THE VALUE OF A LODGE OF RESEARCH

- Kent Henderson, PJGD

 

Presented at the Centenary Meeting of the Masters and Past Masters’ Lodge No 130 NZC, Christchurch, on 16 March 2002.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

What is the value of a Lodge of Research? Why bother to have one? Why aren’t all Lodges, Lodges of Research? Maybe they should be? These are crucial Masonic questions, which go to the heart of our rationale for existence, I suggest.

 

It is probably easier to state what Masonry is not, rather than what it is. We will all acknowledge that it is not a religion or a substitute for religion; we will all say it is not a political organisation. Conversely, there have been more than a few definitions put forward by many as to what Masonry is. I am certainly not going to list them here, as undoubtedly Masonry means different things to different Masons. However, I am going to state my own definition, which is: “Freemasonry is a moral and ethical education society”.

 

Let us assume, for a moment, that we accept my definition. If so, then we must accept that Masonry’s primary role is to teach morally and ethics, in other words to educate. We are now approaching the question of the value and importance of a Lodge of Research.

 

It is a fact that some jurisdictions have several lodges of research, while others are content with one, and some have none at all. Does a lodge of research serve a useful purpose for the Craft as a whole, or does it benefit only its own members and the occasional visitor?

 

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

 

To answer all these questions we need to begin at the beginning, and to do that we must go to England. Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 EC is acknowledged as the premier lodge of research in the world, but it did not, of course, originate the idea of Masonic research as such. In the 17th and 18th centuries the likes of Elias Ashmole, James Anderson and William Preston could justifiably be described as researchers. In the 1860s Gould, Hughan, Findel and others developed what is described as the “authentic school” of Masonic research, but at this time they were individual researchers.

 

I do not propose to regurgitate the history of Quatuor Coronati here, except to suggest that is the genius of its founders lay in three concepts that they developed, namely its: membership qualifications; method of presentation of research papers; and its correspondence circle.

 

Membership was designed to be by invitation and subject to satisfactory proof of research ability. The manner in which a paper was presented, after prior circulation between members, the consequent informed and frank discussion, and the subsequent publication of both paper and discussion, provided maximum benefit to a growing readership. The concept of the correspondence circle was brilliant, and its expansion was assured by the idea of appointing local secretaries, who were responsible not only for administration but also for reporting on local Masonic activity.

 

The example of Quatuor Coronati was followed, with some variations, in England and the colonies, and all research lodges are descended, at least in spirit, from it. Let us briefly look at examples. In India, Lodge Albert Victor was formed in 1890 at Lahore, as a lodge of research for Installed Masters. At Kimberley, in South Africa, the members of QC correspondence circle began meeting quarterly to review the latest issue of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, and to read their own original papers. QC suggested that they publish their own papers, advising that the group would find a difficulty in persuading brethren to write really good articles unless they provide for a permanent record of the proceedings. Just so.

 

AUSTRALIA

 

In Australia research began to be organised in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, but apparently not in Tasmania and Western Australia at an early date, and not immediately in New Zealand. I could dwell at length on these occurrences, but I shall not do so here. Many of these early research groups started informally, and with several up and downs, emerged into long-standing research lodges.

 

The oldest still-existing Lodge of Research in Australia is my own, the Victorian Lodge of Research 218. It was formed in 1911, with membership restricted to Installed Masters, for the dual purposed of “the extension of Masonic knowledge ...” by lectures, essays, etc. “ and obtaining uniformity of ritual in Victoria “by exemplification in degree work”. In 1917 its by-laws were altered to admit Master Masons to membership. Although its warrant authorises the making of Masons, it is clear that its by-laws effectively exclude this function.

 

In 1903, Baron Barnett Lodge 3011 EC was formed as a Lodge of installed Masters, for the purpose of ensuring standardised ritual among the English lodges in Queensland. It was not until after the lodge received a warrant from the United Grand Lodge of Queensland in 1921, when its previous purpose became redundant, that Baron Barnett Lodge 146 QC became a lodge of research. Membership is still restricted to Installed Masters. It publishes lodge papers for circulation among members. It does not have a correspondence circle, but supplies papers on request for the use of country lodges. So it is older than its Victorian counterpart by original warrant, but not as a Lodge of Research.

 

Today, there are warranted research lodges in all Australian jurisdictions, as well as several unwarranted Masonic Study circles. Most of these have their own idiosyncrasies. Some are pretty much pure research lodges, existing largely only to serve their members. A few do not publish their lectures (which seems to me a waste), some publish their papers with the subsequent summons, while a few, such as my own lodge, issue annual transactions. Some have correspondence circles, some do not.

 

I will dwell briefly on three specifics in Australian research that, in my view, are of special interest.

 

About twenty years ago now, the South Australian Grand Lodge, through a Masonic Education Committee largely comprising members of South Australian Lodge of Research, sponsored a four-year correspondence course, leading to a Diploma of Masonic Education. This intensive and exacting course was originally intended to be of matriculation standard. It has been most successful over the years, and I am a graduate (many years ago now, I will add). Many of its students have come from outside Australia. Its holders can use the initials “DipMasEd” after their name in South Australia, for Masonic purposes.

 

The task of lecturing to other lodges in South Australia is entrusted to a panel of “authorised lecturers”, drawn from the graduates of the Masonic Education Course, under the superintendence of the Grand Lecturer. Each member of the lecture panel is also required to present a paper to his peers, and the first collection of these lectures was published in 1989.

 

The Victorian Lodge of Research, as well has having an extensive correspondence circle, introduced its own “Diploma of Masonic History and Ideas” about six years ago, supported by Grand Lodge. This is really a university level course, running by correspondence over two years.

 

The Western Australian Lodge of Research has a monopoly on research and Masonic education in that jurisdiction. With an exemption from the Grand Lodge capitation fee, it keeps its subscriptions very low, and has never seen the need for a correspondence circle. It draws full members from all over the State. The lodge provides a panel of lecturers for other lodges, and also encourages the use of its Transactions for that purpose. The lodge was formed in 1951, is open to Master Masons, but with the principal offices restricted to Installed Masters. The lodge is not permitted to make Masons, but does conduct an annual installation ceremony.

 

The lodge (at its own behest, initially) is required to submit its work to censorship. A lodge committee vets all papers intended for presentation, and those that pass scrutiny are forwarded to the Grand Master for classification. Category A lectures may be presented in any lodge, and be published; Category B may be presented in the Lodge of Research, but not elsewhere, and may not be published; Category C are not approved.

 

NEW ZEALAND

 

I will now turn to New Zealand. There are no references in either of the histories of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, or in early volumes of AQC, to Masonic research conducted by literary societies, Masters and Wardens associations or the like.

 

In earlier years Masonic education was provided by the New Zealand Craftsman, a periodical that was first published in Dunedin in 1884, transferred to Auckland in 1895, then to Wellington shortly afterwards. For many years it published copies of lectures delivered in New Zealand and elsewhere.

 

The Grand Lodge of New Zealand, formed in 1890, authorised Lodges of Instruction whose purpose was the practice of ritual, and in 1911 authorised the Grand Master to appoint a number of Grand Lecturers.

 

From the Lodge of Instruction concept the first research lodges of New Zealand arose. In 1902, your own Masters’ and Past Masters’ Lodge No 130 was warranted in Christchurch, open only to Installed Masters. Its objects were to attain uniformity and perfection in working the various degrees, and the occasional presentation of a paper of Masonic interest. It admitted Master Masons as associate members and began publishing its Transactions.

 

On the same pattern Masters Lodge No 161 was constituted at Dunedin in 1908, followed by United Masters Lodge No 167 at Auckland in 1909 and Installed Masters Lodge No 194 at Wellington in 1912. The latter changed its name to Research Lodge of Wellington in 1923 and Masters Lodge followed suit in 1937, renamed The Research Lodge of Otago. As you are aware, six other lodges of research are now at work alongside the original four.

 

As far as I am aware, all ten lodges of research confine full membership to Installed Masters, with associate membership open to Master Masons. Both categories of membership are open to brethren of all four resident jurisdictions (England, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand), although all ten are governed by New Zealand. The Grand Lodge of New Zealand provides an annual grant to the research lodges that the lodges themselves apportion according to need.

 

The Grand Lodge of New Zealand provides in its constitution: “The object of a lodge of research shall be the historical and comparative study and illustrations of the origins, development and modern trends and activities of Freemasonry, its organisation, ritual and teachings, and the dissemination of Masonic knowledge amongst members of the Lodge and other brethren by means of lectures, discussions and papers”.

 

It does not specifically require publication of Transactions, but the lodges do this, mostly in pamphlet or booklet form. Some of the older lodges have large, worldwide correspondence circles, and provide a question and answer service. Some provide lecturers for other lodges (in addition to the Grand Lecturer system). At least three (Wellington No 194, Hawkes Bay No 305 and Waikato No 445) have peripatetic warrants, permitting them to meet in any temple in their respective districts, and others (such as Ruapehu No 444) make “fraternal visits”, where they work in conjunction with a host lodge.

 

Perhaps the most efficiently organised is the Research Lodge of Wellington No 194, which holds its meetings on alternate months, and regulates its papers thus:

·        Paper presented to meeting (limit thirty minutes)

·        Copy to Editor

·        Paper printed in the next Transactions

·        Paper discussed at next meeting (ten minutes allocated between the two wardens, who are expected to have researched it in depth; three minutes per other member for comments, and six minutes for author to reply)

·        Copy of all comments to Editor

·        Discussion published in next Transactions.

 

In this way, each meeting includes presentation of a new paper and discussion of a previous paper. Its Transactions follow a similar format. I happily note that New Zealand provides a structured approach to research, but leaves room for individuality within that structure. Research seems well supported by your Grand Lodge and the brethren, and this usually results in a high standard of presentation and publication.

 

COORDINATED RESEARCH

 

Perhaps the best innovation in our Masonic Research occurred in 1992, with the formation of the Australian Masonic Research Council (later the Australian and New Zealand Masonic Research Council – ANZMRC). All warranted Research Lodge and almost all Craft Masonic Study circles in Australia are members, as are most New Zealand Research lodges. The ANZMRC holds a conference every two years, where aside from holding a general meeting and electing officers, the Kellerman Lectures are delivered. Each jurisdiction has the ability of nominating one of its research lodge members to its Kellerman Lecturer every two years. The idea was modelled on the Prestonian Lecture in England, except appointment in biannual, not annual. The published Proceedings of each Conference contain the seven Kellerman Lectures.

 

The next Conference is in Adelaide later this year, and in 2004 it will be in New Zealand – probably in Wellington. The Council publishes a quarterly newsletter – Harashim – and organizes a tour by an international guest lecturer, usually every two years.

 

The ANZMRC has been a most successful organisation in coordinating Masonic research, and particularly in encouraging research exchanges between lodges, built on ever expanding personal relationships between individual lodge members.

 

QUESTIONS ANSWERED?

 

So, what does all this tell us? Simply that organised Masonic research in Australia and New Zealand varies considerably, and in itself has been quite successful. The differences in approach between lodges are readily apparent, occasioned by such things as the problems of distance and population distribution, the varying attitudes of the Grand Lodges and the founders of the research bodies, and the perceived needs of the local Craft as a whole.

 

It is interesting to compare the structure in three jurisdictions where only warranted lodges of research operate: Tasmania (two lodges in a small area), New Zealand (ten in a medium area) and Western Australia (one in a vast area). And yet all seem to meet the needs of their respective Masonic populations.

 

With this brief background, we can now return to my original questions.

 

Does a lodge of research serve a useful purpose for the Craft as a whole, or does it benefit only its own members and the occasional visitor? The evidence for the latter is hard to refute, or else research lodges would have no members. How each is useful to the wider Craft very much depends on each lodge. I suggest that those that publish papers, and/or have a correspondence circle, and/or have its members lecturing at other lodges, and/or conduct Masonic Education programs or courses, are probably more useful to the wider Craft than those that do not, to the degree that that they do any or all of these things.

 

Why bother to have Lodges of Research? If you accept my definition of the purpose of Masonry, then I suggest you must accept that they are very important.

 

Why aren’t all Lodges, Lodges of Research? This to me is the most crucial question. They should be. I consider Masonic Education in every Craft Lodge to be vital. I contend that the only reason why a mason will sit in a lodge room, medium to long term, is because he understands why he is sitting there. We need more speakers in lodges. Every lodge needs a robust Masonic education program for all its members, not just newer ones.

 

I cite you the example of European Masonry where every lodge is, effectively, a Lodge of Research. In Europe, it usually takes a new initiate five years to become a Master Mason. Lodges mostly meet weekly, with at best, a degree ceremony monthly. All other meetings are education sessions, in which newer members in particular must be involved. It is not possible in Europe for a brother to be passed and raised without a very high level of attendance, a regular participation in Masonic discussions, and without presenting at least one researched paper to his lodge. In Europe, Masonic membership is, by and large, expanding – not severely declining, as it is English-speaking countries.

 

In conclusion, Lodges of Research of particularly valuable, I suggest vital, to the Craft. And the challenge ahead is for each one to do more outside its own meetings, to expand its horizons still further. I wish this lodge a happy centenary, and trust its members will take up the challenges, and responsibility it has, over the next hundred years.

 

REFERENCES:

 

Pope, A.  Australasian Lodges of Research: An Historical Overview, in Transactions of The Victorian Lodge of Research, 1991.

Henderson, K. W.  Back to the Future – A Prescription for Masonic RenewalKellerman Lecture for Victoria, 1994.

Henderson, K. W.  Overseas Masonic Practices – What can they teach us? in Transactions of The Victorian Lodge of Research, 1992.

A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed
- Benjamin Franklin, Freemason

kenthen@optusnet.com.au

 

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