Temple or Lodge Room?
By Very Worshipful Brother Sydney Raymond
SUBJECT: WHETHER the PREMISES in which MASONIC CEREMONIAL MEETINGS are conducted should be designated a TEMPLE or a LODGE-ROOM.
This is a very interesting subject because in its essence it gets to the very heart of the design of our Craft. The skillful design is such that whilst the precepts of our Craft remain constant, each and everyone of us understands it in a slightly different way. In this I have no quarrel. In fact it is as it should be. It has been the experience of many that, as their innermost being develops, the very same Symbols, the very same words of the Ritual Charges, take on a further depth of meaning in the understanding, and the practise, of their personal life-style. There are many different Roads to Rome, and provided each one of us pursues a path by which we hopefully will reach the goal as portrayed in our Rituals, each individual view point is valid. Now, let us explore for the correct designation of the premises in which we conduct our Meetings.
To be or not to be; that is the question. Is it a TEMPLE or is it a LODGE-ROOM? To avoid confusion let us look at the definition of a Church / Mosque / Synagogue etc.
WEBSTER’S DICTIONARY (1898 publication)
“…Any Body of Worshipers…”
THE MASONIC BIBLE
“A Congregation of Religious Worshipers (Ref ACTS vii. 38)”
Arising from these definitions we can say that a Church is…..A Place consecrated for a Body-of-People to assemble and Worship
Now, the definition of a Temple (as a Noun)
“A Place or Edifice dedicated to the worship of some Deity. Also it is…” as well as… “A Place in which the Divine Presence specially resides.”
A Rectangular Building surrounded by a colonnade, with an Inner Sanctorum containing The Alter.
THE MASONIC BIBLE (Dictionary Section)
“Is Sometimes applied to the Tabernacle ( Ref. 1. SAM. 9 ) and (Ps. x v f i i 6)” and “ Sometimes the Temple itself is called A Tabernacle (Ref.’ 2. Chron 1. S)”
So, from these definitions we can say, that a Temple is… “A Place dedicated to G–d in which the Divine Presence specially resides.”
Clearly there is a difference between the Church concept and the Temple concept. A Church is consecrated to Prayer, whilst a Temple is a place dedicated to the Divine Presence. The question is, therefore, whether the premises of a Masonic Lodge is a Church Concept, a Temple Concept or a Meeting Place where it conducts its business and also gives instruction and guidelines of its precepts?
Looking back historically…
i. The Lodge of the Operative Masons was a structure situated separately and hard against the South wall of the Cathedral under construction. In it the Masons discussed the work-in-progress stored the working-documents of the construction, had their meals etc, etc. This was no Church, let alone a Temple.
ii. When the current Speculative style of Freemasonry established itself in London in the year 1717, the meeting place of the four Lodges who united under this banner held their meetings in a Pub. This was no Church or Temple! iii. Present day Freemasons are enabled to meet in any premises and conduct a Masonic Meeting. This would include Initiating, Passing and Raising, and so on, to the various Degrees of our Craft.
The meeting is considered valid provided that…
1. The Charter of the Lodge, 2. The Volume of the Sacred Lore and 3. The Tracing Board are all on display.
I am unaware of any stipulation that a Masonic Lodge has to meet in a Temple (as defined). But, here is the strange thing… Read Masonic literature, talk to Freemasons who are as much as fifty or more years in the Craft and it will be found that, almost inevitably, the Meeting Place of Freemasons is referred to as the Temple!
Stop and think! Why? I submit the following for your careful consideration...
The whole skillful heart and design of our Rituals and Practises is based on Symbolism, Allegory and Parable. A lot of our Ritual is far from historical accuracy. Our Rituals set out to deliver a message of TRUTHS, and the subject matter is… A Design for Living.
I refer you to a book entitled Serpents in the Sky written by John Anthony West. In this book he defines a Symbol, and he says it is… “A deliberate means of evoking understanding as opposed to conveyinginformation, and therefore, WORDS convey information, but, SYMBOLS evoke understanding.”
I suggest that the understanding of Life and Harmonious Living is the message the skillful designers of our Craft set out to portray. On this note let us look at the reason why it has became accepted, but erroneous, practise to refer to the meeting place of a Masonic Lodge as a Temple. Let me refer you to the Bible – ( 1 Cor iii 16 ) : “Know you not that you are the Temple of G-d and that the Spirit of G – d dwelleth in you”
It is my view that the Masonic Lodge Symbolises…a Person – a Human Being.
• The human body is the Temple of G-d, and the Spirit of G-d dwells within us.
• The Officers represent the different aspects of a Person.
i. The Outer Guard – represents The Conscience of Man which monitors the admission of good and evil influences.
ii. The Inner Guard – represents the The sub-conscious of Man which advises the intellect and takes instructions from that higher-source namely the W.M.
iii.The Preparator – represents the Guiding Spirit within us all.
iv. The Junior Warden – represents Beauty to Adorn – in pursuing a life of harmonious living.
v. The Senior Warden – represents Strength to Execute – the choices undertaken.
vi. The Worshipful Master – represents Wisdom to Design – our Life’s pathway. This would explain, to my satisfaction, how the Premises of a Masonic Lodge came to be confused with, and referred to, as a Temple… this representing the Symbol of…The Temple not made with hands, that is to say ‘a Person’.
Through poor instruction and insufficient understanding it became the practise to interchange the two. As an example of incorrect practise through insufficient instruction and lack of understanding, let me relate to you this true story concerning De Goede HoopTemple…
Many years ago the magnificent Organ Consol, now situated upstairs, was in fact positioned in the centre of the South Column and jutted out beyond the row of benches and chairs. Consequently when perambulating the Lodge, the brethren needed to square around the Organ to proceed along the Column. After the Organ Consol had been moved to its present position, leaving the South Column free of encumberance, one Lodge which shall remain un-named, continued to square around where the Organ Consol used to be. This practice went on for years until it was commented on by a visiting experienced Freemason. He enquired why the bretheren practised this peculiar square at that point of the South Column. He was told… “but this is how we have always done it.”
It was then pointed out to them why it had needed to be done in the distant past and, obviously was no longer necessary. So much for so-called Tradition and Practise Clearly therefore taking into account all that has been said and explained the referring to Masonic Meeting Places as THE TEMPLE is certainly faulty, even though it could be understandable Practice
So finally I refer you to the Concise Cyclopedia of Freemasonry by EL. Hawkins, published in 1947. On page 144, Bro Hawkins quotes a description of an English Lodge a hundred years ago, written by an authoratative Masonic scholar namely Bro. Dr. Oliver.
The quotation reads… ” The appointments and arrangements of a MASONIC LODGE-ROOM were then…etc, etc, etc.”
You will have noted that Bro. Dr Oliver did not say “a Masonic TEMPLE”!!
Obviously, Masonic Premises should be correctly referred to as…THE LODGE ROOM.