Look to the East…Superintending the Craft through Eastern Practices: A Book Review

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Brendan Hickey

                                    
Look to the East…Superintending the Craft through Eastern Practices
by Dwight S. Decoskey II
Published by PropOps Shop Publications
2020
Paperback, $20.00



Brother Decoskey uses the term East in both the Masonic and cultural meanings. Among his many credentials are twenty years of work experience as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and an MBA degree. This book does not have a New Age vibe at all. Instead, the writing is concise, direct, honest, and sometimes blunt.

At just 95 pages, this book can also be read quickly, and that may be the best way to approach it. Read it quickly one time, dog-ear and mark the pages that grab your attention, then come back for another, careful, deliberate read. The author says that his goal is to avoid any sort of indoctrination, a goal that he achieves, and asks instead only that you consider the information that he provides.

The three parts of this book focus, variously, on exercise and breathing; diet and nutrition; and spirituality and community. Much of the content will be familiar to most readers. We already know that we should move more than we probably do; eat less and better than we probably do, and connect with the Supreme Architect and our personal communities more intentionally than we probably do. We have this information, but it sounds a bit different when coming from a brother, who has our interests at heart. The author also frames his suggestions in terms of making us fit to be of the best service to our fraternity, building on our own worthwhile reasons for changing our habits.

Brother Decoskey is careful to connect Eastern ideas with Western science and his own opinions of his with support from someone else. There are seven pages on poop, used as a gauge of overall health. There are ten pages on religion so that you can meet brothers of different faiths on the square. There is a page on chakras. However, the author also teaches the reader diaphragmatic breathing, used by U.S Navy SEALs as well as Eastern practitioners, and known to this reviewer as tactical or four-square breathing, used for stress control by emergency responders. It’s also useful if you have to speak in public, like, say, from the Worshipful Master’s station.

Look to the East seems to be written mostly for brothers in middle age and older, the men who are seeing the limitations that come with age, but this book may appeal to anyone who wants to delay the onset of those limitations. Any brother who is interested in his health and remaining strong to continue his good work in Freemasonry may find value in this book.

The book may be purchased HERE

~BH

Brendan Hickey is a Past Master of Thomson Lodge No. 340 in Paoli, PA; King of Howell Royal Arch Chapter No. 202 in West Chester, PA; and Pursuivant of Pennsylvania Lodge of Research No. 1. He is also a Master Masonic Scholar through the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge. Brendan works as a school psychologist and volunteers in emergency mental health in Pennsylvania and Delaware.



My Brother’s Keeper

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Chris Hathaway


“Am I my brother’s keeper” is a question that has been asked since the first sons of Adam. When Cain fired this question back to his creator, he had no idea we would be asking ourselves that same question of each other countless times over throughout our lives. God expects us to be each other’s keeper. Does this only extend to our biological brothers? No.

2021 has been rough. It wasn’t much better than 2020 and in some ways worse. 2022 is shaping out to be the trilogy of the pandemic and hopefully its last chapter. So how do we get through tough times? How do we keep hope alive? We look after each other, every day, in all our interactions.

All things considered, 2021 was one of my roughest years. But I had keepers everywhere I looked. My family and friends are second to none and were always there. But what if they weren’t? Who else can I rely on? Certainly when times are tough, we should look to the fraternity for guidance and fellowship. Too often when times get tough, I see guys fade away instead of embracing the brotherhood to its fullest extent. Masons throughout the State of Illinois had my back through it all, and most of them didn’t even know it. The routine of lodge, the degree rehearsals, and the programs kept normalcy in place when all else seemed lost.

But who else is our keeper and who else should we be looking after? Our coworkers are a good start. We spend more time with them than our own family on occasions. Do you lift people up when they are down or do you shame them for having bad days? Are you the guy that figures out what is going on in their lives before making rude comments? Practice showing grace and support even when people are having the worst of days. When you are out shopping, are you being your brother’s keeper to the store clerk, to the door greeters, the strangers in the parking lot. They just might need that touch of class, that smiling face, the hope that good people still exist. You are giving them light by being a decent human being especially in difficult times.

As I turned 31 years old this year, I reflected on the 31st Degree in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ. A key theme in that degree addresses this very question “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. In various parts of the degree, the characters keep saying NO! Their excuses are weak although are always “justified” so they do not feel guilty about passing by without helping. In the end though, a just and upright Mason cuts through the bull and explains to the group that they are in fact their brother’s keeper, on all occasions.

Eric Church says this in the song ‘Those I’ve Loved’

“And I hope they know I never would have made it this far on my own, where would we all be without those fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers; the friends I’ve made along the way.”

So remember that when you’re out and about next time. Be there for people. Always. 

~CJH

WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is a plural member of Normal Masonic Lodge #673 as well as Bloomington Lodge #43, where he is a Past Master. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman. He is the Oriental Guide in the High Priest & Prophet for the Mohammed Shiners, and the President of the Bloomington Shrine Club. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs.

Reflections

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


Brother Darin Lahners walked us through a multi-part series looking at the Craft from some excellent historical commentary.  Brother Darin provided his own commentary but left the majority of the citation up to you for further reflection.  If you care to pull the parts together, I encourage you to reread that commentary as one long piece.  I don’t agree with a few observations, but I do agree with the vast majority.  Is this agreement or disagreement what we need to initiate deeper discussion in our lodges?  Is this creating or possibly following the blueprint for a reset?  Going back to some longtime criticisms to see where they hold merit, where those criticisms continue without correction, and how those criticisms may be considered in open and respectful dialogue?  

Here’s my own reset and forward-looking plan:  Contemplate nothing.

 What?  But Randy?  Brother Darin’s writings and reflections might be interpreted as a call to arms, of a push toward getting more accomplished by making some profound changes!  Yes, I agree.  I will explain.

What happens if we simply do nothing?  Read Brother Darin’s papers again, and now contemplate what happens in your own lodge, district, and jurisdiction if you simply do nothing.  That exercise is valuable in demonstrating the power of one.  What happens if you make one change?  What happens when you make another change?  Each one of the changes remains a powerful tool, and we each have a responsibility to play chess, not checkers when making changes in our fraternity. 

Yes, I said it.  Responsibility.  If you make the change, then you take ownership, right or wrong.  Doesn’t that mean we need to take time to consider what long-term ramifications might happen with that change?  If we enact a policy, can that policy come back to bite us in other ways?  What other changes might be included unintentionally? 

How can we look at an action and contemplate the possible results if we don’t first contemplate what happens if we do nothing?

~RS

Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12 year span. Randy is a 32nd degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Reverence for All Beliefs: An Exploration of Consequences and Revelation of Moral Geography

A Joint OpEd by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R. H. Johnson
and Guest Contributor 
Kevin Homan


It is a long-standing belief within Freemasonry and the world for that matter, that each person, each individual conscious mind, has an inalienable right of personal liberty, personal choice, personal belief, and the freedom to explore those rights in the search for happiness. Thomas Paine writes in The Rights of Man, “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”


In this quote, we find the general position of the enlightened world. To verdantly assert the individual's right to all things, and within this–what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. That is, if one has complete freedom, all must have the same. What of these freedoms are tangible?

A tangible Freedom is an idea made real by its practice in the world in which we live. We think, and those thoughts beget action. When we act on these thoughts, we have unleashed a wave of probable outcomes, infinite in consequence. In just one example, we have freedom of speech, yet, we are not immune from the consequences of the words we write or that we vocalize. The rights guaranteed to all humanity are so divine, so spiritual and so personal–they are an ingrained part of our being. They determine how we act, who we are friends with, what groups we belong to, and can even determine our socioeconomic statuses.

The topic in this paper is the freedom of belief, and the respect the Masonic Fraternity has for the individual rights of men to hold whatever beliefs they see fit, so long as they check a number of ascribed boxes to which our fraternity is bound. Of those boxes within regular male craft Freemasonry regarding belief–we would see the acceptance of a Supreme Being (some will argue monotheism). Outside of this singular qualification which speaks to personal belief, there are two other attributes outlined within the interrogatories and question and answer portions of our ritual. Whether or not the ritual is to be taken literally or not, is a matter to be taken up by the Grand Master in each state, for only the Grand Master in each state can make such a judgment.

These other qualifications stipulate that a candidate who has come before the lodge for initiation is of “good report and well recommended.” In obvious terms, this means that the candidate is known by the proposers to be a good man, free from the allurements of vice and crime. A man who can be trusted. The other qualifications are to do with proper age (at least eighteen) and that the candidate is vouched for. These last two pieces as they relate to being admitted into our fraternity speak nothing of the general character of those whom we seek to initiate.

We ask our candidates if they are members of any group to which membership within the Masonic Fraternity is incompatible. In our 27 years of combined service to the Craft, we have never stopped an initiation due to a response to this question. Of this question, we have much to discuss. It is a question that when contemplated, opens a door that cannot be shut. For it forces us to look to the hearts and consciousnesses of our existing members and our petitioners. To what organizations do they belong that the various Masonic credos would be in opposition? Belonging to such an organization is a physical and real-world, tangible enterprise born from a personal ideology.

After a proper investigation of the petitioner, or a reflective moment on a current member and their ideological alignments–we get an objective view of where they stand in the geography of the moral landscape.

These ideologies live in the minds of humans, and in many cases are secret. The secret beliefs of men, held within the prisons of their own minds are often due to an intrinsic shame, or perhaps a general fear that the beliefs they hold are such of a minority opinion, they'll be looked at as a pariah. There’s even a chance that by the extolling of one's personal ideologies they will be accused of one or more of the many deadly sins of the 21st century–forever labeled in a pejorative manner. They will forever be tormented–or “canceled.”

Men today belong to many organizations who may not have anything to hold against Freemasonry, however, should we be now concerned enough to ask whether or not a person is a member of an organization to which Freemasonry is incompatible? Organizations that hold values, beliefs, or practices that are antithetical to what our Craft teaches? Contrarily, flipping the tables as it were. Are there such organizations? Are there such ideological beliefs that are in fact, incompatible with membership in this gentle Craft?

Antifa? The Klu Klux Klan? The Proud Boys? QAnon? While we may answer unequivocally that one could not reconcile Freemasonry and any of the aforementioned groups–the fact remains that we have members within our organization that do belong to these schemes. Not only this, they financially back these organizations (while complaining about Lodge dues, mind you.) They share articles and disinformation on social media networks, attack ideologies that are contrary to theirs, and criticize all of the principles counter to their beliefs.

The organizations mentioned above are just that–organizations of peoples bound together by beliefs in particular ideals or shared goals. But what about religious beliefs? Are their religions that teach their truths that are also misaligned with what the Craft teaches? And staying with the theme of this article, and using the same mindfulness we’re talking about in respect to morality and compatibility–shouldn't it apply to religions as well? It is an ideology, after all.

It's often assumed and said that “It's common to respect others’ beliefs”. Borrowing from another famous quote, “respect is earned, not given”, which is actually part of a larger quote from Pakistani Beggar King Hussein Nishah, “Treat people the way you want to be treated. Talk to people the way you want to be talked to. Respect is earned, not given.” Respecting one's religious and political beliefs is certainly common happenstance, so long as they fall within cultural norms (which are always evolving), or to extend that for this piece, the tenets of Freemasonry–the Progressive Moral Science.

This is nothing more than a distraction from the original argument. The answer is of course, yes, everyone is entitled to their own particular beliefs. We are not, however, required to respect them. These two things are mutually exclusive, I can respect your right to your own opinion while at the same time not having to respect it. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and as outlined above, while we have freedom of speech, that speech can have consequences. Say or support speech that is unbecoming of a Mason, and you’re likely to be reminded of your error.

The question remains, if we don't respect the beliefs of a brother who is a racist or a bigot, are we the problem? Or– should we tell it like it is and remove them from our ranks? Or, do as we have always done, let sleeping dogs lie–which brings us to the subject of consequence. The consequences of allowing behaviors of the groups mentioned above as acceptable or even compatible with Freemasonry will be seen by the public, by the prospective membership, as weak, unintellectual, antiquated, irrelevant, anti-progressive. Maybe even disgusting. In other words–it will be the death of the institution.

Let’s remember that no matter how good someone's ritual is, no matter how many times they were there for the lodge, or how much they donated–it doesn’t make them a good person.

Is Freemasonry to be the home of good men attempting to become better? And can you be a racist or a bigot as a member who is trying to become better by being a Freemason? Or should we just bar all racists and bigots from entering from the beginning; solving the problem at its core with small wins coming from the deaths of those bigots and racists who made it past the West-Gate, to begin with? As is often suggested by our Masonic forefathers, perhaps recentering ourselves, recommitting to what the Craft demands of us in principle--to "try Freemasonry" is all we need to do...

Defining Principals or Mission Statements of note:

Freemasonry - (Varies from state to state.)
To promote a way of life that binds like-minded men in a worldwide brotherhood that transcends all religious, ethnic, cultural, social, and educational differences; by teaching the great principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth; and, by the outward expression of these through its fellowship, to find ways in which to serve God, family, country, neighbors, and self. (Taken from Reading Lodge No. 254, CA).

The above description of Freemasonry certainly doesn't square with any of the descriptions below. As such, anyone identifying with such groups, should not be allowed into our fraternity.

ANTIFA
Antifa is a decentralized, leaderless movement composed of loose collections of groups, networks, and individuals. Antifa's professed purpose is to vigorously oppose fascism. Antifa adherents focus on countering right-wing extremists both online and on the ground. Antifa’s presence at protests is intended to intimidate and deter racists, but the use of violent measures by some militant Antifa adherents against their adversaries can create a vicious, self-defeating cycle of attacks, counterattacks, and blame. (Taken from ADL.org)

The Klu Klux Klan-
A white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s reconstruction-era policies aimed at establishing political and economic equality for Black Americans. Its members waged an underground campaign of intimidation and violence directed at white and Black Republican leaders. Though Congress passed legislation designed to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal–the reestablishment of white supremacy–fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s. (Taken from History.com)

The Proud Boys-
The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda. They are primarily misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic, and anti-immigration. Some members espouse white supremacist and antisemitic ideologies and/or engage with white supremacist groups. Public rallies and protests. Members have been known to engage in violent tactics; several members have been convicted of violent crimes. Proud Boys members accounted for one of the highest number of extremist arrestees in relation to the Jan 6 insurrection. In 2021, Proud Boys latched on to anti-mask and anti-vaccine activism, showing up at school board meetings as well as related protests and rallies. (Taken from ADL.org)

QAnon-
An American far-right political conspiracy theory and movement centered on false claims made by an anonymous individual or individuals, known by the name "Q", that a cabal of Satanic, cannibalistic pedophiles operate a global child sex trafficking ring that conspired against the former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office. Experts have described QAnon as a cult. (Taken from Wikipedia)


~RHJ & KH
 
RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way. Visit www.thecivicfreemason.com for more


WBro Kevin Homan was Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in August of 2007 at Olive Branch Lodge No. 114 in Leesburg, VA., and since then, has like many Masons, involved himself in more and more bodies. In addition to being a Past Master of Olive Branch Lodge, Kevin is a member of Potomac Chapter No. 88, RAM, currently serves as the Eminent Commander of Piedmont Commandery No. 26 and the Alexandria Scottish Rite Bodies. Additionally, Bro Kevin is a member of several of the York RIte invitational Bodies.

Bro Homan has been married to his wife Hillary for the past ten years and they have three wonderful (mostly) children. When he’s not doing something with his family or the Lodge Kevin enjoys a good glass of Scotch, the occasional cigar, and reading a good book in his office, which “smells of leather-bound books and rich mahogany”.