A Temple of Living Stones: Examining the Concept of a Chain of Union 

Many brothers reading this will already be familiar in some way with the Chain of Union, if they are not already using such a ceremony in their own lodge.

A common misconception among some, however, is that the general concept of a Chain of Union, or even a closing charge itself, is an import from European Masonry, recently brought forth by a few American Masons who are seeking a more profound experience of bonding when closing their lodges.

In fact, the idea need not be imported at all; it may be found right here in the United States, within the rituals of our own Grand Lodges.

A Temple of Living Stones: Examining the Concept of a Chain of Union

W:. B :. Andrew Hammer, PM Alba Lodge No 222

How could Masons in a given jurisdiction not know about their own ceremonies? Very easily.

Many of our lodges have a virtual attic of discarded ideas and practices that have been worn away by fear, lack of interest, or general laziness.

In the same way that some Grand Lodges have done away with the penalties of the degrees, or allowed elements of Craft ritual to be removed away into appendant bodies, elements of lectures or charges that convey a special meaning or indicate a particular experience can find themselves lost before our very eyes.

In some situations, we might find ourselves engaged in an activity that is clearly derived from a more specific point of origin, but those engaged in it are not aware of what precisely they are doing, or how it was meant to be done. This is the case with the Chain of Union.

A number of Grand Lodges in the United States, most of them east of the Mississippi, have in their work a closing charge, intended (as the name makes clear) to be used at the end of tyled meetings.

In most cases, the charge is derived directly or taken as a whole from the charge composed in 1795 by Thaddeus Mason Harris, and later included in the exhaustively titled 1819 work, Discourses Delivered On Public Occasions, Illustrating the Principles, Displaying the Tendency, and Vindicating the Design of Freemasonry.

Harris was the Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, at a time when a brother with such an office might very well be called upon to compose such a charge to the brethren.

Over time this charge has become so well-known that it may even be found in the ritual books of some lodges in the British Isles.

For most of the Grand Lodges where this charge is made available to the brethren, the use of the charge is optional.

Human nature being what it is, optional too often—unfortunately— translates to “feel free to ignore”.

However, in a few Grand Lodges, a truncated version of this closing charge is a mandatory part of its ritual.

While its form varies slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the text is essentially some variation on the original, one example of which is as follows:

Brethren: You are now to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world. Amidst its concerns and employments, forget not the duties you have heard so frequently inculcated, and forcibly recommended in this Lodge. Be, therefore, diligent, prudent, temperate, discreet. Remember also, that around this altar you have solemnly and repeatedly promised to befriend and relieve, with unhesitating cordiality, so far as shall be in your power, every brother who shall need your assistance: That you have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, and aid his reformation. Vindicate his character when wrongfully traduced. Suggest in his behalf the most candid, favourable, and paliating circumstances, when his conduct is justly reprehended. That the world may observe how Masons love one another.

These generous principles are to extend farther. Every human being has a claim up on your kind offices. So that we enjoin it upon you “to do good unto all,” while we recommend it more “especially to the household of the faithful.’’

By diligence in the duties of your respective callings, by liberal benevolence, and diffusive charity, by constancy and fidelity in your friendships, by uniformly just, amiable, and virtuous deportment, discover the beneficial and happy effects of this antient and honourable institution.

Let it not be supposed that you have here laboured in vain, and spent your strength for nought; for your work is with the Lord, and your recompense with your God.

Finally, brethren, farewell. Be ye all of one mind. Live in peace. And may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and to bless you.

This charge is given by the Master, after he has instructed the brethren to assemble about the altar, and in this act, the circle is formed which constitutes the chain of union by way of forming a temple of living stones.

It is the custom to cross the arms and join hands, as well as joining the tips of the shoes.

Depending on whether or not the charge is included in the ritual, the Master will either close the Lodge, or, if the ceremony comes after the Lodge is closed, he will dismiss the brethren by circumambulating out of the Lodge.

In any case, the actual joining of hands is not the measure by which such an assembly should be judged; the image of Stonehenge and the concept of a sacred circle points to the higher purpose of the chain therein created.

Some might point out that there is no reference to a chain in the charge quoted above. But interestingly enough, using language that is in part almost identical to that quoted above, the older Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania adds the following line:

Remember always, Brethren, that these solemn rites of which you have been partakers, and your parts in them, are as binding on your conscience outside the lodge as within it. They are links in that chain made in life for eternity.

Beyond that allusion to an actual chain, one should look closely at the words that are used throughout the charge.

The purpose of a chain of union is to signify and validate the unbreakable oneness of the brethren by the bonds of the fraternity.

In this particular charge, while the brethren are assembled, they are told that “around this sacred altar”—not at, when each man himself was obligated, but around, as a circle of brethren assembled in a chain of union—”you have solemnly bound yourselves” to each look after the other.

At the end of the charge, an extraordinary line for an organisation of free-thinking individuals is uttered: “be ye all of one mind”. In this simple phrase, a psychological chain is formed to reinforce the physical one.

Clearly, the brethren who composed and enacted this charge nearly 250 years ago knew the nature of what they were doing.

Considering the number of American Grand Lodges where this exact version of a closing charge—or a variation thereof—is “on the books”, it would behoove brethren to take a closer look at their respective rituals to see if they might find something in their history which would take them to their own native version of a chain of union.

The lesson to be learned from such an investigation is that often the things we think we need to improve our Craft are not necessarily to be found from without, but from within.

In this case, the Chain of Union is something to be found within our own histories and rituals as American Masons.

In putting this ceremony to use within those boundaries, we bring to life the notion of the “temple of living stones” alluded to in our ritual, and demonstrate a tangible meaning of that concept to every brother present.

As brothers consider how they might implement a Chain of Union in their lodges, it is apparent that far from being a “foreign innovation”, it is instead a forgotten treasure of our own Masonic history that merely need be restored.

Observing the Craft: The Pursuit of Excellence in Masonic Labour and Observance 

By: Andrew Hammer

The Masonic bestseller written by Andrew Hammer, Observing the Craft is a manifesto of sorts for the observant Mason, who seeks quality over quantity in every aspect of Freemasonry.

It is a stringent argument for the Symbolic Lodge as being the whole of Masonry, calling for nothing but the utmost effort and commitment to be put into the operation of a Masonic lodge and its meetings.


Recent Articles: symbolism

The Practice of Freemasonry - P1

Embark on a transformative journey with Freemasonry, where the exploration of your Center unlocks the Perfect Ashlar within. Through the practices of Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, and Cardinal Virtues, discover a path of enlightenment and self-improvement. Embrace the universal creed that binds us in the pursuit of our true essence.

Warrant of Constitution

Discover the fascinating history and significance of the Warrant of Constitution within Freemasonry. Unveil the evolution of this crucial authorization, its role in legitimizing Lodges, and its lasting impact on the global brotherhood of Freemasons. Explore the intricate link it provides between tradition and modern practice.

Freemasonry: Unravelling the Complexity of an Influential Organization

Mysterious and captivating, Freemasonry has piqued the interest of seekers and skeptics alike. With its intricate blend of politics, esotericism, science, and religion, this enigmatic organization has left an indelible mark on society. Prepare to delve into the secrets of Freemasonry and unlock its hidden depths.

Volume of the Sacred Law

Unlocking the Mysteries of Freemasonry: In the hallowed halls of Freemasonry, a powerful symbol lies at the heart of ancient rituals and teachings—the Volume of the Sacred Law. This sacred book not only guides the spiritual and moral journey of Freemasons but also serves as a beacon of universal wisdom and enlightenment.

The Ancient Liberal Arts in Freemasonry

Embark on a journey of self-improvement and wisdom with Freemasonry's guiding principles. Ascend the winding stairs of moral cultivation, analytical reasoning, and philosophical understanding. Embrace arithmetic's mystical properties and geometry's universal truths. Let the harmony of the universe inspire unity and growth. Discover the profound, hidden knowledge in Freemasonry's path to enlightenment.

The Meaning of Darkness

Initiation rituals around the world are filled with fascinating elements and different images. One of them is that of darkness. When societies speak of darkness, they often mean a lack of knowledge, a lack of choice, or a symbol of evil. During initiation rituals, darkness is used to represent the initiate's lack of knowledge about the world, society, and initiation in general. It can also represent the initiate's inability to make a choice or endure a situation. Whether you have participated in an initiation rite or not, the meaning of darkness remains an intriguing concept worth exploring. Initiation rituals around the world are filled with fascinating elements and different images. One of them is that of darkness. When societies speak of darkness, they often mean a lack of knowledge, a lack of choice, or a symbol of evil. During initiation rituals, darkness is used to represent the initiate's lack of knowledge about the world, society, and initiation in general. It can also represent the initiate's inability to make a choice or endure a situation. Whether you have participated in an initiation rite or not, the meaning of darkness remains an intriguing concept worth exploring.

Deacon Rods

Masonic Deacon rods potentially trace their origins to Greek antiquity, symbolically linked to Hermes' caduceus. As Hermes bridged gods and mortals with messages, so do Masonic Deacons within the lodge, reinforcing their roles through ancient emblems. This connection underscores a profound narrative, weaving the fabric of Masonic rites with the threads of mythological heritage, suggesting the rods are not mere tools but bearers of deeper, sacred meanings that resonate with the guardianship and communicative essence of their divine counterpart, Hermes, reflecting a timeless lineage from myth to Masonic tradition.

The Pillars

The biblical pillars erected by Solomon at the Temple's porch, hold a profound place in history. These brass behemoths are not mere decorations; they are symbols of strength, establishment, and divine guidance. Explore their fascinating construction, dimensions, and the deep meanings they carry in both biblical and Masonic contexts.

Two Great Dangers

Unlocking the Mind's Potential: Dive deep into ground breaking research revealing how simple daily habits can supercharge cognitive abilities. Discover the untapped power within and redefine your limits. Join us on this enlightening journey and transform your world!

Trowel Masonic Symbolism

Dive deep into the symbolic importance of the trowel in Masonry, representing unity and brotherly love. From its historical roots in operative masonry to its significance in speculative masonry, this article explores the trowel's multifaceted role. Discover its connection to the sword, the story of Nehemiah, and the Society of the Trowel in Renaissance Florence. Unravel the layers of meaning behind this enduring Masonic symbol.

Symbolism of The Builder's Jewel

Batty Langley's "The Builder’s Jewel" (1741) is a visual masterpiece of Masonic symbolism, showcasing Langley's deep understanding of Freemasonry. The frontispiece highlights key symbols like the three pillars and the legend of Hiram Abiff, emphasizing Langley's dedication to Masonic traditions and teachings.

Colour Blue Masonic Symbol

Unveil the mystique of the colour blue in Masonic symbolism. A hue evoking universal friendship and benevolence, its roots span ancient cultures, infusing Freemasonry's core values. This article explores blue's profound significance, guiding Freemasons towards wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. Discover the fascinating journey of this universal symbol.

The Plumb: Masonic Symbolism

Discover the intriguing world of the plumb in Masonic symbolism with our in-depth analysis. Uncover its rich history, moral teachings, and significance in Freemasonry, guiding members on their path to truth, integrity, and justice. Immerse yourself in the captivating power of this symbol that shapes lives within the brotherhood.

The Key: Masonic Symbol

Unlock the mysteries of Freemasonry with 'The Key,' a profound Masonic symbol. This seemingly simple instrument holds a deeper meaning, teaching virtues of silence and integrity. Explore its ancient roots, from Sophocles to the mysteries of Isis, and discover how it symbolizes the opening of the heart for judgment.

The Blazing Star

Unlock the secrets of the Freemasonry with The Blazing Star - a symbol that holds immense significance in their rituals and practices. Delve into its history, meaning and role in the different degrees of Freemasonry with expert insights from the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert Mackey. Discover the mystique of The Blazing Star today!

The Triangle

There is no symbol more significant in its meaning, more versatile in its application, or more pervasive throughout the entire Freemasonry system than the triangle. Therefore, an examination of it cannot fail to be interesting to a Masonic student. Extract from Encyclopedia of Freemasonry by Albert Mackey

The Hiramic Legend and the Myth of Osiris

Hiram Abiff, the chief architect of Solomon’s Temple, is a figure of great importance to Craft Freemasonry, as its legend serves as the foundation of the Third Degree or that of a Master Mason. He is the central figure of an allegory that has the role of teaching the Initiate valuable alchemical lessons. Although his legend is anchored in biblical times, it may have much older roots.

The Rite of Investiture

This rite of investiture, or the placing upon the aspirant some garment, as an indication of his appropriate preparation for the ceremonies in which he was about to engage, prevailed in all the ancient initiations. Extract from The Symbolism of Freemasonry by Albert G. Mackey

All Seeing Eye

The All-Seeing Eye of God, also known as the Eye of Providence, is a representation of the divine providence in which the eye of God watches over humanity. It frequently portrays an eye that is enclosed in a triangle and surrounded by rays of light or splendour.

What's in a Word, Sign or Token?

Why do Freemasons use passwords, signs, and tokens? As Freemasons we know and understand the passwords, signs and tokens (including grips), which are all used a mode of recognition between members of the fraternity.

A Temple of Living Stones: Examining the Concept of a Chain of Union

What are the origins of the Chain of Union? And how did they come about ? The answers may surprise some members as W Brother Andrew Hammer investigates, author of Observing the Craft: The Pursuit of Excellence in Masonic Labour and Observance.

A Christmas Carol

One of the best loved stories for the festive season is ‘A Christmas Carol’. A traditional ghost story for retelling around the fire on a cold Christmas Eve, it is a timeless classic beloved by those from all walks of life. Philippa explores the masonic allegory connections…

The Trowel - Working Tool of the Master Mason

The Trowel is the symbol of that which has power to bind men together – the cement is brotherhood and fellowship.

Two Perpendicular Parallel Lines

The point within a circle embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, with the Holy Bible resting on the circle, is one of the most recognizable symbols in Freemasonry. It is also one which always raises a question. How can two lines be both perpendicular and parallel?

Mackey's 25 Masonic Landmarks

"The first great duty, not only of every lodge, but of every Mason, is to see that the landmarks of the Order shall never be impaired." — Albert Mackey (1856)

Salt, Wine, and Oil

It is common knowledge that the ancient wages of a Fellowcraft Mason consisted of corn, wine, and oil.
Many however, object to this assertion. How can corn be associated with these ancient wages when—clearly—corn was first discovered in the New World? Discover how 'corn' may in fact be 'salt'!

How Holy is Holy Ground?

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

The Secret Language of the Stone Masons

We know of Masons' Marks but lesser known are the 'argots' used by the artisans - in part 2 of a series on the social history of the Operative Masons we learn how the use of secret languages added to the mystery of the Guilds.

So mote it be

The phrase appears in the Regius Poem. It is customary in contemporary English to end prayers with a hearty “Amen,” a word meaning “So be it.” It is a Latin word derived from the Hebrew word - Short Talk Bulletin - Vol. V June, 1927, No.6

Egypt's 'Place of Truth' - The First Operative Stone Masons' Guild?

Was ancient Egypt's 'village of the artisans' the first operative stone masons' guild? And was their use of 'identity marks' a forerunner of the Mason's Marks of the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages? Read on for some possible answers…

The Pieces of Architecture and the Origin of Masonic Study

Discover the journey of the Apprentice – from Operative to Speculative. This journey has been carried out since the times of operative Freemasonry but today the initiate works in the construction of his inner temple.

The Builders' Rites - laying the foundations operatively and speculatively

The cornerstone (also ‘foundation’ or ‘setting’ stone) is the first stone to be set in the construction of the foundations of a building; every other stone is set in reference to this.

If Found on the Level

Applying the working tools to achieve our peculiar system of morality.

Euclid's 47th Proposition

We take an in-depth look at the 47th Proposition of the 1st Book of Euclid as part of the jewel of the Past Master.

The Cable Tow Unbound

The Cable Tow: Its Origins, Symbolism, & Significance for Freemasons - Unbinding the significance of the cable tow.

The Great Journey

We examine at one of the most impressive moments of the initiatory ceremony, a certain rite known as Circumambulation, and ask what is its meaning and purpose ?

On the Level

So, what is the Level? And why do we use it in Freemasonry?

The Pigpen Cipher

What is the mysterious pigpen or Masonic cipher that has been used for centuries to hide secrets and rituals?

The Story of the Royal Arch - The Mark Degree

Extracted from William Harvey's 'The Story of the Royal Arch' - Part 1 describes the Mark Degree, including the Working Tools.

Ashlars - Rough, Smooth - Story of a Stone

How we can apply the rough and smooth Ashlars with-in a masonic context

The Chamber of Reflection

A detailed look at the Chamber of Reflection: A Revitalized and Misunderstood Masonic Practice.

Faith, Hope & Charity

Exploring the origin and symbolism of Faith, Hope and Charity

The Noachite Legend and the Craft

What is it to be a true Noachidae, and what is the Noachite Legend and the Craft ?

Jacob’s ladder

In Masonic rituals, Jacob’s ladder is understood as a stairway, a passage from this world to the Heavens.

Meaning of the Acacia

What is the meaning of the Acacia and where did it originate ?

The Feasts of St John

What is the connection with the Feasts of St John and Freemasonry

Forget Me Not

The Forget-Me-Not and the Poppy - two symbols to remind us to 'never forget' those who died during the two World Wars.

The Two Pillars

Biblical history surrounding the two pillars that stood at the entrance to King Solomon's Temple

Judaism and Freemasonry

Is there a direct link between Judaism and Freemasonry?

The Beehive

The symbolism of the beehive in Masonry and its association with omphalos stones and the sacred feminine.

Corn Wine Oil

The Wages of an Entered Apprentice

The North East Corner

An explanation of the North East corner charge which explores beyond one meaning Charity -
Extracted from William Harvey – the Complete Works

The Two Headed Eagle

A brief look at the origins of the two headed eagle, probably the most ornamental and most ostentatious feature of the Supreme Council 33rd Degree Ancient and Accepted (Scottish ) Rite

A Masonic Interpretation

A Muslim is reminded of his universal duties just as a Freemason. A Masonic Interpretation of the Quran's First Two Chapters

Audi Vide Tace

The three Latin words -{Listen, Observe, Be Silent}. A good moto for the wise freemason

masonic knowledge

to be a better citizen of the world

share the square with two brothers

click image to open email app on mobile device

Masonic Apparel

made to order

Share this article ....