I was taken to a small room. Alone, I found myself with ample opportunity to ponder who I was, where I had come from as a man, and what this might mean to me… the current choices that led me to where I now stood. I was excited and nervous, and it had been a very long time since I placed so much trust onto other men. I did not know it then, nor did they in all likelihood, that I was standing in what historically has been known as the Chamber of Reflection.
Your preparation for your entrance into Freemasonry began the day
Whether you subscribe to a direct connection between Operative and Speculative Masonry, or limit your definition to the early 1700’s and the creation of the Grand Lodge system, the Craft has been alive for hundreds of years. During that time, the implementation and ritualistic use of a Chamber of Reflection has been documented. While the use of this room is more common outside of the United States, it has been relegated here for some time to be linked with appendant bodies. This linkage has caused many Mason’s in the U.S. to believe the room was developed by and for the Appendant bodies. Also, it has had another side effect with a number of Grand Lodges not understanding its meaning or history, to proclaim somewhat incorrectly that it is an innovation on ritual. For if it can be construed as an innovation, a strong argument can be made that it was the Grand Lodges themselves, through a lack of application and comprehension in those days, that made it so.
Before we explore the history of the Chamber of Reflection, a description of distinguishing features along with basic intent and meaning would be necessary. Joseph Newton, in his book “The Builders” uses the term “Anteroom” to title its forward. It is appropriate I think, that it is fashioned from the model of the actual Masonic Lodges anteroom, the Chamber of Reflection. The Chamber is if nothing else, an anteroom. It is a space for the initiate to have time to prepare both physically and mentally. In lodges that have more available rooms, the Chamber of Reflection is a separate and distinct space from the room where an initiate is physically prepared. Either way, the room, time and solitude are provided for the initiate to reflect on his past and future self. It is a place to explore his feelings to possibly include what has led him to this point, what kind of a man he thinks he is, and the commitment and journey that is about to be undertaken. The Chamber’s descriptions range from gloomy or somber, to reflecting solitariness and minimalism. The environment of the room is intended to cause, either by a lack of stimulus, or via items included, the initiate to focus on himself. As Andrew Hammer intimated in his paper “A Time with patience”, The Chamber of Reflection is perhaps the only space in a Lodge where a profane is allowed accommodations. It is also the only space in a lodge where the profane is offered a choice. He has within himself the choice of getting up and leaving the lodge, or remaining and preparing himself for the ritual close at hand. As such, his decision should not be taken lightly, hence the space provided with the intention as described.
Further, the space should be a room with no windows therefore removing the possibility of sunlight ever entering it. The room should be painted black or made to be black by other means, with no source of light except a singular candle. The only furniture that should be present would be a simple wooden table and a wooden chair. Items on the table may vary depending on location, jurisdiction, and body. Objects that could be observed would be:
A man who has undertaken a thing after mature reflection seldom turns back
It is believed that items utilized in this setting should be chosen with care, and deliberation by the lodge in question. The goal is not to scare the initiate but to direct his thoughts inward.
Like with most things, the history associated with the Chamber of Reflection is not completely clear. Through a few texts, we can establish its use in some form to the mid 1700’s. In 1745, the Abbé Gabriel-Louis Pérau’s published Le secret des francs-maçons (The Secrets of the Freemasons), which contained the description of a darkened room in which the candidate is deprived of all metals. Then, in 1762, the book Jachin and Boaz; An authentic Key to the Door of Freemasonry was initially published. Contained therein, is an account of a regular lodge’s (under UGLE), initiatic procedure where it describes a candidate being physically prepared and taken to a separate room, which is totally dark. He is asked a series of personally questions, and divested of all metals, to include the money in his pockets. He is then made to uncover is right knee, put his left foot with his shoe on into a slipper. Hoodwinked, he is then left alone for reflection for approximately 30 minutes.
A third occurrence can be observed in the Complet de Maconnerie adopté par la R.G.L. de France (Full body of Masonry adopted by the R.G.L. of France) Dated 1765. The following is put forth:
“Apartment of Brother Terrible. No matter that this apartment has no particular design--it can be purely arbitrary--it is nevertheless proper that it have a gloomy and dismal appearance and convey rather more than less horror, [at least] according to the way the Candidate will perceive it; it can be draped in black, with a lamp giving off but a weak light. Again, it can have a dungeon door with a bolt and chains. Brother Terrible must be under a black mantle seated beside a table or prie-dieu on which there will be a white kerchief and a sword. [Nothing further is stated of the conditions or actions in the room]”
As you can see, there is little doubt that the early Grand Lodges of both England and France utilized anterooms as the apparent normal course of the initiation process. It can also be stated that while we don’t know when a Chamber of Reflection, in function if not name, was first utilized, we do see its use well prior to the formation of any appendant body.
Due to the nature in which the Chamber of Reflection appears to have developed over time, as well as the formation of degrees in the UGLE and GLOF regular lodge systems other than the initial degrees, a claim can be appropriately made by multiple jurisdictions to where it belongs. While the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite did not exist during this time, the shadow of things to come are obvious. It is equally obvious that a Chamber of Reflection was being utilized in regular lodges in some shape or form. The only question for today’s lodges is not the appropriateness of including such a space, but whether there is a perceived need or desire, and if it conforms to their lodges style and guidelines.
Jachin and Boaz; An authentic key to the door of freemasonry 
Masonicrestorationfoundation.org/Andrew Hammer: To await a Time with Patience 
A definition of Freemasonry by Robert Macoy 
Symbols of Freemasonry Beresniak by Daniel Beresniak 
Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry – Albert Mackey 
Guidelines for the Lodges Desiring to use a COR, GL of Ohio 
The Order of Freemasons betrayed. The Secret of the Mopses revealed,  (Translated)
Corps complet de Maçonnerie adopté par la R.G.L. de France 
The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry, by Joseph F. Newton 
The Chamber of Reflection at “Friedrich zur Vaterlandsliebe” Lodge, Koblenz, Germany, 
The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry – SJ - https://scottishrite.org/about/history/
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry by S. Brent Morris 
As infamously called, “The William Morgan Affair” is forever a dark stain on the name of Freemasonry. Regardless what side of the debate you fall on… that Mr. Morgan was more or less paid off with him taking the money and moving out of the country, or that his life was ended at the hands of Masons, it can convincingly be labeled the beginning of the Anti-Masonic sentiment in America and Elsewhere.
Born in Culpeper, Virginia on August 7th, 1774, Morgan spent the early years of his life at times as a brick layer and also a stone cutter. Aspects of his life remain clouded to this day. He claimed to have served in the Virginia Militia in the War of 1812 as a Captain, but no record of such has ever been found. He also claimed to be a Master Mason in Canada, but again, no records of him being mad such has also never been found. He did attend Lodge in Rochester, NY for a time, and was, in 1825 received the Royal Arch degree.
Upon his moving to the area, William Morgan attempted to visit / join lodges in Batavia. He was unsuccessful in these attempts due to the members in this area questioning not only his character, but also whether he was a Freemason at all. Obviously this did not go ever well, and in time Morgan became angry and indignant. He made it known that he had the intention of and was actively working towards publishing writing a book to have published revealing all of the secrets of Freemasonry. He stated this book would be called Illustrations of Masonry. The matter was exacerbated further by Morgan who would brag in bars and on the streets of his progress writing the book. This went on for some time, and the longer he bragged, the higher the rage grow towards him. They were angry for several reasons, but two stand out from the rest. First, they were angry that if he was a Mason, he was actively breaking his solemn vow; a vow he took on a Holy Bible. The second, the fear that if Morgan did expose their secrets, the very Fraternity itself could potentially die off.
The state of affairs grew worse. Several Mason’s quite regularly would go to Morgan’s home accusing him of various “crimes” to include owing them money and eventual theft. There was also accusations that local Mason’s attempted to burn Morgan’s newspaper office down. Ultimately, Morgan was accused of stealing a shirt and tie and was arrested. These charges were dismissed but new charges were leveled of having a debt of $2.68. He was placed in Debtors Prison.
There are differing stories about what took place next, but all accounts place Morgan being taken from the Prison’s general location, ending up at Fort Niagara by the Niagara River which borders Canada. Further conflicting reports are available to include the Mason’s story that they had indeed taken Morgan to Fort Niagara, paid him the sum of $500.00 forcing him to leave the country into Canada. Another account states that the Mason’s took Morgan into a boat, traveled to the middle of the Niagara River, and causing him to drown by dumping him over the side.
Whatever really took place, the Newspapers of the day ran sensational stories of secret plots and murder. For the Masons of Batavia and by extension the rest of the country, matters went from bad to worse. Three Mason’s in question were tried and acquitted of all guilt. This in itself drew an outcry from across the country. It didn’t help that the Judge and Sheriff were both Mason’s… a known factor pronounced in the news of the day. Due to the public sentiment, the three were retried for conspiracy to kidnap Morgan with all pleading guilty. The men remained adamant that they did not murder Morgan but stood by their story of paying him and strongly suggesting he leave. All three were convicted.
What truly took place may never be known, but the outcome was felt for generations of Freemasons. In 1827, the number of lodges being represented in the Grand Lodge of New York were 227. By 1835, that number had plummeted to 41. Entire political campaigns were wrapped around these events in the attempt to take advantage of the outcry. It is a lesson not soon forgot. A lesson of humility and judgement; of integrity and responsibility.
- The Morgan affair: What happened to Morgan Investigating A speculation
by Allison D. Bryant, P.M. Gladwin Lodge No. 397, F. & A. M.
- Michigan Masonic Tracing Board: 1764-1976 by James Fairbairn Smith
- The Morgan Affair and Anti-Masonry, by John C. Palmer. Masonic Services Association. 1924
- William Morgan, by Robert Morris. New York, R. Macoy. 1883
- History of the Abduction of William Morgan and the Anti-Masonic Excitement by A. Bentley 1874
What I know… I think.
It’s actually a little bit funny. I’ve been writing my entire life whether it be poetry or stories. The thing is… I’ve never written a blog before so I guess this will be my first attempt. Maybe someone out there will find it interesting or useful, but more importantly, I think this will allow me to express my thoughts outside of my current work.
I’ve read several blogs and they have ranged from how to write… How to get published; any one of a number of helpful topics. Personally, I do not intend to do anything like that, though I promise nothing. I suppose most of my blogs will revolve around life in general, and my experiences and thoughts on the same. Having said that, I should explain who I am, what I’m working on, and how I came to be sitting here typing away.
I was the youngest of three children being brought up in a small Steel town in West Virginia. No no… don’t roll your eyes. This won’t be a life story… at least not today! Anyway, these were the day’s of Atari and Intelevision, big wheels and Star Wars action figures. We had none of the above. What we did have sitting in the upstairs hallway, was an old beaten up bookshelf. It was about three feet high and four feet long. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was packed with all kinds of books. Everything from the “Cycle of Life” set to “a Wrinkle in Time”. I would lay down on my bed and read for hours. At that time, most of the book’s I had available to me were laced with pictures. I always appreciated them, but soon realized that the story itself is what brought the pictures to life for me.
As I got older, and I must put it that way because I’m not to sure I ever grew up really, I would read anything and everything I could. A good story has always been able to take me away from my life to places full of magic and mystery; of bravery and danger’s unknown. While other kids were skipping school to go to the beach, I was skipping in plain site in the school’s courtyard reading away. It was amusing back then watching the staff walk by and see me reading, and not think to ask where I should be, but that’s another story. While I preferred books, I have always latched on to anything that could draw me in whether it be books, video games, historical articles… anything.
Even in my earliest memories I have always wanted to be the tale teller. The person who weaves the story and draws you in to a world which may be fiction, but in my mind is as real as anything else. To give life to the people in my head and their triumphs and struggles for various causes both good and malevolent. I truly don’t know how other writer’s come up with stories; I only know how I do.
I am a writer, and a reader. Above all else I am those things, and always have been. I love to write and can’t imagine a time where that could change. It’s important to me that people enjoy my work… the stories I tell. But what’s more important to me is the actual telling of the story. It’s like breathing to me, so I hope there are those out there wanting to listen. Time will tell.
As I’ve said in a previous blog post, I large portion of my childhood was spent living with my grandparents. The reasons for that are irrelevant for this so I won’t bother going into it. What I want to talk about is the effect that time period had on me as a person, and how it shaped several of my views of the world.
I remember waking up every morning, coming down the stairs at my grandparents’ home and softly padding my way into the kitchen. I always knew my grandfather was up because of the sound of shuffling cards sounding out over and over. It was a happy sound… a comforting sound that told me he was there waiting for the house to awaken. I’d come into the room and climb up on a chair as he would set the cards aside.
In the privacy of the house, he would be totally different than anywhere else. It was a common occurrence for him to break out into song with tunes like “you’re the cream of my coffee”, or “it ain’t no sin”. There’s not a day that goes by where one of those songs doesn’t cross my mind even today. He would put bread into the toaster for me and stand at the counter looking through the kitchen window above the sink and without fail, proclaim “there’s ole Eli coming up”. For most of my childhood if asked I would have told you the official name of the sun was Eli. It wasn’t until years later when I became older and a little more educated did I realize what Eli meant.
My grandfather was there each morning to feed me and send me off to school, and was sitting on his porch chair waiting for me to come home each afternoon. He and my grandmother ensured I had everything I needed to eat, to wear, and that I was as clean as they could possibly make me without a fight. I didn’t have all of the things nor brands that other children had, but I had enough which was more than some.
I remember sitting with my grandfather on the porch, me swinging and him rocking listening to his life stories over and over again. I must have heard about his life both the good and the bad ten thousand times, and never did I ever grow tired of listening. Tales of his childhood walking the train tracks to find coal for his family. Thing’s he experienced in the CC camps out west where he would send all but five dollars home to his mom so she could buy his siblings needed items. Adventurous and scary stories of Naval fights during WWII about friends dying and ships being destroyed. Those times with him consisted of the majority of time you wouldn’t have find me reading, mainly because his life stories seemed better to me than any book I had ever read.
He taught me the basics, some people would call it. How to treat a lady, why no time was ever a good time to lie, and what was the true meaning… and not the kind you see used in the media… of honor. Honor… it’s a term we hear all the time. Rapper’s use it along with terms like respect. Politicians use it to get votes. I have found few people understand it, and even fewer… try to truly live by it. I think one of the greatest things he taught me was to hold to your word. If you say something, stick to it and another person’s actions do not allow you to go back on it. I will stop you, the reader of this now to inform you I am not all of these things. HE was all of these things, and I only do my best to emulate him, and his ideals.
He has been, and remains the most influential person to me that I have ever had the benefit of knowing. I miss him greatly, and would give almost anything to be able to walk back on his porch, climb in that old swing, and just be in his presence one more time.