Masons often work to improve lodges by performing a number of tasks. Many actions have been taken or proposed in order to create better lodges and much debate has taken place about the proper way to improve Masonic lodges. However, in order to improve a lodge it is important that Masons take a step back and consider just what the term lodge means.
Mackey gives three definitions of the term lodge in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. The first definition is “a place in which Freemasons meet.” The second refers to the congregation of members which constitute the lodge. This definition compares the term ‘lodge’ to the term ‘church’ which refers to both the members of the organization and the building. The final definition that Mackey creates says that “the lodge, technically speaking, is a piece of furniture made in imitation of the Ark of the Covenant.” Mackey states that as the Ark contained the law of the Hebrews, the lodge contains the Book of Constitutions and the lodge’s warrant.1
Mackey’s definitions are somewhat different than the definition given in Masonic ritual:
The lodge is composed of a constitutional number of Masons, duly assembled, with the Holy Bible, square and compasses, and a charter or warrant empowering them to work.
So perhaps the literal definition of the word ‘lodge’ may be: an assembly of Masons with a warrant to work by a recognized grand jurisdiction or a word which refers to the meeting place of a group of Masons.
However, the lodge also has a symbolic meaning. Carl H. Claudy says:
The lodge is a symbol of the world. Its shape, the “oblong square” is the ancient conception of the shape of the world. The Entered Apprentice is taught its dimensions, its covering, its furniture, its lights, its jewels, and will learn more of it as a symbol as he proceeds through the degrees. Although a symbol of the world, the lodge is a world unto itself; a world within a world, different in its customs, its laws, and its structure from the world without. In the world without are class distinctions, wealth, power, poverty, and misery. In the lodge all are on a level and peace and harmony prevail.
Considering Claudy’s explanation of the lodge as a symbol, it is clear that the lodge has little to do with the brick and mortar of which the building is composed. The lodge is a peculiar society, a Brotherhood which is able to live by the Utopian ideals that the profane world can never realize
Therefore, to improve the lodge is to improve the Brotherhood. It matters not where the lodge meets or the condition of its building. Filling the coffers of Masonic bodies or accumulating numbers will not necessarily improve the Brotherhood.
Instead, the focus must be on improving the Brotherhood through the self-improvement of its members and the relief of its distressed.
A lodge is at least seven Masons with a warrant empowering them to meet and to practice Masonry. It is no more, it is no less. In order to improve the lodge, we must improve the Brothers which constitute that body. That is the only path to improving Masonic lodges.
1. Mackey, Albert G. Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences. p. 449-451.
2. Claudy, Carl H. Introductory to Freemasonry—Entered Apprentice