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THE MAGICAL LODGE
Part Two: Patterns in Space and Time
John Michael Greer
The traditional lodge system includes some fairly specific ways of organizing space and time as part of its “standard kit” of techniques. Some of the elements of these ways will seem needlessly ornate or formal to the modern magician; others will seem thoroughly boring. In practice, though, the system works well, and as often as not it is the apparently dull details which make for effective functioning.
The process of initiation, as the first part of this article explained, is the primary purpose of the lodge system and the principal work of any functioning traditional lodge. While initiatory work can be done in any of a vast number of ways, the traditional initiations of Western magic (and, for that matter, of Western fraternal orders) tend to follow the same overall scheme and to use the same basic set of techniques. In outline, the candidate for initiation is placed in a receptive state by various technical methods, brought into a prepared space, moved through a set of specific experiences, and then given a set of symbolic and somatic triggers which allow the state of consciousness created by these experiences to be reawakened more or less at will.
This process places some fairly specific requirements on the space to be used. A lodge room needs to be large enough to allow the different stages of the initiation to be kept separate from one another, and for props, tableaus or symbolic images to be set up and removed easily; it also needs enough physical and sensory isolation from the outside world to keep the set expereinces of the initiation from being interrupted.
At the same time, the initiatory work does not take place in a vacuum. The people, materials and money needed for the process have to be collected, distributed and put to use, and any disputes resolved without rupturing the unity of the lodge. Spatial organization has more to say to these matters than may be apparent at first glance. Seating arrangements can help or hinder group discussion and decision-making processes, clarify or muddy roles and responsibilities within the lodge. Since the same room is normally used for a lodge's business meetings and its initiations, these factors come together with the needs of the initiation in the design of the lodge space.
The interplay between these two concerns has produced a standard lodge architecture that can be found in practically every lodge-based organization in the Western world. The basic form is an open rectangular space with a door on one of the short sides and seats around the perimeter. An anteroom outside the door allows a guard to control access and prevent interruptions. Inside, the primary lodge officers sit on the short sides, while the bulk of the members sit on the long sides. The center of the space may contain objects of symbolic importance or it may be left empty; in either case it will be used for the most important symbolic actions. The basic design is that of Diagram 1.
These are the material aspects of the use of space in a lodge. What of the other side of the equation, the realm of meaning? Most often, this comes out of the core symbolism of the specific lodge. A lodge working on Cabalistic lines will most likely map the Tree of Life onto the lodge room in some manner – the Golden Dawn is probably the best-known example of this; lodges of other traditions will use other mappings. In most systems, these maps determine the placement of the stations and movements of the initiatory process.
A few elements of this sort of mapping are common enough to have a place in the “standard kit” of lodge technique. The most important of these is symbolic polarity – the identification of the parts and officers of a lodge with a set of symbolic opposites such as light and darkness, fire and water, or the like. Most often the two short ends of the lodge room, and the lodge officers who sit there, form the major polarity in the lodge. A second may be set up between officers who sit on the two long sides; alternatively the first polarity may be resolved by a third officer sitting on one of the long sides or elsewhere; or both of these can be done in the same lodge.
A related “standard kit” ingredient has to do with the line connecting the chief officer's station with the central space of the lodge. This serves as the primary path for what we may as well call “energy” – dramatic, psychological, or magical, depending on your choice of interpretive filter. In most lodge systems this line is not crossed except at specific points in ceremonial work, and movement along it happens only at the critical moments in the initiatory process.
The same needs that define the lodge's organization of space also shape its relationship to time. To carry out its work, a lodge must be able to define periods of time in which ritual consciousness is constructed, and it needs to have methods in place for moving smoothly from one level of ritual consciousness – “grade” or “degree” in lodge jargon – to another as well as from ordinary consciousness to any of these and back.
The usual method in these transitions is a simple ritual process given strength by regular practice. The ceremony used to open a lodge – to move from ordinary to ritual time – generally has four elements. First, the doors are closed, and those present show their right to be there; second, the lodge officers recite their duties; third, the powers governing the lodge symbolism are invoked; finally, the lodge is formally declared to be open. Each of these elements can be simple or complex, but all make use of familiar tactics for shaping consciousness. Perhaps the most interesting, because the least obvious, is the central technique of the first element. Lodge members demonstrate their right to be present with one or more of the symbolic and somatic triggers – words, grips, gestures – received in initiation, and in this way evoke the emotional reactions to their first experience of the lodge.
A shorter ceremony, usually of two elements, closes a lodge. Banishings of the sort familiar to most magicians nowadays are all but unknown in lodge technique; instead, a second invocation designed to channel the energies of the ritual out into ordinary time is used. After this, the lodge is simply declared closed. A similar two-element ceremony moves the lodge from one grade to another; here a triggering symbol is used to link the lodge members with the desired grade's state of consciousness, and the lodge is then declared to be open in the new grade.
It's worth noting that fraternal lodges conduct their practical business while the lodge is ritually opened. Few magical lodges do the same. To some extent this is sensible, given the different levels of energy involved: fraternal invocations normally approximate to ordinary prayers, while those of a magical lodge should be full-force magical rituals. There's something to be said, though, for carrying out lodge business in an open lodge, where (at least potentially) the unifying force of the lodge's energies can help counteract the usual problems of factionalism and ego inflation. The use of a low grade for business meetins, or the development of an “outer grade” along more or less fraternal lines, might be one way to explore these possibilities.
Diagram 1 ________________________________________________________ Business Chief Business Officer Officer Officer Ritual Ritual Officer Officer M M e e m m b b e e r r s s o Central o f Space f L L o o d d g g e e Second Inside Officer Guard _______________________________________ ____________ Entry Outside Ante- Guard Chamber ________________________________________________________
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