The Ritual – Seeking Admittance



Knocking Three Times

Why do we knock three times on the inner or outer door when seeking admittance?

In the Grand Lodge of New York,

This is a practice that goes back to some of the earliest documentary records of Masonic Ritual and custom. The first mention that comes to mind is a 1723 exposure entitled A Mason’s Examination. More significantly, it appears in the famous 1730 exposure Masonry Dissected, which, although it was an exposure, was so popular that virtually all the practices it describes—whether accurate at the time or not—became enshrined in Masonic custom and practice. Knocking three times was further reinforced with the publication of an equally influential pair of exposures in the 1760s, one of which was entitled Three Distinct Knocks.

The number three has had significance to Masons for a long time, of course. There are three principal officers, three great and three lesser lights, three moveable and three immovable jewels, three ruffians caught by three craftsmen, three principal tenets, and so on. And, given the time period and milieu in which these customs arose, we shouldn’t discount the influence of the Holy Trinity. The early catechisms also frequently explain that various things (coughs, taps, movements, etc.) can be done in threes to covertly signal one’s membership to others in the know.

So, if we put together the Craft’s fondness for the number three with the widespread dissemination and emulation of Masonic practices set forth in influential exposures and the fact that knocking three times is common in most any circumstance, our practice is not too surprising.

The answers provided here reflect GLNY customs, rules, and ritual. We welcome discussion about how these may differ in your jurisdiction.

Response provided by RW Samuel Lloyd Kinsey
Chairman, Custodians of the Work, Grand Lodge of New York

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Samuel Lloyd Kinsey