Freemasonry Q & A: What is a Research Lodge?

March-April 2011

A research lodge exists for the purpose of encouraging the exploration of the history and philosophy of Freemasonry through the preparation and presentation of research papers. In America, there is usually only one research lodge in a grand jurisdiction, and it meets less often than regular lodges, perhaps only 2–4 times a year, with little or no ritual other than the opening and closing ceremonies. Grand lodges often have a different per capita for research lodge members and different requirements for dual membership.

At a typical research lodge meeting there will be one or more papers read by members or occasionally an invited guest. Most research lodges publish the papers presented to them in annual transactions, which are a particularly rich source of regional Masonic history and biography.

The first research lodge in the world was Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, founded in London in 1884. According to the QC web site, “the nine [founders] were intent on using an evidence-based approach to the study of Masonic history and research into Freemasonry. This innovative approach was intended to replace the imaginative writings of earlier authors on the history of freemasonry. This new style and approach was later to be referred to as the ‘authentic school’ of Masonic research.” The annual transactions of the lodge, Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, contain some of the best factual research into the history of Freemasonry.

Logos of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, North Carolina Lodge of Research, American Lodge of Research, and Scottish Rite Research Society

Photos: Logos of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, North Carolina Lodge of Research, American Lodge of Research, and Scottish Rite Research Society

Founded in 1930, the North Carolina Lodge of Research No. 666 was the first American research lodge. Its transactions, Nocalore, were published for 19 years and the lodge closed in 1954. The American Lodge of Research in New York, the second American research lodge, was founded in 1931, is still in existence, and continues to publish the Transactions of the American Lodge of Research. There are a score or more research lodges in the USA today (too many to list here and best found through an Internet search on “research lodge”), Royal Arch Chapters of Research, the Scottish Rite Research Society, devoted to Masonic research in general and the Scottish Rite in particular, and several Masonic research societies unaffiliated with any grand lodge. For the student in search of further light in Masonry, research lodges and societies are a must.