*Editor's Note* It is pertinent to say that while not all Masonic Lodges have an Inner Sentinel, you may make a parallel to perhaps a Steward, a Tiler or some other office which is the, "beginners spot". In addition, if you don't have Inner Sentinels or Guards, this is an ideal learning piece for you. I hope you enjoy. ~ R.H. JohnsonWhen I’m properly prepared and qualified, I’m eagerly anticipating being allowed a year in the inside sentinel’s seat. I hear it is a position in many lodges not often occupied due to lack of membership, interest or ability to step into line, or just not seen as important. In many ways I see this as the essential chair to begin with. Practically speaking, I’ve read a little about inside sentinels, or inside guard, taking on tasks such as care of the Colors of the lodge, escorting a deacon, or acting as electrician. I’ve had the chance to speak with a brother who occupied the chair for a year in his lodge and confirmed some of my musings. It’s the chance for the most junior officer to take in the workings of lodge in a new way, without expectation for much performance. If only instituted as anxiety-management measure to lower the barrier to being an officer, it was brilliant maneuver; for those of us with a lot of worry mind about getting things right, the craft has come up an ideal entry point.
From the speculative and psychological view, it is an introspective role. This unassuming apprentice seat in the west, has direct line of sight to the Master, and technically at this right hand though across the room. As the Master’s youngest mentee, the silent observer could take in all the lodge proceedings for study, but also to “watch the vibe.” In many group processes, vibes watcher is a vital role. At the end of a lodge meeting, comments communicated about the evening’s communication could be a valuable asset to a sitting Master from one not yet fully inculcated in the line. The commentary could be practice for the process of discussion about observations of lodge and offer a chance for the Master to guide how an officer transmits his observations with tact and graciousness, with brotherly love and affection. The opportunity for mindfulness practice, meditation in action, seems exceptional: practicing an evenly hovering attention (a phrase used in the psychoanalytic cannon), calm vigilance, to take in all without necessity to speak. By definition it’s a non-speaking part.
Taken as the psychological metaphor, sitting at the edge of consciousness, practicing watching and not commentingon one’s own experience is a beautiful metaphor. Just observe. Just observe your own mind and don’t be harsh or critical, just feel and see, note. Watch the movements in lodge and self and do nothing, just feel the reactions and note them for later. Of course, when floor work requires movement with a committee, etc., that too engaged with thorough silence, witnessing. For those more esoterically inclined, this is an ideal seat in which to hold reverence and energetic presence. Dignified, and serene, the sentinel as the outpost at the portal trains to remain present and aware of internal and external movement through sound and feel. One could practice holding Grace, breath as silent and continuous prayer, envisioning and holding an energetic circle, and/or other non-verbal esoteric and energetic practices.
Continuing practice outside of lodge in everyday life, one’s internal inner sentinel acts as filter for what is allowed into the temple, and what is let out. Dignified, serene, reverent observation in meetings, shopping, sitting with one’s child or neighbor, watching, listening, taking note. Non-judgmental or non-punitive observation of one’s own internal proceedings through the day. The worthwhile and idle chatter treated with discernment, with due care. I emphasize with discernment and without punishment as the latter is wasted psychic energy which could be used to make positive change and effort rather than corrosive internal meanness which only dampens moral and erodes character.
We are born into life and listen at first. We are brought (by our choice; “born”) into lodge and further development and listen at the sidelines. We step (again a choice, and reborn) into line with further chance for personal development and sit silently to listen, anew with a new view to our path and teachings. It seems like an opportunity worth elevating, promoting for all its potential as another beginning, deepening. I’m interested in hearing from those of you who have asked, or were offered, to begin your career as officer in this position in the lodge. If I’m allowed this opportunity, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org