by John Belton

This is part of a longer paper first delivered at the  First International Masonology Symposium. Ankara, Turkey 23rd October 2009


Greece today possesses two recognisable Grand Lodges, the Grand Lodge of Greece and the National Grand Lodge of Greece together with one old English lodge formed in 1861, Star of the East #880 EC which meets at Zante on the isle of Zakinthos. English connections with Greece have been long and worthy. Most curiously in 1823 the Duke of Sussex became Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Greece and continued as such for many years[1]. Just as in many countries the relationship between the Grand Lodge and Scottish Rite is often close and thus often fraught, it was similar in Greece then as now.

The cause of this schism seems shrouded by a lack of clarity and a lack of any substantive evidence or agreement on the cause. There are numerous opinions and scenarios which go from the simple to the somewhat more fanciful. Thus I have found it best to stick with known events and dates.

1976    Start of the York Rite in Greece

1981    New Grand Master elected

1985    Circular 07/85 issued (not seen)

1986    Seven lodges leave the Grand Lodge of Greece and form the National Grand Lodge of Greece

1993    UGLE decided to remove its  recognition from the Grand Lodge of Greece and instead      recognise the National Grand Lodge of Greece as did Ireland and Scotland among others.

The appointment of a new Grand Master in 1981 led to pressure on the Supreme Grand Chapter and in April 1985 a circular was issued which included penalties for brethren who continued to participate in Chapter meetings. By May 1986 the situation had deteriorated so badly that 7 lodges left the Grand Lodge of Greece and founded the National Grand Lodge of Greece in June 1986, and by 1988 the number of lodges had grown to 28. In 1993 UGLE decided to remove its  recognition from the Grand Lodge of Greece and instead recognise the National Grand Lodge of Greece as did Ireland and Scotland among others.

Now we arrive at a general philosophical point. How is it that brothers who are recognised today as part of the greater family of freemasonry are suddenly consigned to purgatory the next because of some rule which is applied whenever it is felt convenient and at the whim of some foreign organisation. It seems that the rightness of any Grand Lodge only ‘being able’ to recognise one Grand Lodge in a territory unless the Grand Lodges in those territories agree may be conceptually flawed. Most often the ‘winner takes all’ leads to actions which might be described at best as being unbecoming to freemasonry and at worst as deceitful and corrupt. The temptation to ensure that ones own side wins the game must truly be overwhelming!

And a practical one. It has of course been part of the essence of being human that we fall out now and again. While in all these cases individual enmities may have a role to play and certainly ego is rarely absent there should always be cause to reflect upon the difficulties in determining the reality of rightness or wrongness in situations in lands which are distant, where the language fluency is absent, social mores poorly understood and thus whatever information comes forward is by definition always partisan – for one side or the other.

In 1999 UGLE decided to reverse the 1993 decision and it is at this point that it is interesting to pick up the story in detail. The matter was aired at length in the UGLE Quarterly Communication of September 1999 In the preamble to the proposition to withdraw recognition from the National Grand Lodge of Greece the minutes give the following position statements:

(recap from June 1996)..That the grounds for our withdrawing recognition from the Grand Lodge of Greece may no longer apply but whilst that is good news, it does not alter the convention  which requires us to ensure that a Grand Lodge we recognise agrees to our recognising a second Grand Lodge working in the same area…. In the fullness of time I hope that we will be in a position to recognise both the Grand Lodge and the National Grand Lodge of Greece, but that is not the current position.”[2]

The Past Grand Secretary Commander Higham in proposing the rejection of the resolution said:

“If (the resolution) is passed it will suggest that our Grand Lodge is capricious and inflexible. I find it difficult to believe that our friends in the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland will be able to understand why the resolution was passed when the reason for it, the National Grand Lodge of Greece’s lack of agreement, has disappeared” The motion was then carried.[3]

Of course between recognition in 1993 and de-recognition in 1999 the Cyprus lodges of the Grand Lodge of Greece, though now unrecognised and irregular had not gone away but added to the mix where a new District Grand Lodge with four new lodges belonging to the now recognised National Grand Lodge of Greece.

After 1999 that position was reversed. Higham was right , the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland saw no reason to change – and so it stays to this day.

By the March 2000 meeting the minutes note :

“..and more remarkably, the two Grand Lodges are strongly requesting this Grand Lodge to decide, sooner rather than later, which of the two Greek Grand lodges to recognise, as the two continue to be irreconcilable. The Board (of General Purposes) is now giving urgent consideration to this request.

At the following meeting, in June 2000 a motion was proposed “That the Grand Lodge affirms its established practice of not recognising a second Grand Lodge in a territory without the consent and agreement of both the Grand Lodges concerned”. The resolution was put and Cdr Higham rose “I am against this resolution, because I believe it to be unnecessary, dangerous and possibly mischievous” and he went on to say:

“The convention is dangerous in that a Grand Lodge seeking recognition should not be allowed to impose conditions as part of its application. It should certainly not be allowed to impose conditions which affect our relations with other Grand Lodges we already recognise. The convention should be simple and not twisted.” and “..if we approve this resolution we shall be creating the first Masonic charter for dogs, who will have rights to fight over the manger while they are still outside the stable door.”[4] [The resolution was carried and Cdr. Higham failed to carry the day].

The then current Grand Secretary went on to say:

“I have looked at it simply as a matter of what is best for the people that we as Grand Lodge, are here to represent; namely our members.

You heard the District Grand Master of our District of Cyprus, that is where our main interest lies.

The next group is in Zante. There is no doubt that that Lodge wishes us to re-recognise the Grand Lodge of Greece.”[5]


In hindsight we may choose to reflect at length upon Higham’s words. Clearly although recognition was restored to the Grand Lodge of Greece all was certainly not well in the home camp, or at least in Cyprus it certainly was not for in October 2006 four lodges of the Grand Lodge of Greece formed the Grand Lodge of Cyprus. This new Grand Lodge was consecrated by the Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Greece, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and the Grand Lodge of Austria and Bro Tom Jackson Secretary General of the World Conference of Grand Lodges present. Two of the GL of Greece lodges joined the District of UGLE in May 2006.

It is perhaps interesting to reflect that presumably in spite of the best of intentions the application of traditional strategies has at every stage simply exacerbated and complicated the situation. After almost two decades the situation seems more complicated. The open territory of Cyprus was shared harmoniously between UGLE and the Grand Lodge of Greece until 1993 – a simple situation of two Grand Lodges being present. Today the situation is that there are now lodges of FIVE Grand Lodges on the Island and a considerable amount of disharmony and possibly more to come. We are fifteen years plus into this situation. Clearly the matter is ongoing so I shall not comment, readers may draw their own conclusions..

What of the strategies employed? Are they serving Grand Lodges? – doubtful

Clearly what is or is not open territory seems variable according to the desire of the parties involved. One can be regular but not recognised and be accused of violating another’s territory even though there is no Grand Lodge. Accusations of incursions are even made where the invading Grand Lodge has never been recognised. Sadly it seems if the parties want to abandon common sense than the pot can always be stirred!

Within 30 minutes of flight one can be in Lebanon where there has been a struggle between the Grand Lodges of New York and District of Columbia recently. Again the question has been one of what is open territory with a claim that having a District Grand Lodge there grants it US style Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction. Such a claim is of course contrary to the principle that gave peace to the (United Kingdom) Home Grand Lodges for 150 years.

There remains the question of whether it is possible to recognise more than one Grand Lodge in a territory. In Higham versus the UGLE Quarterly Communication that answer was that the status quo should prevail. But are there alternatives.

[1]     Andreas Rizopoulos, Duke of Sussex: Grand Master in Two Countries, Heredom Volume 16, 2008 pp 85-100

[2]     Quarterly Communications of United Grand Lodge (of England) September 8, 1999 p462

[3]     Ibid p466

[4]     Quarterly Communications of United Grand Lodge (of England) 14 June 2000 pp566-567

[5]     Ibid p577