In our craft, we have a very esoteric feature that is no longer widely used, which would cause one to have deep reflections before and after the degrees. It is under utilized and mostly non-existent in Blue Lodges, and this is of course, the Chamber of Reflection. It is an esoteric symbol that had been a requirement to move forward in the degrees before many states and jurisdictions decided to have it moved to an appendant body of Freemasonry, and away from the Blue Lodge. You see, in our beginnings we would require a candidate to meditate in the Chamber of Reflection before entering into the First Degree. "..who has long been in darkness...", does that ring a bell? My Brothers, just think how this would impact any candidate in the degrees today. I understand this is not a popular notion in this day and age, when we are trying to streamline the process and putting on one day classes, but hear me out.
It is my belief that in Freemasonry, it is not what we perceive to be the end of the journey that matters, but it is the journey itself. Yes, the impact of the journey is the most important part of any Masonic endeavor. So lets take a journey, let's look at the Chamber of Reflection, from an Esoteric point of view.
It is no secret that a Chamber of Reflection has certain items within, and though they may vary, there are some things that, for the most part, stay the same. Either an image of a skull, sometimes with crossbones, or a physical representation of such. Those seeing this symbol would usually relate it to death, or mortality and this is not incorrect. It does though, have a deeper meaning to one who can study it along with the other items. There is an hourglass, which again on the surface represents time itself and the lack of abundance. There is either actual bread and water or a representation of such, and at a glance, this could represent nourishment or the need for such things.
Now what if we dive into esoterics here? To help you along, I will help by simply assigning alchemical symbols and esoteric values at their simpliest form to show you what may really be involved. First off, an esoteric mind will take the skull and crossbones, the dirt or the cave representation, and the hourglass together. In doing so, we see not only brevity, but the old saying Carpe Diam, or seize the day. Learn to live the life of a Mason and apply it to every second in every day, in every facet of our being, to gain the most experience. Now, top that with the sickle, and we learn to reap quickly what we harvest, or be good intenders or mentors to those that we are given into our care. We look at the cave and realize it can be assigned the Alchemical symbol of Earth, and we add that with the rooster or cockerel, which represents sulfur, and then VITRIOL comes in with a common meaning of learning to purify the earth, or in this case ourselves, so that the best possible harvest may come to bloom and we need to do this through hope and charity (Agape).
The main event in all this, is that once you study the Temple of King Solomon in what I believe to be it’s proper assignment in being built, and that is that of a representation of the human body as it is shown as the temple, or more specifically ourselves or the individual Mason. After you take your third degree, research this, and once you grasp the idea, even at it’s most basic level, take it into the Chamber of Reflection and meditate upon it, then the whole idea of Freemasonry, at least for me it did, will come to light.