The Opening of a Lodge

Bro. Arthur E. Powell

The following excerpts from a chapter of a most interesting little book, The Magic of Freemasonry, by Brother Powell, to which reference has already been made by Tim BOOKMAN, is a fine example of a method of interpreting Masonry which might be called psychological allegory. It does make Masonry, in its slightest detail, a magical thing, full of useful meaning, so that no, matter how often we see the ritual, it is always new and helpful. In America we have very little of this kind of interpretation, and it is a pity that it is so. The names of some of the officers of the lodge show that the writer is following the English ritual.

TO THE thoughtful and imaginative, one of the most striking features of Masonic ritual is the magical way in which phrases which are so simple and direct as to be almost homely, conjure up ideas in the mind and stir the latter to feel its way gropingly through the words, as though these were doors of wonder, mystery and reality.

There has, perhaps, been more ingenuity devoted to devising interpretations of the sentences of the opening ceremony than to any other portion of the ritual. The impression conveyed by these questions and answers - an impression - which familiarity serves only to deepen - is that great things are afoot, that powerful forces are being called into being, that hidden secrets are to be unlocked, momentous action undertaken. The very first phrase - consisting, curiously enough, of seven words - instantly arrests the attention, as might a trumpet call, revealing even in its outermost structure an introductory outline of the fundamentals of Freemasonry: "Brethren, assist me to open the lodge."

It is the call of the Master, the chosen and accepted leader, the representative of the highest: it affirms brotherhood: it invites cooperation: it announces that action is intended, that an opening or unfolding of the lodge is to be made, of that body of which every brother is a part.

Of the many ways in which interpretations of the opening have been sought, we propose to select one only, that of the "microcosm," of the individual man or Mason. We shall endeavor to relate every officer and brother to some clearly defined element in the psychological structure of man, and to invest each phrase of the opening ceremony with a meaning appropriate to the marshalling of each man's powers and faculties, that he may prepare himself to undertake any action.

In some lodges certain preliminary ceremonies are observed, such as entering the temple in procession, and lighting the candles. We may regard these as a withdrawal of ourselves from the claims of the outer world-a setting of each faculty in its proper place, and an entering into a spiritual atmosphere or attitude, from which the common air of worldly occupations is excluded.

FOR the more complete presentation of our thesis, we are compelled to draw on Eastern science, for in it we find a far fuller and more complete analysis of the make-up of man's being. If we avail ourselves of the Buddhist and Hindu analysis, which has now been made fairly familiar in the West, we may tabulate our correspondent as follows:

  1. Worshipful Master - Wisdom
  2. Senior Warden - Strength of Will
  3. Junior Warden - Beauty of Creative Mind
  4. Senior Deacon - Reason or Intelligence
  5. Junior Deacon - Desire or Feeling
  6. Inner Guard - Physical Vitality or Brain
  7. Outer Guard - Physical Body
  8. Immediate Past Master - Matured Wisdom derived from past acts and built into the nature.

IT is important to note that the essential difference between the Immediate Past Master and the other officers of the lodge is that the former represents actuality, completed and realized, the latter potentiality. He stands for what man has done, the other officers for what he can do.

Let us now take up and examine in turn each question and response of the opening ceremony. We have already seen that the opening words of the Worshipful Master - "Brethren, assist me to open the lodge" - constitute a summons by the Master, Wisdom, to all the powers and faculties that man possesses, to assist him in the task that is before him. The Master then turns to the Mind, that creates, that devises ways and means, and asks what is the First Care, the reply coming that the First Care is Close Tyling. The Master instructs the Mind to have this duty performed: the Mind passes the order to the Brain, and the latter, having ascertained that the Physical Body is in "his proper place," reports accordingly.

Volumes might be written on the work of the Tiler, which is described as the first, as well as the constant care of every lodge throughout Craft Masonry. One aspect of this work is that of secrecy, but for the present we shall leave this on one side, and confine ourselves to the function of the Outer Guard as representing the Physical Body.

At the outset let us enumerate the external factors of the duties of the Tiler. First, he sands outside the door of the lodge; second, he is armed with a drawn sword; third, he has to keep off cowans and intruders; fourth, he has to see that candidates come properly prepared.

As the Tiler represents the physical body, the outermost element of the personality, it is not difficult to see the reason for his being outside the lodge. For nothing which pertains to the mere personality, to the appetites or desires of the body, must be allowed within the precincts of the temple itself. It has been usefully said that just as outer coats and hats are removed and hung up outside the lodge, so should every brother leave his personal feelings, interests, etc., outside the temple.

BUT we must not be content merely with excluding undesirable influences from the temple: the Outer Guard stands for something far more positive than this. We must ever bear in mind that the Tiler is a Brother Mason, and an officer of the lodge. Although he is in a state of exile from his brethren within the temple itself, yet no lodge is complete without him: it is the first and constant duty of the whole lodge to see that he is, at his post: if he fails in his duty, the work of the lodge ceases to be effective. The Tiler must never relax for an instant: he must be alert every moment, wide awake, ready for prompt action. His sword is never sheathed, and for effective use thereof sterling qualities are needed: vigilance, quickness, strength, skill, instant decision, courage, tirelessness.

In our analysis, the meaning of all this is clear. In whatever work we undertake, our first care must be to see to the physical conditions pertaining to the work in hand. Good intentions, lofty motives, noble resolves: all these are useless unless there is also present the material means of giving effect to them. It is ever on the physical plane that the acid test of life is applied. Masonry is not only high philosophy and exalted ethics: it is essentially practical, and the spiritual foundations of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, must have their physical counterparts on the material plane.

Applied to the individual, the care of the physical body is an important aspect of the Tiler's work. Physical ill-health may be the means, not only of undesirable influences finding their way into the lodge, but of rendering the work of all the other faculties ineffective. Bodily, weakness, carelessness, sloth, unreadiness, cowardice, lack of skill - any of these defects may render the tiling inoperative and lower the efficiency of the work. Truly was it said by a great Eastern teacher that "the first step on the road to Nirvana is perfect physical health."

We may perceive, then, that the Tiler represents physical activity, which depends largely on physical health. Like the Tiler himself, the physical body must not interfere or intrude itself, and this condition is best fulfilled when the physical health is in perfect order. The body, as a faithful servant of its master, the Mind, works the more perfectly the less the man is conscious of it.

BUT we may take the matter still further, and consider that the Tiler represents all the physical aspects of our undertakings. In any piece of work, the first and constant care is that of the actual physical materials and appliances. The craftsman needs both the materials for his trade and the tools wherewith to work, and there is no better test of a good workman than the care with which he keeps in order his tools, the most important of which is his own body.

The true Mason will thus take pains to see that all the physical implements, systems, devices, apparatus and so forth, which he uses are as perfect as he can make them, and are well cared for. Only when this condition is fulfilled will he be able to employ his faculties to full advantage in his Masonic work.

Leaving for a while the Tiler, we learn that the next care is to see that only Freemasons are present, and the brethren are tested accordingly. The application is clear. In every undertaking it is necessary at the outset to probe and test all our feelings, motives and thoughts, in order to see that they are worthy of a Mason; upright, on the square, pure and unsullied as the Freemason's Badge.

The Worshipful Master next, as though he were calling his forces into being, elicits the information that there are three Principal Officers. Will to furnish driving force: Mind to conceive plans of action : Wisdom to guide. These three, occupying Chairs, represent the static principles in man, the sources of power, not the vehicles for the transmission of the power into action. For the latter purpose, each has his assistant officer, who is mobile or dynamic, free to move about the floor of the lodge, obedient to the behests of the Chairs. Wisdom directs the Reason (Senior Deacon); Will energizes Desire (Junior Deacon) the Mind stimulates the Brain (Inner Guard) to action.

RETURNING yet again to the Tiler, and having already dealt with the first portion of his duty, we may profitably consider his function of seeing "that candidates come properly prepared." Whilst ever keeping at bay intruders, that is, undesirable thoughts or influences, the Tiler or physical body has also the task of keeping the avenues of sense alert, so that new impressions, new knowledge or experience may enter, when 'properly prepared." In this connection it is interesting to note that we may apply every detail of the preparation of the candidate to the manner in which we should receive new factors or considerations, after due examination and test, and apply them to our Masonic work.

Thus, we must divest them of all idea of personal gain: we must make them blind, on their own account, so that instead of their leading or swaying us we direct and control them as we will. With all hampering or clogging encumbrances removed, we shall be prepared to use them in forceful action: with bared heart, we shall be ready to apply them in the service of those in need of sympathy or help, even at the risk of our efforts being received with ingratitude, pierced by the sword of hostility and misunderstanding. We shall be willing to offer all we have, bending the knee freely in reverence or in humble service, and all the time keeping in touch with mother earth, the hard bed-rock of practical fact: and we shall be ready to apply all our powers to the end we have in view, braving all dangers, even to our last breath.

The next step in the opening, dealing with the Inner Guard, is to describe the function of the life of the body, the Brain. This is to admit principles which are known and which can pass the test, as well as to welcome, after suitable precautions, new ideas and fresh knowledge. The Inner Guard, or Brain, is further described as being the servant of the Mind (Junior Warden): a lesson simple enough to understand, though not always easy to apply. It is not every Mason who can make his brain the obedient servant of his mind, for sometimes the brain gets out of hand and runs its own course, carrying the mind with it. We may note, in passing, that in the Eastern system, the Higher Mind controls the flow of Prana, or Vitality, indicating, as many schools of thought today are re-proclaiming, perhaps in rather blundering fashion, that the control of bodily health is vested in the Mind.

THE duties of the Senior Deacon and Junior Deacon, as described in their rather puzzling responses, which incidentally we may note do not appear to find fulfillment in the actual ceremonies themselves, are of great psychological interest, and we shall find it convenient to consider them together as a pair.

The Senior Deacon, representing the active, reasoning intellect, the normal waking consciousness, has to bear messages and commands from Wisdom to Will. The latter, represented by the Senior Warden, who provides the driving force to carry out the work, energizes his servant or messenger, the Junior Deacon, or Desire, who in his turn carries the command of the Junior Warden, the Creative Mind, who conceives plans for performing the task.

The statement that the Junior Deacon has to see that the commands are "punctually obeyed," refers to the fact that Desire is insistent and remains active, we might almost say aggressive, until the Mind has accepted the command and formulated plans for its execution.

Similarly, the Lower Mind, the Reason, represented by the Senior Deacon, "awaits the return of the Junior Deacon"; that is to say, the normal waking consciousness remains in a state of expectancy until Desire, having achieved its purpose, is satisfied and ceases to be active.

The lower, dynamic or active factors having thus been defined, there is a marked change in phraseology, as the Worshipful Master turns to the higher, static elements, represented by the Wardens, and demands their rationale.

The place of the junior Warden, the Creative Mind, is described as marking the sun at its meridian, the highest point it reaches in the heavens. This appears to indicate that, at any rate in the First Degree, the highest level of consciousness to which, normally, man can attain, is that of the Higher Mind. Further, as the sun rules the day, so should the highest intelligence rule the man. And as the movements of the sun serve to call men from labor to refreshment and from refreshment to labor again, so should the highest intelligence determine when men should act and when they should cease from action, when they should work and when they may play. It is only when Intelligence - not, be it noted, Desire or Will rules and directs that both profit and pleasure can result; that is, that man can be both efficient and happy.

PASSING the Senior Warden, the Will, who represents the. end of the day, the setting sun, we perceive that when the Master, or Wisdom, the reigning ego of the whole consciousness, commands, the Will withdraws its driving or motive force from the lodge, and thus closes the undertaking. But this only takes place after every brother "has had his due"; in other words, after every faculty and power have been exercised to the fullest extent and everything that it is possible to do has been done.

Finally, the ritual tells us that the Master, or Wisdom, represents the rising sun, the source of light, the origin of consciousness. Whether we are normally conscious of it or not, there is within each one of us a Master, the ego of consciousness, the ruler, the true source of our life and actions. It is this supreme ego who opens the lodge, setting us to work, "employing and instructing the brethren in Freemasonry"; that is, directing and employing our faculties in the Craft of life.

The Master, or Wisdom, has now called into being all his subordinate faculties, and the task of each has been defined; but before the labors are actually commenced, the whole consciousness is turned upwards and inwards to the Supreme Architect, recognizing that from Him alone comes all Wisdom, all Strength, and all Beauty. And so the prayer goes forth that the work we are to undertake, having been begun methodically and in order, may be harmoniously conducted to a peaceful conclusion. In the well-known formula, all the faculties endorse this prayer, and determine that it shall be so.

IN the name of God, the Master now declares the lodge duly open, implying that all his faculties and powers are alert, and ready for action, their readiness being indicated by the movements which all the brethren make at this moment.

The descent of the Immediate Past Master, and the opening of the V.S.L., signify that all past knowledge and experience are brought into the field for future use; the accumulated wisdom of the ages, as recorded in the written word, is laid ready for reference, and the eternal symbols of square and circle are before our eyes to regulate our actions and to keep us within due bounds with all men. We are also reminded that from God alone, the one Source of light and life, proceeds all that we are and that action is but the Word of God made manifest.

Such is one interpretation, and that quite a simple and elementary one, of the Opening of a Lodge of Freemasons in the First Degree, conducted in that due and ancient form which no repetition can stale or familiarity ever rob of its stateliness, its dignity, its appeal to the highest and best there is in us, its urge to pierce through the outer veil of words and forms to that secret, inner world of causes, of which all these elements of our outer life are but fleeting efforts.

In conclusion, it will be fitting briefly to summarize the whole of the opening in terms of the present psychological interpretation. Before approaching any task, no matter how large or small, the Mason gathers his forces together, and places himself in the right attitude and atmosphere, reminding himself of the infinite Beauty, Power and Wisdom upon which he may draw for his needs, if he will.

Then, making as perfect as possible all the physical conditions necessary for the undertaking, he examines and proves his motives, seeing that they are pure and unpolluted. Carefully eliminating all undesirable and unworthy influences, he opens his nature to receive and welcome, after due preparation and examination, all new knowledge or material which may be of service in his work. The supreme ego issues its command, which is transmitted through the normal waking consciousness to the Will which, in turn, gives it its impetus, whereupon it becomes a pressing Desire: the imagining Mind then conceives a plan, which should be a plan of beauty, and passes the same to the Brain and Body for execution.

ALL his actions are thus ruled by his Intelligence, derive their impetus from the Will, but emanate from the supreme ego, or Wisdom. Nevertheless, he must ever remember that from God alone, whose servant he is, proceeds all that he is, for, as the Christian Scripture, quoted in the ritual, states in words which can scarcely be paraphrased without destroying their beauty, in God is the sole inspiration; His is the first and last word, and the meaning and end of all action is with God, is the action of God Himself.

The Master Mason — October 1926