The Pillars of Charity: Honoring Donors to the House of the Temple

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins


The House of the Temple in Washington, DC, is the headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction. Inside the building are the Scottish Rite SJ's Museum, Library, Archives, Temple Room, offices, banquet hall and other spaces. The edifice is also a mausoleum, with two crypts holding the earthly remains of Past Sovereign Grand Commanders John Henry Cowles, 33° (1863 – 1954) and Albert Pike, 33° (1809 – 1891). Between the tombs of these Illustrious Brethren is an alcove lit by a radiant stained glass window, with the words Pillars of Charity chiseled above. On either side of the alcove's walls are small pillars with the names of those who have made the generous contribution of $1,000,000 or more to either the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Inc. or the Scottish Rite Foundation, SJ, USA, Inc. In further recognition of their generosity, donors are also immortalized with an oil painting to be displayed in the nearby portrait gallery.

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ to paint the latest addition to the Pillars of Charity Portrait Gallery. I am honored that the Scottish Rite, SJ thinks highly enough of my talents to ask me to create this important recognition of generosity. The subjects of the double-portrait, Ill. Thomas A. Rossman, 33° and his wife, Patricia, are dedicated supporters of the House of the Temple and this was their 2nd donation of $1 Million to the Historic Preservation Foundation. A native of Detroit, Illustrious Brother Rossman was raised in Center Line Lodge No. 550 and joined the Scottish Rite Valley of Detroit (NMJ) in 1963. The Rossmans moved to Hawaii in 1989, where he is now a life member of the Valley of Honolulu (SJ) and Mrs. Rossman is a member of Lei Aloha Chapter No. 3, Order of the Eastern Star.

As Masons, we must keep in mind the importance of contributing to the long term maintenance of our magnificent buildings for future generations. The House of the Temple is a cause that is certainly worthy of any support you can offer. Not all of us have a million dollars to spare, but most all of us are capable of making some financial contribution. Please visit the Scottish Rite, SJ's website and click on the “Giving” tab to see the many ways in which you can help. Or on a smaller scale, when you make a purchase from their online store, please click “yes” on the checkout tab when asked if you'll round up the total to support the House of the Temple. Their website is www.scottishrite.org

-TS

Travis Simpkins is a freelance artist with clients throughout the United States and Europe. He currently works on projects for the Supreme Council, 33°, NMJ in Lexington, Massachusetts and the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ in Washington, DC. He also serves as a portrait artist for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of New Jersey and other jurisdictions across North America. His artwork is in many esteemed collections, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bro. Simpkins is a member of Morning Star Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a 32° Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite- Valleys of Worcester and Boston. He is also a member of Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, Hiram Council of Royal & Select Master Masons and Worcester County Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar.

The Cowan Within

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB:. Robert E. Jackson

I've recently joined a new company. Well, recently is a relative term, so we'll say about 3 months ago at the time of this writing. Getting the new job was quite an accomplishment to me. The company seemed amazing, and every person I spoke with was so incredibly kind, and smart. 

Soon after starting the job, like probably the first day, I started wondering if I deserved to be in such a good company. I would worry about not being good enough, or smart enough, where at times I wouldn't be able to focus on my work! Colleagues would tell me that they all felt that way, and everybody goes through it, but it was so hard to believe that they felt the same amount of anxiety. Then, during a team dinner, I learned that it wasn't just me. Hell, it wasn't just this company. It was Impostor Syndrome.

So, like any good Mason, I started searching, and reading, about Impostor Syndrome. Sometimes called the Impostor Phenomenon, the condition was introduced in 1978 by Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes. It was initially seen in high performing women, being introduced to a male dominated work force. These women, although worthy and well qualified, didn't feel like they belonged, always feeling like they weren't good enough.

For some time, it was believed that this issue was only evident within females, but it was later discovered that the feeling had no gender bias, but recognition did. Kevin Cokley, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, stated that “people who are experiencing or struggling with impostor feelings struggle alone. They think that they’re the only ones feeling that way.” Men typically tend to either compartmentalize, or not admit this feeling of inferiority, especially among their peers. Some feel that the best way to battle the phenomenon is to recognize and encourage the positive outcomes. Be sure to give the accolades when they are due. However, asking for such recognition and encouragement, can be deemed a sign of weakness in many circles, further exacerbating the problem. 

There have been several papers and articles written on the Impostor Phenomenon, and some studies have attempted to correlate the Phenomenon to family upbringing, or correlation with other disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as perfectionism. What appears to be at the core, however, is the belief in a false-self, whose value depends solely on what others think and how you’re perceived. The apparent Impostor (I say apparent because they are an impostor only in their own perception) obsessively analyzes and reflects upon their mistakes, big and small, and always wonders what they could have/should have done. What some may see as a common error, the apparent impostor sees as a personal deficiency, another imperfect aspect of their own ashlar. The fear of exposing another deficiency, revealing another weakness to the community, can cause procrastination and be debilitating at times. Any success (such as a new job) is viewed as luck, or an oversight of somebody else. 

As Masons, I see several opportunities for the Impostor to sneak in. Think of when you might have delivered a presentation, or a section of ritual. Often times your Brothers will congratulate you on your success. If you've ever focused more on your mistakes, or had a fear that the bar was now higher for your next delivery, you've heard from your Impostor. If you aren't sure, go ahead and take this online test (yes, there is a test for everything now). 

Thank you for reading this far. A big portion of this article for me was researching and trying to understand, and cope with, the feelings I had in this new job. Seeking to understand the false self, and the lack of a true static self, has helped, but my search is far from over. If you're curious, the best paper I've found online about the phenomenon is from the Journal of Behavioral Science. In which Dr. Clance identifies six potential characteristics of the 'Impostor:' (1) The Impostor Cycle, (2) The need to be special or to be the very best, (3) Superman/Superwoman aspects; (4) Fear of failure, (5) Denial of competence and Discounting praise, and (6) Fear and guilt about success. One of my favorite quotes during the research, however, was from Business Insider; "And yes, the biggest deceiver in all of this really is us: Not in how we believe we lie to others, but in how we lie to ourselves. You see, impostors tend to mistake feelings for facts. But, feelings, unlike facts, lie — and they lie often."

Of course I'm no expert, but if you recognize a similar struggle, or patterns within yourself, please don't hesitate to discuss it with others. The phenomenon isn't a weakness, or a handicap, but to truly understand your own process, seeking a professional is always the best option.

~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past Master and Secretary of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org

Freemasonry: Finding Our Future In Our Past

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I attended a really memorable meeting last week--I enjoyed it, I learned something from it, and I'm still thinking about some of the things that were said a week later.

The meeting was small in numbers, but big in content.  It was a regularly stated meeting of Admiration Chapter No. 282 (IL) Royal Arch.  We focus our meetings less on business and more on education, and during this meeting, I lead a discussion, the topic of which was suggested by fellow Midnight Freemasons contributor Brian Pettice, 33°.  The topic of the meeting was what Freemasonry means to us.

I started the discussion by having everyone follow me out of the Lodge and through the Tyler's room and we crowded into the Preparation Room.  Nobody knew why.  I had the last two members out of the Lodge grab the Steward's rods and once we were all crowded into that small room and had closed the door, I picked one of the members to step forward, the Stewards closed in on either side--flanking him.  I repeated those questions we all answer before we enter a Lodge for the first time.  We reenacted that very first bit of Masonic ritual we experience at the foot of the path we take in Freemasonry--it most likely varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but here in Illinois we call that the "Secretary Interrogatories".  That familiar bit of ritual took everyone back to those moments before we entered the Lodge for the first time.

What did we expect this experience to be like?  What brought us there?  What did we expect to gain?  What was our opinion of the Fraternity then?  What was our impression of the Masons that brought us to this place?  How did we think we were going to be changed?  All those questions we asked ourselves in that moment.

When the Masons in that little room realized what I was doing, it got very quiet as those words came back to them, and those memories they associated with that part of our ritual returned.  

Some of the Mason in that little room had been a Mason for decades, and others a very short time.  By going back in time like that, and putting ourselves back to that moment when we were looking at that door for the first time from the outside prompted a lively discussion after that exercise in which every member in attendance participated.

We talked about the purpose of Masonry.  We talked about mentoring.  We wondered if those coming into our Fraternity were having the same quality of experience that we had when we entered.  We talked about what we were doing right, and we talked about where we were falling short.  We talked about whether Freemasonry was still relevant, and determining unanimously that it was, we talked about how it's more important than ever in today's world.  And yes, we talked a little about recruitment and marketing who we are and what we are to a world that sometimes doesn't exactly understand who we are and what we are.

There are so many topics you can discuss.  There are so many creative ways you can get these discussions started.  So many formats from speakers, to presentations, to discussions, to book clubs.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to Lodge education and member development. Or do as we're doing--try a little bit of everything and let your members decide what they enjoy the most.

The members in attendance last week are already looking forward to our next meeting, and our next presentation.  They aren't looking forward to hearing minutes, or the treasurer's report--they're looking forward to talking about, and learning about Freemasonry and how to apply it to their lives.  How the application of the principles of Freemasonry is what Masonry is all about.

If your Lodge focuses on these basics you'll be amazed at what happens.  If you rebuild your Lodge on the foundations of Freemasonry, you'll find these Masonic principles are still relevant, still applicable, and still something men today are interested in talking about, applying, and living.

Tear into that ritual and teach your new members not just how to do it, but what it actually means.  Open those dusty books in your Lodge library and teach others the wisdom they contain.  Have conversations about what it is to be a Mason.  Mentor each other.  Advise each other.  Learn from each other.  Improve each other.  Then take that out into the world and serve as examples.

My Brothers, that's Freemasonry!

~TEC

Next week I'm going to tell you about another terrific meeting I attended last night . . . this meeting was lead by Midnight Freemasons Senior Contributor Greg Knott at Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) A.F. & A.M. where he currently serves as Worshipful Master.

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. Todd started the Midnight Freemason blog in 2006, and in 2012 he opened it up as a contributor blog The Midnight Freemasons (plural). Todd has written more than 1,000 pieces for the blog since it began. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR). He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP. You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Hauts Grades Academy

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks 


Joining the Scottish Rite, I sought to deepen my understandings of blue lodge work, and masonry overall. I knew this was an adjunctive choice, not in place of my blue lodge work. I wasn’t disappointed. Following my first reunion, I was encouraged to apply to Hauts Grades Academy to expand and reflect upon what I had experienced. Early on, the Scottish Rite was known as Hauts Grades. I eagerly went to the web pageand signed up on the wait list. Hurry up and wait, the useful lesson to temper impulsivity and mobilize contemplation. When my admission email arrived, I paused, then logged in and got started. The program is the Northern Jurisdictions answer to further light self-study.

A video introduction gives a brief and clever overview of the Rite, packed with historical high and low points. Hauts Grades labor consists of three sections: Level I explores the rituals of the twenty-nine degrees by reading through each degree and taking an on-line quiz about the contents. In level II one is asked to choose nine of the twenty-nine degrees, review them in even greater depth, and write a personal reflective piece about those selected. There are specific requirements that frame the task including how lessons and core values might be implemented in lodge and life. Level III is a research paper of the candidate’s choosing which has been approved by the HGA committee; the areas of research represent the history, ritual, or philosophy of the Scottish Rite. Being a lengthy endeavor, a year is granted to complete the task. Here the master mason can make a Scottish Rite journey and study very personal, seeking to explore and bring into the light an aspect of our world of particular interest to him, potentially expanding the body of literature as well.

I have just completed level II and both sad and excited its over; though I realized a few papers back, I can do the same with any and every degree I choose as much as I want. Now knowing the format, I can continue the reflection without the oversight for my own edification. It has been fulfilling and curious to note the difference in writing about degrees I’d never witnessed, ones I have experienced once, and the ones I’ve witnessed two or three times. It mattered and changed things in the visceral response and personal nature of the reflection papers. I also chose to write about the degrees that move me the most, first.
In the middle of the experience it is a meaningful, moving, self-paced study and practice. I’m asked to consider and reflect on how I will implement the lessons of the degrees in my day to day life in and out of lodge. Regardless of education level, HGA participants have a chance to delve into their masonic and Scottish Rite experience and practice reflection and research with the goals of expanding education and understanding, and promoting service. I was talking with my Brother the other day lamenting the fact that I hadn’t gone through the line in lodge beforedoing the work in HGA; he admonished me stating he hoped more of us would take longer and do more internal and expository writing prior to stepping into line thereby improving the depth and breadth of knowledge each new officer brings to the line. HGA provides an additional route through masonry for those who find this modality inviting and inspiring; hone your living tradition as well as your writing and communication tools. I’m grateful to my NMJ leadership of the Hauts Grades as we pay no fee for the privilege of doing this directed work. All nine papers are reviewed sequentially before the next may begin. Important to note, this venture means a lot of work for a few already active in the craft. Thank you. In the interested of more labor and light, I thought I would share it with you here. Though HGA is part of the NMJ, it is available to SMJ master masons who choose plural membership with a valley in the NMJ. New to masonry or a well-traveled leader, I strongly encourage further study through the Hauts Grades Academy. ~EAM

Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org