Taken from Chapters 2&3 of “The Meaning of Masonry” by W.L.Wilmshurst
Presented by V.W.Bro Norman McEvoy. Haida Lodge #161 B.C&YR.
To begin, may I first deal with two definitions that of “Esoteric” and “Temple” hopefully thus eliminating any possible confusion in the interpretation of this paper.
My source is Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary and the definitions are as follows:-
- Designed for or understood by the specifically initiated only:
- Of or relating to knowledge that is restricted to a small group.
- A building devoted to a particular purpose, or focusing on activity of a special kind.
- The structure of thought, value or belief that enshrines the spirit or essence of something.
- The center or focus of something prized or valued.
It is with these definitions in mind that I approach this paper and attempt to share with the reader my understanding of TWO structural facets of a Masonic Temple and their “ esoteric” significance to us as Masons. They are the Design &/or Layout of the Temple itself and The Pillars.
Recognizing that this is a huge subject and interpretation can be extremely personal, I wish to again state that the opinions given are mine alone and based on my Masonic Education at it’s present development. It is the intention to spark interest, create discussion and hopefully generate enthusiasm for the subject.
Above all to encourage us all to ask WHY, as in Masonry and in life itself, it is only by asking WHY that we will ever be able to understand HOW.
DESIGN OF A LODGE
It is generally agreed that the Design of A Masonic Temple is based on the revolving of the Earth around the Sun, thus one circuit of the Temple Floor represents one full revolution (i.e. 24 hours). This then places Sunrise &/or Dawn in the EAST === Mid-Day &/or Noon in the SOUTH =====and Evening &/or Close of Day in the WEST. This leaves the North to represent Night and Darkness.
Having accepted this as being correct, it is therefore quite reasonable to determine that all candidates to Freemasonry should enter from the NORTH WEST corner, that being the very darkest corner of the Temple. Having thus entered the candidate is guided around the Temple always in a clockwise direction.
I readily agree that the Design of the Temple can reflect the stages of life itself, however, for my immediate purpose I wish to use my first analogy ( i.e. 24 hours ). I also concede, that due to structural restrictions, the location of the preparation room may not be in the North West corner, however, I do believe that that
is the most appropriate and desirable location.
As with life itself, we come into Masonry in a total state of ignorance and dependence and after having made that very very personal decision to seek membership, we knock to gain admittance. This I believe is the beginning of a Masons search for knowledge, or as the ancient Greeks called it “Gnosis”, and by placing him in the North West corner, he is esoterically at the point of total ignorance, ready to advance through the darkness (the North Side of the Temple) toward the light (the East) from which all truth and wisdom emanates.
In making this request (the knock), and taking the step forward toward the light, the candidate is embarking on a journey through life both physical and spiritual and as the scriptures inform us the path is “NARROW INDEED”
The many perambulations encountered in the process of becoming a Master Mason clearly demonstrate that Education/Truth does not come to us all at once but is gathered by study and experience through our various stages in life. We also come to recognize that the assistance of others is very welcome and indeed mandatory if we are to reach our maximum potential. With these thoughts in mind, and recognizing that Masonry is a progressive science, we now understand why all movement is in a clockwise direction (forward) and never backward.
In his book Wilmshurst makes the comment that one could devote many many papers to a study of the Pillars, however, I found great value in the explanation he did provide and I will attempt to share my understanding with you.
As our Lectures state there are Three Great Pillars, i.e. Ionic (Wisdom); Doric (Strength) and Corinthian (Beauty). Of these the Ionic is located in the East and is represented by The Master of the Lodge. The others should be located immediately within the entrance to the Temple at the North West corner. It is recognized again that, for structural reasons this is not possible in some cases, this is, nonetheless, the appropriate location.
It is also worth noting that at York Minster, Westminster Abbey and other great Christian edifices, the main doors are located in the West with the Altar in the East. This again points out that the quest for education and light is perceived to be a journey from West to East.
History also informs us that “Two Great Pillars” have always been a prominent feature of buildings housing all great religious systems and philosophies for many centuries, and always stood at the entrance.
Starting at the North West corner, we note that the characteristic of the Pillar on the left is Strength and that on the right Beauty, and it is between these two pillars that we esoterically enter the Temple.
From my readings, I believe that these pillars represent “the pair of Opposites” and “duality” experienced by us all in the course of our daily living and the challenges we face to stay in Balance.
I refer to the constant struggle between:= Good/Evil===Light/Darkness===White/Black===Positive/Negative ===Temptation/Conscience===
In science we see the Positive/Negative poles in electricity and the Red/White corpuscles in our own bodies and without the balancing of which we would all perish.
Many many more examples are available to demonstrate this point, however, the few I have given should suffice for the purpose of this paper.
By recognizing these realities it becomes readily apparent that in order for PERFECTION to be accomplished all existence would need to be in PERFECT BALANCE. Thus by coming the realization that we are not Perfect and in fact constantly out of balance we look to Masonry and it’s Lessons and Lectures to assist us in improving our balance and bringing STABILITY to our lives.
Having dealt with Strength, Beauty and Stability, we are now left with Wisdom which I believe is not only represented by our Worshipful Master but all those guides, mentors and leaders in the Craft to whom we look for guidance and direction. The greatest of which is of course the G.A.O.T.U.
V.W.Bro Norman McEvoy.