Secrets of the Freemason’s Book – Chamber of Reflection and Alchemy in Masonic Philosophy
CHAMBER OF REFLECTION
“So let your heart be perfect with him
Lord our God, to walk in his statutes and
to keep his commandments … “
1 Kings 8:61
In accordance with Jewish literature and traditions, great care was taken with the personal condition of each Israelite who entered the temple for divine worship. The Talmud dictated the following requirements: “No one shall enter the Temple with their staff or with their shoes on their feet, or with their outer clothing, or with money tied in their purse.” Freemasonry has adopted parts of this ancient Jewish custom regarding the preparation of the candidate to enter a lodge.
Although not Jewish in origin, the Chamber of Reflection, which has been incorporated into the preparation of a candidate in some American lodges, is an updated version of the ancient cave of initiation. However, it also serves to prepare the candidate to enter holy land. Generally, the chamber is a small room lit only by a candle that casts a weak light on a number of ornaments, including a human skull, human bones, a piece of bread, a flask of water, an hourglass, a saucer with salt and another. containing sulfur. The candidate is sitting inside only to silently contemplate the sacred significance of his planned Masonic journey.
Seated at a table, the candidate must draw up a philosophical will that will then be read aloud in the lodge. To compose this testament, the candidate must search his soul for his true feelings about life, death and the transformation of the self from his material nature to his spiritual destiny. It should come as no surprise that the symbols within the chamber are derived primarily from alchemy, science, and the philosophy of metamorphosis.
The alchemists believed that the salt that is extracted from sea water through the process of evaporation constitutes the element of fire delivered by water. Sulfur is to the human body what the sun is to the earth. The combination of salt and sulfur symbolizes life and death, or light and darkness nurture each other. Therefore, while the general candidate for the Masonic degrees is not fully informed about alchemy or the symbols it employs, he is intended to meditate on esoteric matters such as the evolution and continuity of all life, as well as the fact that the Transformation from material life to spiritual existence is a matter of personal experience. Each and every human being will live, die, and live again, but no one will be able to fully appreciate how it will feel until it actually happens.
For Freemasons, the time spent in the Chamber of Reflection symbolizes the trials of life. The first lesson to be learned is that nothing is inherently good or bad. People are responsible for making things better or worse depending on how they behave. Therefore, the first lesson relates to the importance of accepting responsibility for one’s actions.
The hourglass asks the candidate to reflect on the irreversibility of the passage of time. Material life is in a continuous progression towards decay and there is very little time available to participate in the development of the spirit. Bread denotes the transformation from raw to fully cooked, from raw wheat to bread suitable for human consumption. A Freemason is of no value to the world he lives in simply because he has been initiated into the Order. Rather, you must prepare yourself by studying and applying the knowledge you acquire, if it is ever to benefit society and humanity. The water bottle represents fertility or regeneration, of which cleansing or baptism is also a symbol. The regeneration explained in this symbolism is not the resurrection of the spirit and the soul, but the resurrection to the moral and virtuous life of the material body. Regeneration of spirit and soul benefits the individual, while renewal of determination to live will benefit others. Most religions teach that unless a man renews his material life to do good works, he will not fully prepare for eternal life.
It is essential that the candidate understands that Freemasonry does not teach that good works achieve the salvation of the spirit and soul. Rather, religions teach that lesson in various ways. Freemasonry instructs on how a life should be lived, how the “works” of a human life are actually reflected in the “faith” one has. Therefore, the path for which the Chamber of Reflection prepares the candidate is the path to a better life, not the salvation that can only come by God’s grace, never by man’s own works and deeds.
The human skull that is placed in the chamber is intended to remind the candidate that death is the great leveler. No man can escape its clutches and no man can really know what it feels like to be dead until he has experienced death himself. The skull is also intended to teach the candidate that death is also the source of life. As plant and animal life die to be consumed by human life, the truth that death contributes to life is deeply illustrated. When a good man dies, his works remain and contribute to the well-being of those who continue to live. The opposite is true for a bad man. While his wrongdoings die with him, the effect of those actions can last long after his death. The lessons learned in Freemasonry allow the member to make it more likely that his own death is a source of life for others, not a source of pain and torment.
The symbols arranged in the Chamber of Reflection are also intended to instill in the mind of the novitiate the importance of distinguishing between the real and the fantastic. When man adheres to the real, he frees himself from the phantoms that so quickly oppose light and darkness. Most of the time, misbehavior is the result of a confused imagination. In Hitler’s twisted fantasy, the Jew was responsible for the ills of his society. A serial killer often fantasizes that brutal and violent taking his life brings pleasure.
Energy is the result of contradictory forces that resist each other. It turns into positive energy or negative energy, depending on whether the dark side of life becomes too excessive or not. Light does not always shine in a man’s soul more than it always illuminates the earth. For about twelve out of every twenty-four hours of each day, darkness prevails. In man’s life, he is not always in good health; for at least a few days, your body is sick. It is not about how to remove the darkness, because that is contrary to the laws of nature. Rather, it is a question of what to do when surrounded by darkness that dictates whether or not positive energy will ultimately prevail.
In preparation for the Masonic journey, whether or not that journey begins with a period of private contemplation in the Chamber of Reflection, the candidate should be led to reflect on where he is in his own life, where he wishes to be when his life is in progress. the land ends and how you should best make the journey between those two points. Many lodges in America have failed to teach this valuable lesson early in a candidate’s Masonic career. Most of the time, candidates are simply “primed” by the form of their appeal, which is finally explained after the journey has begun. Little or nothing is said about what it means to pursue Masonry, or why that pursuit is meaningful to man and society until after one or more titles are awarded to the candidate.
Is it possible that by re-establishing the important symbolism of the Chamber of Reflection in the functioning of every Masonic lodge, some who leave the Office after a very short journey continue their search? Is it important to teach a candidate what is expected of him before receiving Masonic degrees? Symbolism is a way of showing how words create images and how those images become elements of myths, imaginary tales that ring true because they travel winding paths that go from wishes to ideas to actions. Because Freemasonry communicates its wise and serious truths through symbols that have been selected over time, it is very likely that it is very important for a degree candidate to appreciate the required meditation before embarking on their Masonic journey. .
For many Freemasons, the search for knowledge and wisdom is a continuous process of study, application, review of what has been previously studied, and further application of new lessons learned. This process is consistent with the exhortation frequently uttered in Masonic lodges: “gather together what has been scattered and reconcile what appears to be contradictory.” Each of us has experienced the need to adapt and be different. We have also experienced faith and unbelief; certainty and doubt; and order and chaos. Those of us who are able to read this writing have yet to experience the difference between what we know as life and death, and whether or not there is a difference.
If in your Masonic career you were not allowed the opportunity to contemplate within a Chamber of Reflection before receiving your degrees, you can do so now by bowing your head and offering a prayer to the Great Architect to understand where you are in your life. , how you got there and how you will travel to the end of your life. As in all Masonic affairs, the choice is yours. As is also true in all Masonic affairs, no man should undertake a great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of God.