christ on the cross
One depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus

Any man of any faith that reads the Gospels of the Christian faith will agree that many of the lessons that Jesus taught were excellent reflections on morality. He was a revolutionary figure that portrayed God as a fatherly figure, leveled himself with the poor, taught men to love their neighbors, and is remembered as a man that defended the rights of women in situations that his fellow men were willing to condemn a female. Jesus is one of only a few men in history that no one has condemned with any significant support.

Many men of various faiths including Mohammed and Ghandi viewed Jesus as being a great prophet. One of the quotes often attributed to the latter says “”Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Therefore, I believe that while Christians all around the world remember the death of their savior, Masons should remember the event as well. Except that as a Christian Mason, I don’t only view the death of Jesus as a necessary part of God’s plan, but as mankind’s hatred for pure truth. The following is the account of the crucifixion as given in the book of Matthew.

Then Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the kingof the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond. Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?” But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.

During the feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whomever they wanted. At that time they had in custody a notorious prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. So after they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?” (For he knew that they had handed him over because of envy.) As he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent a message to him: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man; I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor asked them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?” They all said, “Crucify him!” He asked, “Why? What wrong has he done?” But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”

Jesus is Condemned and Mocked

When Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but that instead a riot was starting, he took some water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. You take care of it yourselves!” In reply all the people said, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them. But after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the governor’s residence and gathered the whole cohort around him. They tripped him and put a scarlet robe round him, and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand, and kneeling down before him, they mocked him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the staff and struck him repeatedly on the head. When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”) and offered Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. But after tasting it, he would not drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided his clothes by throwing dice. Then they sat down and kept guard over him there. Above his head they put the charge against him, which read: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.” Then two outlaws were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!” In the same way even the chief priests – together with the experts in the law and elders – were mocking him: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him! He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!” The robbers who were crucified with him also spoke abusively to him.

Jesus’ Death

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

(Matthew 27:11-27:46)

I picked Matthew’s version for the reason that it gives the least dogmatic version of Jesus’ dying words. In this version, it is easier to imagine ourselves in the place of the man that they called the King of the Jews. Take a moment to imagine yourself in his position. You have labored over the past few years to teach men to love one another, you have even loved your enemies, you have healed the sick, and cared for the poor. There is no reason for you to be accused of any crime, but you are immediately found guilty by many of the people that you helped through your teachings. They do not even bother to make up a charge for which you should be executed.

You are nailed on the cross, with the narrow metal shafts of the spikes cutting into the flesh in your wrists and feet. Your lungs are beginning to collapse, you feel that your throat is on fire. Men are mocking you asking you to save yourself if you are indeed so powerful. The thorns with which they have adorned your head are gouging into your skull, the pain is unbearable. You have given your life to the service of your God and have only worked for man’s benefit and in your state of agony, you feel yourself slip away. As you choke down one final breath of air, you cry out  “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACTHANI?” only hoping that some higher power will bring death faster in order to relieve your pain.

So as Masons, let us reflect on this thought: how do we regard those that teach a doctrine that makes us question our own beliefs? Will you be the man who has labored for truth and suffers for his work? Or will you be the accuser and the executioner? The choice is up to you.

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Two Schools of Masonic Thought: Part 1-Collectivism


Collectivism - out of many one
E pluribus unum

Robert Frost once wrote “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” This opening line to his poem “The Road Not Taken” accurately describes the decision that Masons have continually had to make about how their fraternity operates. One road leads to Masonic collectivism and the other leads to Masonic individualism. These two paths are polar opposites and are rarely examined, even though they have become the prevailing philosophies which Masons champion in order to dictate the direction of the fraternity. The first installment of this series shall consider Masonic collectivism.

Masonic collectivism has been one of the driving philosophies of the fraternity over the past century. Collectivism is defined as being “the political principle of centralized social and economic control, esp. of all means of production.”1 This is a philosophy which requires that Masonry has a single direction and a single goal which the craft as a whole must pursue. It requires that Masonry allows no man to be distinguishable in one characteristic from another man.

Perhaps the most apparent consequence of Masonic collectivism is the cost of Masonry. Collectivists believe in severely limiting the cost of their organization’s operation in order to make Masonry affordable to every man. The collectivist believes that the ego has no place in Masonry and opposes any elitist qualities that the fraternity may exhibit. The collectivist believes that Masonry should be paid for by fund raisers, because every man can work at a fund raiser and the monies deposited to the lodge’s coffer are then the collective product of a collective action.

Collectivism also requires that any mental discourse in Masonry be basic, because Masonic collectivism requires that all men have equal intellect. This leads to the same basic explanations of Masonic history, symbolism, and philosophy to be continually reiterated in Masonic lectures and literature. The individual is not encouraged to pursue studies which may result in distinguishing him from the rest of the fraternity by providing him with a greater knowledge of the order’s teachings. This inevitably leads to the disappearance of educational discourse in the lodge, lest one man become distinguished by being the teacher rather than the student.

Masonic charity is institutionalized so that a central authority controls the distribution of its funds. Rather than relying on the individual to contribute to the charity of other persons in need, the collectivist’s Masonic charity requires the craft to create a charity which contributes to society as a whole. This is to satisfy the requirements of a collectivist organization. Some of the members of a collectivist organization may actually need charity from others, but this would cause those who are in need of charity to be distinguished from those who are not in need. Therefore, it is best to contribute to society as a whole and allow all Brothers to feel like they contributed to the charity equally. Institutionalized charity also creates the image of the fraternity existing for the good of society rather than for the good of its members which satisfies the collectivist’s attitude as well.

Ultimately, collectivism leads not to an organization of individuals, but to a society of dependents. Under this principle of Masonic operation, every Mason can only receive from the fraternity as much as his fellow Brother can give. Because of this, Masonic leaders do not develop their strength through individual talents, but rely on the power gained by being equal with every other member of the fraternity. They depend on the principle that all men are equal in ability and intellect to maintain their position and esteem. It requires that every Mason has the same intentions as every other Mason and that he is made a servant to the direction of the fraternity as a whole. It dictates that Masonry happen only in the controlled confines of the lodge in the manner as prescribed by the masses. If Masonry occurs outside of lodge on an individual basis, then the individual would benefit rather than the organization as a whole.

The collectivist is concerned with the perception of the fraternity in society. He lives only for the benefit of the craft and this requires that his fellow man has a favorable opinion of his institution. The collectivist believes in combating Anti-Masons because without their approval of his selfless endeavor, he can never be satisfied.

Masonic collectivism results in the creation of a lifeless fraternity that cannot fulfill its promise to take a good man and make him better. This is because that motto implies self improvement, but Masonic collectivism dictates that only the good of the whole craft is important and not the improvement of the individual through his personal pursuits. The individual must clip his figurative wings and become a servant to the craft. Collectivism is the model of operation by which Masonry is only concerned with the organization as a whole.

One country is dedicated to the proposition that man has no rights, that the collective is all. The individual held as evil, the mass—as God. No motive and no virtue permitted—except that of service to the proletariat.
Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand


Two Schools of Masonic Thought: Part 2-Individualism

The Portrayal of the Capitular Arch


An important part of the capitular degrees is the completion of an arch found in King Solomon’s Temple.

In the Mark Master and Most Excellent Master degrees, the discovery of the keystone as well as putting it at the apex of the arch constitutes a large part of the ceremonies of those degrees. However, the arch is widely regarded as being a Roman invention. So one may wonder whether the presence of the keystone and the portrayal of the completion of the arch during the time frame of these degrees is historically accurate.

The true arch constructed with voussoirs
The true arch constructed with voussoirs

Historians generally agree that the reign of King Solomon began around 970 B.C.1 The Old Testament states that Solomon began the construction of the temple in the fourth year of his reign.2 This means its completion came circa 959 B.C. Could it have been possible that the ability to construct an arch would have been known unto a Phoenician builder at that time?

Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture states that the true arch was known to the Sumerian builders as early as the second millennium B.C.3 The term ‘true arch’ is an important detail. The true arch is distinctly different from the corbelled arch used by the Egyptians. The true arch is what the Romans are commonly lauded for creating. A definition of the word ‘arch’ says that “A true arch is curved. It consists of wedge-shaped stones or bricks called VOUSSOIRS (vu-swar’), put together to make a curved bridge which spans the opening.”4 The arch shown in art pertaining to the Capitular degrees displays this type of arch. Therefore, the theory that an arch constructed with wedge-shaped stones at King Solomon’s Temple is plausible since the true arch was used in Mesopotamia a thousand years before the temple’s construction.

A traditional depiction of the capitular arch, notice the freestanding columns.
A traditional depiction of the capitular arch, notice the freestanding columns.

However, there is a truly Roman characteristic to the arch as depicting in the Chapter. Banister says, “The really significant contribution of the Roman builders to the early development of the arch—and therefore the barrel vault—was to support it on freestanding piers.”5 The depiction of the arch found in the Chapter degrees shows it supported by free standing piers. This evolution did not take place until the first and second centuries B.C.5 So the piers shown as supporting the arch in the degrees of the Chapter would not have been found at the building of King Solomon’s Temple.

The idea that the completion of the temple was accomplished by placing the keystone in the arch could be historically plausible, if the piers of the arch were surrounded by masonry or earth in order to prevent them from moving laterally. So perhaps the the stone which the builders rejected did become the keystone of the arch in King Solomon’s Temple.

1.Old Testament Chronology of the NIV Study Bible published by Zondervan in 1985.

2.1 Kings 6:37-38

3. Banister, Fletcher and Cruickshank. A History of Architecture p.74.

4.Whitehead, Anne. Utah Educational Network.

5. Banister, Fletcher and Cruickshank. A History of Architecture p.197

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The Best of the Middle Chamber Online

In a cooperative effort with Phoenixmasonry, the best articles from my work on The Middle Chamber are now available online. This compilation is called Freemasonic Fables and can be found at Phoenixmasonry. Executive Director Frederic L. Milliken says this about the website’s new feature:

Phoenixmasonry is pleased to announce the publication of “Freemasonic Fables” by Terence Satchell. Brother Satchell has a unique knack for story telling which we at Phoenixmasonry feel will tickle the fancy of its many visitors. Freemasonic Fables is a collection of just such down home Masonic yarns that Satchell has written for his website over a period of years. The collection foretells of greater things to come as Brother Satchell has published some major serious symbolic papers also. We have provided a special corner at Phoenixmasonry for Brother Satchell’s future works and we congratulate him on his creative ability and look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

Brother Frederic L. Milliken
Executive Director Phoenixmasonry

I am excited for these works to be available for the fans of The Middle Chamber as well as those who are new to the works presented on that site. I hope that you will find Freemasonic Fables an enjoyable read.


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The Rite of Purification

The other morning, I was enjoying my daily shaving ritual. As I lathered the shaving soap with my badger hair brush and spread the rich, white lather over my jaw, I thought about how my morning shave had become a daily routine of renewal and purification. When I took my razor in hand and removed the stubble of the previous 24 hours, I was not only refreshing the appearance of my face, but I was also symbolically divesting myself of the previous day’s imperfections. This allowed me to begin the day anew, with a clean slate and a clean face.

In many ways, this is my personal Rite of Purification.

Baptism is a common form of the Rite of Purification which takes place in Judeo-Christian traditions.
Baptism is a common form of the Rite of Purification which takes place in Judeo-Christian traditions.

The Rite of Purification has long been an important part of spiritual ceremonies. For those of us who have grown up in Judeo-Christian religions, this rite was most often manifested in the form of baptism or purification by water. In fact, in the book of Exodus we discover that purification by water was an important part of Jewish custom.

Then the Lord said to Moses  ‘Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the Lord by fire, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.’
Ex. 30:17-21)

I found it odd that Masonic tradition dictates that the Tabernacle was a model for King Solomon’s Temple and that this temple was a model for Masonic lodges, and yet I had witnessed no such rite in the craft degrees. In fact, the first time I consciously took part in a Rite of Purification in Masonry was in the 14th Degree of the Scottish Rite where I was required to rinse my hands in a basin filled with water. However, that was certainly not the first time that I had been symbolically purified before taking part in a Masonic ceremony.

If we rid ourselves of the narrow view of purification being accomplished through some sort of baptism with water, we can see that the preparation of the candidates for each degree of Masonry is in fact a Rite of Purification. Wilmhurst says:

The lamb skin is an emblem of purity and adorning the apron is a form of the Rite of Purification.
The lamb skin is an emblem of purity and adorning the apron is a form of the Rite of Purification.

Every system of real Initiation, whether of the past or present, is divided into three clear-cut stages; since before anyone can pass from his natural darkness to the Light supernal and discover the Blazing Star or Glory at his own center, there are three distinct tasks to be achieved. They are as follows: first, the turning away from the attractions of the outer world, involving detachment from the allurements of all that is meant by “money and metals,” and the purification and subdual of the bodily and sensual tendencies…This work of detachment and self-purification is our Entered Apprentice work, and to it, as you know, is theoretically allotted the long period of seven years.1

Therefore, divesting ourselves of our outer apparel and removing our possessions of worldly value from our bodies is essentially a Rite of Purification. This symbolically removes the superfluities of the profane world and prepares us to enter the Tabernacle. But as we widen our view of the right of purification, we can see that we are not only purified prior to receiving the degrees. In fact, we take part in a Rite of Purification every time that we step into the place that Exodus terms “the Tent of Meeting.”

The Mason’s apron is a lamb skin or white leather apron, which is described as “an emblem of innocence.” Its color is white, which is the emblem of purity. Every time that we adorn the Mason’s apron we are clothing ourselves with a garment which represents our symbolic purification. However, merely wearing the apron does not complete this action, we must also mentally purify ourselves. Much as the purification through water by the Hebrews before entering the Tabernacle was an admonition to keep one’s thoughts and desires pure in that Holy place, so should the wear of the apron remind us to keep our thoughts and desires pure within our Tabernacle, which is the tiled lodge room.

By doing so, we complete our own Rite of Purification every time that we proceed to enter the quarry and work for the benefit of the craft.

1. Wilmhurst, W.L. Masonic Initiation.

Non-Masonic Education

A hot topic in the on-line Masonic community is lodge education. Many ideas are presented for educational subjects or how to implement educational programs. Most of this discussion is limited to Masonic topics such as Masonic symbolism or history. There is no shortage of information on these subjects available through the Internet or in hard copy. However, I was asked an interesting question about preparing an educational presentation a couple of weeks ago. A Brother had been tasked with developing an educational segment for the next lodge meeting. The Brother was a relatively new Mason and was not particularly comfortable about presenting on a Masonic topic. Unsure of what subjects he could or should address, he asked the lodge “What should I talk about?”


At this point, every member of the lodge could have given him an idea. He could have presented on the symbolism of the square and compasses or read a short story about George Washington. These are all very predictable subjects. Throughout a Mason’s fraternal experience, he will doubtlessly hear several anecdotes about Mr. Washington and will probably see several extemporaneous speeches given on various symbols taken verbatim from the ritual with a little bit of discussion. The problem with these options is that they are viewing lodge education as a course of instruction which must be exclusively Masonic in its nature. This can make lodge education a redundant process which constantly covers one subject. Imagine going back to high school and discovering that every single class that you were taking was on the subject of geometry. That curriculum would bore anyone to death.

Luckily, we don’t have to limit our lodge education to Masonic symbolism, history, and ritual. If we look at the charge of the Fellowcraft degree, we discover that we are admonished to study the liberal arts. The seven liberal arts consist of grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. In other words, the Mason is taught to study a wide array of subjects in order to improve himself. As one of my previous columns suggested, balance is an essential concept to a Mason’s life. Therefore, it is important that a Mason balances his education so that he gains knowledge in all areas of the arts and sciences and what better place to promote this idea than within the lodge? If you take a look at your lodge’s membership, you will probably be surprised to discover that the Brethren have expertise in a variety of subjects.

What we can develop using these individual talents is non-Masonic education. This is as important to a lodge’s growth as Masonic education. Our lodges are populated with men from a variety of backgrounds. Freemasonry is home to doctors, lawyers, engineers, historians, clergy, mechanics, farmers, and construction workers. All of these men have the ability to impart useful knowledge on one another. For instance, perhaps one of your lodge’s Brothers is a mechanical engineer which has just patented a new invention. A presentation on the purpose and development of that invention would provide an interesting topic for an educational session.

Likewise, you may have a Brother who is a mechanic trained to maintain hybrid or fuel-cell vehicles and could discuss the challenges facing the automotive industry to provide service to these new alternative fuel models. Everyone in the lodge would benefit from these subjects and an educational program utilizing the knowledge of individual Brothers can develop the same enthusiasm as a well planned lecture circuit.

The main character of the Brother mentioned at the beginning of this article turned out to be a middle school teacher and it was suggested that he present on educational techniques currently being used at that age level. The entire lodge was surprised to discover that current educational techniques differed significantly from those used in the past. Several questions were asked on subjects ranging from how teachers were currently disciplining children to the effectiveness of these new educational methods. Every Brother gained a new understanding from the lesson and left the lodge more enriched than when they had entered. Of course, there is always a place for education pertaining to the ritual, furniture, and customs of the lodge. However, properly supplementing traditional Masonic education with non-Masonic subjects will provide a more well- balanced education program and keep lodge members engaged.

The Chronicles of Philosophus


Gebel-pyramidsAt that time in the land of Gebal, the builders would gather at high twelve on the day before the Sabbath. They would meet in the temple to discuss the work of the craftsmen and to study the ancient arts. The master builders filled the higher offices, with the craftsmen joining them on the floor. The quarrymen were to witness the deliberations from the audience gallery.

In the year of the reign of the Venerable Master Enoch, a man was accepted among their number by the name of Philosophus. He was a man from the eastern lands who claimed to be among the ranks of the builders. His work was inspected and he was found to be proficient in his craft and was accepted amongst the Brethren of Gebal. He had distinguished himself as a man of the utmost skill in the operative profession of construction as well as particularly knowledgeable in the ancient speculative arts.

At the rap of the gavel, the Brethren would come to order and at that time it was the custom to take up the pass from the several divisions of builders in order to ascertain their rank. The masters would elect from their number nine to take up the pass. Five were to collect the pass from the quarrymen, three to collect it from the craftsmen, and one to collect it from the masters. The elected officials would pass through the ranks of men and request of them the pass, which was whispered into the official’s ear.

While one of the officials was collecting the pass from the masters, he came upon a particularly well known Brother. He was an elderly man who had long served to build the magnificent edifices of the kingdom. However, on that day he was unable to properly communicate the password and the official announced to the assembly that there was a Brother without the pass. The Brethren were shocked and began to cast insults at the elderly master. The masters of the higher offices gathered to determine the fate of the Brother. To have a well known master without the pass was unprecedented and the outrage of the assembly pressured them to pass judgment on the man. The Master agreed that he must be removed from the Chapter. The Venerable Master Enoch spoke saying “Due to the lack of proper knowledge by this Brother, we must remove him from our Chapter in order to maintain our established regulations.” At that time, there were no regulations to deal with such an event. In order to make the judgment more fair, Enoch asked of the assembly “Does any Brother present at this assembly have anything to say in defense of this fellow?”

The Brethren were silent and refused to talk, even amongst themselves. The foreigner, Philosophus, stood to address the craft.

“Do not disparage this man for succumbing to the difficulties of old age. He has served his Lord, his masters, and his kingdom well for many years. There has never been a time when a fellow builder in need did not receive a contribution from his boundless charity. Yet, while he has been known unto you and you have benefited from his brotherly love, you are willing to remove him from this Chapter because of the unwillingness of his tongue. I say unto you, the pass of a master is found not upon the tongue, but upon the heart.”

The Brethren waited for the response of the Venerable Master. He spoke after a period of silence, “Our Brother from the east is correct, for the arts of a builder are revealed by his hands. We have no reason to expel a Brother who has used his hands in a manner so befitting of his title.”

And the Brethren were amazed at this chain of events and said amongst themselves, “Who is this man that calls himself Philosophus?”

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black and white,floor,checkers,good,evil

The Checkered Flooring

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.”

mosaic pavement, black and white floor

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 Kings 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.

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.

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 Kabbalah 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 bad

When 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

This symbolic 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

The Banks of the Euphrates

Welcome to my column, The Banks of the Euphrates. You may recognize the title from a location mentioned during the Holy Royal Arch degree. During the journey which the candidates of that degree are required to take, they find themselves along the River Euphrates. While the river doesn’t play a prominent role in the degree, I always thought of it as a sort of oasis or resting place for the travelers on such a demanding pilgrimage. Such times of rest and refreshment often bring us the most important lessons in life.

Masonry is a craft. It requires the initiate to work to reap the harvest of its fruitful fields of knowledge. Albert Pike says in Morals and Dogma that “Masonry is action, and not inertness.” We are given working tools and taught their meaning in order to construct that house not made with hands. Certainly, Masonry is a society which lauds the occupation of the speculative quarryman and recommends that he do his work faithfully. Nevertheless, sometimes it is worthwhile to step back from the work of Masonry and examine the whole of that edifice which we are constructing.

Many traditional stories have told of monumental realizations which took place during a time of rest. An old story says that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head while he was resting under a tree. Jacob was provided with a Divine vision while he lay fast asleep. Mohammed was meditating when the angel Gabriel appeared to him. It is true that many examples of eureka moments occurred during a time of rest and while most of us have never had a Divine revelation or developed a new scientific theory, we have all unexpectedly found knowledge when we simply wished to rest our eyes or quench our thirst.

It has often been said that more Masonry can be found in our fellowship halls than in the lodge room. We find that when we let our guard down and engage in casual conversation that many of our Brothers, friends, and family have a bit of knowledge which can enhance our lives. Perhaps it is only an anecdote about something that happened many years ago or perhaps it is a much needed admonition to examine our personal conduct. Sometimes it is a triumphant statement about the joy of life by a Brother in an unfavorable situation. One of the most memorable lessons that I have learned while taking leave from my Masonic work was from a Brother who taught me how to eat dinner and live my life. He said, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.” It is a moment of enlightenment that I will never forget.

When I thought about what I wanted this column to be, I realized that I wanted to create an opportunity for Masons to loosen their ties and learn something about Masonry. Perhaps it will be a short piece on Masonic symbolism or history. Perhaps it will be an article about a possible solution to a lodge problem. Perhaps it will take the form of an allegorical story. Regardless of its form, I want the content to lend some ideas to my fellow Brethren who can consider the information presented here and find it an enjoyable opportunity to add to their Masonic experience. There is a large body of Masonic work out there which resembles a quarry and requires the reader to diligently attend to his work. Many of these are great works which deserve a wide readership and much discussion. However, I hope that this column may more closely resemble its title and serve as a place for the reader to sit in the shade, refill his canteen, and quietly ponder the teachings of Freemasonry.


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