Blue Lodge

Sacred Space in Freemasonry


A version of this was published in the May 2015 Edition of Living Stones Magazine

We are taught as an Entered Apprentice that a Masonic Lodge is a symbolic copy of King Solomon’s Temple, and as a Brother progresses through the Blue Lodge degrees he gains access to increasingly sacred parts of the temple. In the Master Mason Degree we are also taught that a Tyled Lodge of Master Masons meets in the unfinished space, where once completed the divine presence of G*d would reside on the “mercy seat” atop the Ark of the Covenant. This Holy of Holies was so sacred to Jews, that only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and he could only enter on the holiday of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

We should take note of the fact that the authors of our Masonic ritual chose to symbolically hold a meeting of a Lodge in the most sacred place imaginable to Jews, where only the holiest of men could enter, and only on a special occasion. This wasn’t chosen by accident, or as a mere addition to a storyline or a narrative. A Masonic Lodge meets in the unfinished holy of holies because a Tyled Lodge is a sacred space, and it should be reverentially treated as such during every meeting and every degree.  General levity, tomfoolery, or any unseemly or off-colored conduct perverts the purpose and sanctity of a Tyled Lodge. The time spent in a lodge is not supposed to be ordinary time; instead, it is meant to be sacred time that is set apart from the profane and material world. Also, the men who enter the sacred space of a Lodge are not supposed to be ordinary men, rather they are initiates that have been set apart from the profane.

This setting aside of special sacred spaces and time in order to conduct sacred rituals and conduct spiritual work is not unique to Freemasonry, because it is present in almost every spiritual and religious tradition.  The Romanian religious historian Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), developed a theory that has become known as “the myth of the eternal return”, which is also the name of his most well known book. According to Eliade spiritual traditions are based on, and depend upon, hierophanies, which are manifestations of the sacred into the material physical world. According to Eliade religions, myths, and spiritual traditions, require splitting the world into a sacred world (gods, ancestors, mythic beings/creatures, heaven) and the profane world (the material world in which we normally reside), and these two worlds are polar opposites. According to Eliade, “all the definitions given up till now of the religious phenomenon have one thing in common: each has its own way of showing that the sacred and the religious life are the opposite of the profane and secular life”.[1]

If the two sacred and profane worlds remained at a perpetual distance religion would be pointless, so there has to be a bridge between the sacred and the profane worlds that allows for a hierophany to take place. This bridge takes place in sacred places, where through the use of rituals the adherents return to a mythical age in order to commune with the sacred world, thus creating a hierophany. The sacred spaces that allow for the hierophany cannot be ordinary everyday places; instead, these special places must be set-aside (sanctified) for the particular spiritual purpose.

According to Eliade:

The architectonic symbolism of the Center may be formulated as follows:

1.   The Sacred Mountain – where heaven and earth meet – is situated at the center of the world.

2.   Every temple or palace – and, by extension, every sacred city or royal residence – is a sacred                   mountain, thus becoming a center

3.   Being an axis mundi, the sacred city or temple is regarded as the meeting point of heaven, earth,            and hell.[2]

Holy places such as churches, cathedrals, mosques, monasteries, and temples are quite literally the “center” of spiritual life, because they serve as the bridge between the sacred and profane worlds. According to Eliade, “The experience of sacred space makes possible the ‘founding of the world,’ where the sacred manifests itself in space; ‘the real unveils itself,’ the world comes into existence.”[3] The Masonic Lodge follows this sacred model, because the Masonic Lodge is where initiates are brought from the darkness of the profane world into the world of Light. Also, we are taught that the Masonic Lodge not only represents the layout of King Solomon’s Temple, but also encapsulates the entire world and universe:

A Masonic lodge is therefore to the instructed brethren a symbol of the world… and the world and the universe are made synonymous, when the lodge becomes, of course, a symbol of the universe. But in this case the definition of the symbol is extended, and to the ideas of length and breadth are added those of height and depth, and the lodge is said to assume the form of a double cube. The solid contents of the earth below and the expanse of the heavens above will then give the outlines of the cube, and the whole created universe will be included within the symbolic limits of a Freemason's lodge.”[4]

However, a sacred space alone is not enough for a hierophany to take place, because the rituals and time spent in the space must be of a sacred nature. According to Eliade, “…the reality and the enduringness of a construction are assured of by the transformation of profane spaces into a transcendent space (the center) but also by the transformation of concrete time into mythical times, ‘once upon a time’ … that is, when the ritual was performed for the first time by a god, an ancestor, or a hero.”[5]

Masonic ritual is steeped in the mythical folklore surrounding the building of King Solomon’s Temple, and the rituals that we undertake transform the normal everyday material time into sacred spiritual time. The rituals transport the candidates and members back into a sacred (mythologized) time and place, and the candidates and members take on the roles of mythical figures. Also, in Masonic ritual phrases and gestures that would otherwise have little meaning or significance become the passwords and tokens that prove membership, and provide for the transmission of Light. According to Eliade:

 “We have distributed our collection of facts under several principal heading:

  1. facts which show us that, for archaic man, reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype.
  2. facts which show us how reality is conferred through participation in the ‘symbolism of the center': cities, temples, houses become real by the fact of being assimilated to the ‘center of the world.’
  3. Finally, rituals and significant profane gestures which acquire the meaning attributed to them, and materialize that meaning, only because they deliberately repeat such and such acts posited ab origine by gods, heroes, or ancestors.”[6]

Our Masonic forefathers took care to make the Masonic experience a sacred and transformative experience. Although Masonic ritual as we now know it predates any theories by Eliade, our ritual follows the patterns and traditions of every spiritual and sacred tradition since time immemorial, and we must respect and follow the sacred formula in order for Light to manifest (to allow a hierophany to take place). We must remember that a tyled Lodge is a special place that is intentionally set apart from the outer profane and material world, so we must treat the Lodge room with the respect that it deserves. We must also remember that a Lodge meeting is a sacred time where our ancient rituals are performed and the craftsmen lay down the working tools of the material world in order pick up the Masonic working tools, so that we can be transported into the very place where Light resides and is transmitted.

Within our hallowed walls, our rituals turn profanes into initiates, and allow Masters to continue to hone their craft. The laudable pursuit of the craftsman is a journey, a quest, to discover and manifest Light, and this cannot be done passively; instead, it requires active engagement and purpose. When a lodge takes the time and energy to purposefully undertake the spiritual work of the fraternity, Freemasonry becomes much more than just a mere social club, it becomes a sacred endeavor that is truly transformational on the individual and collective level. This is the experience that many of us sought upon our first admission into the Lodge, and it is an experience that is attainable. It just requires work and intentional action. Brethren must purposefully join together for a sacred purpose, and we cannot be content with mere rote memorization and recital of Masonic ritual. Instead, the entire egregore, the collective conscious and purpose of the Lodge must be centered around manifesting and transmitting the sacred Light from the GAOTU into the sacred space of the Lodge, where it can be experienced by brethren. This experience of the sacred Light was essential to illuminating the pathway of our forefathers, and with proper stewardship and intention it will continue to illuminate the pathway of current and future craftsman.




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[1] Eliade, Mircea, Patterns in Comparative Religion, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1996. P. 1.

[2] Eliade, Mircea, The Myth of the Eternal Return or, Cosmos and History, Princeton Univ. Press, 1991, P. 12.

[3] Eliade, Mircea, The Sacred and the Profane : The Nature of Religion: The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual within Life and Culture. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987, P. 65-66.

[4] Mackey, Albert, The Symbolism of Freemasonry, The Masonic History Company,  P 104-105.

[5] Eliade, Mircea, The Myth of the Eternal Return, P. 20-21.

[6] Id at P. 5.

What Are The Rags Of Our Righteousness?

The interrogatories of Craft Masonry are said to have been penned by William Preston and appear in the ritual workings of the Entered Apprentice Degree sometime after 1772. Prior to this, the preparation room was used for different purposes. In the earliest days of Speculative Masonry, the candidate was “made” a Mason in the preparation room by having the obligations administered to him by the Master before he ever stepped foot into the lodge. This was the case during the late 17th century period and remained common through the first two decades of the 1700’s.

As degree workings became more formalized, the “making ceremony” was moved into the lodge room itself and the anteroom became the waiting area for the candidate while the Master opened the lodge. Once the lodge was opened, the Master asked if anyone was in waiting to be “made.” The Wardens and the proposer retired to prepare the candidate. He was relieved of his metals, asked some basic questions such as name, occupation, and place of residence, and then left to his own reflections for at least half an hour. His proposer sat with him, and he was not allowed to talk. Guards (likely the deacons) stood near with swords drawn.

While all this was taking place, the lodge set up its trestleboard, or set of figures drawn into the floor with charcoal and chalk, set in an oblong square.

Preston changed all this with his formal interrogatories; and these are adopted and in use today. After the questions are asked in the preparation room, the Deacon gives the candidate a charge which informs him of the seriousness of the journey he is about to take, and suggests that, through the language and hieroglyphics of our ceremonies, we may come to understand the meaning of death and rebirth.

And then he is given a warning. He is told that his status in life is not enough to gain him a place in heaven; that indeed he must become poor and destitute, blind and naked. Of course, he doesn’t realize this at the time, but what he is being told is that we will be communicating with his soul rather than his body from this point forward; because we already know it is only his soul that is capable of interpreting and understanding the allegories we will present to him. And then we add another very brief and eccentric afterthought—that “he must be divested of the rags of his own righteousness…. .” Now, what in heaven’s name does this mean? Why would we divest someone of their righteousness?

Righteousness is defined as conformity of life to the requirements of the Divine or Moral Law. This would seem a very Masonic plan. Righteousness means virtue, or integrity—again, a central Masonic goal. To be righteous is to be morally right or justifiable. So again, why are we divesting our man of his own moral justification?

Well, I’m not sure. But I think we are imploring him to consider what righteousness means to him. The operative word in our admonition is that we are divesting him of the rags of his own righteousness. This would imply we are suggesting the validity in which he defines righteousness is worthy of his reconsideration. Because righteousness is a subjective thing. Like Truth. It is a virtue which has been so broadly used throughout history that one hardly knows what to make of it.

For instance, Barclay complained about the greediness of some merchants in mixing European plants with Indian wrappers and calling it righteous and legitimate tobacco. What does that mean? It was said of George Washington that he was righteous in the treatment of his slaves? Now there’s an oxymoron. We have been told over and over again that America has a righteous government. Oh really?

You get the idea. A man does not even get to knock on the door of Freemasonry before he is told to set aside what he has already been taught, or told, or ordered, or mandated in so far as his moral code is concerned. You see, we are not so much interested in what someone or something has already made of him. Freemasonry asks him to set aside the assumptions of his past; be divested of his subjective upbringing, bear the nakedness of his own heart, and be clothed in the purity of his soul. Only then can he objectively learn what he does not know; and begin the great and important undertaking of re-discovering himself.

It is only when he makes this mystic journey within that he can take on the mantel of righteousness; and know that he is justified in his moral standing.

So, regardless of our station in life, or where we are on our own journey, it never hurts to occasionally stop and ponder this significant question for ourselves:

What are the rags of my own righteousness?




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Intentional Freemasonry

Masonic Light

There is currently a great deal of hand-wringing going on in local Lodges and in Grand Lodges across the country regarding the current state of Freemasonry. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that our membership numbers are declining, and with the declining membership comes decreased revenue to fund our Lodges, charities, and appendant bodies. There have been numerous attempts to solve the problem of declining membership from increased public events to one day classes that take a man from profane to Master Mason in a single day. However, our numbers keep declining, and the active participation rate among the members is abysmal. This has left many Lodges in a conundrum of what to do to increase members on the roles, as well as the participation level of those members.  

Freemasonry isn’t alone in its declining membership, the American Political Scientist, Dr. Robert D. Putnam, explored this phenomena in his book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. In Bowling Alone, Dr. Putnam explores the fact that most civic organizations from local PTA’s and bowling leagues, to charitable and fraternal groups are experiencing massive declines in membership and in active participation. According to Dr. Putnam, the root cause of this is an overall decline in social capital, which is the social or economic benefit given to and derived from social activities. Basically, if a social group is not providing a meaningful and fulfilling experience, people will naturally invest their time and energy into something else, and when the people are no longer contributing to the group, the whole system collapses.

One of the refrains that I constantly hear from brethren around the country is that Lodges are doing plenty of Entered Apprentice degrees, but nobody shows back up to finish the degrees, and those that do manage to finish never stay around to become officers. I’m often shocked by the lack of soul searching, when I ask the simple question, "what is the purpose of your lodge?", and there is either no defined answer, or the generic "to make good men better" line is hesitantly given. Simply put, a Lodge that has no defined purpose or a membership intentionally working to fulfill that purpose is doomed to fail, because it not only lacks a path and direction for its current members, but it also gives nothing for new members to buy into and strive for.

The intent of the brethren, especially the Lodge officers, makes the difference between a fulfilling Masonic experience and a mere social gathering. Intent also separates a true craftsman from a mere dues cardholder. Simply put, the various Masonic Lodge, bodies, rites, and groups must have the intent to spread Light in order to aid the brethren on their Masonic journeys, and a true craftsman must have the intent to truly labor in the quarries of the various bodies, rites, and groups.

There are three basic types of intention: intention for the future, 2) intention that compels action, and 3) intentional action. [1] These types of intention don’t have to depend on one another, because we can have an intention do something in the future that is never acted upon, and we can certainly undertake an action without giving it any forethought; however, in order for someone or a group to fulfill an end goal, with minimum unintended consequences, all three types of intention should be properly utilized. Intention and intentional planning in Freemasonry is vital because our intention will shape what our fraternity is today, as well as what it will be in the future. To utilize the philosophical definition of intent, if we are to maintain or restore the true purpose of Freemasonry and its various bodies and groups, which is to spread Light and facilitate the transformative process, then we must utilize the three types of intention. We must utilize the intention for the future by formulating what we want our lodges, rites, and bodies to be in the future. Where is _______ going to be in 5 years, 10 years, or 25 years? By utilizing intention that compels action, we must begin to research and lay the groundwork for our vision, and clearly define what our intentions are, and we must not be content with the status quo, or mediocrity, or with burying our heads in the sand when it comes to facing issues. Finally, intentional action must take place, where we must intentionally and purposefully undertake the necessary work to see our vision to completion. This requires true leaders stepping-up and working for the good of the current craft and the craft of the future, from local Lodges all the way to Grand Lodges.

Since our fraternity is composed of and crafted exclusively by its members, we as individual craftsman must have the intent to become the best man and Freemason that we can be, because only then can the fraternity reach its true potential. As craftsman we must not be content with mediocrity, and superfluous titles. Throughout the Masonic system we are given various working tools, and told to put them to use in our life. We are told to use these tools for their more noble and glorious purposes, which are to refine our actions, faculties, and above all our inner soul. While many may believe that the working tools are to be used to hack away at the various unsavory aspects of our character, we must remember that the work of a true Master Mason is refinement not wholesale destruction; therefore, as we go through life we must examine and chisel away carefully, because oftentimes the vices and superfluities that we would rather simply hack off of our ashlar and leave to the side, actually provide important lessons that when properly utilized can lead to further refinement and a greater understanding of our true nature.

In the end, intentional Freemasonry requires that we not become complacent, we must not become satisfied with mediocrity or with illusions of knowledge within ourselves or when it comes to issues facing our fraternity. The need for intentional Freemasonry transcends the petty squabbles that too often take center stage when discussing the future and purpose of our craft. Too often people get bogged down in passionate arguments regarding Traditional Observance lodges, blue collar lodge, affinity lodges, social activity centered lodges, etc. However, when we move past the bickering and turf wars, we can all agree that what we are each looking for is a fulfilling masonic experience; otherwise, we wouldn’t take time away from our families and busy lives to attend meetings and functions. In order to create a fulfilling experience, we must intentionally create the fraternity that we want at the local and then the state levels, and on a personal level we must labor in the quarries to become the best man and Freemason that we can possibly be. The structure and tools are already present within the fraternity; however, we must intentionally utilize them so that the Fraternity, and we as craftsman, can reach our full potential. We must suck the marrow out of Freemasonry with voracity.

I’ll close by simply offering my Lodge’s mission statement, which is something that has defined the purpose of my Lodge and has given its members, new and old, an ideal to intentionally strive for.

"We, the men of Lodge Veritas, in our endeavor to better ourselves in virtue, intellect, wisdom, and historical understanding, to explore a curiosity for mystery that all men hold, to promote the cause of liberty for all mankind, to guide other men into manhood through an initiatic ritual and tradition, and to strengthen our fraternal bonds and our compassion for the world, have established our lodge as a light added to light, thereby giving glory to our Creator."

                                                                                         Lodge Veritas No. 556- 2014- Photo Credit: Wor. Matthew D. Anthony

[1] McDowell, John, Philosophy of Action: An Anthology, 2015, Wiley-Blackwell. P. 145-147.

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