In Freemasonry, the term ‘go dark’ means that a lodge has ceased to exist. In some instances, this is permanent, but it can just cease operations and meetings for an extended period of time in others.
In some parts of the world where farming communities are prevalent, many lodges go dark to allow them to tend and harvest their crops. This is also the case in particular parts of the world where most Masons carry out other forms of seasonal work within a particular lodge.
Often, this is the case in fishing communities when a large proportion of the Masons are out to sea and in military lodges when most Masons are at war.
This post will examine why lodges ‘go dark’ in detail and understand where the terminology comes from and why it is significant in Freemasonry.
Why do lodges ‘go dark’?
As was mentioned in the introduction, lodges with specific groups of Masons go dark to allow the men to carry out seasonal work, or work that requires them to be away from their community for an extended period of time.
In this respect, a lodge going dark ensures that the essential Masonic value of supporting one’s family is upheld. Masons often need to prioritize their work over their commitment to the lodge.
In other parts of the world where the vocation of the brothers within a specific lodge doesn’t influence attendance at meetings, some lodges go dark for other, often unspecified reasons.
Where reasons are specified, sometimes the lodge will go dark during the summer months as many of the brothers may be involved in other Masonic duties and may not be able to contribute or attend meetings at their lodge for a specified period of time. Some of these duties include:
- Completing charitable acts like cleaning parks and developing other vital partnerships within the community will benefit the lodge and fraternity.
- Visiting older people in nursing homes or interacting with vulnerable people at specific events or functions. Because of their Masonic values, brothers take it upon themselves to care for elderly and vulnerable members of their community.
- Cleaning and upkeeping the Masonic lodge can take numerous forms and can be everything from a deep clean right the way through to a redecoration project. Often Masons will be involved in this process.
- Initiating the application process for Masonic scholarship. These scholarships are often given to high school students within the community who wish to attend university and maybe facing particular challenges that are stopping them from doing so.
How is darkness understood in Freemasonry?
As with many elements of Freemasonry, darkness has a significant symbolic meaning. The process of a lodge going dark should be understood in conjunction with the Masonic interpretation of darkness.
Darkness is recognized as a symbol of ignorance and, in direct contrast to light which is seen as a symbol of knowledge. In Freemasonry, there is a rule that states that the eye must not see the true nature of things that make up the mysteries of the order.
In the ancient mysteries of the order, the candidate was always shrouded in darkness in preparation for receiving the full light of knowledge that they would get access to by joining the fraternity.
In medieval times, the Persians had a period of fifty days of solitude, fasting, and darkness. For the British Druids, this period only lasted for nine days and nights but was significant all the same.
In cosmogony (the study of the universe), darkness has always existed before light. Therefore, darkness is considered to be the first construct and the state of existence before the time of creation. Such thought is interpreted within Freemasonry today.
In that respect, Freemasonry today sees darkness as the point of preparation. For Masons, darkness represents the chaos that ensued before the Grand Architect of the Universe created light.
Symbolically, therefore, within Freemasonry, darkness is said to represent the state of ignorance before an individual sees the light and is given the knowledge to help them become better men.
There is often a misunderstanding that darkness within Freemasonry is said to represent race or even satanic practices. This is untrue, and the darkness of which Masons speak of has nothing to do with either.
Read more: Are Freemasons Satanic?
How do Masonic lodges portray darkness?
Light is one of the most important Masonic symbols, and therefore by definition, so is darkness. The process of enlightenment for Freemasons is a journey that takes place over time, during which a man acquires knowledge of how to better contribute to their families and their wider communities.
In some lodges and Masonic jurisdictions, a room is enveloped in darkness with the Masonic Third Degree (Master Mason) is being conferred on a candidate. This is said to represent the time before a candidate joins a lodge and is officially enlightened.
Conclusion: What is meant by going dark?
As has been explored, going dark is the process by which a Masonic lodge ceases to operate for whatever reason, often related to the vocation or charitable contribution of brothers within the lodge.
The reason for the terminology is perhaps based on the Masonic understanding of darkness being in direct contrast to light. For Masons, the process of enlightenment is a significant one, and darkness is said to represent the state of the world before a brother sees the light presented to them due to their membership within the fraternity.
While misconceptions about the notion of going dark do exist, it’s important to recognize the fact that going dark does not have any sinister, underlying meaning and should be understood for what it is – the cessation of a lodge’s existence for a specified period of time.