Giving Thanks for Pilate’s Accusation

This was an educational talk for the October 2019 stated meeting of Worth Commandery № 19, KT.

Giving Thanks for Pilate’s Accusation:

A Perspective from the Maltese Priory


According to the Gospels, when Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus of Nazareth to execution by crucifixion, he ordered that a sign be placed over Jesus’ head while on the cross. The exact phrasing of the sign is unclear, but the most famous rendition is from John 19:19-20, which reads as follows:

Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

This title, which was a criminal accusation from Pilate, has survived to present day, and evolved into a title of unparalleled honor among Christians for Jesus of Nazareth, now Jesus the Christ. It is represented by the Latin initialism INRI.

History of the Term

There are two primary terms related to INRI. The first is the title “King of the Jews,” which was used exclusively by Gentiles such as the Magi, Pilate, the Romans, and so forth. The Jewish population of Judea instead used the term “King of Israel.” Each group objected to the other group’s epithet towards Jesus for different reasons, while Pilate himself objected to the use of the term “King,” due to the implication of revolution against his governorship of Judea. The author of the Gospel of Mark himself makes a careful and conscious distinction between the two terms, and who uses them.

The first reference to “King of the Jews” that we see is in Matthew 2:1-2, when the Magi talk to Herod, asking “where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” This sets a terrible series of events into movement. Herod tries to interrogate the Magi, but fails. His failure to discover the identity of the perceived pretender to the throne leads to a genocidal edict to kill all Bethlehemite males under the age of three.

The first reference to either term in the Passion Narratives occurs during Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate. In each of the Gospels, Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3, John 18:33). In the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke), Jesus replies, “You say so.” However, in John 18:33-37, the exchange is substantially different:

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

After interrogating Jesus, Pilate has him scourged and humiliated. The soldiers clothe him in purple robes and a crown of thorns, mocking his status as a “king” (Matthew 27:29-30, Mark 15:17-19, John 19:2-3). The primary criminal charge leveled against Jesus is claiming to be a king (John 19:12). Once Jesus is crucified, some version of “The King of the Jews” is placed over his head (Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, Matthew 27:37, John 19:19-20). According to some translations of Luke 23:28, such as the ones found in the 1599 Geneva Bible and the King James Version, it was specifically written in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The last use of “King of the Jews” occurs in Luke 23:36-37 and Matthew 27:42 when the Roman soldiers mock Jesus as he is dying on the cross.

Use by the Church

The Early Church often referred to Jesus as the “King of the Judeans.” This was a huge risk for members to take, as this was tantamount to treason, and by calling themselves “followers of Jesus,” they were essentially associating themselves with a revolutionary agent. This was more strongly emphasised by Christ’s name, which we have Romanized as “Jesus,” but was originally Yeshua or “Joshua,” and meant “liberator.” 1

As the Early Church evolved into the Western Church and the Eastern Church, so too did the initialism used on representations of the cross. The Western Church uses INRI, which stands for the Latin phrase IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM. The Eastern Church instead uses INBI, which is the initialism of the Greek phrase, IESUS HO NAZORAEOS HO BASILEUS TON IUDAEON. 2 The Greek word basileus means “monarch,” usually in reference to a king or an emperor. 3 The Eastern Church also frequently uses the variant INBK, for IESUS HO NAZORAEOS HO BASILEUS TU KOSMU, which translates to English as “Emperor of the Universe” instead of “King of the Jews.” According to Catholic tradition, Saint Helena (who is revered by both the Western and Eastern Churches) brought the tablet with the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew inscriptions to Rome. 4

Esoteric Latin Interpretations

There are a number of Latin sayings or mottos that have been generated from INRI. 5 Among them include:

  • In Necis Renascor Integer – In Death I Am Reborn Intact and Pure.
  • Iustum Necare Reges Impios – It is Just to Kill Impious Kings
  • Igne Nitrum Roris Invenitur – By Fire, the Nitre of the Dew is Discovered
  • Intra Nobis Regnum Iehova – The Kingdom of God is Within Us

Of note are two particular versions which have been carried into many esoteric traditions, including some degrees in Freemasonry 6:

  • Igne Natura Renovatur Integra – By Fire, Nature Renews
  • Insignia Naturae Ratio Illustrat –  Reason Illuminates Nature’s Symbols  

Esoteric Hebrew Interpretations

Esoteric traditions often tie the letters of INRI to the Hebrew words yam, nur, ruach, and yebeshas. 7 Yam translates to “vast body of water,” and represents the element of water. Nur translates to “fire.” Ruach translates to “breath” or “wind” and represents air. According to Albert Mackey, yebeshas was translated by Jean Baptiste Marie Ragon to mean “earth” 8, although there is little evidence that this is even a real Hebrew word. Regardless, if this is the correct interpretation, then the word INRI is a representation of Jesus Christ as the Creator of all.

One of the more interesting interpretations of INRI is drawn using letter-based correspondences from an esoteric Hebrew text called the Book of Formation, written some time between the 2nd Century BC and the
2nd Century AD. The Book of Formation describes correspondences between Hebrew letters, elements, numbers, planets, and Zodiac signs. From Formation, we can draw this cycle, as described in Modern Magick by Donald Kraig 9:

  • “I” is tied to Yod, which corresponds to Virgo. It represents untouched nature and birth.
  • “N” is tied to Nun, which corresponds to Scorpio. It represents death.
  • “R” is tied to Reesh, which corresponds to the Sun. It represents light and resurrection.
  • The final “I” once again represents untouched nature and birth.

This correspondence gives us the basic function of man’s journey to Christ. We are born in our natural state. We choose to die in Christ and be resurrected in Christ. We are reborn as new beings. This applies to both our emotional and spiritual journey in Christ while on Earth as well as our journey to and past Judgement Day. This is the process of INRI.

Exactly What it Says on the Tin

The most important of the inscriptions above Christ’s head, however, may have been the one in Hebrew. It read, Yshu Hnotsri Wmlk Hyhudim, which, when initialized, gives us the letters “Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh,” the ineffable Hebrew name of God. Pilate, probably unknowingly and unintentionally, declared exactly who Jesus was to the world at large. When challenged by the Jewish leaders to change the inscription, he gave us the famous response, “Quod scripsi, scripsi,” or, “what I have written, I have written.”


  1. Wren, Brian A. Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany: Liturgies and Prayers for Public Worship. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.
  2. Doornbos, Daniel. “Definition and Meaning of INRI.” Research Paper, Golden State College, Masonic Societas Rosicruciana In Civitatibus Foederatis, 2008.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Weiss, Roberto. The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969.
  5. Zeldis, León. Masonic Symbols and Signposts. Lancaster, VA: Anchor Communications, 2003.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Mackey, Albert G, and Charles T McClenachan. An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences. 2nd ed. L. H. Everts & Co., 1884.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2011.

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.


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.


  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.

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.


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.