This was an educational talk on Grand Lodge law for the July 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148.
Let’s say your lodge wants to use a continental-style “Chamber of Reflection.” Let’s also say that one of your officers decided to post about this in an open online forum. This is the post that started the latest discussion:
Alright Brethren, need your help. As Master of Ceremonies this year, I want to turn our Anteroom/Storage room into a legit Chamber of Reflection. Can I see your Lodge’s chamber or do you have any suggestions on what it should contain? Definitely going to put a Bible and maybe an hour glass.
Key Points to Consider:
- Using a typical Chamber of Reflection is not legal in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas.
- There is no precedent in the history of Preston-Webb ritual for using a Chamber of Reflection.
This is a Grand Lodge law talk, and not a ritual talk, so we’ll stick to discussing the former and not the latter.
Grand Master’s Recommendation № 2, 2013
In 2013 the M∴W∴ Grand Master, Walt Rogers, made several Grand Master’s Recommendations. One of them banned the Chamber of Reflection. A summary of the justification for the recommendation goes as follows:
- Some lodges and masons are breaking the rules by performing unapproved ritual.
- Nobody has the right to perform unapproved ritual.
- You can’t use paraphernalia other than that listed in Title II, Chapter 6, Article 223.
His recommendation added a clause to the existing text of Article 127. This clause bars using paraphernalia other than that listed in Article 223. The vote to accept this recommendation passed, and only one person spoke against it. The entirety of Article 127 now reads as follows:
Art. 127. Ritual. No ritual other than that promulgated by this Grand Lodge shall be taught or used in this Jurisdiction, nor shall paraphernalia except as listed in Article 223 be used, nor shall preparation of Candidates include other than that provided in the Monitor of the Lodge or otherwise required by any provision of the laws of this Grand Lodge, provided however by special dispensation of the Grand Master, a degree team from another Grand Jurisdiction in fraternal relations with this Grand Lodge may confer a degree on one of their own candidates using ritual as approved in the degree team’s home jurisdiction, provided said ritual is in English. (Revised 2013)
Article 223 contains a set of lists of the minimum required paraphernalia for a lodge to be set to work. There is one list for the lodge room in general, one list for each degree, and one list for the funeral. It appears that based on Article 127, for the purposes of conferring, this is also the maximum permitted paraphernalia.
What We Can’t Do
Nowhere in these lists do we see any of the items often used in a Chamber of Reflection:
- a skull
- bread and water
- stuffed roosters
- alchemical symbols
- an hourglass
- a last will and testament
- and so forth.
Any of the above or more, are impermissible to use when preparing a candidate.
What We Can Do
It is worth noting that the actual design of the anteroom is up to us. This includes how we paint the walls and what we paint on them, how the room is lit, and so forth. We can include a mirror in the room to help the candidate change clothes, but not to “prepare” him for the degree. Article 223 requires and permits the use of a lecture chart, slides, or film. That makes them permissible paraphernalia which we can include in the anteroom.
- remove anything irrelevant to the degree that is being stored in the room.
- provide dim lighting using a candle or fire-safe equal.
- paint the walls of the anteroom in a neutral-to-dark earth tone.
- include individual lecture slides or a lecture chart on the wall.
- disperse air freshener, incense, or essential oils in the anteroom before using it.
- most of all: be serious, professional, and imposing when dealing with the candidate.