Bicycles Presented at Kelly Elementary School

Wednesday, May 24th was the last day of school at Kelly Elementary School.  Elvin E. Helms Lodge No. 926 sponsored eight bicycles that were presented to students as attendance awards.

Three Kelly students had perfect attendance for the school year.  Those students were allowed to select a bicycle of their choice as a reward for this accomplishment.

Kelly Elementary School students with perfect attendance during the 2016-2107 school year. Congratulations!

The remaining bicycles went into a drawing for students that had at least one month of perfect attendance.

Thanks to Family Resource Center Coordinator Shelly Hoxmeier, who facilitated our donation of the bicycles to Kelly Elementary School!

In attendance, representing Elvin E. Helms No. 926, were, left to right: Travis Bush, P.M., Treasurer; Dan Kemble, P.M., Secretary; Buddy Wallace, Worshipful Master; Ed Tanner, P.M.

Visit to Bro. J. R. Ross

Bro. Ed Tanner and Bro. Dan Kemble visit with Bro. J. R. Ross at the Sam Swope Care Center, Louisville, Kentucky.

On Saturday, May 20, members of our Lodge visited Bro. J. R. Ross at The Masonic Homes in Louisville.  Bro. Ross is a resident at the Sam Swope Care Center and is a member of St. George Lodge No. 239 in Louisville.  He is a 43-year member of our Fraternity.  Bro. Ross never married and has no children.  His Lodge Brothers are truly his family.  Through the assistance of Worshipful Bro. Bruce Lott, our Lodge “adopted” Bro. Ross in 2016.

We found Bro. Ross to be in good health and in good spirits.  He was happy to see his Brothers from Elvin E. Helms Lodge and especially thanked us for the afghan that we sent him last Christmas.  During the course of our visit, Bro. Ross said at least a half dozen times that he thanked God daily for having the good fortune to live in the Masonic Homes.

The Sam Swope Care Center is a beautiful facility.  As evidenced by Bro. Ross, the residents are well cared for and happy in their surroundings.  Seeing our Brother so happy and content is a vivid demonstration of the importance of the Masonic Care program.  We can all be proud of the job done by The Masonic Homes of Kentucky.

May 2017 Stated Communication

The Brothers of Elvin E. Helms No. 926 met in Stated Communication on May 9, 2017. Our Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master Kevin Schneider of Bradford No. 123 was our guest speaker for the evening.

Pictured above, left to right: Kevin Schneider, District Deputy Grand Master, District 18, Grand Lodge of Kentucky; Worshipful Master Buddy Wallace.

Seven Kinds of Ashlars

Tonight Brothers, I want to discuss “The Seven types of Ashlars used in Masonry”

• Bastard
• Rough
• Common
• Perfect
• Raised
• Positioned
• Cemented

Bastard Ashlar (0)
An Operative mason’s term for a stone that has been freed from the rubble that surrounds it, so that it can be taken to the building site -and- if selected be worked on.

Rough Ashlar (0/S)
A stone that is free of enough major imperfections that it can be worked by the builder to become suitable for use in the building. In speculative masonry the rough ashlar is a man who has been examined, he has been found free of major flaws. He is “accepted” to become a stone for our building.

Common Ashlar (0)
Once the rough ashlar is being worked on, it is referred to as the common ashlar. Any man who has undergone out initiation is a common ashlar.

Common – from Latin communis ” shared by all or many; general, not specific; familiar, not pretentious”

In our degree progression, this is a Brother who has been initiated. He should be acceptable to us all even if he did nothing to change himself.  However, our ritual directs him (us) to actually undergoing the transformation that occurs from using the working tools of an EA.

Positioned Ashlar (0)
An ashlar that has been raised to the proper height and has been set into its final place within a structure.

Perfect Ashlar (O/S)
An ashlar that is completely suitable for the builder’s use. It is ready in its own right to be a part of the build. This is a Brother who has completed the EA work and is an upright man and Mason when viewed externally and internally.

This is a Brother who is considered a proficient EA.

Raised Ashlar (0/S)
An ashlar which has been further adjusted by the Working Tools of the fellow.

Cemented Ashlar (0/S)
Stones that bound together to complete the building. Only perfected, true, and properly positioned stones are use because they can be most easily and permanently cemented together.

Tonight I want to focus on the Perfect Ashlar. The question is: Do we ever become a perfect ashlar? If so, when? Your thoughts?

To explore this a bit, let’s consider the term “perfect”. Think about the following phrases:

• Perfectly fine (it will do)
• Perfect Game (no hits or runs)
• Perfect Gentleman

Part of the problem is that words today are used differently that they were in the past (queer> odd, gay> happy). So, let’s take a look at the etymology of the word perfect:

perfect (v.)

“to bring to full development,” late 14c., parfiten, from perfect (adj.).

perfect (adj.)

early 15c. alteration of Middle English parfit (c. 1300), from Old French parfit “finished, completed, ready” (11c.), from Latin per “completely” (see per) + combining form of facere “to make, to do”

We even run into this term in religious writings:

The English Term Perfect:

Biblical and Philosophical Tensions– Dennis Bratcher (Christian Resource Institute)

 

The word “perfect” that we knock around so much in theological and biblical discussions is often misunderstood. We tend to apply an unqualified philosophical meaning to it and have it mean “without flaw” or “without error” or put it into other absolute categories. It then becomes easy to say that Jesus’ command in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:48), “Be therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect,” is a laudable goal, but one that is impossible for human beings to achieve. That is even easier to do from certain doctrinal or theological positions that assume human beings cannot ever respond to God beyond their contaminated sinful nature (see Body and Soul).

The problem in this thinking is that the Hebrew word (tam or tamim) does not carry the same meaning of “without flaw” in an absolute sense as does the term “perfect” in English. Tamim basically means complete or mature or healthy (for example, Lev 22:21). There are some sacrificial passages in the Priestly codes that describe animals acceptable for sacrifice as tamim. Some might take this in an absolute sense as “without flaw.” However, the sense is really
“healthy” in the sense of “free from any mark or damage” (BBE) or with “no blemish” (NRSV, KJV). In other words, it must be a healthy animal and not be lame or sick or one that has obvious deformities

That meaning of healthy, whole, or mature dominates most use of the equivalent Greek term in the New Testament (telos or tefeios). Something, or someone, can be complete, healthy, or mature yet not be “without flaw.” So, while there are places In the New Testament that translate the word telos as perfect, other places reveal that it carries the meaning of healthy or mature. For example, in Ephesians 4:13

4:13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Here the word translated “maturity” is the word teleios, which is the same word translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

So part of the problem is this: we confuse “perfect” to mean flawless, instead of mature or healthy. So at what point in our masonic lifetime are we considered mature?

I point you to the three ages of man as pointed out by our ritual. We are considered “adults” as Fellowcraft.

What point are we considered suitable so that we can be adjusted to fit in with our Brethren? At the end of the EA. We are adjusted, as it references in the degrees, by the Plumb, the Square and the Level. The EA degree is about “perfecting ourselves”. The Fe degree is about adjusting ourselves to fit others, so that we can be raised. And only after we are “tried” and found “true” with others can we be cemented together.

Final Thoughts

Our process of improving a man requires us to only admit the best men to our lodges. Why?

Think about the nature of the EA working tools, the 24″ gauge and the gavel. And if we add in the “missing tool” from our continental brethren, the difference becomes more obvious. That being the chisel? In operative masonry, what are these tools used for? In speculative, how are they used?

The working tools of the EA teach us to remove excess stuff. The compasses in the EA teach us to limit ourselves. Even the four cardinal virtues when fully analyzed teach us limiting behaviors.

So I ask you one final question tonight Brothers. Is there any part of our lodge’s maturing and improvement process that adds to the man??

If our tools only remove the bad stuff, then perhaps that explains why the “common ashlars” that we select for our lodges must be high quality men who are truly prepared when they come to our worksite.

I want to thank Dr John Nagy, the author of the BBB series, for allowing me to use the reference about the 7 Kinds of Ashlars. I want to thank WB Kemble for inviting me tonight. Thank you to the WM for allowing me to have this time. And finally thanks to all of you here tonight for your attention and participation. I hope you found this useful.

The Chamber of Reflection: A Revitalized and Misunderstood Masonic Practice

The Chamber of Reflection:

A Revitalized and Misunderstood Masonic Practice

Roberto M. Sanchez
Full Member, Junior Warden, Texas Lodge of Research
District Deputy Grand Master 2013
Past Master, Gray Lodge No. 329 Houston, Texas
Past Master, St. Alban’s Lodge No. 1455 College Station, Texas
1678 Beaconshire Rd.
Houston, TX 77077
281-536-3231
rmsh13@yahoo.com

Though the initiation rituals of Freemasonry are universal with slight variation according to various Grand Lodge jurisdiction, most American lodges fail to incorporate one of the oldest traditions utilized to prepare candidates through the use of the chamber of reflection. Prior to 2009, the majority of Masons in the United States were unaware of the use of the chamber of reflection as an accepted preparation practice for the degrees. The chamber of reflection was not a phrase common to pop culture, or even a part of American Freemasonry. However, thanks to author Dan Brown and his best-selling thriller The Lost Symbol, it has become a growing trend in many American Masonic lodges. Those Freemasons who are members of the York Rite, more especially the Commandery, are tacitly familiar with the chamber of reflection. Yet, even these degrees provide scant explanation in any of the rituals. Somewhere in the transition towards a modern American society, the true intent of the chamber of reflection vanished into the mist of antiquity. It is the purpose of this author to explore the history, protocol, and traditions of the chamber of reflection. While traveling to several Grand jurisdictions in several different countries, I discovered that the chamber of reflection is very much alive where it has been continually practiced for years. Most of the brethren who received their initiations in Europe, Mexico, Central and South America, Middle East and Africa will be acquainted with the chamber of reflection. Lastly, the practice may be found in the degrees in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the French Rite, the Brazilian Rite and other rites derived from those listed.

In The Lost Symbol, a fictional thriller involving the Freemasons, Dan Brown introduces to the reader one of Freemasonry’s greatest initiatory tools – the chamber of reflection.

“The skull sat atop a rickety wooden desk positioned against the rear wall of the chamber. Two human leg bones sat beside the skull, along with a collection of other items that were meticulously arranged on the desk in shrine like fashion – an antique hourglass, a crystal flask, a candle, two saucers of pale powder, and a sheet of paper. Propped against the wall beside the desk stood the fearsome shape of a long scythe, its curved blade as familiar as that of the grim reaper… ‘This room is Masonic?’ Sato demanded, turning from the skull and staring at Langdon in the darkness. Langdon nodded calmly, ‘it’s called a Chamber of Reflection. These rooms are designed as cold, austere places in which a Mason can reflect on his own mortality. By meditating on the inevitability of death, a Mason gains valuable perspective on the fleeting nature of life.’ ”
Dan Brown goes on to paint a vivid picture of the meaning of the chamber of reflection and lists items found in such a place. But what did all of this mean to the Freemasons? How many American Freemason could actually identify the meaning of the items in this “secret room”?1

The chamber of reflection is not a new innovation but an ancient tradition older than the Craft itself. In Freemasonry, the chamber of reflection was originally found in the French and Scottish Rites. This small room, usually adjacent to the lodge, is the predecessor of what Freemasons, commonly call the “anteroom.” The purpose of the chamber of reflection is to give the candidate a chance to prepare himself for his initiation into the Fraternity. It is not just for the external preparation of the candidate, to put on the required garments, but for the internal mental preparation of the candidate. The candidate is encouraged through self reflection to contemplate what his motives are for joining the lodge. The chamber of reflection is exactly what it implies, a quiet room where the candidate is to meditate before his initiation. Isolation in this cavern-like room is where a symbolic metamorphosis is experienced, the neophyte emerges from this chamber symbolically transformed into a new person. It serves to separate the candidate of all earthly things, his family, his job, the superfluities of daily life, and makes him consider the notions of his own mortality. The chamber of reflection was intended to be the candidate’s very first experience in Masonry. However, it is important to note that the chamber of reflection is a preparation tool, and not part of the degree itself. 2

There are slight variations to the contents located within a chamber of reflection. For the context of this paper, the most common items as listed in the rituals of the French and Scottish Rite will be referenced. According to Albert Pike, the chamber of reflection “should be one story below the lodge room; and if possible, underground, with no window. The floor must, in any case, be of earth. On the walls should be brief sentences of morality, and maxims austere philosophy, written as if with charcoal.” The room should be completely dark, and the walls painted black or made to look like the interior of a cave. In the center of the room is placed a small wooden table, accompanied by a stool or uncomfortable wooden chair for the candidate to sit on. On the table the following items should be somberly placed: a single lit candle, a human skull and crossed tibia (leg bones), an hour glass, a small bell, a small loaf of bread, a basin of water, containers of salt, sulphur, and mercury, a mirror, papers, a quill pen and ink. In some chambers of reflection, there may be a picture or representation of a rooster instead of the mercury. Lastly the alchemical cipher V∴I∴T∴R∴ I∴O∴L∴, and the words “Know Thyself” should be written somewhere on the wall.3

The emblems and relics found in a chamber of reflection all have a very specific significance. Before expanding on these symbols, let us follow a candidate’s journey into the chamber of reflection on the day of his initiation into this tradition. First the candidate, dressed in suitable lodge attire (dark suit and tie) is brought to the lodge building by his sponsor. He must not meet any of the other Mason except the ones necessary. The Secretary and the Master of Ceremonies, (an officer who in some jurisdictions would be equivalent to the First Expert,) both dressed without any Masonic insignia, meet the candidate. The Secretary collects the necessary fees and returns to the lodgeroom. The Master of Ceremonies stays with the candidate, while the sponsor also goes into the lodgeroom. The Master of Ceremonies then blindfolds the candidate and introduces him into the chamber of reflection. He presents the candidate with a piece of paper with questions that the candidate must answer. The Master of Ceremonies indicates to the candidate that he must write on the paper his moral and philosophical testament. He then instructs the candidate that when he has finished this task, he should ring the bell, or give three knocks to acknowledge that he is ready to proceed with the rest of the initiation. He is also told that, once the door is closed, he should remove the hoodwink. At that time, the candidate sees the chamber and the objects described earlier.4

The chamber of reflection is an important symbol. It represents a womblike state, where the aspirant is to participate in his rebirth as an initiate, to indicate when the candidate emerges from the chamber, in the same manner as being born a new man. Thus, the chamber indicates at the same time, a beginning and an end. The end of the candidate’s life as a profane, and the beginning of a new life as an initiate in search of more light. According to Andrew Hammer, in his book Observing the Craft,

“Before ever knocking at the door of the Craft, the initiate was confronted with the gravity of his choice to join, so that any doubts he might have entertained could be acted upon. In this way he might be spared a commitment he has not truly resolved to make, and the Lodge spared a man who would not endure even the test of confronting himself, much less having the resolve to better that which he had confronted. He is put in darkness and isolation because both of these things together decrease the perception of time, and make a relatively short period of time seem much longer. Thus, when the initiate arrives at the door of a Lodge, he has, to mind, long been in darkness.”

This is the beginning of the journey for each candidate as they embark into the mystical and dramatic realm of Freemasonry. It is at this point the candidate stands at the threshold of initiation where he may turn back. Yet, if he chooses to proceed his life will be forever transformed. If the candidate fails to progress through the work of the remaining degrees, by their experiences in the outer chamber will force them to reflect upon their reason for wishing to become a Mason, and as such, for all their actions in life.5

The most misunderstood emblem is the skull. For centuries many non-masons and some persons within the Fraternity believed the skull to be an immoral and malicious symbol. It represented a malevolent and evil nature, such as poison or danger. But in the chamber of reflection, as in the rest of Masonry, that is not the case. The skull has appeared for centuries in various Masonic degrees, tracing boards, and aprons, such as the nineteenth century Knight Templar apron. The skull, together with the crossbones, is a symbol of mortality, and is used to elaborate on the other symbols present in the chamber. Its’ purpose is to serve as a reminder of the Latin phrase memento mori, “remember, you will die.” It serves as a reminder that our earthly life is not eternal and your time spent on this earth is limited and should be spent to improve society, yourself, and your spiritual service. Death is eminent, and each of us at one point or another must face this ultimate ending.6

The hourglass is an emblem of human life and represents the passing or marking of time. It symbolizes the futility of attempting to stop or to slow down time. As the candidate watches the slowly falling sands running through the hourglass so too does his time slowly runs out to death. The hourglass elaborates on the solemn thought of death, and reminds the candidate of the fleeting nature of his mortality. Together the skull, the hourglass alludes to mortality and reminds the future Mason to make good use of his short time on Earth.7

The bread and water represent the bare necessities of life and are humble emblems of sustenance and simplicity. Bread, considered one of the most meager forms of nourishment, reminds the candidate to live his life plainly, simply and humbly. Water is one of the four elements essential to the ancient mysteries, and is also an emblem of purity, or cleansing. In some variations of the chamber of reflection, the candidate is required to wash his hands as a symbol of the purity of his intentions.8

The burning candle and bell lack some of the esoteric significance attached to the other emblems but are also important. The bell is rarely used since it takes up space on the small table used in the chamber of reflection. It’s sole purpose is to inform the Master of Ceremonies, or the Mason in charge of the candidate while he is in the chamber, that the candidate is ready for the degree. Most common the candidate knocking three times on the door, has replaced the bell at the completion of his mental preparation. The single burning candle primarily serves to provide the candidate with suitable lighting so he may perform the assigned task, whether it be writing his philosophical last will and testament, required questions or thoughts, all depending on the Masonic jurisdiction, or practiced Masonic rite. 9

There are several items associated with alchemy in the chamber of reflection. To begin the ultimate goal of an alchemist was to turn a crude and superfluous metal into aprosperous and valuable metal such as transforming lead into gold. In the chamber of reflection, the alchemical elements are there to represent a different transformation, that of transforming the petitioner into a candidate. These alchemical elements are salt, sulfur and mercury. Salt alludes to several uses, but in the alchemical sense it alludes to the human soul. Salt is a preservative, and reminds the candidate that his activities while on earth should be remembered in a positive manner even after death. Salt, in excess may also spoil the food it was intended to preserve and admonishes the candidate to moderate his desires and passions. 10

Sulfur refers to the human body since some forms of sulfur are found in hair and skin. It is also a mindful reminder that all trials come to pass. Just as the foul odor of the sulfur will dissipate over time, so shall any trials and tribulations the candidate may encounter. It serves as a lesson, and reminds the candidate to make all things a learning experience. The coupling of salt and sulphur are the equivalent of the checkered pavement. It represents that of ambivalence and balance of light and darkness, truth and error, life and death, soul and body. 11

Mercury may appear in the chamber of reflection as the element itself, or it may be symbolically represented as a rooster or cockerel, either painted or as a ceramic figurine. The rooster is a symbol for the Greek god Hermes, or the Roman god Mercury, who crows at the dawn of day announcing the coming of light. This alludes to vigilance and also corresponds with faith. Mercury is a symbol of the emergence of the darkness of ignorance and fear. It is also the omen foretelling spiritual trial and testing. Just as we need vigilance and perseverance to seek truth and the light, we must also have the courage to acknowledge it when our social standing, ego, and perception from others challenge it. Mercury, salt, and sulfur, together, allude to the makeup of man and all substances. These three symbolic elements derive from alchemy, a tradition which has provided us with all of the symbols we use today to describe a metamorphosis, thereby alluding to a lesson the candidate will learn in the first degree—to circumscribe his desires and keep his passions in due bounds. 12

The quill pen and paper are placed in the chamber of reflection for the candidate to perform his appointed task of writing as he is instructed. Depending upon the particular Rite or degree, the candidate is asked to compose a short piece of writing. Most common, however, the candidate is encouraged to write reasons for petitioning for the degrees, or, in some lodges, his moral and philosophical last will and testament. Since the candidate is confronted with the thoughts of his own mortality, he is asked to put into writing where all of his worldly belongings and legacy would go in case of his ultimate demise. In some variations, specifically in the advanced degrees of the York Rite, there is a Bible on the table, and the candidate is asked to read the verse or verses associated with the degree. In the Brazilian Rite, the candidate receives yet another task in addition to the ones already mentioned. He is presented with Articles I and II of the Constitution of the respective Jurisdiction. The candidate must then sign and declare to affirm solidarity and act accordingly to the principles of Freemasonry. In some of the lodges around the world, where the chamber of reflection is used, it is customary to invite the initiate back into the chamber of reflection on his fifth year anniversary of his initiation. He then is presented with the same emblems he saw before his initiation, but now he is also presented with his philosophical and moral last will and testament. The purpose of this exercise is for the initiate to reflect on his initiation, and see how far he has come and transformed over the years. This practice may be repeated on different Masonic anniversaries. In all, this portion of the chamber of reflection allows the candidate a chance to reconsider his request for membership. If his motives are not pure, if he is fearful and does not have the courage to proceed, then he may not be able to inviolate the secrets of Freemasonry. 13

The alchemical cipher V∴I∴T∴R∴ I∴O∴L∴ is an important element in some versions of the chamber of reflection. It is an acronym for the Latin phrase Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem, which means, “Visit the interior of the Earth, and by rectifying, you shall find the hidden stone.” Sometimes this acronym appears with the addition of U∴M∴ at the end, signifying, Veram Medicinam, which means the “true medicine”. As previously mentioned, the alchemist’s goal was to change base metals into gold, and the acronym vitriol was the recipe that would ultimately produce such a transformation. However, in Masonry, the term vitriol is used as a tool to remind the candidate to look within himself. Thus, using his time in this solemn chamber to reflect and examine his own life, and therefore search for ways in which he could improve himself internally. Its ultimate goal is to have the candidate reach a sense of self attainment thereby understanding the other saying that should be written in the chamber — Know Thyself. The candidate is to take this advice metaphorically. The meaning conveyed is that one must search within oneself, as the truth is hidden there, and this truth is the real solution to life’s problems.14

The mirror is essential to the Chamber of Reflection, because the purpose of this portion of the initiation process is to allow the candidate to reflect. He is also to reflect on his own mortality, the reasons he has chosen to join the Craft, and to contemplate his own understanding of himself. According to the lecture in the Third Degree, we are taught that Hiram Abiff repaired to the Holy of Holies to reflect upon the work he had accomplished, to meditate and pray. It is in the chamber of reflection where the candidate gets a chance to practice the teachings of the Craft as they are intended, and emulate our ancient patron. Another example of reflection and looking within oneself is portrayed in the Rectified Scottish Rite. When the candidate is brought to light in the first degree, and the hoodwink is removed, the first thing he sees are the brethren looking back at him. It is at this point the Worshipful Master informs him that “It is not always before oneself, that one finds his enemies. That which is to be feared the most is many times behind himself. Turn around!” It is at this time that the candidate is once again presented with the mirror and sees his own reflection. It is a lesson by which the candidate is taught that the enemy is usually within oneself. Therefore, each member of the Craft should know and scrutinize himself in order to break off the rough and superfluous parts of his life in order to live the life of a true follower of the Craft. Thus, the chamber of reflection allows the candidate the chance to truly analyze and examine himself and the symbols in the room around him.15

The symbols, elements, and lessons within the chamber of reflection are provided for the specific purpose of allowing the candidate to meditate, reflect and contemplate. None of the emblems should ever be used to frighten, haze, tease, or humiliate the candidate in any way. The purpose of the chamber of reflection and its symbolic elements are meant to illustrate to the initiate that the ceremony of initiation is not to be taken lightly.16

But what does all of this mean to the American Mason? Where did the Chamber of Reflection go and why is it experiencing a revival in American Freemasonry? The earliest English reference to a Chamber of Reflection seems to be in Jachin and Boaz, the English exposure of the ritual of the Ancient’s Grand Lodge, published in 1762. Its description strongly resembles that of the one in the French exposure, Les Secrets de Francs-
Maçons, published in 1742. In Jachin and Boaz the chamber of reflection process is explained as follows:

“Soon after, the Master asks if the Gentleman proposed last Lodge-Night is ready to be made; and on being answered in the Affirmative, he orders the Wardens to go out and prepare the Person, who is generally waiting in a Room at some Distance from the Lodge-Room, by himself, being left there by his Friend who proposed him. He is conducted into another Room, which is totally dark; and then asked, whether he is conscious of having the Vocation necessary to be received? On answering, Yes, he is asked his Name, Surname, and Profession. When he has answered these Questions, whatever he has about him made of Metal is taken off, as Buckles, Buttons, Rings, Boxes, and even the Money in his pocket taken away. Then they make him uncover his Right Knee, and put his Left Foot with his Shoe on, into a Slipper; hoodwink him with a Handkerchief, and leave him to his Reflection for about half an Hour. The Chamber is also guarded within and without, by some of the Brethren, who have drawn Swords in their Hands, to keep off all Strangers, in case any should dare approach. The Person who proposed the Candidate stays in the Room with him; but they are not permitted to ask any Questions, or converse together.”

The idea of the chamber of reflection, as part of Masonic practice, also spread to Germany, Belgium, Holland, and other European countries. Between 1787 and 1801, Friedrich Ludwig Schroeder worked on a revision of the German ritual based on Jachin and Boaz entitled Schroedersches Lehrlingritual. It was accepted and worked in a number of German lodges, although other versions of the ritual continued to be practiced. 17

In the early 1800’s, the chamber of reflection was being used and practiced in several craft lodges in the United States. By 1814, the chamber of reflection had made its way into the rituals of the Grand Encampment of New York, and by 1816, to General Grand Encampment at its formation. The chamber of reflection was a well understood and a well-practiced Masonic custom in the United States at this epoch of its history. Some Freemasons even had small chambers of reflections in their homes, while others would make it a habit to revisit the one they used during their initiation into the Craft. All of this began to change by 1826, the year that America’s most notorious incident involving the Freemasons took place — the Morgan Affair.18

Captain William Morgan, a disgruntled Mason, announced plans to publish the rituals of Freemasonry. Although a number of other ritual exposures had been published in the United States during the previous century, Masons were outraged that their secrets would be divulged to the community. On 11 September 1826, William Morgan was arrested and jailed for an outstanding debt. The next day four Masons paid the debt, bailed Morgan out of jail and escorted him to a waiting carriage. He was driven away and was never seen again. This event fuelled outrage among anti-Masons in the United States and gave birth to the Anti-Masonic political movement. Because of the Anti-Masonic movement, Freemasonry was forced to adapt and change. The laws of several grand jurisdictions were changed, and the old custom of having to be invited or “tapped” to join Masonry were forever changed. Several hundred lodges in the United States closed its doors. New York went from 480 lodges in 1826 to 75 in 1835; Massachusetts dropped from 180 Lodges to 56, and the Grand Lodge of Vermont completely went out of existence. Masonry experienced a transformation of a very exclusive and esoteric fraternity, to that of an open revolving door and transparent fraternity. The more esoteric traditions retreated from the craft lodge into the higher invitational bodies, while the rites and traditions of the craft lodge rituals were diluted or completely abandoned, like that of the chamber of reflection.19

According to Masonic researchers and authors S. Brent Morris and Arturo de Hoyos in their book Committed to the Flames, in 1826, after the Morgan Affair, Robert Benjamin Folger filled a book with the enciphered craft rituals of a secret Masonic Rite. These rituals were that of the Rectified Scottish Rite, also known as the Knights Beneficent of the Holy City or CBCS. This order was well known throughout Europe but completely unknown in the United States at the time. The chamber of reflection resurrected itself in the United States in rituals such as the Rectified Scottish Rite, but never really returned into mainstream craft lodges until the end of the twentieth century.20

Masonry has been forced to adapt and change in order to survive, such as the creation of Masonic fraternal organizations like the Shrine and Grotto, to family oriented ones such as the Order of DeMolay, and Rainbow Girls. Based on the information presented in this paper, chambers of reflection are gaining in popularity again because the younger Masons who are joining lodges today are very interested in the ancient mysteries of the Masonic Orders, and its old traditions. Organizations like the Masonic Restoration Foundation have been created for the purpose of restoring some of these once forgotten Masonic traditions, while at the same time regulating the customs so they will not be done incorrectly. Several grand lodges have adopted a number these customs and traditions in order to regulate them. In a grand masters decision issued 23 January 2013, the Grand Master of Colorado approved the Masonic practices and observances of chambers of reflection, officers processions, and chains of union.21

Over the past several years, there have been several articles written about the chamber of reflection with no real research behind them. There are several lodges using chambers of reflection with the goal of scaring the candidate, or doing it because it is a “cool thing to do.” If a lodge’s members do not know what V∴I∴T∴R∴ I∴O∴L∴means or represents, and they do not know how to explain it to the new initiate, then that lodge should not be using a chamber of reflection. This important preparatory tool shouldn’t be used because it is cool. Rather, it should be used because it helps the candidate prepare himself mentally for the degree, it is an old tradition of the Craft, and it is the correct thing to do. Most importantly, each lodge should practice and follow the constitutions, resolutions, and edicts of the grand lodge under whose jurisdiction it is chartered. In The Laws of The Grand Lodge of Texas, A.F. & A.M., it states that only the ritual approved by the Grand Lodge of Texas may be used in its lodge rooms and ante rooms opening directly into the lodge rooms. However, I find no mention in our grand lodge law regarding or restricting chambers of reflection, or items that may decorate, be stored in, or be present in the preparation room. Furthermore, there are no guidelines as to how the candidate is to be prepared prior to the beginning of the degree.22

There is great meaning in the chamber of reflection. A Mason can quietly meditate upon the individual meanings of the contents in the chamber, while reflecting on his purpose for joining, and becoming a better man. More importantly, it removes the candidate from the rest of the membership, who might tease the candidate and advise him to beware of the goat. Throughout my travels in a number of Masonic jurisdictions around the world, I recognized the great importance of this tradition, which has been used for centuries in worldwide Freemasonry. The chamber of reflection should be used prior to each of the three degrees. Every practicing Mason should propose to his respective grand lodge the restoration of the traditional chamber of reflection. This is an important custom that should be restored to every lodge thus allowing the candidate to participate in a True Masonic Experience.


Appendix A

The following is a translated Entered Apprentice Chamber of Reflection Ritual in its entirety:

Mr. _____________________
YOU ARE NOW SEATED IN THE CHAMBER OF REFLECTION, WHERE, IN SILENCE AND SOLITUDE, YOU WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITY FOR MEDITATION.

YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU DESIRE TO ENTER THE REALM OF FREEMASONRY. THESE DEGREES WILL INCULCATE THE CARDNAL VIRTUES, AS WELL AS THE PRINCIPLE TENETS OF OUR ORDER. YOU ARE IN THIS CHAMBER TO GIVE YOU A FEW MINUTES TO REFLECT ON WHY YOU ARE HERE FROM YOUR OWN PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE. REFLECT ON THE EXPECTATIONS YOU HAVE, THE BENEFITS YOU HAVE TO GAIN AND CONTRIBUTIONS YOU CAN OFFER THE LODGE IN RETURN.

WHILE THE WORLD IS SHUT OUT, MEDITATE UPON THESE THINGS, AND PREPARE YOUR HEART FOR THE SOLEMN CEREMONIES THROUGH WHICH YOU WILL BE CALLED TO PASS. THERE LIES ON THE TABLE BEFORE YOU A MELANCHOLY MEMENTO OF MORTALITY. BESIDE IT IS AN HOUR GLASS, WHICH I NOW REVERSE. (Done.) AS YOU BEHOLD ITS SLOWLY-FALLING SANDS, LEARN THAT SO SURELY ARE THE WASTING SANDS OF YOUR MORTAL LIFE RUNNING OUT TO DEATH.

THERE IS ALSO ON THIS TABLE THE HOLY BIBLE, WHICH IS OPENED TO PSALM 133. I ENJOIN UPON YOU AT THIS TIME THE READING OF THE VERSES INCLUSIVE OF THAT CHAPTER. WHEN YOU SHALL HAVE CONCLUDED THE READING YOU WILL DISCOVER SOME QUESTIONS, TO WHICH YOUR EXPLICIT ANSWERS ARE REQUIRED IN WRITING. REFLECT ON THEM, AND THEN ANSWER EACH WITH A SIMPLE “YES” OR “NO,” ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF YOUR CONSCIENCE. THEN SIGN YOUR NAME, IN FULL, TO EACH OF THEM.

YOU ALSO FIND THAT THERE ARE SOME ARTICLES OF CLOTHING , YOU WILL REMOVE ALL METALLIC SUBSTANCES ABOUT YOUR PERSON, REMOVE YOUR CLOTHING AND PUT ON WHAT IS PROVIDED FOR YOU.

I AM NOW ABOUT TO LEAVE YOU ALONE, AND WILL SIGNAL MY DEPARTURE BY THREE KNOCKS UPON THE DOOR, HEARING THEM, YOU WILL REMOVE THE HOODWINK AND PROCEED AS I HAVE DIRECTED. WHEN YOU SHALL HAVE CONCLUDED, GIVE THREE KNOCKS AND I WILL ATTEND YOU.


Appendix B

The following is a translated Fellowcraft Chamber of Reflection Ritual in its entirety:
Mr. _____________________
YOU ARE NOW SEATED IN THE CHAMBER OF REFLECTION, WHERE, IN SILENCE AND SOLITUDE, YOU WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITY FOR MEDITATION.

YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU DESIRE TO ENTER THE REALM OF FREEMASONRY. THESE DEGREES WILL INCULCATE THE CARDNAL VIRTUES, AS WELL AS THE PRINCIPLE TENETS OF OUR ORDER. YOU ARE IN THIS CHAMBER TO GIVE YOU A FEW MINUTES TO REFLECT ON WHY YOU ARE HERE FROM YOUR OWN PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE. REFLECT ON THE EXPECTATIONS YOU HAVE, THE BENEFITS YOU HAVE TO GAIN AND CONTRIBUTIONS YOU CAN OFFER THE LODGE IN RETURN.

WHILE THE WORLD IS SHUT OUT, MEDITATE UPON THESE THINGS, AND PREPARE YOUR HEART FOR THE SOLEMN CEREMONIES THROUGH WHICH YOU WILL BE CALLED TO PASS. THERE LIES ON THE TABLE BEFORE YOU A MELANCHOLY MEMENTO OF MORTALITY. BESIDE IT IS AN HOUR GLASS, WHICH I NOW REVERSE. (Done.) AS YOU BEHOLD ITS SLOWLY-FALLING SANDS, LEARN THAT SO SURELY ARE THE WASTING SANDS OF YOUR MORTAL LIFE RUNNING OUT TO DEATH.

THERE IS ALSO ON THIS TABLE THE HOLY BIBLE, WHICH IS OPENED TO AMOS 7. I ENJOIN UPON YOU AT THIS TIME THE READING OF THE VERSES INCLUSIVE OF THAT CHAPTER.

YOU ALSO FIND THAT THERE ARE SOME ARTICLES OF CLOTHING , YOU WILL REMOVE ALL METALLIC SUBSTANCES ABOUT YOUR PERSON, REMOVE YOUR CLOTHING AND PUT ON WHAT IS PROVIDED FOR YOU.

I AM NOW ABOUT TO LEAVE YOU ALONE, AND WILL SIGNAL MY DEPARTURE BY THREE KNOCKS UPON THE DOOR, HEARING THEM, YOU WILL REMOVE THE HOODWINK AND PROCEED AS I HAVE DIRECTED. WHEN YOU SHALL HAVE CONCLUDED, GIVE THREE KNOCKS AND I WILL ATTEND YOU.


Appendix C

The following is a translated Master Mason’s Chamber of Reflection Ritual in its entirety:
BROTHER. _____________________
YOU ARE NOW SEATED IN THE CHAMBER OF REFLECTION, WHERE, IN SILENCE AND SOLITUDE, YOU WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITY FOR MEDITATION.

YOU ARE HERE BECAUSE YOU DESIRE TO ENTER THE REALM OF FREEMASONRY. THIS DEGREES WILL INCULCATE ALL VIRTUES OF THIS ORGANIZATION, AS WELL AS THE PRINCIPLE TENETS OF OUR ORDER. YOU ARE IN THIS CHAMBER TO GIVE YOU A FEW MINUTES TO REFLECT ON WHY YOU ARE HERE FROM YOUR OWN PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE. REFLECT ON THE EXPECTATIONS YOU HAVE, THE BENEFITS YOU HAVE TO GAIN AND CONTRIBUTIONS YOU CAN OFFER THE LODGE IN RETURN. THIS DEGREE REMINDS THAT WE ARE IMORTAL AND THAT ONE DAY , WE WILL CESE TO EXIST.

WHILE THE WORLD IS SHUT OUT, MEDITATE UPON THESE THINGS, AND PREPARE YOUR HEART FOR THE SOLEMN CEREMONIES THROUGH WHICH YOU WILL BE CALLED TO PASS. THERE LIES ON THE TABLE BEFORE YOU A MELANCHOLY MEMENTO OF MORTALITY. BESIDE IT IS AN HOUR GLASS, WHICH I NOW REVERSE. (Done.) AS YOU BEHOLD ITS SLOWLY-FALLING SANDS, LEARN THAT SO SURELY ARE THE WASTING SANDS OF YOUR MORTAL LIFE RUNNING OUT TO DEATH.

THERE IS ALSO ON THIS TABLE THE HOLY BIBLE, WHICH IS OPENED TO ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 12. I ENJOIN UPON YOU AT THIS TIME THE READING OF THE VERSES INCLUSIVE OF THAT CHAPTER. WHEN YOU SHALL HAVE CONCLUDED THE READING YOU WILL DISCOVER YOUR LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT. REFLECT ON THIS, AND THEN COMPLETE IT ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF YOUR CONSCIENCE. THEN SIGN YOUR NAME, IN FULL.

YOU ALSO FIND THAT THERE ARE SOME ARTICLES OF CLOTHING , YOU WILL REMOVE ALL METALLIC SUBSTANCES ABOUT YOUR PERSON, REMOVE YOUR CLOTHING AND PUT ON WHAT IS PROVIDED FOR YOU.

I AM NOW ABOUT TO LEAVE YOU ALONE, AND WILL SIGNAL MY DEPARTURE BY THREE KNOCKS UPON THE DOOR, HEARING THEM, YOU WILL REMOVE THE HOODWINK AND PROCEED AS I HAVE DIRECTED. WHEN YOU SHALL HAVE CONCLUDED, GIVE THREE KNOCKS AND I WILL ATTEND YOU.


Appendix D

A Chamber of Reflection in Mexico


Appendix E

A Chamber of Reflection in the USA


Appendix F

A diagram of a Chamber of Reflection


Appendix G

Chamber of Reflection Courtesy of Edolon House / The Joe and Jill Chronicles


Appendix H

Grand Masters of Colorado Decision on Chambers of Reflection


NOTES

1 Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 149-160.

2 Daniel Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry (London: Assouline, 2000), 22-25; Allen Roberts, The Craft and Its Symbols (Richmond: Macoy), 13; “Initiation,” Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (Richmond: Macoy, 1995)327.

3 Albert Pike, The Porch and the Middle Chamber (Kessinger Publishing), 5-13; Christopher Hodapp, Deciphering the Lost Symbol (Berkley: Ulysses press, 2010), 72-73.

4 Giordano Gamberini, Codice Massonico Delle Logge Riunite E Rettificate Di Francia (Foggia: Bastogi, 1778), 16-51; Daniel Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons (Paris: Assouline, 1997), 24-30.

5 Cliff Porter, The Secret Psychology of Freemasonry (Colorado Springs: Starr Publishing, 2011), 128-170; Andrew Hammer, Observing the Craft ( Mindhive Books, 2010), 101-102.

6 “Skull and Crossbones,” Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (Richmond: Macoy, 1995),623; Hodapp, Deciphering,, 52-53,72-73; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Mark O’Connell, and Raje Airey, The Complete Encyclopedia of Signs & Symbols (Hermes House), 159; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110.

7 “Hourglass,” Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (Richmond: Macoy, 1995), 623; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Monitor of the Lodge, Grand Lodge of Texas, A.F. & A.M. (Waco, TX: Waco Printing Co., 2010), 85; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; O’Connell and Airey, Signs & Symbols,159, 229 .

8 “Communion,” Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (Richmond: Macoy, 1995), 143; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110.

9 Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25.

10 Lewis Spence, The Encyclopedia of the Occult (London: Bracken Books, 1988), 9-13; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30; O’Connell and Airey, Signs & Symbols,146-147, 206 .

11 Lewis Spence, The Encyclopedia of the Occult (London: Bracken Books, 1988), 9-13; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30; O’Connell and Airey, Signs & Symbols,146-147, 206

12 Lewis Spence, The Encyclopedia of the Occult (London: Bracken Books, 1988), 9-13; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30; O’Connell and Airey, Signs & Symbols,146-147, 206

13 Manual de Aaprendiz Macom Segundo o Ssistema do Rito Brasilero. (Brasilia: Grande Oriente do Brasil, 1986) ; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30.

14 M. O’Connell and R. Airey, Signs & Symbols,144-147, 206 ,227-233, 240-244; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30 .

15 Gamberini, Codice Massonico,16-65; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30; O’Connell and Airey, Signs & Symbols, 92-95, 234 .

16 Gamberini, Codice Massonico,16-65; Hodapp, Deciphering,,72-73; Beresniak, Symbols of Freemasonry, 22-25; Porter, Secret Psychology, 128-170; Hammer, Observing the Craft, 100-110; Beresniak, Les Symboles de Francs-Macons, 24-30; “Chamber of Reflection,” Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (Richmond: Macoy, 1995),127; “Chamber of Reflection,” Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, ed., rev. and enl. By Robert L. Clegg, 2 vols ( Chicago: Masonic History, 1929), 1 190; “Chamber of Reflection,” Robert Macoy, A Dictionary of Freemasonry(New York: Gramercy Books, 1989), 106 .

17 Jachin and Boaz (London: W. N. Coll, 1762); Perau, M. L’abbei, L’Ordre des Francs-Macons Trahi, et Le Secret des Mopses Revele'(AAnsterdam, 1745).

18 S. Brent Morris, The Folgers Manuscript, ( Illinois: The Masonic Book Club, 1992) 179-200, xv-xxviii; Stephen Dafoe, Morgan (New Orleans: A Cornerstone Book, 2009)45-124.

19 Dafoe, Morgan, 45-124; Morris, Folgers Manuscript, 1992.

20 Arturo De Hoyos & Brent Morris, Committed to the Flames (London: Lewis Masonic, 2008), 181-186, 193-195.

21 Grand Masters Decision, Grand Lodge of Colorado (Appendix H).

22 The Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas, A.F. & A.M. (Waco, TX: Waco Printing Co., 2011).

Published by permission of the author and the Texas Lodge of Research.