Unsurprisingly adademic centres devoted to the study of Freemasonry are much fewer in number and their approach is quite different from Research Lodges. The latter primarily cater for the needs and aspirations of its members and other Freemasons whereas academic centres focus on the needs of scholars in the academic world very many of whom are not Freemasons. Most of these centres are not devoted entirely to Freemasonry but is included in a wide field such as religious studies. Some of these academic centres are listed below and others will be added in due course.
Unfortunately the Centre for Research into Freemasonry at the University of Sheffield has now closed.
Institut fur Religionswissenschaft (University of Heidelberg)
OVN (a Dutch Foundation for Academic Research into the History of Freemasonry in the Netherlands)
There is some confusion of what consitutes a Lecture Lodge and what is a Research Lodge and what is a Lecture Lodge. Both are Lodges consecrated by their respective Grand Lodges. Both focus more on research, debate and analysis rather than ceremonial (although that obviously is still a part of Lodge activity). For our purposes here the definition of a Lecture Lodge is one where lecturers, who are usually not members of the Lodge, are invited to give a lecture in the Lodge and that is the limit of the Lodge's involvement in 'research'.
The lines between Lecture Lodges and Research Lodges can be blurred. This is especially true when Lodges change its practices changing, say, from a Lodge devoted only to providing lectures to one which publishes those lectures. We are blessed in Scotland with a number of Lodges (there is one in most Provinces) which provide and excellent service to and a forum for Freemasons who are interested in the in this aspect of the Craft.
Most lecture Lodges will advertise their meetings in the normal manner and times of meeting and place(s) can usually be obtained by contacting the Provincial or District Grand Secretary.
Unlike Research or Lecture Lodges Masonic study circles are not a group of Freemasons meeting as a Lodge chartered by a Grand Lodge. Many are officially recognised and supported by a Provincial or District Grand Lodge. Some are an adjunct to an existing, non-Research Lodge and some have no official position within Freemasonry whatsoever. These groups can roughly be placed into the following categories:
Study circles (officially recognised or not)
Past Master's Associations
Internet discussion groups
Masonic research takes a variety of forms from small informal study groups to academic research. Here we shall attempt to provide a guide to Masonic research with appropriate links where possible.
There are five principal forums for Masonic research:
There are other activities which do not fit neatly into the above categories. One example is the Masonic Book Club which produces reprints of older, out of copyright, books on Freemasonry. They are nicely, if plainly, bound as hardbacks. They are far better than some of the cheap photocopy versions around. The club isssues one book per year always at a modest cost and they do send books overseas. Based in the USA it is not surprising that many of the titles were original published there but there is no doubt that this is an excellent way of providing quality books about Freemasonry at a reasonable price.
If you are interested in becoming a member write (snail mail only) to the Masonic Book Club, c/o R. Carr, Secretary, 1811 Hoover Drive, Normal, IL 61761-2202, USA (the membership fee is $15 USA & Canada and $20 for other countries.)