The Chamber of Reflection


What is the best way or traditional way to use a chamber of reflection? If a Lodge does not have a chamber of reflection how can the Lodge configure a room to best incorporate the “feel” of the chamber of reflection?

According to the Grand Lodge of New York State:

The Chamber of Reflection is an idea that originated in French continental Masonry. As with many elements of French Masonry, this idea was borrowed by Albert Pike and described in his book “The Porch and the Middle Chamber: Book of the Lodge.” However, that book describes the workings of the three Craft Degrees and the Chamber of Reflection doesn’t seem to have caught on with the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (AASR). Craft Lodges and some Royal Arch Chapters do occasionally use a Chamber of Reflection and it does seem to be an idea that’s catching on. Overall it’s a good idea, as its primary effect is to create a beneficial psychological state in the Candidate that can make the experience more meaningful. Some Lodges use a Chamber of Reflection for the Entered Apprentice Degree, and some Lodges use different Chambers of Reflection for all three Degrees.

Understanding the foregoing, it doesn’t seem there is anything we could call a “traditional” Chamber of Reflection for a New York Lodge practicing our Antients-influenced Webb-Cross Ritual working. This has both advantages and disadvantages, and they’re the same: You can do whatever you want, within the bounds of propriety. What are the bounds of propriety? Primarily they’re the same as they are for all our Ritual practices, which forbid scaring, intimidating, or ridiculing Candidates, or anything else that might have a deleterious effect on the solemnity of our ceremonies. It’s also important to avoid symbols, words, practices, or other elements that borrow from or draw upon a Ritual lineage that differs from our own—which can be more challenging than one might think since most of what has been written about the Chamber of Reflection reflects a different Ritual tradition. So, no “V.I.T.R.I.O.L.,” no salt, sulfur, and mercury, no skeleton holding an arrow and dagger, no cockerel and hourglass, and so on.

If we can’t use those things, then what can we use? Anything that seems like it might be thought-provoking and in keeping with the New York Ritual tradition. Working Tools and cable tows; chalk, charcoal, and clay for the First Degree; corn, wine, and oil for the Second Degree, or perhaps a letter G. There are all sorts of things a Candidate might find curious in the Chamber or Reflection that will come to have significance as the Degree unfolds. The Chamber of Reflection could also include a piece of paper with a few questions for the Candidate to answer in writing—in which case I suggest it be sealed immediately without a reading and returned to the Candidate a the conclusion of the Degree. Or the Chamber of Reflection could simply be a dimly lit and quiet room where the Candidate can spend some time before the Masters of Ceremony brings him into the preparation room to knock on the inner door.

A Chamber of Reflection can also be a great time-saver if the Candidate is clothed and placed into the chamber just prior to the opening of the Lodge, in which case the Masters of Ceremony have only to bring him into the preparation room and apply the hoodwink. Needless to say, in such a circumstance the Candidate should have passed a ballot at a previous Communication—which should be a standard practice regardless. A Lodge should never ballot on a Candidate who has already shown up at the Lodge expecting to be Initiated.

Response provided by RW Samuel Lloyd Kinsey
Chairman, Custodians of the Work, Grand Lodge of New York

Note: This site is an excellent source of information about Freemasonry. While every effort has been made to provide accurate and up-to-date information about Masonic Ritual, please remember that a website is not a substitute for your jurisdiction’s Standard Work or Approved Ritual.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey