The Checkered Flooring

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The mosaic pavement of the lodge is discussed in the lecture of the first degree.

This is commonly described as the checkered carpet which covers the floor of the lodge. The lecture says that the mosaic pavement “is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple” and is “emblematic of human life, checkered with good and evil.”

In the account of King Solomon’s Temple in the Bible, the ground floor is said to be made of pine or fir, depending on which translation of the Bible that you read (1 Ki 6:15). It is hard to imagine that pine or fir flooring would be particularly mosaic in nature. However, it can be agreed that the mosaic pavement represents the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple in the Entered Apprentice degree because that ceremony symbolically takes place in that location.

While these facts may not be particularly intriguing, the symbolism of the checkered carpeting presents some interesting concepts.

Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry discusses the symbol of the the mosaic pavement.

mosaic pavement“The mosaic pavement in an old symbol of the Order. It is met with in the earliest rituals of the last century. It is classed among the ornaments of the lodge along with the indented tessel and the blazing star. Its party-colored stones of black and white have been readily and appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life.”1

So from this information, it can be understood that the concept of duality has played a part in Masonic symbolism since the early days of the fraternity. While duality is not often discussed in the ritual of the Blue Lodge, the Scottish Rite mentions this concept numerous times. The Rite makes the ideas of dualism, or opposition, in the universe an important part of its theme. Indeed, the ideas of the Kabbala and the Alchemists are used in the Scottish Rite to discuss this concept in several of the degrees.2

The lecture pertaining to the 15th Degree, Knight of the East and West, discusses the idea of duality or good and evil as a conflict. Pike writes “God is great, and good, and wise. Evil and pain and sorrow are temporary, and for wise and beneficent purposes…Ultimately, Good will prevail, and Evil be overthrown.”3

But while this idea of duality and the conflict between good and evil are cause for contemplation, it can be confusing to understand how they apply to our actions as Masons.

black and white, good and badWhen thinking about the idea of duality and the concept of good and evil, black and white, sacred and profane, an image that immediately enters my mind is that of the Yin-Yang. While this symbol has become a sort of pop culture icon in recent times, its symbolism is deep and its meaning applicable to this subject. While it has numerous interpretations, the yin-yang demonstrates the concept of duality and balance.4

The synonym balance is an important term because of the position of the checkered carpet: the floor, where the foundation of the erect human body may be found. The Mason is taught to avoid irregularity and intemperance and to divide his time equally by the use of the twenty-four inch gauge. These lessons refer to the importance of balance in a Mason’s life. Therefore, the symbolism of the mosaic pavement could be interpreted to mean that balance provides the foundation for our Masonic growth.

Maintaining balance allows us to adhere to many Masonic teachings. By maintaining balance, we may be able to stand upright in our several stations before God and man. The Entered Apprentice is charged to keep balance in his life so that he may ensure public and private esteem. It is also very interesting that the concept of justice is represented by a scale which is balanced and that justice is described as being the foundation of civil society in the first degree of Masonry.

There is a vast variety of symbolism presented to the new initiate in the first degree. It is very easy for the symbol of the mosaic pavement and its several meanings to be lost in the sea of information provided upon our first admission into the lodge. But a deeper look demonstrates that this symbol serves to demonstrate ideals which form the foundation of our individual Masonic growth, the Masonic fraternity, and even the entire human society. Living in balance makes us healthy, happy, and just. If our feet are well balanced, both literally and figuratively, we may be able to serve the purpose of the fraternity faithfully.

  1. Mackey, Albert. An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences p. 494.
  2. Hutchens, Rex. A Bridge to Light p. 18.
  3. Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma p. 274
  4. Symbols and Their Meaning. Kjos Ministries. http://www.crossroad.to/Books/symbols1.html.

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Comments

  1. A great man once said “Two players. Two sides. One is light, one is dark.”

  2. Hey, a very interesting article there.

    Wilmshurst wrote about the floor: “The dualism of these opposites governs us in everything, and experience of it is prescribed for us until such time as, having learned and out­grown its lesson, we are ready for advancement to a condition where we outgrow the sense of this chequer-work existence and those opposites cease to be perceived as opposites, but are realized as a unity or synthesis.”. In “The Meaning of Masonry”, chapter 3 (Available at: http://www.bradford.ac.uk/webofhiram/?section=meaning_of_masonry&page=ChapterIII.html )

    I think that the chequered flooring is crucial to the understanding of good and evil, as if one side didn’t exist then the other wouldn’t exist. This is why, within some Christian interpretations/denominations, the idea of “good” (i.e. God) created the idea of bad (i.e. fallen angels, such as the Devil). So, it’s not just in eastern philosophy/religion that we see a Yin/Yang type metaphor, but we also see it in Abrahamic faiths (such as Christianity) too.

    Therefore going back to the flooring of Freemasonry, it says that in nature there are always going to be ups and downs, goods and bads… and we have to deal with that. We have to keep on working towards that smooth ashlar.

    Once again, great article.

    All the best,

    Bro. Daniel Lewis
    * St Vincent Lodge 1404 (Province of Bristol, UGLE). (p.s. at the time of writing this, I’m an Entered Apprentice)

  3. Direct and to the point. Nice observations, Jeff.

  4. Great information. Straight and to the point. Thank you.

  5. Answer this.

    What square do YOU stand on,black or white ?

  6. Very informative.Good stuff.Im just starting my journey to awesomeness.

  7. Ya… Many have evolved beyond this primitive symbolism. For instance, there is no good and evil, these are ambiguous constructs, they mean something only to someone convinced of their existence. Labels are not indicative of underlying truth, only perceptual limits, the need for a label, the need to create distinction between things is a fundamentally primitive mindset. A better metaphor would be a mirror, to show us that we are what we think we are, nothing more or less.

  8. Soldierluke says:

    I like the symbolism of duality, you can never break away from something that’s not holding you. I have read books of great minds and physically traveled all over the world, and that helped me broaden my level of LIGHT. If you live your life on the level, there will always be boundaries you shouldn’t cross. It’s for the good of one’s personal order that they govern themselves accordingly. When you’re mentally ready to step out of your square, that is when the learning of true knowlege begin. You should be aware when you seek knowlege outside that which you understand there will always be good and bad knowlege that you must CYPHER through. Your travel to become a perfect Ashlar ends with death but in the great sense of Duality all the knowlege you inhaled can be exhaled. Keep seeking that knowledge Brothers and Sisters and on your travel spread your understanding of your square to those facing East and those lost in the wilderness. The higher you climb the Zigorat the better the view of the floor you’re leaving. Where there’s wilderness, understanding, and misunderstanding on the floor;you must climb above that and seek the capstone of knowlege and light above the Zigorat. Those steps of knowlege make a charming snake that spoke to ADAMO. When ADAMO learned the DEGREE of difficulty facing them, they climbed on for understanding (LIGHT). You too must make this climb, will you rise like Hiram or attempt to steal and kill like the three ruffian.

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