Freemasonry Didn’t Give Me The Answers

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer



I, like many of you, came to Freemasonry in the hopes of finding answers to some of life’s biggest questions: why am I here, how can I be a better man, who am I really? In retrospect, that was rather unfair of me, to hang the most difficult questions around the neck of any organization, however from the outside it appeared that Freemasonry had all of the answers I was looking for.

In case you didn’t read the title (and you really should, we spend a LOT of work on those titles), Freemasonry didn’t give me the answers I was looking for.
Now, put away your pitchforks and torches; I can already hear the grumpy Past Master chorus of “You get out of it what you put into it.” and believe me, I know every verse to that song. Hear me out to the end of the article, and then you can lynch me if you still feel so inclined (authors are notoriously easy to catch).

Freemasonry gave me more questions than it has ever answered, but more importantly it has given me better questions to ask.

Freemasonry didn’t tell me why I was put on this earth, but it did make me ask what I can do with the time that I was given to make the largest impact on the world. What a fantastic question to ask! Instead of focusing on a selfish question, it redirected me to see how I could make the world a better place.

Freemasonry still hasn’t told me how to be a better man, and I highly doubt it ever will. Instead, it has put me in the close vicinity of better men, and made me ask what they are doing differently, what aspects of that can I copy, and what does it really mean to be a better man. It has shown me examples to strive to emulate, and more importantly it has helped me refined my question to the point that I could answer it for myself.

Freemasonry definitely hasn’t told me who I am; in fact, one of the very first questions it asked me is “Who are you that comes to my door?” Instead of answering that question, it has made me ask a much more important question: Who do I want to be?

What I’ve learned is that I, like many of you, came to Freemasonry with a false assumption: that any institution can answer the questions that we have. If you’re really lucky, maybe Freemasonry can help you to learn to ask the right questions too.

~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!


Why You Should Never Ask A Freemason The Date . . .

By Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason
I've been the Secretary of my Lodge for six years, and every month I add 4,000 years to the date I put on our Lodge's minutes.  I never knew why.  I kept meaning to research that question, but I didn't get to it until somebody sent me an email and asked me the question.  Learning the reason wasn't very difficult, but what was interesting to learn was that many Masonic bodies have their own method for calculating the date they affix to their important documents.  

Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons add 4,000 to the common calendar year because they begin their calendar when the Grand Architect created the world and illuminated it.  They don't believe Freemasonry began when the world did, but they do so because of the symbolic reference to the light of Masonry.  So the common year 2016, would be 6016 Anno Lucis or "In the Year of Light."

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite also date their calendar beginning with the creation of the world, but they use the Jewish calendar, or Anno Mundi (In the Year of the World).  The Scottish Rite adds 3,760 years to the common date, so the common calendar year 2016 would be A.M. 5776. They also use the Hebrew month and new year, so they begin to add another year after September 17th.

Royal Arch Masons use the date Zerubbabel began building the second Temple, which was 530 years before Christ.  This is called Anno Inventionis (In the Year of the Discovery) or A.I.  So the common calendar year 2016 for Royal Arch Masons would be A.I. 2546

Similarly, the Crytic Masons date their calendars beginning with the completion of the first Temple, King Solomon's Temple, which was 1,000 years before Christ.  This is called Anno Depositionis (In the Year of Deposit) or A.Dep.  So the common calendar year 2016 for Cryptic Masons would be A. Dep 3016.  

The Knights Templar Order was founded in A.D. 1118, so modern Knights Templars use that as the start date of their calendars.  This is called Anno Ordinis or A.O.  So the common calendar date 2016 would be A.O. 898

Now that should have either straightened things out for you, or confused you further.  Hopefully, you found that as interesting as I did.  It's just another example of some of the unique and interesting customs of our great Fraternity.  

I was unable to determine if the Shriners have a unique way of calculating their dates.  However, after talking to a long-time Shriner he did point out to me they have a very different way of telling time.  He said according to Shrine custom, when it comes to determining the time, it's always five o'clock somewhere.  

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He  currently serves as Excellent Grand Orator of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Suitable Proficiency

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

I've seen it often — a candidate enters the Lodge room to receive his Fellowcraft or Master Mason degree. In each, the Senior Deacon leads the candidate around the room, stopping at stations for an interrogation. The officers at those stations ask if the candidate has made suitable proficiency in the preceding degree.

"He has," replies the Senior Deacon… as he shakes his head "no." Muffled snickering from around the room usually follows.

You see, about 15 years ago my jurisdiction — Missouri — dropped the requirement for proficiencies. Many of our Brothers considered that decision to be the worst thing that had happened in our state since the Pony Express went belly up; and it's not exactly breaking news that the debate continues — those Senior Deacons aren't shaking their heads for nothing.

I recall receiving the pamphlet with the proficiencies when I became an Entered Apprentice. (Yes, in Missouri they're written down, in code, but still a practice some consider heretical.) Discovering I had to memorize the material gave the word "daunting" new meaning. Somehow, though, I "manned-up" and learned them for all three degrees.

Having gone through the experience I consider it one of the highlights of my Masonic journey. I spent time with my mentor who not only took me through the rote memorization process, but also explained things along the way. At the end, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I also found all that memory work paved the way for learning other parts in the future. Frankly, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I'm still not sure, however, where I fall in the debate we're still having 15 years after the proficiencies went away. I think there is a feeling that the lack of proficiencies increases membership; or maybe a better way of putting that is having proficiencies might scare some men away. I have to say, in all those years we haven't had them, I've seen men come through who are some of the finest Brothers I know. We wouldn't want to do without them. But would they have joined anyway?

In the end, I probably fall somewhere in the middle of the road. I really think it should take more of a commitment to join the fraternity than it does, say, to become a member of your local Public TV station. We should require new Brothers to demonstrate at least a knowledge of signs, passwords and maybe even learn the obligation.

Going through some old Missouri records recently I noticed one more interesting fact to consider — historically, there were a lot of Brothers who were initiated, passed and raised in a matter of days — sometimes, in fact, on the same day. Meriwether Lewis, for example, was initiated on January 28, 1797, and received his Second and Third Degrees on the following evening. Obviously, he did not learn "suitable proficiencies" in that time span.

Lewis and many others who came into the fraternity that way served the Craft well. Don't we become a little more proficient in Freemasonry every day, with every meeting, every experience? Perhaps we should look at proficiency as something other than memorizing a boatload of material. To me, understanding that material is proficiency, and it doesn't come overnight.

I wonder what would happen the next time I'm asked if the candidate has obtained suitable proficiency if I responded, "Define proficiency."

You're right… maybe not a good idea.

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

Brother Against Brother - The Masonic Civil War

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Brethren, there is unrest and dissension brewing among us. Brother against brother, peace and harmony being cast aside like yesterday's newspaper. Battle lines have been drawn and most have picked their side and will fight for their side until the bitter end. The shot heard around the Masonic world has been sounded and civil war is at hand!

OK, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, but honestly when I read about this in Facebook groups or hear Brethren discuss this topic you would think the lodge room as we know it will cease to exist. (Yes I'm braced and ready for the comments when this piece is published.)

Since I became a Freemason I have heard the constant arguments amongst Brethren on many subjects. Most of these arguments are good natured and have been discussed by members for years: how to wear your ring, the pronunciation of certain words, how to hold your rod in lodge…etc. Most of these make good conversation while eating dinner. But there is one subject that will bring usually good natured brothers close to blows: one day classes. Nothing will throw peace and harmony out the window as the mere thought of participating in a one day class.

Both sides of the argument have plenty of ammunition to use. Each has their point of view, either Pro or Con...

The pro side says one day classes are a great way to bring in new members who under usual circumstances, couldn't or wouldn't become members of the Fraternity. These young men work odd hours or don't have the time to devote three evenings to go through the degrees “the usual way.” A man can walk into an auditorium in the morning, receive the three degrees of Freemasonry, have lunch, become a thirty second degree Scottish Rite Mason and finish off the day by donning the red fez of the Shriners and go home with the knowledge he now possesses within his heart the mysteries of Masonry and has started his journey to become a better man, just like he was promised.

The con side believes that one day classes are just a way for Grand Lodges to rake in new revenue from the dues of these unknowing young men who are blind to the fact that “they’re doing it wrong”, that their Grand lodge is just trying to bolster their membership numbers. “You might as well put in a drive-thru lane at the temple!” has often been heard in the Tyler's room of many lodges throughout the country. Thus, the term “McMasons” has been created. The con side believes a young man who wishes to receive further light must visit the lodge in which he petitioned and progress through the Masonic degrees as many of us have done since time immemorial. The con side also differs from their “pro” counterparts in the opinion that the man should advance through these degrees alone. Multiple candidates taking the same degrees should be discouraged, or outright prohibited. There seems to be no common ground between these two warring factions.

Sadly, there are casualties in this conflict: innocents caught in the crossfire of these warring factions. They are the ones that suffer the wounds. I have personally seen Brethren enter the lodge room for their first meeting after they were raised to the sublime degree at a one day class, expecting brotherhood and eager to take his first upright step in his Masonic career, only to be told at the point of a bony old finger of a Past Master that he “isn't a real Mason”, and to be called names such as “McMason” or “one-day wonder”, making them feel worthless and unworthy, and then to be called names by the men he was told were his “brothers” and would have his back, who would teach him to be a better man seems outrageous. Chances are, he isn't going to return, and his opinion of the Craft will be forever changed. There is an even greater chance that he will tell other potential Masons how he was treated, and they won’t even bother to knock on the door of your lodge at all. All of this, because the man had the audacity to take his degrees in one day instead of over the course of three evenings. In my personal opinion treating a brother like that, for any reason, is unmasonic.

Most of us know that Masonry is a lifelong journey; if this is the case, then why does the way a new Brother is obligated matter? Whether he was on his knees in a small lodge room, or in a large auditorium with the assistance of a mentor, that man repeated the same obligation as you did: that vow to help, aid and assist. I don't remember repeating words such as “unless he was raised in a one day class” in my obligation. Most of us say Masonry needs new members to survive. If we need this influx of new men why are we alienating the ones we are getting?

We need to treat all of these men on the level, and help them take their first upright step on their path in Masonry. These men asked to join our fraternity, and went to the trouble of going through our petitioning process. They deserve our respect, and the title of “Brother”.

Let's put all of these silly differences behind us. In the end we are Brothers, and deserve to be treated as such. Let's get back to that noble emulation of “he who can best work or best agree”. It's time we turn these swords into trowels and restore peace and harmony to our Gentle Craft.

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.