SUBJECT: The Lodge – Foundations and Fundamentals;
Masonic Halls and Temples, Lodge Rooms and Orientation
THE COVERING OF THE LODGE
The covering of the lodge is said to be a clouded canopy or starry decked heaven. The appropriateness of this symbol is striking when we regard the lodge as emblematic of the world, for such is literally at. all times the covering of the earth. Equally true, in the literal sense, was this description when lodges were held in the open air, as we are assured and as seems probable they were. In the earliest temples erected by man for the worship of God there was no roof, the only covering being the sky. To them also this description holds good. This fact may give additional point and meaning to the statement that our lodges extend from earth to heaven. Later, when temples were covered and our lodges began to be held in closed rooms, it was customary to decorate the ceiling with a blue canopy spangled with stars. This starry decked heaven, when now exhibited in our lodge rooms, either on the ceiling or on our charts, or master’s carpets, is obviously reminiscent of the real canopy of heaven with which anciently our lodges were in fact covered, and is symbolical of that abode of the blessed which is universally regarded as located in the sky?’ 20
THE ORNAMENTS OF THE LODGE
The ornaments of the lodge are the Mosaic Pavement, the Indented Tessel and the Blazing Star; that is to say its floor, the margin thereof, and the stars with which its ceiling are or should be decorated. Does this symbolism hold good when applied to the earth? It does most perfectly. To the beholder the visible part of the earth appears as surface, horizon and sky. The surface of the earth, if viewed from above checkered with fields and forests, mountains and plains, hills and valleys, land and waters, would be found to look very much like a pavement of Mosaic work. A few miles up it would seem almost as delicate. The horizon, that mysterious region that separates land and sky, earth and heaven, where the heavenly bodies appear and disappear, with its inexpressible charms and numberless beauties, has in all ages been a source of mystery and inspiration to the poets. It is fitly typified by the splendid borders which surround the floors of some of our most magnificent buildings and which is fabled to have surrounded the floor of Solomon’s Temple, while the firmament above, studded with stars by night and the blazing sun by day, completes the ornamental scheme of the earth. The surface, the horizon, the firmament embrace all of visible beauty of Nature there is, and they have never yet been exhausted by poet, painter of singer.
Opinions have differed much whether the Blazing Star, classed as one of the ornaments of the lodge, alludes to the sun, or some particular star, or to the heavenly bodies in general. It has an ancient and interesting symbolism with which the statement of our Monitors, that it hieroglyphically represents Divine Providence, is in substantial accord.
THE THREE GREAT LIGHTS
If we read discerningly the explanation given of these in our lectures and ceremonies we must perceive that they symbolize, respectively: (1) The Bible symbolizes the word of God, not merely that disclosed in His revealed word, but including also the knowledge which we acquire from the great book of Nature; (2) the Square typifies the rule of right conduct, and (3) the Compasses is an emblem of that serf-restraint which enables us on all occasions to act according to this rule of right. Beyond a perfect knowledge of God’s word and therefore of the rule of right living nothing is needed to make the perfect man except a perfect self-restraint. The value and importance of self-restraint is thus portrayed by Brother Albert Pike :
‘The hermetic masters said, ‘Make gold potable and you will have the universal medicine.’ By this they meant to say, ‘Appropriate Truth to your use, let it be the spring from which you shall drink all your days and you will have in yourself the immortality of the Sages.’ Temperance, tranquillity of the soul, simplicity of the character, the calmness and reason of the will, make man not only happy but well and strong. It is by making himself rational and good that man makes himself immortal. We are authors of our own destinies, and God does not save us without our co-operation.’
20 Pike, Morals and Dogma,, page 235; Mackey, Symbolism of Freemasonry, page 117; Hamlin, History of Architecture, page 26; Steinbrenner, History of Masonry, page 150.