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Article # 281
The Tyler or the Outer Guard

Author: R.W.Bro.N.Pandurangan P.Dy.G.M.    Posted on: Saturday, December 13, 2014
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The IV Paper in Yelagiri Retreat was presented by R


The IV Paper in Yelagiri Retreat was presented by R.W.Bro.N.Pandurangan P.Dy.G.M.

The Tyler or the Outer Guard.

R.W.Bro.N.Pandurangan P.Dy.G.M.



I am thankful for the honour given to me to present this paper before an enlightened audience of  numerous distinguished brethren.


I had  been the Tyler of many Lodges quite for some time . During this period, I have had the unique honour of preparing many distinguished candidates for initiation and for the subsequent degrees and for all of them, I, as the Tyler was the first officer of the Lodge, with whom they came directly into contact in the Lodge. Almost all of them had come in total ignorance of Freemasonry and about our rituals. Some were hurt and bewildered at the robes given to them during preparation. Few of them felt that we were trying to depict them as clowns. I could see that they were not happy to wear the robe. It was quite an experience to explain to them the mode of preparation, assuring them, that throughout the world, every Freemason was prepared that way for initiation and then tenderly complete the preparation and escort him to the door. The first impression about the initiation to the candidate is provided by the Tyler and I will deal with this aspect a little later in detail.


The word Tyler, also spelled  as Tiler in some Grand Lodges particularly in America, took its origin from the Latin tegere (from which came “thatch”) meant cover and roof  and  tegulae denoting the tiles, pieces, slabs, used for roof-coverings. The Tyler, therefore, was one who makes, or fastens on, tiles. In Operative Masonry, the Tyler was the workman, who closed the building in and hid its interior from outside view. The guardian of the entrance to the Lodge was figuratively called by his name. It was once suggested, that the word was derived from the French tailleur, meaning a cutter, a hewer (from whence the word “tailor” was also derived), and it was accordingly spelt “Tyler”. That view has  been disputed by some scholars.

Historically, it is known that the medieval operative craft guilds jealously guarded their trade secrets and they posted a sentry outside the meeting place to protect it from inspection or intrusion by the uninitiated. He was known as an "outer guard", "guarder" or "doorkeeper" and often was the most junior apprentice, who was not eligible to attend the trade discussions. Some old rituals of the 18th century mention that Masons' Lodges formerly met in the open-"on the highest hill or lowest valley, where never dog barked nor cock crew." It therefore became necessary to post an outer guard  to prevent any unqualified person gaining admission to  the meetings. During the early days of speculative masonry, Lodges met in Taverns and public meeting places. An outer guard was posted to keep the door and prevent any one, who is not qualified, from entering the meeting hall and thus help the preservation of the secrets.

From a Masonic perspective, the Tyler continues this "guarding" tradition. In the "First Book of Constitutions" of  1723, Dr. James Anderson refers to the posting of  "another brother to look after the door” That brother need not have been a member of the Lodge. Regulation XXVI mentions the use of "porters or doorkeepers." The English Grand Lodge, in 1728, ascribed him more importance as an "officer who kept the door" and in its minutes of June 8, 1732, initially referred to his specific title as "the Tyler." In 1738, he was described as "brother, the doorkeeper to lock up all aprons." The word "Tyler" first appeared in print in new Regulation XXVI of the 1738, the "Second Book of Constitutions." Here, Anderson recalled "Old Regulation XIII" of the first Grand Lodge of 17l7, which required that "another brother and Master Mason, should be appointed the Tyler, to look after the door." And so our ritual today tells us that he is "a brother outside the door of the lodge". The ritual of some Grand Lodges tells us that he is "armed with the proper implement of his office", not only to ward off potential intruders, but also to symbolically guard the Book of Constitutions from alteration. This was described as "a sharp instrument'. Initially it was a pointed trowel and later a sword. It gave him such great authority, that even our military brethren of yesteryear were required to surrender their swords before entering the lodge room. Today our Tyler uses only an emblem of his position, a single unsheathed sword,  symbolically requiring him to be ever ready at hand to “keep off cowans and eavesdroppers.” However in some jurisdictions, it may be crossed swords, right over left. In some of the English lodges, a sword is kept on the Master's pedestal. At the proper moment, the Tyler is summoned into the lodge and he answers certain questions as to his place and duties. Then the Master hands him the sword, investing him with the power to ward off intruders and "suffer none to pass, but such as are duly qualified." English, Irish and Scottish lodges have an "Inner Guard" posted within the lodge door, under the direction of the Junior Warden. He shares responsibilities with the Tyler, monitoring member's entry and exit, announcing visitors and advising entrants as to which degree the lodge is working on. The said duties of the Inner Guard are being performed by the Junior Deacon in the American Lodges.

Who is this Tyler and what are his duties? He is elected to his office by the brethren and his place is outside the door of the Lodge and his duty is to be with a drawn sword to keep off all intruders and cowans to Freemasonry, to give appropriate  report of approaching brethren and to properly prepare the candidates.

The Tyler’s most important duty is to prepare the candidates for the ritual ceremonies. Almost all the Lodges use robes and hence, major portion of preparation is being taken care of by the robes. As was mentioned earlier the candidates, particularly the initiates are bewildered at the robes. A few candidates had excused themselves and did not take the initiation. It will be a good practice for the Tylers, to first assuage the feelings of the candidates before requesting them to remove their dress and wear the robe. The candidate has to be told, that throughout the world the candidates are received in this manner and everyone in the Lodge has undergone the same procedure and that the symbolism of the initiation will be explained inside the Lodge. The Tyler should first explain the candidates that Freemasonry is an universal fraternity based upon the principle of Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of men and that by rituals containing allegory, moral and intellectual truths and principles are taught and that the same is achieved by Symbolism. It is good practice to ascertain whether the candidate believes in God assuring him that non believers are not admitted.

The initiation represents a rebirth and that as we had brought nothing when we were born, the initiate is requested to leave money and metallic substances out side the lodge. The said procedure also symbolically represents that all our financial and worldly distinctions should be left out of the Lodge so that all the brethren should meet on the level. Thereafter the candidate may be requested to leave all the money and metallic substances either in the jacket or hand over to the Tyler. If the proposer is nearby those articles may be handed over to him. Then the candidate may be informed that there are certain rituals and the import of the same will be explained a little later and that as per rituals, the candidate has to be clothed in a particular way for which purpose the lodge provides the proper robe and that as women are not admitted in Freemasonry, the left breast is made bare to show that no woman has been admitted and that for that purpose he has to remove the jacket, shirt and the banian, if he is wearing the same. He can also be told symbolically the heart is to be exposed to our teachings. He can then be given the pyjama. The candidate has to be told that the cable tow symbolically representing the umbilical cord is to be placed about the neck and he must be assured that the said cord will be removed and a greater and stronger cord of  brotherly love and affection will replace it. Then he must be assured that he must be hood winked to symbolically represent that, he is in a state of darkness and that enlightenment and light would be given to him inside the Lodge.

The rituals direct that the candidate has to be slip shod. There is considerable variance in the practice of making the concerned heel slip shod. Some Lodges make the candidate remove the shoe of the relevant leg, so that he walks bare foot with the shoe on the other leg. In some lodges the candidate is given chappals and the chappal of the concerned leg is taken off and he walks with chappal in only one leg. The socks is rolled and the concerned heel is exposed , while the candidate wears chappal in both the legs. The same rolling up of the socks exposing the heel is done, but the candidate does not wear chappals, but walks with socks covering one heel and with bare other heel. The rituals do not indicate how and in what manner the heel has to be slip shod. There are also no instructions either by the Grand Lodge or the Regional Grand Lodge on this aspect. In the absence of specific instructions Lodges follow their own established practices. I feel that Grand Lodge should issue guidance on this aspect, so that all the Lodges may follow uniform practice. Many Lodges in Chennai follow the practice of rolling the socks exposing the relevant heel, while the candidate wears chappals in both the feet.

Tylers of all the Lodges in India use the gavel to give the appropriate knocks. The Lodges in America in the old days had a Masonic Staff.  This Masonic staff had a serpent winding its way from bottom to top with Masonic symbols placed within the coils. That staff was used by the Tyler's for knocking on the temple door during ritual. The first picture shows the staff, known as Tyler’s wand in some jurisdictions. The second picture shows the serpent winding around the wand. Masonic symbols were placed within the coils of the serpent.






Some Lodges do not admit brethren during the ceremonies. Tylers are instructed not give any report during the ceremonies. That appears to be a good practice. Any report during the course of the ceremonies is bound to distract and cause loss of concentration. Tylers should greet all the brethren as and when they arrive and for that purpose, it is necessary that they should know every member of the Lodge. They should also instruct the candidates to give the signs properly, when they are attending to their personal comforts and before they return for the continuance of the ceremony. Care should also be taken to ensure that the proper aprons are worn by the candidates. During the waiting period, it would be a good practice for the Tyler to engage the brethren and the candidates in conversation about some Masonic topic, so that they do not feel the monotony of waiting and make them quite at home.

In the early days of the Grand Lodge in England, the Tylers were drawing the T.Bs on the floor with chalk and charcoal, which were wiped out after the meeting with water and mop. The Tylers were also helping the brethren, who were in need of some assistance to get back to their houses after heavy refreshments. The famous painting of  William Hogarth known as “Night” illustrates the assistance rendered by the Tyler, who can be identified in the picture by the sword.




The brother, whom he holds wears the collar and jewel and he could be either the W.M or a P.M. The tavern can be identified as the Rummer and Grapes, Channel Row, Westminster, the meeting place of Lodge No. 4 from 1717 to 1723. Bro. George Speth has suggested that the picture is of Hartshorn Lane, Charring Cross. The figure on the right holding a mop, is a possible allusion to the practice of drawing symbols on the lodge room floor and washing them off when the lodge was closed. Even this day, the Tylers have also been lending a helping hand to the brethren, who require such assistance after the refreshments.

The drawn sword held by the Tyler might be thought of as an anachronism  these days. The monitorial charge to the entered Apprentice mentions “Neither are you to suffer your zeal for the institution to lead you into argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it.”  The symbolism  of the Tiler’s Sword teaches us that  we must “be ever watchful and guarded of our words and actions, particularly before the enemies of Masonry.”   Let us all wear a Tiler’s sword in our hearts; let us set the zeal of silence and circumspection upon our tongues; let us guard the  Gate from the cowan as loyally as the Tiler guards the door. Only by doing so may the integrity of our Order be preserved, and “the honor, glory and reputation of the Fraternity may be firmly established and the world at large convinced of its good effects.” For only by such use of the sword do we carry out its Masonic symbolism.  Let us remember that  in  Masonry the sword is an emblem of power and authority, to protect it and never of blood or wounds or battle or death. 

Brethren, let me close this paper with a quotation about the Tyler, from the great Masonic scholar C.W.Leadbeater , which is as follows :


“Since we learn the value of proper preparation and the virtue of caution

  from him, then  each  of  us should, in a way, be our own Tyler.


Let us tyle ourselves, when recommending and investigating candidates.

Let us tyle our discussions about the ritual.

Let us tyle the business discussed in lodge, especially that which relates

      to our members  and candidates.

Let us tyle our words and actions to foster harmony, as this will not only

      preserve our  own integrities and reputations, but also that of our 

      beloved Fraternity.”


                                    I  thank you all for the patient and attentive hearing.



The Author has been associated with the administration of the Regional Grand Lodge of Southern India for more than 40 years. He is at present the Regional Grand Secretary.He had been Tyler of many Lodges and has a rich experience. His paper was well received.

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