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Masonic Encyclopedia

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Lodge, The, in Jurisprudence

A Lodge is the whole of Freemasonry as Freemasonry is present and at work in a community. It is not a representative of a set of doctrines or general theories, nor a subordinate branch of something with headquarters else where. Freemasonry never exists as a set of floating generalizations, or as "a ballet of abstractions," is never a set of ideas and notions and beliefs diffused through a population, or something carried in memory from books and speeches; is not a philosophy, or a "cause," or an ideology; where it is present in a community it invariably is present as a Lodge, or it cannot be present. It has no way to be at all, and never has had, except to be a Lodge. (See page 597.)

The word itself is a happy one etymologically, because it is so truly descriptive; it is also accurate as a term in Masonic jurisprudence, because an adequate definition of the word itself is almost a statement of the doctrine of the Lodge which belongs to jurisprudence. Freemasonry in a community is, first, called a Lodge, because it means that Freemasonry lodges in that community. It was not compelled to come there; it is not compelled to remain there; nor can it compel a community to accept its presence or permit it to remain. The community itself does not create the Lodge.

What the Lodge is, and where it is, is not determined by politics or by business or by geography. It is only when a certain number of Master Masons decide to petition for a Charter that a Lodge can be formed; the Fraternity never constitutes a Lodge otherwise, and never listens to a petition from any other source; so that it is Freemasonry itself, and not a town or a town's population, which decides when and where a Lodge may be present in that town. Second, it is called a Lodge because of what is lodged in it. It is Freemasonry itself, the whole of it, that is lodged in it. Just as a Lodge may on its own volition withdraw from a community, so may Freemasonry itself withdraw from a Lodge, after which any residue remaining is no longer a Lodge

In the Freemasonry which is thus lodged in a Lodge, is the authority to make Masons, the authority of these Masons to assemble, the authority by which they adopt their own by-laws and enforce them on their own members, the authority to supervise all Masons' activities in the name of Freemasonry inside a fixed jurisdiction; etc. This general authority and these special authorities are inherent in the Lodge (not derived from elsewhere) because they are inherent in Freemasonry itself; and the Lodge, because it is Freemasonry itself as present in a local community, therefore is whatever Freemasonry is. No other Lodge nor any Grand Lodge can alienate the authority and authorities inherent in the Lodge because they do not create Freemasonry, nor can they alter it.

It is because a Grand Lodge does not create Freemasonry that a Charter does not create a Lodge. The purpose of the Charter is to give the Grand Lodge's official authorization and approval to the Lodge its charter members are making, and to certify officially to other chartered Lodges that the Lodge in question is a regular, duly-constituted Lodge--that Freemasonry itself is now and henceforth at work in such-and such a community. In its beginning the Charter is a Dispensation, or temporary warrant, of which the purpose is to give official sanction and protection to the Master Masons during the months in which they are organizing their Lodge; once it is organized in such a form that it can become Freemasonry present and at work in that community, the Deputation becomes a Charter, a legal document containing authority in itself.

If the members of the Lodge cease to carry on the work of Freemasonry the Charter is withdrawn, is no longer in existence, and Freemasonry no longer is present in that local jurisdiction.

The office of Worshipful Master has inherent authority which a Grand Master did not give and cannot take away; it is because such an office is inherent in the nature of Freemasonry. Such authorities, offices, principles, and required activities as constitute, or comprise, Freemasonry itself are called Ancient Landmarks. The fact that Freemasonry is nowhere at work except as a Lodge is a Landmark. (The same principles apply, mutasis mutandi, to Chapters, Councils, Commanderies , Consistories .

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