Many people have asked “what is a masonic lodge?’ People passing by on the street see large, beautiful buildings, that often seem dark and mysterious. However, it is important to see them as a symbol of all that is great in our country, being a gathering place of men in sworn service to God, their country, and their neighbors.
Officially Freemasonry dates to 1717, when the Grand Lodge of England was formally chartered. However, the earliest unofficial records date to 1646 in Elias Ashmole’s diary Saying that he “was made a Freemason.” Even though this was the first official use of the word “freemason”, other variations had been used to describe different levels of affiliation with workers guilds of stone masons. These guilds were dedicated to protecting the trade secrets (equivalent to patented practices) and regulating work like a trade union.
Ancient Stone Masons would often undertake projects such as castles and cathedrals which would take anywhere from 20 to 200 years to complete. Master Stone Masons would be able to travel from project to project where they can find work. The Lodge originally was to lodge the traveling masons and serve as a meeting place to review the working plans of the project at hand.
In the 1640s, During the English Civil Wars and the English Republic, many English nobles found themselves cut off from their incomes and disallowed under Oliver Cromwell’s rule to pursue many of their previous pastimes of art and dancing, and other things determined to be “sinful.” As a result, many men like Ashmole, Robert Hooke, and Sir Christopher Wren, found themselves with extra time on their hands, in need of money and distraction. The result was the formation of special interest clubs of unemployed nobles interested in different fields of study, including naturalism, biology, natural science, philosophy etc.
Many Nobles in exile from London found themselves in Oxford where clubs were being formed, making it like a Silicon Valley of innovation, and ideas. Stone Masons, having already had the fraternal structure, and had over the years expanded its teachings from practical craftsmanship to metaphysical and philosophical studies disciplines lent itself as a natural sanctuary for many men of related interests. As a result, the Stone Masons Fraternityopened itself up to those who were called “non-operative”masons. Otherwise known as Freemasons.
What is a Masonic Lodge Now? It is a group of men with special interests, namely the edification of themselves their community, and their country, who bind themselves together in a Fraternal order, and is part of a global structure that evolved out of a trade guild. They meet in buildings specially designed to carry on fellowship, and tradition, sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of their jurisdiction. All such buildings are well marked so as to invite any visiting Mason to that particular branch of the fraternity for friendship in foreign places, just as ancient Lodges would serve as lodging for traveling workmen. They also serve as a place where the community knows they will find men ready to work and serve their community to build a stronger future for all.