SUBJECT: The Lodge – Foundations and Fundamentals;
Masonic Halls and Temples, Lodge Rooms and Orientation
The discussion of the “Lodge” as part of the furniture of a Lodge on page 599 states a puzzle insoluble in Mackey’s time, and one which is not yet wholly solved, though it has been the object of much research. What, exactly, was the “Lodge”? Why was it included in the “furniture?” If the puzzle cannot be cleared up now it should be at a not too distant date because a large number of small facts have been accumulating, slowly but nevertheless steadily, with most of them found in Minutes of old Lodges. There are too many of these latter to name under the present limitations of space, but a general ization based on them can be accepted as a generalization of records, not of theories:
The various City Companies, the Masons Company among them, kept their charter and other important documents in a “casket.” Lodge Aberdeen had in 1670 (and has still) an “old wooden charter box, known in the Lodge as the ‘Lockit Kist,’ [locked chest] with three locks so that it could only be opened when the three Keymasters were present at the same time.” A large number of Eighteenth Century Lodges had a box (or casket, or ark) in which were kept the Old Charges or the Book of Constitutions (or both), the charter, and members’ cards—a few Minutes speak of a member putting his card in or taking it out of the Lodge; there was a double meaning here, it will be noted and the word Lodge as denoting its members could easily transfer its meaning to the box in which membership cards were kept.
In the oldest Lodges the principal symbols were drawn on the floor in chalk (usually the Tiler did it) for an initiation, then mopped off; later, these drawings were painted on oil cloth to be hung up, or on a foorcloth to lie on the floor; also, they came to be painted (or set in mosaic) on boards; yet again, objects corresponding to the symbols might be placed on a trestle-table (hence, trestle-board) or laid on a floor-cloth. This ensemble of drawings was called “the Ludge,” and such a board or cloth might have been carried in procession at the time of consecration of a new Lodge.
The Minutes of Lodge Amity, No. 137, for May 28, 1819, give in the Inventory, “Box to Carry the Lodge in.” In a footnote the author of the History of Amity quotes Bro. E. H. Dring (Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Yol. XXIX, pp 243-264) as saying, “I have always Understood this to refer to an Altar’ in Craft ceremonial (or to the Ark, in Royal Arch ceremonial), or to a portable imitation thereof ….” He also quotes Bro. Wynn Westcott as having said in A. Q. C., “A further feature which some Masonic Lodges have borrowed from the symbolism of the Tabernacle, is the possession of a cista mystica, a secret coffer, representing the sacred Ark within the Tabernacle of Moses.” (This is a dubious theory because the “Lodge” would appear to have pre-dated the Royal Arch cista.)
In his Manual of the Lodge (1868), Albert G. Mackey gives on page 127 the procession at the Consecration of a Lodge, and under the rubric of “The New Lodge” has “Two brethren carrying the Lodge.” In the Maine Masonic Tent Book (1877) Bro. Josiah H. Drummond has a variant where on page 137 he writes: “The procession passes once around the Lodge (or Carpet), and the Deputy Grand Master places the golden vessel of Corn and the burning taper of white wax at the East of the Lodge (or Carpet).” In the former instance the “Lodge” would appear to be a piece of furniture, in the latter, it is the tracing-cloth, or board, or carpet. The idea of the former would be that the “Lodge” is its Charter and members, of the latter that it is the Lodge as a box, or casket.
Meanwhile a third idea had long been combined with those two. In the first half of the Old Charges it is related that before the Deluge the “secrets” of the Liberal Arts and Sciences had been carved on two pillars, and that after the Deluge they were recovered. Since the earliest constellation of Speculative Masonic symbols appear to have referred back to the Old Charges, Noah and the Ark were drawn into symbolism, and it is in many Minute Books evident that there was a coalescence of the idea of Noah’s Ark, of the charter box, of the box on the pedestal before the Master with the Old Charges and member list in it, and of the “drawing of the Lodge on the Tracing Board.” Sphere the Royal Arch Degree was still a part of the Third Degree the idea of the Ark of the Covenant may, as Bro. Westcott suggested, have been added to the previous ideas. In his Concise Cyclopaedia of Freemasonry the unusually cautious Bro. E. L. Hawkins editor, on page 143 expresses himself in agreement with the theory that by “the Lodge” was meant a tracing-board.
During this entire time, and even from before its beginning, there was in every Mason’s mind the fact that a Lodge was the building in which Masons met, and that Masonry once had been the art of architecture. The “Lodge” as now used, an ark-like piece of furniture, is thus the convergence of a number of lines of tradition, ideas, and uses; it may be that the fact of a Lodge having so often been used of, or associated with, a building, was the determining factor.
Why is the Holy Bible described as a part of the “furniture” of a Lodge? A reasonable theory is suggested by the data as indicated in the paragraphs above. To begin with, the Old Charges were kept in a box; later the Book of Constitutions and the Charter were kept in a box; if when the Holy Bible came into use (roughly in the period 1725-1750) it may also have been kept in the same box; if the box or “Lodge” was a piece of furniture it was easy for the idea of the box to be transferred to the contents of it; it may be that this never exactly occurred but it is reasonable to believe that we have the Bible described as “furniture” because of some such association of uses or ideas.