“Inside the temple on Bridgeland Street it is comfortable and quite church-like but it is clearly a place where symbols are important.
“The temple is a meeting room essentially, there are a lot of symbolic items in the temple and all masonic temples are laid out in roughly the same way.”
The inside of a Masonic Lodge room is nearly always something of interest to outsiders, even if they do not acknowledge it. I have yet to meet even one person when, they are standing in the Ante room and offering to open the doors of the Lodge room for a quick tour, to turn down the offer. Instead, most are eager if not downright giddy to step in the friendly confines. More often than not, the Temple is dimly lit except when in use, and this only adds to the mystique that is already present in the mind of any visitor.
Step inside, and let’s explore some mysteries in the Lodge Room!
We have two reports at this post which should serve to open up a bit of this mystery to the world without, and hopefully- in the process of whetting some appetites and stirring a few imaginations- we might engage a few worthy Candidates to search a bit more for what they are missing!
I remember my first entrance through the double doors at the Tiler’s post, and to say that I was absoltuey hooked on Freemasonry after that is an understantement. Indeed, I felt as if I had waited my entire life to breath the somewhat stale and musty yet rarirified air inside of the Temple, and I have yet to match the experience.
As of late (meaning the last several years), there have been much in the way of videos “uncovering” secrets of the Freemasonic Institution, and these have been mainly published by outside entities, sometimes within the Fraternity, but mostly not. However, in the last couple of years, the Brethren have sought to put out their own bits of publicity, trying to give peeks behind the veil as it were, and to introduce those without intot the confines of what is our “Holy of Holies”, … The Masonic Lodge Room.
I personally am a fan of these videos, and am happy to see them when they are presented in a good, positive, and informative light. Such is the case with two videos featured in this post, along with thee storiris accompanying them.
We first Visit New Zealand, and St. Augustine Lodge No. 99. The following write up is from STUFF, and was featured in The Timaru Herald :
Last updated 06:30, January 21 2017
Lifting the veil on the world of Freemasonry
Freemason Jeff Elston opens up the doors of the St Augustine Freemasons Lodge.
It was an unlikely celebration for the St Augustine Lodge.
The Waimate Freemason’s lodge did not appear it would even get off the ground, let alone celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1975.
Settled off the main street of the South Canterbury town, the lodge found its first stable home in a shed on a section that was bought for £41, a mere 21 years after the town was formed.
Freemason senior warden and membership warden Jeff Elston holds the wand of a deacon, while showcasing the St Augustine Freemasons Lodge in Waimate.
Lodge historian TA Wilson, in an early history for the centennial programme, had noted flax and tussock were still grown along the wider portion of the main street around the time the lodge was created.
“We would surely say that the prospects of establishing an active lodge of Freemasons in this area in 1875 would indeed have been remote, to say the least,” Wilson said.
The link with Timaru was via an unformed and dusty bullock track. While immigrants passed through the area, they rarely settled, he said.
The year before the lodge was settled, the population was between 700 and 800 people.
“It is said that the inhabitants included a critical and sometimes disorderly element that gave the township the reputation of being both lively and radical,” Wilson said.
Freemason senior warden and membership warden Jeff Elston said the lodge was “the longest running ratepayer in the district”.
“Freemason lodges have all been called ‘secret societies’, I prefer to call them a society with some secrets,” Elston said.
“The whole idea is symbolism.”
During a meeting, two men guard the inside and outside of the door to the room, swords in hand.
Each man has to be “proven and tested” before they can enter the room, he said.
It is a symbolic nod to the days when Freemasons would have to guard their doors from intruders.
Once a man had been tested, he could enter.
A celestial sky, painted on the ceiling, would open up as he walked in.
Red patterned carpet surrounds a tessellated black and white ceremonial floor with tassels on each corner.
When a man is ready to be sworn in as a Freemason brother, he steps onto the ceremonial floor and kneels at an altar to “take an obligation” to the Freemasons.
It is the first and the last time he will touch that tessellated floor.
Elston has not stepped onto it for seven years.
“I can trace Freemasons in my family back to Dover, England in 1805,” he said.
His great-grandfather, grandfather, father and now his son have all been Freemasons.
During a meeting, each brother walks around the tessellated floor clockwise as a symbolic movement to represent the Earth’s orbit around the sun, past three throne-like chairs.
The Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden sit on these three seats, the number of steps leading to the chairs representing their places in the hierarchy.
The Worshipful Master sits on a three-stepped throne and leads the meeting. He is one of seven primary officers in the Freemasons’ lodge.
St Augustine started with several townsmen in 1875 deciding to send a petition to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Scotland to set up a new lodge.
The request was granted.
St Augustine started as a Scottish lodge, before a New Zealand constitution replaced the Scottish one in 1894.
Membership has since swelled to more than 40 brothers in 2016.
Elston said “a ceremony could have 45 to 50 [brothers] and a new installation could have up to 100 in the hall”.
And in front of these groups, a lone man will stand up, without a ritual book, and speak for up to an hour.
“Everything comes from memory,” Elston said.
“When you start, you gradually work your way into it and they teach you how to do this.”
In celebration of St Augustine Lodge’s centennial in 1975, Canterbury provincial grand master KS Forne wrote a brief message.
“When your founders met this must have been a isolated spot. It was an world we would scarcely recognise,” Forne said.
“St Augustine Lodge No.99 has made its due contributions to the work of Masonry in Canterbury and I have no doubt that the Waimate district is the richer for the influence of this Lodge operating quietly through its members for almost all its history.”
“Keep to the principles of Masonry that the candle that you lit 100 years ago may become such a beacon as will never go out.”
Wilson said” “a Freemasons Lodge is a living entity, its strength being reflected by the expression by its members of the teachings they have absorbed”.
While membership was not as high as it had been, Elston said fraternity and benevolence were still central values for the Freemasons.
“The Freemasons carried out charitable work without notice,” Elston said. “It keeps the mysticism.”
However, a directive was issued by the Grand Master of Freemasons New Zealand late last year to lift the veil of secrecy.
Elston said brothers would still hold some of their rituals behind closed doors, but now it was time for transparency and openness.
It was a time to bring others into the fold, he said.
Next, we go to the Lodge of Benevolence No. 489 in The Lodge of Benevolence in Bridgeland Street, Bideford, UK. This is a report rich filled with several pictures and a short video clip. Well worth the time to view, as it embodies what many (at least on my American side of the Atlantic) view as a traditional English Lodge. You may find the story, at the North Devon Journal, following:
“SNEAK PEEK: Inside Bideford Freemason’s Lodge of Benevolence
By NDJJoe | Posted: January 20, 2017
All images courtesy of Mike Southon
The Lodge of Benevolence in Bridgeland Street, Bideford.
Ever wondered what goes on in a Freemason’s lodge? Or what the inside of these mysterious buildings look like? Well wonder no more!
In an effort to be more open, Freemasons in Bideford have granted the Journal exclusive access to their Bideford temple, the Lodge of Benevolence.
At a recent meeting of Bideford Town Council councillor Dermot McGeough proposed the idea that Bideford’s freemasons be allowed to parade through the town once a year.
The idea was approved by his fellow councillors and soon, for the first time since the Second World War, Bideford’s Freemasons will march through the town in their full regalia.
John Butler, secretary of the Bideford lodge, is keen to dispel the myths surrounding freemasonry.
“Freemasonry is becoming much more open and we’d like to play our part in that,” he said.
“We are really keen to bring the openness to the public that other lodges have in the UK and abroad to Torridge.
“The area’s masons would parade in public every year before the Second World War.”
Inside the temple on Bridgeland Street it is comfortable and quite church-like but it is clearly a place where symbols are important.
“The temple is a meeting room essentially, there are a lot of symbolic items in the temple and all masonic temples are laid out in roughly the same way,” explained John.
The biggest chair in the temple belongs to the lodge’s worshipful master, who should always be seated in the east of the lodge.
All the ceremonies, including initiation ceremonies take place in the temple.
The symbolism continues with the black and white checkerboard floor, which John said represents “the light and dark of life”.
One of the many symbols which has pride of place in the temple is the All Seeing Eye.
To be a Freemason you have to believe in a supreme being of some kind, “not necessarily a Christian God but a higher force of some kind; people of all religions are welcome to join our order.”
John accepts the All Seeing Eye is a good example of a masonic symbol subject to interpretation in many different ways.
John said: “People who aren’t masons don’t know what goes on and often decide to make something up.
“The All Seeing Eye is simply a reference to our belief in a supreme being.
“These misconceptions are the reason we are looking to become more open and transparent, I’d happily show anyone around the lodge.”