During a recent visit to the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture which encouraged Freemasons to closely examine our ritual and question everything. The lecture resonated with me. When we are new to the Craft, we make every attempt to learn the ritual, but we rarely question why we use the words in ritual that we do.
“Whence came you?” To this question, we respond “From the Lodge of the Holy Saints John at Jerusalem” without hesitation. But my Brother, what does this truly mean? Let’s take a closer look.
Jerusalem is a Hebrew word that can be interpreted as “a place of perfect peace.” The last syllables “shalom” actually imply more wholeness or completeness of being. The word “John” comes from the Hebrew word “Jochonan” or “Yochonan” which, when translated into English can mean, “favored of God.” The word “Lodge” refers to a state of existence rather than the physical place, just like the phrase “the Lodge on High.”
Thus the answer of “From a Lodge of the holy Saints John of Jerusalem” can be translated to mean, “From a place of perfection favored of God.” I have heard it suggested that this is a symbolic account of man’s experience in the Garden of Eden. Eden, after all, is the place of perfection, favored of God where man was able to enjoy the warmth and knowledge of the Light of God. As a result of man’s temptation and fall from Grace, he was expelled from His presence and cast into a world of chaos and darkness. This proposal is replicated in each of the Degrees as the Candidate enters our Lodge blindfolded. This would seem unnecessary in both the Fellowcraft and Master Mason Degrees as the Candidate has already seen the Lodge, the Brethren thereof, and has had an opportunity to take part in meetings opened in the EA Degree. Thus the lesson taught is that we are always traveling from that place of darkness towards that place of Light. It is not until the Master Mason Degree that we are taught that that which we seek can only be obtained through the Grace of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Freemasonry has no interest in man’s devolution; its interest in him is after that event. Freemasonry drives us to seek to regain that “which was lost.” All men fall short of the Glory of God. Thus our Fraternity is not looking for Candidates that are perfect, as there are none; but rather we are only looking for good men, which are imperfect. Our object is to assist and hasten these imperfect men’s evolution back into the Grace of God or LIGHT. The candidate wishes to regain “that which has been lost,” his previous state of completeness of being “favored of God.”
My Brother, I encourage you to read as much as you can, attend lectures, engage in discussions with well-informed Brethren. I encourage you to ask questions and seek out “More Light.” When we look closely at our ritual, our customs, and our symbols, we gain a deeper understanding of our beloved Craft. Fiat Lux!
Yours in Brotherhood,
Robert J. Gregory