The Masonic North
From The Grand Lodge Of Texas
During the course of initiation, the new Mason is taught the
North is Masonically a place of darkness. This is explained in the ritual by
describing the orientation of King Solomon's Temple and stating the location
prevented the rays of the sun at meridian height from entering a north window.
This explanation is based upon natural phenomena. However, it is known that
diffused light will enter a northerly oriented window. In addition, this
explanation provides some difficulty for most of those living in the Southern
Hemisphere where the north is subjected to the sun's rays. There are no
additional references to the North as a place of darkness in the ritual leaving
one to ponder this brief reference in the Entered Apprentice Lecture.
The north is not something that was thought up by some deep thinker. It is a
direction and is used by man to orient his understanding of the universe. The
concept of north is evident in the King James translation of the Bible where Job
37: 9 reads, "Out of the south cometh the whirlwind; and cold, out of the
north." The mythologies of several ancient cultures evidence a dread of the
north as a place of darkness and desolation. Even among the people of England
there existed a desire not to be buried on the north side of a church indicating
an aversion to the north.
The Graham Manuscript, a Masonic catechism published in 1726, provides some
additional insight. It contains the following questions and answers:
Q. How stood your lodge at your entering
A. East west and south
Q. Why not north also
A. In regard we dwell at the north part of the world we burie no dead at the
north side of our churches so we carry a Vacancey at the north side of our
This allusion to the north as a place of darkness can be found
in the very early Masonic rituals. Perhaps this dread of the north was related
to the natural inclemency that threatened him from the north, the winds bringing
the cold from the Artic regions.
There is another, and perhaps more practical, reason for the north to be
considered a place of darkness. Early religious buildings were built in an
east-west fashion with the east being the predominant direction. This
orientation was desired as the east was considered the source of light and
power, related to the sun rising in the east.
In creating their work area, the medieval lodge built a lean-to type building
erected along side the church under construction. This building was invariably
placed on the southern side of the construction to avoid the inclemency of the
cold northern winds. As a result, the lodge acquired an east to west orientation
and the openings were in the east, south, and west. This exposed the hut or
lodge and the workmen to as much east, south, and west light as possible,
providing the necessary light to work by for as long as possible. The light was
blocked from the north by the adjacent building.
As Masonry moved from the operative to the speculative, it was natural that the
north would continue to symbolically represent the darkness of the working
structures. As such, the north represents the profane world and symbolizes
ignorance, as study and examination are not possible in darkness. So it is
fitting this symbol is presented to the Entered Apprentice during his
initiation. In this act, the candidate enters a new stage of his life dedicated
to improving himself morally and seeking a better understanding of his
relationship with the Creator. As such he seeks enlightenment, leaving behind
the darkness of ignorance. As Masons we should remember our continued quest for
self-development and personal growth.
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