Let’s Talk About Booze

This was an educational talk on Grand Lodge law for the August 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148.


Context

There are three times that alcohol is mentioned in the 2018 edition of Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas.1 Alcohol is mentioned once in the 2009 edition of Grand Master Decisions and Annotations to the Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas,2, 3 but it’s in reference to a candidate’s ability to consent to the obligation while under the influence, which is outside of the scope of this discussion.

Title II, Chapter 6, Article 224

Art. 224. (264). Use of Lodge and Anterooms. Masonic Lodgerooms and anterooms opening directly into Lodgerooms (other than club rooms designated to be used for social purposes) shall not be used for other than Masonic purposes, except as hereinafter provided in this Article nor shall they be used by any group or organization, secular or religious, except as otherwise provided in the Laws and Edicts of Grand Lodge. Other than the Lodgerooms and immediate anterooms mentioned in the foregoing sentence the Lodge building and premises may be used by the other organizations enumerated in Article 2253 of the Laws of Grand Lodge and by the families of the members of the Lodge. The use of said building and premises other than the Lodgerooms and immediate anterooms by such organizations and family members shall be encouraged to the end that Masonic Lodge buildings and premises will become the nucleus for family social activities. The organizations enumerated in Article 225 of the Laws may also, subject to the consent of the Masonic Lodge and subject to such rules and regulations as are from time to time announced by the Grand Master, use portions of the Lodge building, other than the Lodgerooms and immediate anterooms, to promote, encourage and accomplish such objectives, including, but not limited to, such specified fund-raising activities as are authorized by the Grand Master which funds are to be used exclusively for any purpose consistent with the principles and purposes of Masonry, or the Laws of the Grand Lodge, which said principles and purposes of Masonry are noncontroversial, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, patriotic and/or community character. The portions of the Lodge building hereinabove authorized to be used in the preceding manner, may be open on Sundays for use by those authorized organizations, subject to the conditions set forth in Article 225 but shall not be used when the Lodge is open for business or for degree work or while funerals are being conducted by the Lodge or in any manner which would interfere with or detract from the security of, or the work being conducted by the Lodge. (Revised 1996)

The Lodgeroom and anteroom may be on the ground floor, in a rented building, or one owned jointly with another, or one in which portions, other than the Lodgeroom and anteroom, are occupied or used by others; provided that, in each such case, the requirements as to security and all other matters required herein are complied with. Food may be consumed or served in the Lodgeroom when the Lodge is not at labor. (Revised 1996)

Constituent Lodges may meet in buildings where alcoholic beverages may from time to time be served. Constituent Lodges of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas may meet in buildings where other appendant Masonic organizations may, from time to time, serve alcoholic beverages, so long as such service is not in progress while the Lodge is open there; and further, be it enacted, that Constituent Lodges may let, lease, or rent portions of their buildings to other appendant Masonic organizations who may, from time to time, serve alcoholic beverages, so long as such service does not occur in the Lodgeroom of the building. (Adopted 2000)

Title II, Chapter 19, Article 335, Paragraph B, Part 5:

Art. 335. Lodge Funds Under Its Control.

[ . . . ] B. Subject to the provisions of Article 224, Lodges may conduct projects to raise funds for a Lodge’s
general fund, charity fund, endowment fund, needy individuals, any recognized Masonic charity or foun-
dation, disaster relief, public schools, educational scholarships or other similar funds. All such funds must be of a noncontroversial, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, patriotic and/or community character. All fund raising activities are subject to the following restrictions: [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] 5. No alcoholic beverages shall be distributed, sold, purchased, possessed or consumed during
a fund raising project on Lodge property. [ . . . ]

Title V, Chapter 2, Article 508, “Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations”, Paragraph 3:

Art. 508. Certain Other Masonic Disciplinary Violations. It shall also be a Masonic disciplinary violation for a Lodge, a committee or any combination of Masons, or an individual Mason: [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] 3. To consume, possess, have in possession, or sell intoxicating liquor5 in any portion of the Grand Lodge Memorial Building, or of any building or portion of any building occupied or used by any Lodge, provided, however, that this prohibition does not apply to small quantities of any such beverages or liquors required by existing rituals of such organization in the conferring of its degrees or orders, or in the ceremonies in observance of special occasions required by existing regulations of such organizations; and further, this prohibition shall not apply to space properly leased for commercial purposes. Constituent Lodges may meet in buildings where alcoholic beverages may from time to time be served. Constituent Lodges of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas may meet in buildings where other appendant Masonic organizations may, from time to time, serve alcoholic beverages, so long as such service is not in progress while the Lodge is open there; and further, be it enacted, that Constituent Lodges may let, lease, or rent portions of their buildings to other appendant Masonic organizations who may, from time to time, serve alcoholic beverages, so long as such service does not occur in the Lodgeroom of the building. (Revised 2000) [ . . . ]

Summary of Source Text:

  • Article 224 says:
  • we want the lodge building to be a “nucleus” of family activities.
  • we “may meet in buildings where alcoholic beverages may from time to time be served.”
  • we may meet in buildings where appendant bodies serve alcohol, or rent our building to those bodies, as long as we don’t meet when they’re serving alcohol.
  • Article 335 says we can’t have booze anywhere near a fundraiser on lodge property.
  • Article 508 restates Article 224’s points and says it’s a Masonic disciplinary violation to have or drink alcohol anywhere in a building used by a lodge unless:
  • it’s a small amount used in part of existing ritual.
  • it’s required for observances required by existing organization regulations.
  • or it’s happening in a commercial space.

The Problem

Article 224 and 508 both clearly state that it is acceptable for a lodge to meet in a building where alcoholic beverages may be served from time to time. Legally, what is the definition of “from time to time?” There’s obviously real definitions for this term, but there’s multiple interpretations of what that means. The lawbook doesn’t define what “from time to time” means, so we will have to go with an interpretation of our own, that most people agree is reasonable: “occasionally but not often.” How do we quantitatively define what’s occasional and what’s often? We simply can’t – at least not in an objective manner.

Article 508 raises even more questions:

  • How far reaching are we defining “occupied or used by any Lodge?”
  • Is this for any building, that’s been used by any lodge, for any purpose whatsoever, at any time?
  • Is this only for lodges that permanently meet in a building on a consistent basis?
  • How do we define “small quantities?”
  • When we say, “observance of special occasions required by existing regulations,” what do we mean?
  • How do we define what a special occasion is?
  • Are Shrine stated meeting dinners a special occasion that is required to be obvserved?
  • What about Scottish Rite Burns dinners?
  • What does it mean if a space is “properly leased for commercial purposes,” and what is the range of “commercial purposes?”
  • Does this include a one-time dining hall contract for a wedding reception?
  • Does a non-profit company count?
  • Is the space required to be leased to one business or organization exclusively?
  • Can a lodge be the owner of a business that is properly leasing space from a lodge for commercial purposes?

Gabe’s Take

My personal take on this is that Article 224 and 508 are filled with language that is vague and unenforceable, requiring significant changes, either in the form of definition additions, or wholesale deletion.

Footnotes

  1. Hereafter referred to as “the laws,” “Grand Lodge Law,” or “the lawbook.”
  2. Hereafter referred to as the “Grand Master’s Decisions.”
  3. Grand Master’s Decision № 6, 1955
  4. The full text of Title II, Chapter 6, Article 225 reads as follows:

Art. 225. Use of Lodge and Anterooms by Other Organizations: (a)Allied Masonic Degrees, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Council of Royal and Select Masters, Daughters of the Nile, DeMolay, Grotto, “High Noon Clubs,” High Twelve International, Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests, Knights Templar, Knights of the York Cross of Honour, Ladies of the Oriental Shrine of North America, Order of Beauceant, Order of the Eastern Star, Order of the Amaranth, Order of Knight Masons, Order of Rainbow, Order of Red Cross of Constantine, Order of Saint Thomas of Acon, Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem, Royal Arch Masons, Royal Order of Scotland, Scottish Rite Bodies, Sojourners, The Daughters of Mokanna, The Masonic Rosicrucians (S.R.I.C.F.), York Rite College, The Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers, and Bricklayers (otherwise known as “The Operatives”) and any degrees, Honorary Degrees and authorized groups authorized, recognized, permitted or commonly used by any of the above named orders, with the approval of the Lodge, and in the event more than one Lodge regularly meets in the Lodgeroom, then with the approval of all such Lodges, may be permitted under such conditions as may be specified by resolution of the Lodge or Lodges, to meet in the Lodgeroom, to place its charter on the walls of the Lodgeroom, and to leave its fraternal paraphernalia in the Lodgeroom, so long as such organization is permitted by the Lodge or Lodges to use the Lodgeroom.

Members of the families of members of such organizations may be authorized by the Lodge to use portions of the Lodge building and premises other than the Lodgeroom and the immediate anterooms, for family social activities and for the other activities authorized in Article 224. (b) Such organizations may be permitted to hold open meetings in the Lodgeroom for the purposes and on the conditions stated hereinafter, and such open meetings may be held for any of the following purposes only; (i) Installation of Officers; (ii) Memorial Services; (iii) Observance Services of anniversaries of such Order and only under the following conditions: (1) The Lodge, by formal action, recorded in its minutes, has authorized the said Order to hold its closed meetings in the Lodgeroom; (2) That no meeting be held on Sunday or on June 24th or December 27th; except that with the permission of the Worshipful Master of the Blue Lodge, or if there be more than one Subordinate Blue Lodge which meets regularly in the Lodge Hall then with the permission from all Worshipful Masters of all subordinate Blue Lodges which meet in the Lodge Hall, such Lodge Halls may be used on Sunday afternoon between the hours of 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., for the purpose of studying and practicing Masonic work; (3) That any such meeting held must comply with the usual Masonic customs and under the restrictions in Article 224 of our Laws and the decisions there under; (4) The Worshipful Master of the Lodge may authorize the meeting (unless there is more than one Lodge meeting in said Hall, then it will be necessary for the Master of each Lodge to approve), and report to the District Deputy Grand Master of the District in which the Lodge is situated, advising him of the purpose and time of such meeting. Permission may also be so granted by any Lodge for Easter Sunday Ceremonies, and Knights Templar Ascension Day and Christmas Ceremonies on December 25th and 27th even when these days fall on Sunday.

Art. 225a. Other Organizations, predicating membership on Masonic membership, recognized. In addition to those organizations recognized in Art. 225, next above, as being entitled to use Lodgerooms and Anterooms of Subordinate Lodges, the Grand Lodge of Texas may recognize and authorize other organizations which predicate membership on Masonic membership. Recognition and authorization must take place by approval of the Grand Lodge in Grand Communication. After an organization has been recognized and authorized by the Grand Lodge of Texas in Grand Communication, pursuant to this Art. 225a, Texas Masons may participate in, and be a part of, such organizations. Organizations recognized and authorized by Article 225a are not to use the Lodgeroom and/or Anteroom of a Subordinate Lodge under the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge. The organizations recognized and authorized pursuant to this Art. 225a will be published in the annual proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Texas and a listing will be maintained in the office of the Grand Secretary for reference thereto. This Grand Lodge has always had and retained the right to withdraw, at its pleasure, approval of any organization heretofore approved by it, and this Grand Lodge continues to reserve that right. (New 2005)

Art 225b. North-American Interfraternity Conference. Use of the Lodgeroom and Anterooms for Fraternity Chapters belonging to the North-American Interfraternity Conference must meet the following conditions: (1) that the fraternity seeking permission to use such facilities can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Worshipful Master of the Blue Lodge, that its formal ritual of initiation was written or influenced by a Master Mason; (2) the ceremonies of initiation, of the requesting fraternity, are consistent with Masonic customs; (3) a Master Mason, in good standing with the Grand Lodge of Texas, who is also a member of the requested Lodge and the requesting fraternity, and who is approved by the Worshipful Master, must be present, at all times that the fraternity members are present in the Lodge or its Anterooms; and (4) that the requesting fraternity agrees to abide by and be governed by any and all rules set forth by the granting Lodge. In instances where the building is owned by the Blue Lodge and other York Rite Bodies, there being two (2) distinct Lodgerooms available and the requesting fraternity desires to use the York Rite room, then permission must be granted also by the Most Excellent High Priest, the Thrice Illustrious Master, and the Eminent Commander with a York Rite Companion or Knight being a member of the fraternity and also present. (New 2005)

Article 225c. New and Existing Texas Organizations. Any organization located in Texas which predicates its membership on Masonic membership, having Masonic purposes, and one or more Texas Masons as part of its membership or governance (other than a Lodge and other than those Masonic organizations described in Article 225) (“affiliates”) shall adhere to the Masonic principles as set out in the Constitution and Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas.

Any new Texas Masonic organization which desires acceptance and recognition by the Grand Lodge of Texas under Article 225a (“new affiliate”) shall submit the information about its Masonic purposes, governance, expected financial support and structure on forms provided by the Grand Secretary. This information must be provided by the new affiliate to the Grand Secretary by June 30 of the year of its submission to the vote of the Grand Lodge of Texas in Grand Communication.

Any existing Texas organization which is accepted and recognized by the Grand Lodge of Texas under Article 225a (“affiliate”) shall submit an annual report about its purposes, governance, structure and financial position on forms provided by the Grand Secretary. This report shall be due in the Grand Secretary’s office by June 30 of each year. Failure to submit the report shall subject the affiliate to revocation of its recognition and by the Grand Lodge of Texas. (Adopted 2012)

  1. From Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed: Any liquor used as a beverage and which when so used in sufficient quantities ordinarily or commonly produces entire or partial intoxication; any liquor intended for use as a beverage or capable of being so used which contains alcohol either obtained by fermentation or by the additional process of distillation in such proportion that it will produce intoxication6 when imbibed in such quantities as may practically be drunk.
  2. From Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed: The state of being poisoned; the condition produced by the administration or introduction into the human system of a poison. But in its popular use this term is restricted to alcoholic intoxication, that is, drunkenness or inebriety, or the mental and physical condition induced by drinking excessive quantities of alcoholic liquors, and this “is its meaning as used in statutes, indictments, etc. See Sapp v. State, 116 Ga. 182, 42 S. E. 410; State v. Pierce, 65 Iowa, 85, 21 N. W. 195; Wadsworth v. Dunnam, 98 Ala. 610, 13 South. 599; Ring v. Ring, 112 Ga. 854, 38 S. E. 330; State v. Kelley, 47 Vt 296; Com. v. Whitney, 11 Cush. (Mass.) 477.

We Are Not Alone

TXMC 2019 Festive Board Remarks

What does it mean to you when you hear or think these words?

  • “We are not alone.”
  • “You are not alone.”
  • “I am not alone.”
Poti

For many Freemasons, the idea, “I am not alone,” is a revolutionary and heartening concept. It bolsters our self-worth, our spirits, and our enthusiasm for the Fraternity.

Chengti

Why is it important to remember that we are not alone? I’ve talked with many brethren who almost, or have, lost their passion for the Craft. They felt their interests weren’t found in the Fraternity. There’s more that I would have met and known, had they not left the Craft before I had the chance to meet them. These are men who have not found, are not finding, or did not find, their deeper needs provided for by the Fraternity.

Qijiang

I recently heard something in a private conversation that feels worth repeating. A brother, who is here tonight, shared a quote he’d heard that gave him some inspiration:

I do not share my thoughts to try to convince the ignorant to change their minds. I share my thoughts so that others who think clearly know they are not alone.

You are not alone, I am not alone, and we are not alone.

Qigu

“Don’t rock the boat, it’s not worth it” is the tale we have heard many times. At the same time, we hear, often from the same mouths, “wow, this guy is revolutionary,” when a boat-rocker beats the odds.

We have the opportunity to remain quiet and study in silence. We also have the opportunity to reach out to others and study together.

Neither you, nor I, nor any of us have to ever say anything, or reach out to anyone. Yet, if none of us make the first move, then we will remain lost, together in the same predicament, while being alone.

We each have a message that we can choose not to share, avoiding the trouble and headaches that come with doing so. What we may find though, is that the trouble and headaches may very well be worth it.

Zhonggu

What’s it worth to us, not to spread education? I’m not saying that those who seek a meaningful education are somehow a persecuted class. You do, though, know what I’m talking about. Each one of us has had encounters where we have walked away, stunned, at willful ignorance. This happens in all places. Any person, who has worked any job, anywhere, can tell you that. Where it’s the most tragic, though, is within Freemasonry.

There’s no need for us to count the instances of this within our own masonic experiences. It’s something that most, if not all, of us have seen and shaken our heads at.

Hougu

That’s why we’re here this weekend. We are here because we thirst for knowledge and hunger for wisdom.

We are here because we want to meet other brothers who feel the same way that we do about learning and growing. Texas MasoniCon is a chance for us to share and share alike in education and friendship.

All it takes is for one person, one lodge, one group of guys to make their mark and let others know that they are not alone. This happened for us when we found out about the original Masonic Con hosted by Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Massachusetts.

It’s not easy to for us to put this on, or for y’all to travel so far, or for our speakers to create their work. That’s why we do it, though, isn’t it – for the precise reason that it isn’t easy?

Shugu

We can choose:

  • to study in silence by ourselves,
  • to avoid the headache,
  • to not rock the boat,
  • and to not reach out,

Or we can choose:

  • to study together and publicize our success,
  • to put in the effort, hard as it may be,
  • to rock the boat and make a splash,
  • and to build a stronger community and culture of education within Freemasonry.
Dajie

That’s why we’re right here, right now. That’s why Texas MasoniCon exists. We are not alone.

The Texan Chamber of Reflection

This was an educational talk on Grand Lodge law for the July 2019 stated meeting of Fort Worth Lodge № 148.


Context

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

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
  • sulfur
  • salt
  • 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.

What can we do to improve an 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.

Protected by the Cherubim

1 Kings 6:14,19:

“So Solomon built the house, and finished it. And the oracle he prepared in the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD.”

When Solomon finished the Sanctum Sanctorum with the help of Hiram Abiff, he seated the Ark of the Covenant beneath the extended wings of the Cherubim. When he completed and dedicated the Temple to the glory of God as we witnessed in the Most Excellent Master’s degree, the glory and name of God manifested itself as a cloud of flame and black smoke. This fulfilled the promise that God made to King David.

What do the Cherubim and the fiery presence of God on their wings mean for us as masons, though?

The Cherubim in Scripture

The cherubim fulfilled several functions: they protected the ark of the covenant, they touched the inner walls of the temple, and they supported the presence of God. In 1 Chronicles 28:18, they are referred to as God’s chariot. This was known as the “Mercy Seat,” and in Greek was called the hilasterion, or “that which removes sin.”

Chapters 1 & 10 of the book of Ezekiel explain that the Cherubim are used by God as his chariot to move around Chaldea and to leave the temple in Jerusalem. The concept of God’s chariot was and is considered so important in Judaism that there is an entire school of thought known as Merkabah Mysticism or Chariot Mysticism

The central theme of Chariot Mysticism is stories of ascent to heaven, and God’s presence on His throne. This theme manifests in the school’s primary practice, which is called the Work of the Chariot and focuses on meditation and contemplation. In the Work of the Chariot, practitioners go through a series of veils, each guarded by an angel, and secured by a password and sign. The password and sign for each veil was the name and signet of the angel guarding it.

As the practitioner passes through each veil, he unfolds more and more of God’s divine revelation, and re-joins his soul with God. This process, including passing the veils using passwords and signs, should be very familiar to us as Royal Arch Masons.

The process of reintegration with God is also a central theme of Jewish and Christian mysticism. Revelation  22:14 states

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

This ties back to Genesis 3:24:

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Once again, we see the Cherubim as guardians – this time, as guardians of the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life is the key to both the Garden of Eden and the city of New Jerusalem (assuming they are not, in fact, the same place). In order to enter New Jerusalem, or reintegrate with God, we must follow its path.

The Tree of Life details ten different stages that man must reach in order to reintegrate with God, followed in a specific order (as detailed by the flaming sword of Genesis). Traveling through ten stages means that there are nine veils, gates, or archways to pass, much like the nine arches that we learn about in the Royal Arch Mason and Select Master degrees. 

The Cherubim in Ritual

In the Royal Master degree, the Cherubim are involved from the start. The candidate is received by walking into the room, under the extended wings of the Cherubim, and around the Ark of the Covenant. This is different from his reception in the Capitular degrees in that it he is not formally received, and his conductor does not give him an explanation of how and why he is being received in the way that he is. It is also more of a symbolic act on the candidate’s part than an instruction from the conductor. 

The cherubim that extend their wings over the Ark of the Covenant are a representation of God’s strength and protection, because they both support God’s presence, and protect the Ark of the Covenant. For a candidate, every degree is a request for further light. When the candidate passes under the wings of the Cherubim, and into the circle of angels, he is showing that any quest for more truth must first start by placing oneself in the strength and protection of God.

We know that while they supported the name and fiery presence of God with one set of wings, the Cherubim also touched the inner walls of the Temple with their other set of wings, but could not be seen from outside the Sanctum Sanctorum. This is very important to us as Freemasons, because King Solomon’s temple represents us as human beings. As the strength, protection, and chariot of God, the Cherubim connect the inner walls of our mental, emotional, and spiritual temple to the presence of God that is inside each and every one of us, even though nobody can see that from outside of our hearts. Our inner spiritual lives are guarded from the world.

The Tree of Life can be divided into three pillars that are named Severity, Mercy, and Harmony. The two Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant can be seen as representing Severity and Mercy, while the fiery presence of God represents the pillar of Harmony. The top of the pillar of Harmony in the Tree of Life is known as the Crown, and represents total integration with God. The Cherubim and Ark from Scripture and our ritual are a reminder that the Tree of Life – which is our key to Eden and New Jerusalem – is inside of us.

In Conclusion

As Royal Arch Masons and Royal & Select Masters, we are performing our own Work of the Chariot. Every degree we have taken, and every degree we confer, is one more veil that we leap through. The more we learn about ourselves, and the more we improve ourselves through Freemasonry, the closer and closer we come to reintegrating with the Divine fire that lives both inside of us and all around us. 

The Cherubim remind us that God lives in every one of us. Our hearts are filled with his fire and presence. We know the name of God – we just have to look within ourselves and surrender to His strength and protection.

Preserving the Word

The Legend of the Cryptic Degree

Presented by Companion Gabriel Jagush at a stated assembly of Texas Council #321, Royal & Select Masters, on October 2, A∴ Dep∴ 3018.

The Common Work

The American Royal Master and Select Master degrees of the Cryptic Council originally have their origins as offshoots of Ecossais degrees from the Burgundy region of France. These degrees all deal with the method of preserving the “true Word.” They are known as “Cryptic” degrees, “Ninth Arch” degrees, “Secret Vault” degrees, or “Sacred Vault” degrees. They all share common themes: there is always a treasure, and there is always a vault, cave, or underground hiding spot.

In the original legend, the Builder of the Temple engraved the Word on a triangular neck jewel that he always kept on his person. In a moment when his life was endangered, he threw the jewel – and consequently, the Word – into a well in the northeast corner of the Temple. Much time later, three workers or builders found the jewel in the well at noontime. Later, the legend was changed so that the hiding of the Word was pre-planned and deliberate.

This legend appears in the Jewish Talmud and the Christian Bible, and is found – in some form – in every Masonic Rite all over the world. One of the first references to the Cryptic legend is found in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, which details the preservation of secrets as revealed to Enoch – something we learn about in the Royal Arch degree. Enoch’s story in the Sacred History bridges the gap between the Capitular degrees, which deal with recovering the Word, and the Cryptic degrees which deal with preserving the degrees. Our Cryptic degrees themselves take place a long time after Enoch’s story.

We know there were two vaults – Enoch’s and Solomon’s. Solomon’s builders found Enoch’s vault, and Solomon later constructed his own separate vault where he deposited the Word. Early versions of the Select Master degree treat of both arches, but our present-day version only deals with Solomon’s arches.

Throughout the world in every Rite, the Craft degrees only deal with the loss of the Word, and the Capitular degrees only deal with the restoration of the Word.

All versions of the Select Master degree have common themes:

  • There is always a treasure.
  • There is always a vault, cave, or underground hiding place.
  • There is always loss of the knowledge of God, either by the fall of Adam, the wickedness of mankind after the flood, or the plot against Hiram.
  • There is always a method of preservation, either by hollow pillars, an ark, or a messiah figure.

The manner of preservation doesn’t really matter – what matters is that they are all places of refuge or safe places to hide secrets. The ark itself is an innovation from later versions of the degree, and is entirely made-up for the purpose of our degrees.

The Treasure

The historical object of the Cryptic degrees is to detail how a secret treasure was hidden – in our case, the idea was developed by Hiram Abiff, and executed by King Solomon. In a literal sense, the secret treasure is the physical manifestation of the Word, or the name of God, on top of the Ark of the Covenant. However, as Masons, we should understand that what is being preserved is the knowledge of the Ineffable Name of God, not necessarily a representation or written form thereof. In a narrative sense, it is as important to modern Masons as ever, because without knowing how the word was preserved, the Royal Arch degree doesn’t make sense. It is the completion of the story, and the way we fill in all the “plot holes” in the degrees. More importantly, however, it is a proof and lesson that as Masons, we should desire to know God above all else, and treasure His name.

The Secret Vault

Descending into the secret vault can represent many things. When I think of the more light-hearted parallels, I think of how passing each arch is like a passing year in, or deeper level of, a friendship, love of a spouse, trust of a brother, or knowledge gained. However, that’s not the primary purpose of the secret vault.

The secret vault is, emblematically, a grave, and by descending into it, we emulate the process of dying. Zabud encounters the point of no return when he goes through the door that was left ajar. After that, he must either die, or join the Select of the Twenty-Seven, but he can never un-open that door. Just as Zabud went past the point of no return, so will we, eventually. We can’t undo becoming Select Masters, and we certainly can’t reverse death.

However, what awaits us in the secret vault is the Word. Here on earth, we can only guess at what God is really like, or what awaits us after we die. Much as Zabud is totally clueless until he descends into the vault and becomes one of the twenty-seven, we don’t know what awaits us until we embrace death and join the ranks of those that have died. How different would this story be if Zabud had rejected Solomon’s offer and been executed? How different will our story be if we reject God’s truth?

The Discovery

Discovering the sacred treasure in the Royal Arch degree and discovering the secret vault in the Select Master degree represents an allegory for the effect that discovering the nature of God has on our lives. The Word itself was used for the government of the Craft, and seen as being so important that it needed to be preserved. After preservation, it survived the destruction of the Temple and was hidden away safely until it was discovered by the three Most Excellent Masters of the Royal Arch degree, who found it by being willing to do any work, even if they risked their lives by doing so. The Word is so important that the Select of the Twenty-Seven were willing to defend it at all costs, and were more deeply connected to each other than anyone else in the Craft. The Word completes our Masonic journey.

In the same way, knowledge of God governs our lives, and it’s so important to us as a species that we’ve done everything we can to preserve it, be it through telling others, or by writing holy texts. God, and knowledge of God, survives every calamity and every disaster. God is always waiting for us to find Him, and we should pursue Him at all costs – even if we risk our lives. This pursuit binds us together as believers more closely than anyone else. Much how the Word completes our Masonic journey, God completes our lives, and much how the Word was hidden in the Temple, knowledge of God is hidden inside each and every one of us.