The Lodge Metaphor  

Robert Munafo, 3o

The role of the organization in society and its relation to the individuals who belong to it, is illustrated by the word "lodge" as used by the Masons (Freemasons).

The word "lodge" can be used to refer to a building (or sometimes, room) within which a group of Masons meet, but mainly refers to the group itself. The intent of the metaphor is given through an explanation of how that word came to be used. This explanation is common in Masonic writing, and appears in many forms. Following are two examples:

J. K. Davies of South Wales[7] has written:

As it was not practical to work in an open yard in inclement weather, a lean-to1 was built against the wall of the building they were working on, be it a castle, church or cathedral. In mediaeval times, this lean-to was known as an 'allodgement', and it is from this word that the word 'Lodge' is derived.

Jerrold A. Wohlfarth of the Royal Arch in California[8] has written:

Stonemasons worked on a building project for many years because of the limitation of their tools. On any construction, one of the mason's first acts was to erect a lean-to called a lodge. In this lean-to, tools were stored. Here they ate meals, initiated apprentices and conducted business. As they built, they moralized on the tools and their application to the job at hand, drawing parallels between the art of erecting stately cathedrals, and the philosophy of living as a just and upright man.

Along with this explanation is the understanding that the word "lodge" also has a relevant and important metaphorical interpretation.

The cathedral represents whatever you hold to be important in the world: helping each other, and people who are in need, promoting the success of family, community or country, and the betterment of society. It is why you joined the group in question.2

Therefore, it is to be understood that the lodge exists as a means to an end, with the end in this case being the work on the cathedral. This illustrates the first major point of the lodge metaphor:

The lodge exists in service to the cathedral. If there were no need for a cathedral there would be no need for a lodge.

This is to remind people that they should always remember that the purposes that their organization is serving (charity, morality, society, etc.) are always to be treated as more important, and higher in priority, than anything specific to the machinations of the organization itself (attendance, agendas, administration, dues, etc).

The specific description of the lodge as being a lean-to is seldom left out, and this illustrates a secondary point, that is often even more important to remember than the first:

The lodge depends on the cathedral to remain standing. If the cathedral were to fall, so would the lodge.

This is to remind people that the organization depends on the larger world in which it exists for its existence. (How, then, could it be more important?) The intent is to impart reverence and respect to that larger world.

See Also

This principle relates most closely to my pages on priorities and goals, and (to a lesser degree) the commitment, ownership, serve your purpose, personal well being and team pages.


1 : lean-to : The term "lean-to" appears twice in both quotes, and the quotes are otherwise quite different. lean-to does not always appear, e.g. Roger Ingersoll and the Global Fraternal Network [5],[3] have written:

When the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages were being built, the masons had special, temporary buildings built against the side of the cathedral, in which they met, received their pay, planned the work on the cathedral and socialized after work.

and other names for the structure are sometimes seen.

2 : cathedral : The explanation of this particular metaphor is a bit hard to find, but it is easy to extrapolate from the metaphors of the mason's tools and materials, which are widely agreed on. The following are typical, and are from John T. Matthews [4] and New Jersey lodge #34[6]:

ASHLAR: a block of stone from which a column, capital, or other finished product is carved or hewn.

PLUMB LINE: [...] the perfect emblem of uprightness.

ROUGH ASHLAR: The unenlightened member; man in his natural state before being educated.

TROWEL: [...] Symbolically, to spread the cement of Brotherly Love [...]

thus it is clear that all the tools are metaphors for making an effect on the men in the lodge and upon society. Thus, the "cathedral" (that which is built with the tools) represents the outcome of the men's efforts (improved men and better society).


[3] Global Fraternal Network, A Quick Overview of Freemasonry (web page), 1996.

[4] PM John T. Matthews, Maonic Dictionary, 1999.

[5] Roger Ingersoll, Isn't that a secret? (web page), July 2004. No longer online (was at, but contained the samecontent as [3].

[6] Blue Stone Mystic Tie Malta Doric Lodge #34, Masonic Glossary, 2005. No longer online (was at, but contained thesame content as [4].

[7] W. Bro. Rev. J. K. Davies P.A.G.C, An Oration on the Significance of the Masonic Temple, 2006. (formerly at

[8] Jerrold A. Wohlfarth, :Foundation Stones, Cornerstone Ceremonies and other Masonic Stones, (web page), 2008. (formerly at

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