The Symbolism of Pillars in Freemasonry

The symbol of the Pillars in Freemasonry, three in total, have a special place in the rituals and symbolism of Freemasonry. Many an author, including myself, have attempted to capture their meaning and give resonance to their understanding. Writing in a preamble to the second degree, I defined the pillars in their three representations or mercy, severity and mildness, writing:

Wisdom, the left-hand pillar of mercy, is an active pillar and representative of alchemical fire, which is the principal of spirituality, often called the pillar of Jachin. It is a masculine pillar, and relates to our mental energy, our loving kindness, and our creative inspiration as we traverse it up the Kabbalaistic tree through the Sephirot.

Strength is the right-hand pillar and takes the form of severity, shaped into the alchemical symbol of water.  It can represent darkness, but it is a passive symbol that is feminine in nature and called the pillar of Boaz. Upon it we find the points of our thoughts and ideas, our feelings and emotions, and the physicality of our physical experience, our sensations, each an aspect of its Cabalistic progression.

The mix of the symbols of fire and water.

Beauty, then, takes on the role of synthesis of the two, the pillar of mildness; it is upon this pillar that the novitiate is transformed through his progressive states as he progresses. The central pillar of Beauty is representative of Jehovah, the Tetragrammaton which represents deity itself upon which our crown of being resides balanced through feeling and emotion from our foundation of justice and mercy, which springs from our link to the everyday world.

H. A. Kingsbury, writing in The Three Supporting Pillars Of A Lodge, from The Builder Magazine in October 1917, writes of the pillars saying, The Mason is informed that the Three Supporting Pillars of the Lodge are Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty “because it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings”: he cannot but gather from the lectures and the work, particularly of the First Degree, that the Lodge is the symbol of the World: therefore, when he combines these two conceptions and draws the necessarily resulting conclusion, he arrives at the same understanding of the ultimate symbolic significance of the Three Pillars as did the ancient Hindus–the Three Supporting Pillars of the Lodge are, considered as a group, the symbol of Him Whose Wisdom contrived the World, Whose Strength supports the World, Whose Beauty adorns the World-Deity. 

Orders of architecture in Freemasonry.
Masonic Orders of Architecture: Doric, Tuscan, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite.

Wisdom, Strength and Beauty

From the first degree lecture, it reads,“The Worshipful Master represents the pillar of Wisdom, because he should have wisdom to open his Lodge, set the craft at work, and give them proper instructions. The Senior Warden represents the pillar of Strength, it being his duty to assist the Worshipful Master in opening and closing his Lodge, to pay the craft their wages, if any be due, and see that none go away dissatisfied, harmony being the strength of all institutions, more especially of ours. The Junior Warden represents the pillar of Beauty, it being his duty at all times to observe the sun at high meridian, which is the glory and beauty of the day.”

The masonic pillars as an ancient symbol

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Albert G. Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, writes of the pillars, saying:

In the earliest times it was customary to perpetuate remarkable events, or exhibit gratitude for providential favors, by the erection of pillars, which by the idolatrous races were dedicated to their spurious gods. Thus Sanchoniathon the Berytian tells us that Hypsourianos (Hypsuranius) and Ousous (Memrumus?), who lived before the Flood, dedicated two pillars to the elements, fire and air. Among the Egyptians the pillars were, in general, in the form of obelisks from fifty to one hundred feet high, and exceedingly slender in proportion. Upon their four sides hieroglyphics were often engraved. According to Herodotus, they were first raised in honor of the sun, and their pointed form was intended to represent his rays. Many of these monuments still remain.

In the antediluvian or before the Flood, ages, the posterity of Seth erected pillars; “for,” says the Jewish historian, “that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam’s prediction, that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone; they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind, and would also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them.” Jacob erected such a pillar at Bethel, to commemorate his remarkable vision of the ladder, and afterward another one at Galeed as a memorial of his alliance with Laban. Joshua erected one at Gilgal to perpetuate the remembrance of his miraculous crossing of the Jordan. Samuel set up a pillar between Mizpeh and Shen, on account of a defeat of the Philistines, and Absalom erected another in honor of himself. The reader will readily see the comparison between these memorials mentioned in the Bible and the modern erection of tablets, gravestones, etc., to the honor of the dead as well as to a notable deed or event. Compare also the use of an altar.

The doctrine of gravitation was unknown to the people of the primitive ages, and they were unable to refer the support of the earth in its place to this principle. Hence, they looked to some other cause, and none appeared to their simple and unphilosophic minds more plausible than that it was sustained by pillars. The Old Testament abounds with reference to this idea. Hannah, in her song of thanksgiving, exclaims: “The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them” (First Samuel 2, 8). The Psalmist signifies the same doctrine in the following text: “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved; I bear up the pillars of it” (Psalm 75:3). Job 26:7 says: “He shaketh the earth out of her places, and the pillars thereof tremble.” All the old religions taught the same doctrine; and hence pillars being regarded as the supporters of the earth, they were adopted as the symbol of strength and firmness. To this, John Dudley (Naology: Or, a Treatise On the Origin, Progress, and Symbolical Import of the Sacred Structures of the Most Eminent Nations and Ages of the World, page 123) attributes the origin of pillar worship, which prevailed so extensively among the idolatrous nations of antiquity. “The reverence,” says he, “shown to columns, as symbols of the power of the Deity, was readily converted into worship paid to them as idols of the real presence.” But here he seems to have fallen into a mistake. The double pillars or columns, acting as an architectural support, were, it is true, symbols derived from a natural cause of strength and permanent firmness. But there was another more prevailing symbology. The monolith, or circular pillar, standing alone, was, to the ancient mind, a representation of the Phallus, the symbol of the creative and generative energy of Deity, and it is in these Phallic Pillars that we are to find the true origin of pillar worship, which was only one form of Phallic Worship, the most predominant of all the cults to which the ancients were addicted. 

Masonic Symbolism of the Compass

In this installment of the Symbols and Symbolism of Freemasonry, we consider a vital emblem of Freemasonry, the compass or compasses. Albert G. Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, gives context to this meaning of this mysterious symbols meaning and history. Mackey, writes:

As in Operative Freemasonry, the compasses are used for the measurement of the architect’s plans, and to enable him to give those just proportions which will ensure beauty as well as stability to his work; so, in Speculative Freemasonry, is this important implement symbolic of that even tenor of deportment, that true standard of rectitude which alone can bestow happiness here and felicity hereafter.

Hence are the compasses the most prominent emblem of virtue, the true and only, measure of a Freemason’s life and conduct. As the Bible gives us light on our duties to God, and the square illustrates our duties to our neighborhood and Brother, so the compasses give that additional light which is to instruct us in the duty we owe to ourselves-the great, imperative duty of circumscribing our passions, and keeping our desires within due bounds. “It is ordained,” says the philosophic Edmund Burke, “in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate passions cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters.”

Those Brethren who delight to trace our emblems to an astronomical origin, find in the compasses a symbol of the sun, the circular pivot representing the body of the luminary, and the diverging legs his rays.

In the earliest rituals of the eighteenth century, the compasses are described as a part of the furniture of the Lodge and are said to belong to the Master.

Some change will be found in this respect in the ritual of the present day.

The word is sometimes spelled and pronounced compass, which is more usually applied to the magnetic needle and circular dial or card of the mariner from which he directs his course over the seas, or the similar guide of the airman when seeking his destination across unknown territory.

Of the spheres and heavens

Pike, in Morals and Dogma, defines the compass as an emblem that describes circles, and deals with spherical trigonometry, the science of the spheres and heavens. The former, therefore, is an emblem of what concerns the earth and the body; the latter of what concerns the heavens and the soul. Yet the Compass is also used in plane trigonometry, as in erecting perpendiculars; and, therefore, you are reminded that, although in this degree both points of the Compass are under the Square, and you are now dealing only with the moral and political meaning of the symbols, and not with their philosophical and spiritual meanings, still the divine ever mingles with the human; with the earthly the spiritual intermixes; and there is something spiritual in the commonest duties of life.

Carl H. Claudy

masonic author, 20th century, Carl Claudy
Carl Claudy

Raised to a Master Mason in 1908, at Harmony Lodge No. 17 in Washington, DC, Carl H. Claudy  served as the Master and eventually as Grand Master of Masons in 1943. He served as the executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association in 1929 holding the position until his death in 1957 claiming authorship of nearly 350 Short Talk Bulletins.

The MSANA says of the plays:

[They] are not merely a means by which a lodge may entertain, but attempt to satisfy a desire to understand the inner content of Freemasonry. They accomplish this purpose by drawing aside the veils of ritual, allegory and symbol that the truth behind may shine through.

Books by Carl Claudy:

And a number of Masonic plays:

  • The Greatest of These
  • He That Believeth
  • Greater Love Hath No Man
  • Judge Not!
  • The Hearts of the Fathers
  • …To Entertain Strangers
  • A Gift in Secret
  • Treasures of Darkness
  • He Which is Accused
  • If a Man Die…
  • And Not Forsake Them
  • He Which is Accused
  • A Rose Upon the Altar
Freemasonry During COVID-19

Re-Engaging Freemasonry During COVID-19

Freemasonry During COVID-19

This is part two of Freemasonry After Covid-19

I like to think I’m an optimist. Most of the time at least. 

If you haven’t been paying attention, COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc around the world. In the U.S., the pandemic is and growing exponentially in the United States with a flurry of mixed messaging about gathering, wearing masks, and even arguing if the virus is real. 

Wherever you land on the issue, the dilemma is the same–the pandemic is shaping the way gather. And in the absence of gathering it’s shaping the way prospective members see the (or don’t see) the fraternity.

As COVID spreads and impacts more of us, shuttering or putting limits on what we can do in groups, we need to figure out new ways to communicate what it means to be a Freemason and how someone joins Freemasonry. 

If they can’t see Freemasonry in action, they can’t take action to become a mason. 

 Closed Lodge Rooms During COVID-19

How do you show someone what you do if you can’t SHOW them what you do? You have to talk about it. 

How you talk about it might and might not matter in the ways you think it would. What’s important is the message and engagement that comes from leadership to the members. Public where possible. Inspiring when able. But frequent in a way that’s not obsessive but relevant to the evolution of what’s taking place in the news. 

I think we take leaders for granted. They’re in that leadership position to “lead.” So, they should. This could be lodge line officers, lodge masters, well-spoken district leaders and grandmasters. 

The messaging should be inspiring, encouraging, not preachy or assumptive of one bend or another. I say this as the messaging should be worthy of sharing OUTSIDE of social media. How exciting or engaging would a message about the great things Freemasonry is doing to help beat the pandemic be?

The goal would be to capture the attention of the secondary audience, the friends of friends on Facebook or Twitter who see the Liked or Reshared communication. A great early adopter of this idea is taking shape out of the Grand Lodge of Ohio who has been producing content at an amazing rate and posting to social channels. 

This is just one example of what I’ve seen on Twitter:

You can see more of what they do by checking out @GrandLodgeOhio

Now imagine this coming out of every state.

I mention this as one example of what one Grand Lodge is doing to connect and communicate with the broader public. What an amazing sight that would be.

Members at a Distance During COVID-19

While engaging the secondary audience of non-masons with interesting content, the need to keep existing members connected is paramount. How you go about this seems to come down to a few avenues.  

  • Host regular (tiled and/or untiled) meetings via Zoom or other online platforms.
  • Break the quarantine protocols and meet in person. 

This may not be the normal everyone likes or even wants to operate in. But it’s the normal we presently exist within. Here, members under the United Grand Lodge of England has organized some amazing events with Masonic notables like Dr. Robert Lomas and the 2012 Prestonian lecturer W Bro. Tony Harvey. These are but a few of the activities coming out of the U.K.

This isn’t to say that activities aren’t taking place around the U.S. 

With the proliferation of online meetings, it would be foolish to assume that they aren’t taking place as tiled business meetings. The point here is the lack of wider publicizing of the activities or hosting activities that may be of interest to a wider of both member and non can only help to bolster any interest that may exist in the area. It’s not perfect. It’s not the best possible world. But it’s something. It’s work in the direction of re-emerging into a newly vaccinated world eager to do something social. 

Doing this work or seeing the need to do it is challenging. 

But there’s still time. It just takes the energy and leadership to see the value and do the work. This pandemic will end. We’ll beat COVID-19 with a vaccine. Freemasonry needs to make sure it’s ready to get back into the world when the vaccine is in circulation and the world opens back up.  

Postscript: I’d written this several days before publishing it. On the evening before setting this up to go live, NPR dropped a national story on the subject titled: Freemasons Say They’re Needed Now More Than Ever. So Why Are Their Ranks Dwindling? In the story, it essentially encapsulates this very problem quoting Chris Hodapp from Freemasons for Dummies. Chris was speaking on the loss of membership, saying “…something that’s scaring the hell out of me is this COVID shutdown thing. God help us all when we stand back and survey the crumbling wreckage that that has caused.”

It’s that wreckage that can be addressed, now, as best possible. The way to do that is to be present.

How does Freemasonry survive COVID-19

Freemasonry after COVID

How does Freemasonry survive COVID-19

This question started as one of those silent moment thoughts: What will Freemasonry look like after COVID-19?

The easy answer is that Freemasonry will go on business as usual. Monthly stated meetings, degree evenings, appendant body meetings and the bi-annual festive board. The question is, will members be willing to return given the breadth of the crisis and the disparity in following safety protocols or safe distancing standards?

The question, as I’m thinking it through, isn’t so much about how Freemasonry will respond to the easing of COVID restrictions and the return to a semblance of normal, but how the members will. After a yearlong (maybe two) hiatus from activities around the fraternity, how do things restart?

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this.

Going into the pandemic, Freemasonry was already contending with a decrease in membership. This was illustrated in several stories on this site (The Death of Freemasonry: When Change Changes You, To Die Or Not To Die). Now, nearly a year into the quarantine, the old questions are compounded with having to figure how to re-engage and invigorate past members to come back and drive interest to new members to join–all while under quarantine and socially distanced.

My thinking is that now would be the time to start planning or rolling out campaigns to reinvigorate interest.

Read: Re-Engaging Freemasonry During COVID-19

I see this happening in the content the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. They’ve been producing a stream of content around new members, virtual reunions and driving the message home that it’s still there, doing what masons do. You can catch a glimpse of the work in this one social post from Twitter.

It’s impossible to say what the net impact will be of a campaign piece like this. But smart, and well crafted, and on point. It’s an interesting glimpse of the bigger picture of what they’re doing which is building the Scottish Rite brand and strengthening the reach. They’ve really done a stellar job with their digital footprint.

Imagine this footprint spread across the 50 states. And this is only one example of one organization on one social platform.

The possibilities are nearly limitless to broaden the reach of your flavor of local Freemasonry.

I started this post with the headline Freemasonry after COVID, but I suppose the better lead would have been Freemasonry in the middle of COVID. The issues aren’t insurmountable. How do you reach and keep existing members engaged when social distancing is restricting face to face gatherings? And how do you grow and add new ones?

If you’re a Freemason away from lodge, how interested would you be if your Grand Lodge did more to engage you? Are they doing enough already? Do you think it would help to retain your interest in this period of social distancing while we await a vaccine?

Freemasonry in Vietnam

Masonic Square Club, Vietnam, 1969

Freemasonry in Vietnam

The following is a remembrance sent in by Archibald A. H. Crawford. Arch was raised in New York in 1964 and spent several years around the lodge taking his passion for the fraternity on a deployment to East Asia. His remembrance serves to memorialize his time there and capture the memory of his labor for the craft abroad in 1969.

On the Formation of a Masonic Square Club in Vietnam, 1969

I was under Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in a Mobile Advisory Team (MAT) in Four Corp (Southernmost) headquartered in/near Cần Thơ on the sacred Mekong river. Our team of four American soldiers were stationed at a mud outpost of Local Force South Vietnamese on a tributary East of the city and our HQ. We scrounged enough material from our HQ base camp to build a small house within the company-controlled patch of land. The local people were of a recent Buddhist subset called Hòa Hảo (pronounced Wa How).

We had become relatively good scroungers and lived well compared to everyone within a few miles (which is not saying much at all). Our pride and joy were having traded with a unit no longer needing their 50-caliber machine gun, which was the strongest piece of weaponry in our district.

As one of our best at finding ‘stuff’ that made our lives better, I ran into a substantial number of

Masonic brethren in our military and also civilian support staff in and around headquarters. Most important for this story was a Naval Lieutenant Silver from Pennsylvania. We discussed Masonic backgrounds and he also knew quite a few members from the area.

We thought about how we could get a few together, simply for fellowship and considered some sort of ‘square club’ might be the way to go. A handful of us got together to plan an introductory meeting at some point, perhaps a couple of weeks. I had heard about the only Masonic Lodge in Vietnam located in Saigon under the auspices of the Philippines, which were in turn under the U.S. Southern Jurisdiction, and had travelled to Saigon and met the Master there. I proposed that he might come down and give at least an atmosphere of respectability and semi-official sanction.

Lt. Silver had mentioned our goings-on to the Sargent-Major, (Highest level non-commissioned officer in the army), and personal assistant to the Four-Corp General in charge. The Sargent-Major offered to take a helicopter up to Saigon and bring down the Lodge Master to our humble get-together!

It all came together, and the meeting was accomplished in the Fall of 1969 with roughly 40-60 brothers in attendance. I was transferred out not long after and (sadly) did not keep in touch. That lapse caused lasting effect, whether if, or how long it lasted, remains deficient.


If you have a memory of this Square Club, or one like it, drop a note in the comments below. Do you have a remembrance of Freemasonry you’d like to share? Send us a note.

Submitted and written June 10, 2019, by Arch Crawford
Past Master of Chancellor Walworth Lodge #271, New York City. First Lt. at the time, mustered out in 1969 as a Captain in the Inactive Reserve. Arch took the York Rite degrees in New York before Vietnam and the Scottish Rite degrees on R&R from Vietnam to Manila in 1969. He says that while he was in Los Angeles in late 1970 waiting tables at the huge Scottish Rite Temple he was introduced and shook hands with Bro. John Wayne.

A sojourner post from Carlos Francisco Ortiz

The Light of Reason

A sojourner post from Carlos Francisco Ortiz

A Sojourner’s post by Carlos Francisco Ortiz, Equality No. 88 and Lodge Fraternal Action No. 42 under the Grand Lodge of Chile.

“Cogito ergo sum”

Rene Descartes

How does man think to himself and think of the universe, when you try to answer, between dogma and reason, the crucial questions of human existence?

Let’s think and briefly develop some ideas:

"The dream of the reason produces monsters"  Engraving nº 43 of the Caprices (1797-1799).Francisco de Goya
“The dream of the reason produces monsters” 
Engraving nº 43 of the Caprices (1797-1799).Francisco de Goya

First was dogma, then reason. First was dogmatic thinking, since it is born and obeys the law of least effort, presenting itself as a way of understanding the natural world. Then the logos is born, intelligent thought with meaning, which seeks to understand the natural world through reason and explain it through words.

In this way, dogmatic thinking and rational thinking arise, and both are aware of themselves and of their ability to symbolically link with the universe. For this reason, there is a dogmatic reason that is founded on the speculation of an imaginary – individual or collective, and an adogmatic reason based on the certainty of facts and logic.

In the imaginary of dogmatic reason, religion is found as a great worldview that represents that set of beliefs of an indisputable nature, held by certain to be undeniable and obligatory principles for its followers. Thus, ignorance is born, which tries to be saved by the hope of faith and by the fear of Divine punishment.

Ignorance is the worst of all evils, as Plato says. From ignorance derive all evils and from knowledge all goods. Plato advises human beings to concern themselves with being rich in virtue–knowledge.

Faith, certainly respectable, does not save from ignorance, since the laws of nature are amoral and governed by causality.

In mythological stories and in biblical literature, the metaphor teaches us that the Deity tries to make man develop his existence in ignorance, the biblical account of genesis points out “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die ”, Genesis 2:17.

The Titan Prometheus, who stole the fire of the gods to deliver light to men, suffered Zeus’ punishment, and was taken to the Caucasus where he was chained so that an eagle would eat his liver, and being immortal, his liver returned to grow every night, and the eagle ate it again every day.

The angel of light was condemned to the lake of fire and brimstone for drawing light from darkness, for gaining wisdom by breaking infinite ignorance, for awakening consciousness of the unconscious.

If ignorance of dogmatic thinking about Deity is subjected to the judgment of reason, it does not successfully save the examination of the logic of the Epicurus paradox, since the attributes of Deity–created by man–such as his omnipotence , omniscience, omnipresence and omni benevolence, do not solve the problem of evil and disease in the world, so why call him God.

If Pascal’s wager in his argument states that in the face of the probability of the existence of God, the rational thing is to bet that he does exist in order to obtain as a reward the great gain of eternal glory, the absurdity of trading the light of the reason for obscurantism and ignorance, in order to live with the hope of an assumption that is based on a matter of chance. 

In the absence of evidence and certainties, the real thing is that man has created God in his image and likeness, seeking salvation and existential security that allows him to give meaning to suffering and human misery, seeking to justify his lack of courage to assume their animal condition and nature.

In the thought of adogmatic reason, philosophy and science are found as great worldviews that have pushed human reason to the limit of its critical possibilities; Thus, reality is born.

Nature is the real, its laws obey principles demonstrable by the empirical-analytical method; and homo sapiens, whose reality about his nature exists in the homo sapiens-demens dialectic, masterfully illustrated by the anthropologist Edgar Morin, has real existence–not possible existence–in his culture.

The dogma-ignorance dialectic does not obey sociocultural reasons – education–or socioeconomic reasons–wealth–it is a dialogue that takes place depending on the level of consciousness of each homo sapiens-demens. 

The level of consciousness is to the adogmatic thought, what the ignorance is to the dogmatic thought, conditio sine qua non, for the evolution of the human species. 

Theism and atheism, in their apparent antagonism, are and are part of the tireless search for human reason to reach the truth, those conscious truths that the human species is building, both with its ideofactures and with its manufactures, in its desire to know itself herself, a longing that has often led her to the extreme of delirium, or as Richard Dawkins would say, to the “Mirage of God.”

Dogmatic thinking has its roots in fear, according to the philosopher Bertrand Russell, fear is the basis of everything, fear is the father of cruelty and, therefore, it is not surprising that cruelty and religion go from hand. 

On the contrary sense, the adogmatic thought is born from the courage to conquer the world through intelligence, it is a rebellion against the moral of Tartufo, when José Ingenieros declared, “Hypocrisy is the art of gagging dignity… it is the guano that fertilizes the vulgar temperaments, allowing them to prosper in lies… “. In Robert Pirsig’s words “when a person suffers from delirium, we call it madness. When many people suffer the same delusion, we call it religion. “

The adogmatic thought is the great achievement in the evolution of the human mind, it is the one that allows us to distinguish between light and darkness, between knowledge and ignorance, between truth and error; he is the one who values ​​life, builds a world and symbolically links himself to the universe from this side of death: “Citerior.”

Thus, reflecting on dogma and reason, it can be said that dogma does not create science or evolution in the human mind, the reality of our world is in the facts and in the certainties that we have about reality.

“Evolution is to generate and expand consciousness, in such a way that the gradual and progressive evolution of the parts is the evolution of the whole, otherwise the existence of the universe and humanity would not make sense.”

The Empty Chair Degree in Freemasonry

empty chair, freemasonry, masonic, my freemasonry, degree, ceremony

I was pleased to receive a reply from Brother Robert Jackson of Montgomery Lodge in Milford, MA. I had seen mention of Montgomery Lodge performing this Degree on Facebook. Brother Jackson kindly provided permission to reprint the Degree and also show the video of their performance.

“The Empty or Vacant Chair ceremony is thought to date back to 1875, a decade after the close of the American Civil War when it was used in Masonic lodges throughout the nation to pay tribute to those who did not return from the war. Since then, it has been used by many lodges on Memorial Day to pay homage to those Brother Freemasons who sacrificed their lives for our country.”

Montgomery Lodge.

“Typically, we run this as an ‘Open House.’  After the Memorial Day parade in town, we open the doors and invite the public, with special invitations to local politicians, police, fire, VFW, etc. Over the last few years, we’ve had the ‘Young Marines’ do the flag procession, but this year we chartered a Boy Scout Troop so they led the procession. We usually offer real food/snacks and drinks as well. This has really worked for us as a way to get public presence and open a little bit of our philosophy regarding the evergreen to the general public.”

Brother Robert Jackson

Download a copy of the degree.

The Empty Chair Degree, 1875

This program was adapted for U.S. Freemasonry in 2001 by Milo D. Dailey, PM, PDM, MPS for the Frontier Army Lodge of Masonic Research #1875/

Note: Permission to use this program is granted in advance to Lodges of Freemasons recognized by Grand Lodges of North Dakota and South Dakota and Grand Lodges represented in the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters of North America.

Other use of the program for public performance must be approved in advance by the Worshipful Master of the Frontier Army Lodge of Masonic Research #1875 or the Grand Master of Masons either of North Dakota or South Dakota.

The first Mason honored by this U.S. program was a British Freemason who was killed in action in the U.S. Army on the northern plains. John Holt Beever is the first foreign Mason to give his life in uniform in service in the region then known as Dakota Territory which in the earlier 1860s extended westward to the Rocky Mountains from the Minnesota and Iowa borders north of the Nebraska border. It included significant portions of the states of Wyoming and Montana as well as North and South Dakota.

Bro. Beever’s name remains in this ceremonial as a reminder of the mission of the Frontier Army Lodge of Masonic Research. That mission is to research and memorialize regular members of the Craft in the frontier period from 1860 through 1890, especially in the northern plains and in the original Dakota Territory.

Performance in recognition of other Brother Masons, or of unknown Masons whose role in the Craft and service is not currently known, may have their names or stations appropriately substituted for Bro. Be ever’ s name.

This unofficial ritual may be exercised at a regularly tyled Lodge, or may be utilized as part of an open Lodge or similar setting among Masons, friends and family.

The Vacant Chair Degree

A vacant chair may be brought into the Lodge or meeting room by processional, or may be placed in advance between the Altar and the chair in the west; or in any appropriate place in a non-Masonic meeting or banquet room.

In an outdoor setting, it may be brought to the assembly preferably accompanied by appropriate music or again, in an appropriate position among those gathered.

Furniture, accessories and other items required for the ceremonies:

An altar, Bible, square and compasses, gavel for the Worshipful Master, a black-draped chair, and white Mason’s apron, preferably a lambskin are required. Masons involved in the ceremony may wear aprons if allowed in their Grand Lodge jurisdiction. All or none of the officers should wear aprons. All Masons should wear white gloves. The Master and Wardens must wear white gloves. A sprig of evergreen (acacia) for each Brother is mandatory.

Opening the Degree

At the appropriate time, the SW or appropriate officer would announce:

W.M., there is an alarm at the outer door.

W.M.: _____ (Appropriate officer by title), you will attend to that alarm and see who seeks admission at this (Lodge … Assembly of Brethren).

(Appropriate officer): Worshipful Master, Comrades and Brothers who have fallen in service of their country seek admission here, not in person, but through their spiritual presence that they seek our continued remembrance.

It also through the special memory of our fallen Brother, John Holt Beever, Lieutenant, United States Army, that Brethren fallen honorably in all wars be remembered.

If a civilian, the lines should read:

(Worshipful Master, Brothers who have served their fellows and fellow man seek admission here, not in person, but through their spiritual presence that they seek our continued remembrance.)

(It is through the special memory of our fallen Brother, __________, that these Brethren, and Brethren fallen honorably in all wars be remembered.)

W.M.: My Brother, bid the entry of our fallen Brothers and the opening of our hearts to their memory.

(If a processional, a color party carrying the empty chair enters the room. The perambulation of the Lodge, room or meeting space is from the west to the north, across even between the WM and an altar, if there be one; before the Junior Warden, then to place it before the Worshipful Master in the east, and facing west.)

(If there be no processional with color guard, the chair, draped in black, is placed by appropriate Brothers at the verbal request of the Worshipful Master)

W.M.: (Raps gavel) Brother Senior Warden

S.W.: (Stands) Worshipful Master

W.M.: Brother Senior Warden, it is my order that in recognition of our fallen Brother’s presence, and his status as a Master Mason, that the apron of a Brother Master Mason be positioned as it would be were oul’ Brothers present in body as well as spirit.

You, or a Brother who has honorably served his country in uniform, will approach the seat of our Brothers’ memory, and perform the honor.

(The SW or appointed Brother shall approach the East to receive the Member’s Apron from the W.M. The Brother so designated, as well as the WM and SW, should all be wearing such white gloves as would be used by the Lodge in Masonic funeral rites.)

(If a designated Brother, he marches at funeral pace to the chair, standing to the north side, facing the Senior Warden.)

Either the SW or the designated Brother may perform the speaking part.

S.W.:  (or designated Brother): The Lambskin, or white apron, was the first gift of Masonry to our departed Brother.

It is an emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason. It is more ancient than the Golden Fleece, or Roman Eagle, more honorable than the Star and Garter.

This emblem I now offer and secure for the seat of our deceased Brother, in recognition of his, and his Masonic companions’ dedication to the highest ideals of the Craft in the greatest of vicissitudes in service to their fellows.

(Apron is placed on the seat of the chair, SW or designated Brother turns again to the West.)

S.W.: (or designated Brother): By this act we are reminded of the Masonic ideals of our fallen Brother and his fellows.

We see in clear vision the noble thoughts, generous impulses, words of truth, acts of love and deeds of mercy.

The Masonic Apron represents these highest aspirations of a Brother in all ways, as each Brother knows they give to man his only genuine happiness, his lasting satisfaction.

To these precepts our Brother willingly and gladly subscribed.

(The appointed Brother or SW now marches at funeral pace to his own seat.)

WM: Rap to seat officers all but himself

W.M.: Our Brother (________ ), having given himself freely not only to the obligations of the Degrees of Masonry, but also to the obligations of service to his ideals as his lights showed them, thereby garnered the honors of his peers in service, his superiors and those who looked to him for leadership.

(If there are awards or symbols of service, the WM then says and acts: I now place these honors as decorations to his Masonic Apron.)

It is said a Man is made a Mason first in his heart.

The Mason may have earned honors before, or after he is raised to the Sublime Degree. But as the world sees, those honors do not decorate his Masonry, but rather highlight the spirit which made both a Mason and a man of service.

(W.M. may posit the medals or other objects on the apron, or call up an appointed brother as above to place the medals.)

(After medals are placed, the WM or appointed Veteran faces West.)

W.M.: These honors of mankind for our Brother, whether in material or purely from the heart, represent mankind’s decoration upon a life of honor and service.

(W.M. or appointed Brother returns to his place.)

Chaplain repeats the following prayer:

Most Gracious God, Great Architect of the Universe, Author of all good, and Giver of all mercy, pour down, we implore Thee, thy blessings upon us, and grant that the solemnity of this occasion may bind us yet closer together in the bonds of Brotherly Love.

May the present instance of mortality forcibly remind us of our approaching and inevitable destiny, and weaning our affections from the things of this world …

Fix them more devotedly on Thee, our only safe refuge in the hour of need, and grant, O God, that when the summons shall come for us to leave our transitory Lodge on earth, the light which is from above shall dispel the encircling gloom …

And that departing hence with faith in Thee, in full hope of a resurrection and in charity with all men, …

We may, through Thy favor, be admitted to Thy Celestial Lodge on high, to partake in everlasting reunion with the souls of our departed friends and Brethren, the just rewards of a pious and virtuous life.

Amen

Brothers: So Mote it Be

Here comes a short recognition of the Brother’s life: by the appropriate officer

W.M.: As we have recognized our Brother(s), and especially _____ (Our Brother) let us take this also as both an affirmation of his virtue and recognition of our own frailty.

W.M.: Brothers, will you reenact with me the Masonic Service to a Brother raised to a higher Lodge by first fanning a circle around the vacant chair of our Brother and Brothers?

(The WM walks to the chair to head a circle of Brothers around the chair, as circumstances permit, each with an evergreen sprig in his hand.)

(The Worshipful Master will then take the Evergreen in his hand and say:)

WM: This Evergreen is an emblem of immortality. Beyond this world of shadows, man has a glorious destiny, since, within this earthly tabernacle of clay, there abides an imperishable immortal spirit, over which the grave hath no power nor death dominion.

(After the WM has deposited his evergreen on the Apron, the other Brethren in order of rank if appropriate, or simply in moving the circle as a line at the order of the W.M., each places his evergreen upon the apron with his right hand as he passes on the south, and returns to his place in the circle, facing inward.)

W.M.: Brethren, prepare for the Funeral Honors.

(FUNERAL HONORS will then be given in the following manner: The Brethren will extend their hands toward the grave, palms up)

W.M.: We consign his body to the earth.

(The Brethren then cross their arms on their breast, the left uppermost, the open palms resting on their shoulders)

W.M.: We cherish his memory here.

(The Brethren will then raise their hands above their heads, looking upward,

W.M.: We commend his spirit to God who gave it. Gracious God, rest this our Brother, who has walked here with us. Everlasting life give unto him, and if it be Thy will, lead him through the gates into the Eternal City. Amen.

(Response:) “So mote it be.”

W.M. informally dismisses the Brothers, and returns to the Oriental Chair or podium.

Arkansas Masons Can Become Shriners

This landed in the email today.

Arkansas Masons Can Become Shriners

This landed in the email today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Grand Master of Arkansas, Jesse D. Sexton, issued an edict on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 that recognizes Shriners International as a “Civic Organization”.  The result of this decision permits Arkansas Masons, for the first time in more than five years, to be members of Shriners International.

Arkansas Masons are now permitted to immediately begin petitioning for membership in the Shrine following the decision of the Grand Master of Arkansas.  In response to significant positive steps taken by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas at its 2019 February Communication, Shriners International passed a resolution during its 2019 Imperial Session. As result of this resolution and resulting action taken by the Grand Lodge, as of July 16, 2019, all new initiates for Shrine membership in Arkansas must be Master Masons in good standing. The resolution has no current impact on Arkansas Shriners who are not currently Masons.

The 145th Imperial Session of Shriners International adjourned on July 4, 2019.  In addition to the historic action taken by the Representatives related to requiring a masonic prerequisite in Arkansas, Imperial Sir Jeff Sowder was elected Imperial Potentate for the 2019-2020 year.  Imperial Sir Sowder is the first Past Grand Master ever to serve as the Imperial Potentate of Shriners International.   “We welcome our brothers from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to take advantage of the opportunity that now exists to become a Shriner”, said Imperial Potentate Jeff Sowder.

As a Past Grand Master and as a long-time Shrine Membership leader, Imperial Sir Jeff Sowder is extraordinarily well equipped to lead the Shrine through this period of productive transition.  Both organizations are strengthened by the continuing collaborative efforts that have established a pathway for mutual success.

charity, faith, hope, virtue, freemasonry

Charity in Freemasonry

In this final installment of the Faith Hope and Charity series, we consider the symbolism of charity, or perhaps better called love. It is this attribute that allows the fraternity to “find in every clime a brother, and in every land a home,” the subtext of which Mackey defines in his text from his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.

Charity in Freemasonry

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Corinth. xiii. 1, 2.)

Such was the language of an eminent apostle of the Christian church, and such is the sentiment that constitutes the cementing bond of Freemasonry.

The apostle in comparing it with faith and hope calls it the greatest of the three, and hence in Masonry, it is made the top most round of its mystic ladder. We must not fall into the too common error that charity is only that sentiment of commiseration which leads us to assist the poor with pecuniary donations. Its Masonic, as well as its Christian application, is more noble and more extensive. The word used by the apostle is, in the original, αγάπη (agápi – agapi) or love — a word denoting that kindly state of mind which renders a person full of goodwill and affectionate regard toward others. John Wesley expressed his regret that the Greek had not been correctly translated as love instead of charity, so that the apostolic triad of virtues would have been, not “faith, hope, and charity,” but “Faith, Hope and Love.” Then would we have understood the comparison made by St. Paul, when he said,

“Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”

Guided by this sentiment, the true Mason will “suffer long and be kind.” He will be slow to anger and easy to forgive. He will stay his falling brother by gentle admonition, and warn him with kindness of approaching danger. He will not open his ear to his slanderers, and will close his lips against all reproach. His faults and his follies will be locked in his breast, and the prayer for mercy will ascend to Jehovah for his brother’s sins. Nor will these sentiments of benevolence be confined to those who are bound to him by ties of kindred or worldly friendship alone, but, extending them throughout the globe, he will love and cherish all who sit beneath the broad canopy of our universal Lodge. For it is the boast of our Institution, that a Mason, destitute and worthy, may find in every clime a brother, and in every land a home.