This article is from a paper I wrote for my lodge back when I was a Fellowcraft. Much of this material has been taken word for work from this article, but the opinions are obviously mine.
I am here to talk to you about the Chamber of Reflection. A brief summery of what it is, what it means, and why it may benefit a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the French Rite, and related jurisdictions, including Co-Masonry, the Chamber of Reflection is a small darkened room adjoining the Lodge room. It is a somber place of meditation and reflection for candidates for initiation into Freemasonry, and is sometimes used in higher degrees.
Although the impact of the chamber’s furniture must of necessity be personal, the symbolism relates to hermetic and alchemical correspondences. The chamber itself is symbolic of a cave, introducing the candidate to the alchemical element of earth. Also it reaches deep into the human subconscious, as early humans found refuge in caves. I argue it dives even deeper still when the darkness represents the womb and the brother is about to experience light for the first time. The skull (often with crossed bones) is an obvious symbol of mortality, and coupled with the hourglass, points to the brevity of mortal existence. Bread and water indicate simplicity. The rooster symbolizes the alchemical principle of mercury, which partnered with the salt and sulfur, symbolize faith, hope and charity. Vitriol (sulfuric acid) is interpreted as “visita interiora terrae, rectificandoque, invenies occultum lapidem”, or “visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone.” This is interpreted as “look within”.
Before the ceremony of initiation, the candidate is placed for a time in the Chamber of Reflection, in order to meditate and consider how Freemasonry is about to change his life. He is given a series of questions to answer. Typically, he is asked his duties to God, his fellow men, and himself. In some lodges he is also asked to make a will. At the end of this time, he is led to the Temple for initiation.
Now should ask ourselves the most important question a Mason can ask, and that is why.
1. The first is the impact it can cause on the brother. In a world where our minds are filled with information, 30 minutes divested of all minerals and metals (a.k.a. no cell phones) in a room with little information offers a Mason an experience they may not have had for a long time.
2. The 2nd is the lesson taught about recording ones experiences as they travel on their journey. By writing down thoughts and opinions before the initiation of a degree, they will have a vivid historical artifact that will allow the brother to remember who he used to be before. This is a reminder of the how our thoughts and views of our internal emotional history can change within us. Which is why a written record is so important, as while the mind will be influenced by our memory biases, the written account will provide a solid stone imprint of what our thoughts used to be.
3. The 3rd is while the symbols in the ritual aren’t replicated from the degrees, they offer a glimpse of symbolism that is not based around a degree and highlight the change one is about to make, and how their time in the world is finite.
4. The 4th should be the least important for us, in that it costs us nothing. To put a man in a room with symbolic items, and given a brief lecture and then letting him write his thoughts in peace for 30 minutes does not cost the lodge anything. It even buys us time to set up for the degree!
While the symbols on the Chamber of Reflection are foreign to us as American Masons, the idea of a Chamber of Reflection is one of merit. The ability for a brother to have time to contemplate whom he is in silence and solitude while recording his journey offers an experience that will only enrich the candidate and further illuminate their experience of the ceremony. I argue that we should implement this for use before all 3rd degrees, so the brother may take the time to prepare in his heart for the finality of the journey ahead.