Page 24 - Montana Freemason Magazine November 2013
P. 24

The Role of Sacred Space in Sublime Contemplation

                                                                                               Ben I. Amin (85)

                            Freemasonry has always                                                         In many ways, gentlemen already have their own
                            impressedupon the mindsof                                                      sacred space, albeit under a different name: The man
                            its Brethren the imperative                                                    cave. The man cave is a metaphor for a space within
                            nature of contemplation.                                                       a dwelling, such as a basement, garage, or attic where
                            From the moment when                                                           one may engage in the watching of television, billiards,
                            the Entered Apprentice as a                                                    or simply enjoy the social interaction of other men.
                            candidate enters the lodge,                                                    The man cave is an affirmation of masculinity. It
he is brought into the Lodge and asked to kneel and                                                        is decorated by men, occupied by men, and with
profess his belief. Prayer is an integral component of a                                                   certain, limited exceptions, women are not permitted
working lodge as Brothers unite under one common                                                           within its boundaries. Paula Aymer, a professor of
goal of working in harmony with the blessings of the                                                       sociology at Tufts University, argues that the man
Great Architect of the Universe. In times past, a few                                                      cave is the “last bastion of masculinity.” “There is
jurisdictions employed the Chamber of Reflection                                                           the workplace, going out with the guys, and then
in order to impress upon the mind of the candidate                                                         their private space at home.” (Belanger, 2005).
that one’s mortality is an inevitable aspect of his life.                                                  Within the man cave exists the ritual of recreation.
He is asked to contemplate his own death whereupon                                                         Men are able to re-create their own milieu free of
he endeavors to enter the celestial lodge above after a                                                    the encumbrances of work and familial obligations.
life of fruitful labor. The candidate is awakened to the
understanding that time is a precious currency that                                                           My proposal for a sacred space is similar to that
once spent cannot be regained. In the present age,                                                         of a man cave. I would also argue that such a space
some lodges have sought to return to the practice of                                                       could exist within a man cave already established if it
placing the candidate in a Chamber of Reflection to                                                        suits a Brother’s desires. However, a sacred space for
impress upon his mind the solemnity of the journey                                                         contemplation should be free of distraction, designed
he     is about       to    btsehogilsiitnup.dr(aeMcttoihcstea)tJuIwrniesddeciecadtni,ons  do  not  allow  and adorned with objects that have a unique spiritual
“oIrt  aisppornovlye  ionf
deeply reflect upon our present or                                                                                           or esoteric significance to the Brother,
future undertakings” (Mackey, 1917).                                                                                         and consecrated as such. In this
However, once a Brother has left the                                                                                         context, I use the word “consecrated”
lodge, he returns to the world filled                                                                                        as dedicated to a specific purpose
with the distractions of everyday life.                                                                                      rather than dedicated to a particular
In this brief essay, I shall propose                                                                                         Deity, although a Brother may wish
the idea of a personal chamber of                                                                                            to perform such a dedication. It may
reflection, that is, a sacred space                                                                                          be simple, such as a desk and chair or
where a Brother might continue his                                                                                           a special rug placed upon the floor.
contemplative activities outside of                                                                                          A sacred space can also be ornate in
the lodge.                                                                                                                   design. No matter what is contained
                                                                                                                             within the space itself, its significance
   There a few Masonic authors in writing of                                                                                 lies in its purpose to the Brother.
Freemasonry that have presented their idea of sacred                                                                         Within this space the Brother can
space as an aspect of our work, and that the ritual of                                                     reflect upon the ritual of the Craft, recite the lectures
the Craft exists within a sacred space to elevate the                                                      or obligations, and improve one’s self in Masonry. I
experience from the mundane to the sublime. Kelly                                                          would also add that a personal chamber of reflection
Ranasinghe argues that “Space in terms of ritual is very                                                   can also afford a Brother something that is lacking
important, for the mere performance of a ceremony                                                          in our modern age: silence. Other than one’s time to
may create a sacred space, an area for worship,                                                            sleep, there are few other moments within the day
veneration or the transformation of the performer.”                                                        where a man can exist in a state of silence. If a man
(Ranasinghe, 2011). William Burkle explains that                                                           cave aims to provide a space for a ritual of recreation,
“For the Freemason, the sacred space should be a                                                           then a personal chamber of reflection aims to provide
continuance of the contemplative atmosphere present                                                        a space for a ritual of contemplation. It is a place
in both Chamber of Reflection and the open Lodge.”                                                         where he can “hear himself think.”
(Burkle, 2012). As a society of intellectuals, Freemasons                                                     My chamber of reflection is relatively simple in
are philosophers who enjoy the pursuit of wisdom. A                                                        design. It exists in an 8’ x 8’ room where I have a desk,
pPaegreso24nal, sacred space can enhance that experience.                                                  chair, bookcase, a reading chair, and an end table.
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