Some while ago, when I was doing research on other lodge histories in preparation for the one I am writing, I enjoyed a History of Dundee Lodge, which is a very old lodge in London (not Dundee, as you might have thought). The author, Hieron, read all their old minute books and financial records to reconstruct their earliest days. The brothers of Old Dundee lodge were very proud when they could afford to buy their own tavern instead of having to rent from someone elses. Taverns in the 18th and 19th centuries were not just pubs or bars. They were meeting places for men of different trades and professions. They would go out to eat with friends and colleagues and when traveling would sleep at a tavern which was also an inn. The utility of having a Masonic Lodge above a tavern was the same as having a dance or any other sort of party in the big room upstairs — there was a kitchen downstairs that could provide food and drink.
Could a Lodge meet in someone’s private home instead? Yes, but that would have put the expense on the host, where in the case of a tavern, it was more easy to see that the expenses be shared equally. The tavern-keeper was often also the Lodge Tyler, and in those days, the Tyler was the Secretary and the Treasurer for the lodge. According to an article I read about Dr.Samuel Johnson, the Lodge Tyler not only had to guard the door when the Lodge was in session, but he kept the accounts, collected money for the bills from the members, wrote the summonses to meetings and hand-delivered them to all the members! The meetings consisted of the rituals of opening and closing the lodge, and the conferring of degrees, when there were candidates, but the degrees were conferrred in a separate small room (which probably evolved into the preparation room of today). In that outer room, a trestle table could be set up and the symbols for each degree drawn in chalk and charcoal upon its surface. Later, a paper chart would be spread upon the table. All the members would join in to explain the symbols and their meanings to the candidate.
The earliest system for this presentation of degrees, was to draw on the floor, which was made of clay tiles, and so could provide a drawing surface, but one easily erased with a mop and water afterwards. It is possible that the clay tiles, the charcoal and chalk used for the drawings explain why those three substances are symbolically explained in one part of the later “lectures” of the degrees. It is also interesting to speculate that the tile floor provides the origin of the title “Tyler” (sometimes also spelled “Tiler). For it was in this anteroom to the main lodge room that the Tyler sat with his naked sword guarding the door. When the conferral of degrees ceased to be made in the anteroom, the Tyler’s job was reduced to that of outer guard, and when the floors of lodges ceased to be literally tiled with tile, the whole origin of the name was lost. It seems like a good theory anyway. The Tyler’s name comes from originally being in charge of the clay tile floor upon which the lessons of the degrees (the Masonic secrets) were conveyed.
Another theory that comes from no more reliable source than popping out of my head is that the Tyler symbolically was the creator of the whole floor of the lodge upon which the Masons did their work. In the construction of stone temples or other structures mosaic floors or “pavements” were laid down by tilers. They were not only careful craftsmen, to make the floor perfectly level and even (equal), but they were artists who in tiny colored tiles could create a picture of great complexity. The lodge floor is described as being a “chequered pavement” or “mosaic” and this is generally thought to mean large black and white squares like a chessboard. However, there is also, in our ritual lectures, reference to a “blazing star” at the “center of the lodge” the description of which suggests that it is in the floor.
This Blazing Star is a conundrum because it is also generally assumed that the altar is at the center of the lodge room. In British lodges today, the altar (called the “pedestal”) is placed just in front of the Worshipful Master’s station in the East. In such an arrangement, not only is the center of the lodge freed up to have a Blazing Star in the mosaic floor, but the candidate kneeling at the altar is much closer to the Master, which itself makes ritual sense, given that it is the Master who “makes a man a Mason.” However, the perambulations of the lodge room would then not be “around the altar” exactly, though the altar would still be inside the rectangle walked by the candidate and his guide.
All these ritual details strike me as conveying subtly different messages. In today’s lodge work, having no logical reason to explain the Tyler’s name seems less that satisfactory. Some have suggested that since tilers were not Masons they were roped in to guard the outer door they could not enter. That does not ring true for me. Some say that the Tyler guards the roof tiles of the lodge room eavesdroppers. But very few Scottish or English roofs are made of tile. If that were the origin, the outer guard would be called the Shingler.
No, my theory is that the Tyler represents the outer world. He sits outside the lodge guarding against intrusion of mundane things from the outer world into the inner world of Masonic spiritual work. Not just to make sure that non-Masons keep out, so they won’t learn any secrets, but symbolically to keep out everything profane, everything that does not belong in the sacred space or might interrupt the sacred work. This explanation is predicated on the idea that the Lodge Room is sacred space. We call outsiders “profane” in the literally Latin sense of the word: they are pro-fanum, outside the temple, or sacred space. A tiler, one who lays tiled floors, symbolizes that mundane world, just as the chequered pavement is said to do in the Lodge Room itself. It is the basis upon which all the spiritual temple-building is done. The black and white mosaic pavement symbolizes that life and the mundane world is equally good and evil, or if you prefer it in the Taoist symboilism, a balance of yin and yang.
In Masonic symbolism the emphasis is on goodness and badness, however. The world and our mortal selves contain good and bad; our lives included happiness and sadness, fortune and misfortune. The lesson is not the Buddhist one that says all life is suffering; nor is it the Christian one that says the material world is ruled by the Devil. It is a model that represents the ground of our being as a mosaic of potential good and evil behavior. There are no supernatural forces of evil in Masonry. The evil that is represented in Masonic ritual is in human actions and bad judgement — Lying, Ignorance, and Revenge. The tile floor of the lodge is made of clay, just like our physical bodies. It is there to remind us that we walk in the material world, which can be turned to right action or wrong action. In itself the material world is neither good nor bad. It is those men walking upon it that convert its potential into right or wrong action, construction or destruction.
So, the Lodge Room itself represents the sacred space in which we come to understand the interactions of our Ego, our Soul, and our Higher Self (Ego, Anima, and Self — in the terms of C.G. Jung). The Ego is the center of consciousness and must exist for interaction with the material world, must exist for there to be any self-awareness. Cats may have consciousness and unconsciousness, but they have no real self-awareness or self-consciousness. They do not think about their actions, or reflect upon them morally. The Jr. Warden of the Lodge is the officer who represents that Ego, and it is worth obsserving that it is not the Ego that interacts with the outside world directly. Who interacts with the Tyler? Well, in the British system there is an officer called the Inner Guard who speaks through the doorway to the Tyler and is, in a sense, the messenger of the Jr. Warden. If the doorway represents the doorway of our senses, then the Inner Guard is that intermediary of the nervous system that informs the Ego of sense perceptions, but not directly, so that our perceptions are always subject to preconceived ideas and experiences aleady in our brains.
In the American system there is no Inner Guard, and I find this telling. For in that case it is the Jr. Deacon who interacts with the Tyler and the doorway of the senses. The Jr. Deacon is the messenger of the Sr. Warden, who represents not the Ego, but the Soul. Jung called the soul by the Latin name, Anima. It is the center of what he considered the personal unconscious. The unconscious mind of every individual contains all past experiences perfectly and in every detail. The Ego foats, as it were, on this sea of unconsciousness and creates the sunlit firmament above which represents consciousness and present experience. The Ego can draw upon memories under the surface of the unconscious, but it does so only in limited ways. When it falls asleep and becomes unconscious, the Ego sinks down into that sea just like the sun setting at night. The ancient Egyptians (and indeed almost all ancient mythologies) depicted the sun as traveling under the earth or under the sea at night, journeying from West to East to rise again. The image of that myth can also describe the Ego’s journey through the dreamtime to awaken the next morning.
During that period of unconsciousness, it is the Anima, or Soul which acts as our Being. The body remains immobile for the most part, and unconscious of its movements. The body is not supposed to go anywhere when we are asleep, unconscious. But the soul is not bound by those laws. The Anima may travel and govern as it pleases. When the Lodge is at Labor, the Sr. Warden is in charge of the work. Put another way, according to the words of our ritual opening and closing, the Sr. Warden rewards good behavior — he “pays the Craft their wages, if ought be due.” Dreams are often thought of as the results of our behavior during our waking hours. Good dreams come to the soul that is good and peaceful. Bad dreams come to the soul that has been disturbed by bad behavior, struggling with its conscience. For Conscience lives in the Unconscious. The Latin roots “con” and “science” literally mean “with” and “knowledge” but Latin “conscientia” had the connotation of “knowledge within oneself.” The lexicographers say that it was a Latin translation of a Greek loan-word, syneidesis. It is knowledge from within, not knowledge from outside oneself, which is why it is sometimes called that “still, small voice” that tells us when we are doing something that just isn’t right.
You might say that we go to sleep and engage with our soul. Or equally well, that the soul governs us when we are unconscious. But, wait a minute. Does that mean that when Masons are “at labor” in the Lodge room, they are dreaming? Sort of. It means that acting out ritual and the contemplation of symbols is an unconscious activity, one that impresses upon the unconscious mind ideas that are expressed indirectly. The words of the ritual sometimes say one thing that appeals to the logical mind of the Ego, but underneath mean something deeper, something about our unconscious self. At least, that is the conclusion we can draw from following this line of thought about inner and outer worlds.
If the Jr. Warden, who governs us during “refreshment” represents the Ego, then “refreshment” must be our waking lives. That seems a little odd, when we usually think of sleep as a sort of “refreshment.” But there is sleep from the body’s point of view and sleep from the mind’s point of view. Silencing the brain and stilling the body is necessary for it to repair itself and go on functioning. If you run a motor constantly it will burn out faster than if you “rest” it periodically. The body is doing more than nothing when it is asleep, but what it is doing is governed by those parts of our nervous system that are unconscious. In fact, one might say that our body is mostly unconscious. The Ego, when awake, ignores it except for such things as eating and healthy exercise. For most of us, waking hours mean work and interacting with other people. And that is precisely it. The Jr. Warden and Refreshment, in the Masonic sense, are parts of our workday. Literally, “calling the craft from labor to refreshment” is telling them it is time for lunch and a rest — but not time to sleep. Have a little wine or beer, eat something, sit around and talk with your workmates: that’s the idea.
Which is why it is so interesting that the Jr. Deacon speaks to the Tyler in the American work. The Jr. Deacon has upon his staff, the Moon, and is the messenger of the Sr. Warden, the Soul. Moon and soul have long been connected in esoteric symbolism. In astrology, for example, the Moon represents that part of the personality related to our homelife, our emotions, motherhood, women. The Moon rises from the soul and its own self-knowledge. It is considered the opposite of the Sun, that luminary which represents the conscious personality. It is more complicated than this, but you get the idea. The Jr. Deacon is that intermediary between the soul and the senses. The Tyler represents sensual, outside life. In other words, the senses deal directly with our unconscious mind and are filtered through our self-knowledge before they communicate with the Ego. The ego is logical, it speaks, it follows orders (or not), it protests, it defends itself verbally and through actions if necessary. The ego likes to work, likes to be doing, making, working with other people to create. Even demolition crews who spend their day destroying things are ultimately part of the process of creation.
Still, we do well to consider that the Ego is only a sort of puppet. It thinks it is in control of the Whole Self, the Whole Being — it sometimes thinks it is in control of the whole external world as well, and loves to be in command over other people. But it is a puppet and the hand inside the puppet rises out of the unconscious. The Jr. Deacon, Mr. Moon, is the hand. For it is the Jr. Deacons duty to “carry messages” from the Sr. Warden in the West, to the Jr. Warden in the South.” The directions are symbolic too of the noonday of consciousness and the westering of the Sun which has one foot in the unconscious — in conscience. At sunset we see the Evenstar and she is the light of the unconscious, Jung’s Anima. At burning noontime, we see only the sun, and though the stars and planets are always there, they are invisible to us. So these forces at work in our being are invisible to the Ego unless it turns away from the light of conscious logic, work, and action, away from the body’s concerns with activity and refreshment.
The Jr. Deacon is that part of the mind which sends messages from the unconscious mind into consciousness. He is conscience, but he may also be all the dreams, passions, and desires that motivate us. He may carry messages out of our unconscious prejudices or our past experiences that do not animate the Ego, but inflate it like a balloon, puffed up with hot air and hubris. A man may act out of unconscious impulses and urges, rather than tempering these with reason and moral sense. Not, however, if our inner Sr. Warden is truly aware of himself and in charge. If he is a good Sr. Warden, he keeps the Craft in line, working correctly using the level to realize that the level of Time upon which we all walk is the level of that division of the mind between the conscious and unconscious worlds. If we walk on one side of the level we stand upright and plumb as good men. If we sink below that level, or crouch down staring into the abyss, then our Egos may act in evil and selfish ways — ways that seem perfectly reasonable, though they seek to step on others and push our own selves forward in the world. These creatures who do not walk upright and look ahead into the light, are those three ruffians within — selfishness, jealousy, and ignorance. These three are perfectly willing to murder the boss in the hopes of getting a better job. (It seemed like the thing to do at the time…)
The Jr. Deacon then, is a sort of guide-of souls, just as the Sr. Deacon is when he guides the candidate in the lodge room. The Junior Deacon speaks to our Ego, delivering messages from our conscience and our soul. Jung said that the soul is often perceived by a man’s ego as a female presence — the Anima is our “inner feminine” as some say. The point of such an expression is to show a relative point of view. A man’s ego perceives his unconscious mind as something Other, and theirfore personifies is as a female force somewhere within. Moreover, “feminine” is defined as gentle, soft, comforting, peaceful, elegant, nurturing, the source of birth and love.” This is an ideal. To define the “feminine” in this way is not to say all actual women have these characteristics. But in the ideal, the inner feminine image or complex, is built upon those other images from childhood — the Mother and the Lover. All are idealized, symbolic, dreams, because they dwell within our unconscious mind. The Ego gets into trouble if it mistakes its own inner idealization of the Feminine with actual women in his life. Likewise with women who mistake actual men for their inner Father or Prince Charming.
This is relevant to the Masonic lodge. For Masons are a group of men trying to know themselves, and to know oneself includes knowing one’s unconscious parts. In fact it includes even more than that, but I will leave that for another time. This essay started off with the mystery of the Tyler’s curious name. If this man outside the door with his sword is a kind of defensive extension of the self, he is one that is most associated with the Earth element, the ground, the level of material time, or life. He is outside, because Masons in lodge assembled are to leave behind Earth, to divest themselves of all metals and all the signs of material status, low or high. The Tyler once was the keeper of the tile floor of the anteroom, the chalk and charcoal that could write upon its surface — all expressions of alchemical Earth. He did not draw out the lessons, he just kept the floor upon which the officers, the higher parts of Mind could express their truths.