From the Venerable Master (August, 2012)

posted May 23, 2015, 6:08 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 23, 2015, 6:10 PM ]
Chuck Cowden
The reception and Festive Board of Fellowship for the Grand Master on July the 10th was a great success. Thanks to all who participated and supported this truly Masonic event to remember.
Last month’s article introduced Worshipful Jordan Yelinek’s talk on the Chamber of Reflection. If you still have your July issue, re-read that portion before you proceed. If not, this will stand alone starting with the origins of the chamber.

The Chamber of Reflection

The origins of the Chamber of Reflection draw themselves from the Pythagorean mystery schools, and even from the Cult of Mithras (perhaps another progenitor of our Craft). Here, novitiates were secreted away in a cave previous to the initiatory observances of these orders. To us, the Chamber is also reflective of this cave, as seen most closely in the arcane Chamber, which is painted black and small in size, to mirror this experience. 
The arcane chamber also commonly possesses the skull, crossbones, scythe, or other emblems of mortality, familiar to us through our third degree.  A small plate of bread and glass of water, intended for the candidate to eat and drink, are present, and are simple food for the work ahead. Alchemical elements, most commonly sulfur, salt and mercury, are drawn upon the walls. To the alchemist, these were the Tria Prima, and believed that all substances were, figuratively, formed of these three elements. Again, to the alchemist sulfur is a masculine element, and represents strength; salt is considered neutral, and represents wisdom; and mercury, a feminine element, represents beauty. An hourglass is also present, to mark the time and also for the familiar elements from our third degree. Phrases are sometimes written upon the wall, such as Perseverance and Vigilance.  A mirror is occasionally present for the physical reflection of the candidate, together with the spiritual.
In all types of chambers, arcane, modern, or plain, a philosophical testament is written, or the candidate answers questions prepared for him in advance. Examples of such questions, used by Prometheus Lodge No. 851 in San Francisco are:
In the modern world, in which we live, what drew you to seek membership in the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons?
It has often been stated that, simply, the goal of Freemasonry is to make good men better. What is it, in yourself that you are seeking to better, through your experience of the fraternity?
One of the principle tenets of Freemasonry is Brotherly Love. How, through the exercise of brotherly love, will you support and enable those around you in seeking to better themselves through the Fraternity?
These questions are then sealed in an envelope, with the candidate’s signature across the seal, and presented to the Brother who retrieves him from the Chamber. Some Lodges hold these questions, and return them to the candidate, unopened, on his raising to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, while others read them in open Lodge before the initiation, to better know their candidate, and best match his experience to his needs and desires.  Both are common throughout the fraternity. 
Ultimately, the Chamber of Reflection provides an opportunity for the candidate to separate from the profane world as he begins his journey in Masonry. It provides reflection on who he is as a man, what he wishes to accomplish in his life, and how the Craft fits into that path.  The symbolism of the arcane chamber, while most common throughout the world, may not be immediately clear in its purpose to the candidate, and perhaps either a chamber filled with modern art, or a unadorned chamber with a candle, pen or pencil and paper for the candidate to answer his questions upon may provide the optimum experience for the growth of the newest Entered Apprentice. Though, through the use of the Chamber of Reflection, or not, it is our duty as Brethren, to ensure the due and true preparation of our candidates, both physically and mentally, for the good of our craft.
I look forward to seeing you on August the 14th for our Stated Meeting and annual BBQ.  Dress is casual.

Chuck Cowden - Venerable Master