That the Grand Lodge shall have sovereign jurisdiction over Lodges under its control; i.e. that it shall be a responsible, independent, self-governing organisation, with sole and undisputed authority over the Craft or Symbolic Degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason) within its Jurisdiction; and shall not in any way be subject to, or divide such authority with, a Supreme Council or other Power claiming any control or supervision over those degrees.
- That the three Great Lights of Freemasonry (namely, the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square, and the Compasses) shall always be exhibited when the Grand Lodge or its subordinate Lodges are at work, the chief of these being the Volume of the Sacred Law.
- That the discussion of religion and politics within the Lodge shall be strictly prohibited.
- That the principles of the Antient Landmarks, customs, and usages of the Craft be strictly observed.
The first attempt to codify the governance of Masonry was by James Anderson in his Constitutions, published in 1723, and which contain a number of basic principles. Dr. Albert Mackey built on this in 1856, when he identified 25 Landmarks or characteristics of Masonry which have been widely adopted in America.
UGLE considers itself to be the most ancient Grand Lodge in continuous existence as it was founded in 1717 by four pre-existent lodges, and no record exists of any earlier Lodge organisation styling itself as a national Grand Lodge. Three of the four original lodges still exist, namely UGLE lodges No 2, No 4, and No 12. Unusually, they function without the normal warrant, and also have some internal offices and regulations which differ slightly from UGLE constitutions. As they pre-date the foundation of the oldest grand lodge, and as their actual date of foundation is (in each case) unknown, these three lodges are referred to as being “time immemorial” lodges. Since 1717 other grand lodges have been founded, and the majority have sought recognition by UGLE, hence it has become the ‘benchmark’ of masonic regularity.
(the source/read more: Wikipedia)