It is very important to note that the bible
text states: “to confirm all things a man plucked
off his shoe…” – not his shoes! Taking off one
shoe and handing it to him with whom a
covenant was made, was a symbol of
sincerity and truthful intentions.
This is, therefore, the correct symbolism
of the activity in the First Degree. It is a
gesture binding upon the individual as an
act of sincerity by the candidate in offering
himself as a genuine applicant to participate
in the secrets and mysteries of our Order.
What now becomes interesting is the
significance when both shoes are removed.
This is symbolic of something quite
distinctly different! This will be clearly
understood and confirmed by a further
reference to Exodus III, Chapter 5:
“Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from
off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest
is holy ground.”
This association of the removal of footwear
when treading holy ground is a fairly
obvious symbol. To this day, sandals or
other footwear are used to protect, not the
ground, but the feet both from injury and
filth. To wear such protections in holy
places, by inference states that the holy
place is harmful and unclean!
We know that the custom was
widespread in ancient times and not
confined to Israel. In 570BC, Pythagoras
instructed his followers to “offer up
sacrifices with thy shoes off”. Ancient Jewish
law decreed: “It is not lawful for a man to
come into the mountain of God’s house
with his shoes upon his feet, or his staff,
or in his working garments, or with dust
upon his feet.”
This custom is really an act of humility
and is widespread throughout the world.
It was also to be found in Ethiopia, Peru
and the Far East, and also among the Druids.
At this point it is worth defining the
word ‘humility’, which must be strictly
construed and not confused with its
He who is humble is one who
acknowledges supremacy in another, or the
greatness of a power or principal. He who is
humiliated is made to feel unworthy, not in
reverence with greater than he, but for the
personal aggrandisement of the humiliator.
A man removes his hat on entering a
home, in the presence of a lady, or in a
church, not as a symbol of humiliation, but
of reverence. The worshipper removes his
shoes on entering a holy place for the same
reason. He who walks with both feet bare
signifies that he treads upon that which is
Reflecting on the consecration
ceremony of a new Lodge, the whole
purpose of the ritual is to render it holy, to
sanctify and set the Lodge apart for holy use
in its devotion to the Great Architect of the
Universe, for the benefit of the brethren
and to do his great works.
Matthew XVIII, verse 20 states: “For
where two or three are gathered together in my
name, there am I in the midst of them.” Every
Masonic Lodge is opened and closed in the
name of God. According to this promise,
therefore, no Lodge meets without the
Great Architect being “in the midst of them.”
Consequently the Lodge is Holy ground.
So, why do Freemasons not remove
their shoes when entering a Lodge?
They do – symbolically!
Once a Freemason, always a Freemason –
no brother is required to repeat his
obligations on every occasion at which
he is present in Lodge. However, it is clearly
understood that the obligation is binding
on him for life. Having once been taught
that a candidate is prepared in a certain
way because of a certain meaning in his
preparation, it seems reasonable that he
should not be inconvenienced every time
he comes to Lodge to go through a similar
procedure. If, when he attends Lodge again,
he is prepared in his heart, he fulfils all the
The historian Mackey put the thoughts
of consecrated holiness of a Lodge so
The Rite of Discalceation is a symbol of reverence.
It signifies in the language of symbolism, that the
spot that is about to be approached in this humble
and reverential manner is consecrated to some
Of all the degrees in Freemasonry, the third
degree is the most important and sublime. The
solemn lessons which it teaches, the sacred scene
which it represents, and the impressive ceremony
with which it is conducted are all calculated to
inspire the mind with feelings of awe and reverence.
The Holy of Holies in a Master Mason’s
Lodge is the Alter within the Temple where
the solemn truths of death and immortality are
inculcated. The aspirant on entering should purify
his heart from every contamination; and remember
with a due sense of their symbolic application –
those words that once broke upon the astonished
ears of the old patriarch: ‘Put off thy shoes from
off thy feet for the place whereon thou standest is
The worshipper in eastern lands removes
his shoes before he enters a temple as a
symbol that he knows that his flesh needs
no protection from that which it will there
touch. The Master Mason, symbolically
removing his shoes before entering his
Lodge, knows that here he will find holiness
in the very presence of the Great Architect
of the Universe through whom the Lodge
receives the greatest of his blessings to man:
It is true that through Freemasonry,
the rite of discalceation becomes the more
beautiful as we progress through the degrees.
On our Initiation, the rite is only a voluntary
testimony of sincere and truthful intentions.
Later, as we progress, it is an act of
humility, signifying that he who removes
his shoes knows that he enters that which
must not be defiled by anything unworthy
until time shall be no more.
With acknowledgement to MSANA Ref: 04-33.
Ray Hollins is the author of A Daily Advancement
in Masonic Knowledge: 100 Short Talks on the Craft.
For further information contact The Freemason Ltd
on 0870 922 0252 or go to
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