A crisis of conscience

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners



I was disappointed by a recent decision made by the Grandmaster of Illinois regarding membership in Freemasonry when it comes to transgender individuals, much like I have expressed disappointment here over similar "decisions" made by various other Grandmasters of other jurisdictions.  However, this isn't a plea for Grandmaster Lynch to overturn his decision. While I disagree with the decision, I respect Grandmaster Lynch and his leadership. While I understand why he made the decision, I don't think he considered that his decision might directly have an unintended personal impact on some members.

I feel that for Freemasons, to have their sons become Freemasons at some point in their life, it must be an amazing feeling.  Unfortunately, because of this decision, I won't be able to have that experience with one of my sons.  One of my sons is transgender.   

I thought very hard about writing out a scathing response to the decision, and going point by point to argue why it wasn't really necessary. However, the more I thought about this, the more I disagreed with that approach  I just felt that it wasn't a good way to address the issue, that it would take legitimacy from any point I wanted to make.  In my mind, the only way to change the membership's minds on the subject was to try to educate them.  This is what I am attempting to do in this article. 

I realize that I'm probably going to still face backlash from those who don't want to learn about this subject.  If you're going to get angry by reading further, just stop reading, please. However, if I can get someone to at least maybe open their mind to an alternate viewpoint, the time and effort on the article has not been misspent.           

You see, unlike my other articles, where I try to passionately change your minds, that's not my motivation here.  Instead, I'm asking you to relate to me as a Father and a Brother. I'm asking you to extend your trowel and liberally apply the cement of brotherly love.  Some of you may have to apply it more liberally than others.  

To begin, I want to ask the reader to hold some concepts in their head when it comes to this subject.  The two main concepts are Gender Identity and Birth Sex.  Gender Identity is an internal identity of one's Gender, so for an individual, you know that you identify as male or female, or sometimes neither; while the sex at birth is assigned based upon the appearance of genitals you're born with. For the majority of individuals, their birth sex matches their gender identity.  In transgender parlance, this means that the individual is cisgender or cis for short.  For those who do not have a gender identity match their birth sex, this means that they are transgender.  Another concept is Gender expression, which is how a person presents their gender on the outside, which includes how they dress, behave, style their hair, voice, and body characteristics. 

When a person begins to live according to their gender identity, rather than the birth sex they were thought to be when they were born, this is called gender transition.  Possible steps in a gender transition may or may not include changing clothing, appearance, name, or the pronoun people use to refer to the individual. If they can, some people change their identification documents, like their driver’s license or passport, to better reflect their gender identity. Some undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures to change their physical characteristics and make their bodies match the gender they know themselves to be. (https://transequality.org/issues/resources/understanding-transgender-people-the-basics)

When my son came out as Transgender in 2017 and asked for my help in getting hormone therapy, everything just made sense to me. From his proclivity to eschew female gender expression from a very young age to his struggles in adolescence into his teenage years, I felt a sense of relief and pride in the courage of my child to come to a point of understanding of himself and his identity.  While there were some bumps along the way during his transition, I can tell you that I rejoice that he is living his best life. He moved out on his own in 2021, and he's been going to University and working.  He's in a good relationship, and he prioritizes his mental health and well-being.  Words cannot describe the transformation he has undergone because he has been able to live his authentic life with love and support from his family. So in my own experience, I understood that I never had a daughter, but I have always had a son.  I love my children, and I want them to live a happy and fulfilling life.  
  
When this decision was communicated, I spoke with my son.  I told him in no uncertain terms that the decision meant that he would not be able to become a Freemason.  Now, being honest with myself, it's not like he had ever given me any indication that he wanted to become one.  However, the decision forced me to examine if I can still be an ally to my son, and continue to be a Freemason.  I told him, that if he felt that my being a Freemason made me any less of an ally to him, or would cause him to lose respect for me, I would hand in my demit immediately.  

You see, at the end of the day, Freemasonry was something I decided that I could live without; but I could not live without my son's respect for me.  Luckily, my son understands what an important role Freemasonry has played in my life, and he knows that as an ally for him, and for others, I will continue to try to force inclusivity to be not just something that Freemasonry discusses, but something that we practice.

I understand that societally we are divided on this issue. I also understand that the majority of our Illinois membership does not agree with my view on this subject.  Again, I'm not writing this to attempt to change the decision.  However, what is concerning is Freemasonry's inability to read the room when it comes to Freemasonry's perception among our younger generations. It never stops amazing me.  At one point in time, Freemasonry had societal relevancy, but this was a long time ago. I would say the high watermark of this goes back to the October 8, 1956 issue of Life Magazine, when the Grand Masters of each state were featured on the cover. Any societal relevance we might want to reclaim is dependent upon decisions that are made here and now.  

When decisions are made that further separate us from appealing to the younger generations, I fear that we only have ourselves to blame for our continued slide into obscurity, especially in the eyes of Gen-Z and those generations to follow.  This recent article highlights Gen-Z's views on this subject: (https://time.com/6275663/generation-z-gender-identity/).  A recent study done by Ernst and Young, shows that in 2021, 52% of the Gen-Z's polled stated that they were stressed by others being treated badly because of their gender/race/sex/etc. https://www.ey.com/en_us/insights/consulting/is-gen-z-the-spark-we-need-to-see-the-light-report/gen-z-finding-meaning   In this particular study, E&Y LLP surveyed a representative sample of 1509 members of Gen Z from across the United States.  I would not be surprised if a similar study done today showed this percentage to be higher than 52%. So, I ask you to ponder if the men of Gen-Z and future generations will be more or less likely to join Freemasonry in Illinois and elsewhere as these decisions are rolled out.  

Maybe Freemasonry's problems with membership are directly tied to our obsession with the past when we should be trying to look to the future.  I know that as time goes on, Freemasonry will have more members who will have transgender children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.  When this decision hits closer to home for more and more voting members of the Grand Lodge and/or Grand Line officers, I believe that we will see a policy change in Freemasonry in Illinois, and in other United States Grand Lodges as a whole when it comes to this subject.  It's just a matter of when.  

~DL

Darin Lahners is a father and Freemason, in that order. 

Understanding Solar Eclipses

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton


A total solar eclipse is set to occur on April 8, 2024, and will impact a wide swath of North America. It is estimated that more than 40 million Americans will be in the path of the eclipse.1 Excitement is certainly building for this event. Locations in the exact path of the total eclipse are bracing for increased tourism and crowds. There are plans underway for activities such as watch parties, live online viewing programs, and there are even special airline flights that will follow the path of the eclipse. The interest in the event is understandable. Afterall, the next time a total solar eclipse will impact a large area of North America won’t be until 2045.


However, humans have not always been excited about observing celestial occurrences like eclipses. Since ancient times, people have looked to the skies and studied the heavens. They observed the way the moon changed shape and traveled across the night sky. Patterns were recognized amongst the stars that resembled people and animals, which led the ancients to describe them as constellations along with accompanying stories. Though, one of the most terrifying and awe-inspiring phenomena that ancient civilizations observed had to have been a solar eclipse.


The sun has long held a place of extreme importance in many cultures throughout the course of history. They believed that the sun possessed incredible power. It provided warmth, was vital for agriculture, and aided navigation. The sun is so powerful that it can cause eye damage and potentially blindness if gazed upon directly. As a result, ancient cultures believed the sun held supernatural powers. “It was regularly worshipped as a god – Amun-Ra to the Egyptians and Helios to the Greeks – or as a goddess, such as Amaterasu for the Japanese and Saule for many Baltic cultures.”2 When solar eclipses occurred, earlier civilizations thought they were bad omens. Since they lacked scientific understanding, they invented explanations for the sudden disappearance of the sun during an eclipse.


Some of the oldest records of solar eclipses are from ancient China. The Chinese Emperors feared that solar eclipses were signs from heaven that the stability of their power might be in danger.3 So, there was a tremendous emphasis on recording and predicting solar eclipses. The people of ancient China believed that a celestial dragon devoured the sun when the light disappeared. It became a custom to try to scare away the dragon during eclipses by banging drums and making loud noises.4 Since eclipses are temporary, it is easy to see how people could assume that their interventions had an impact when the sunlight eventually returned.


In Hindu mythology, it was believed that the serpent god, Rahu Ketu, wanted to devour the sun. To prevent this from happening, Vishnu cut off his head. However, this did not solve the problem. The head, Rahu, still wanted to catch the sun and the moon. Sometimes he would successfully catch them, causing an eclipse. Though, with his head no longer attached to his body, the captured sun and moon would eventually fall out of his neck.5


The Vikings believed that Sk├Âll and Hati, two giant wolves, would chase the sun and moon trying to devour them. Eventually, Hati would catch up with the sun and consume it. When an eclipse would happen, the Vikings holler and make loud noises to scare Hati away.6


Interestingly, it seems that various ancient cultures believed that some sort of deity or mythical creature was responsible for eclipses. Of course, we have an understanding of the cause of such planetary phenomena in modern times. By utilizing geometry, astronomers can precisely predict when and where eclipses will happen. As Masons, we are taught to study the liberal arts and sciences. So, we should make sure we learn more about the science behind astronomical events which leads to a better understanding of the universe.



  1. https://www.brown.edu/news/2024-03-22/total-solar-eclipse

  2. https://source.colostate.edu/ancient-cultures-explained-eclipses/

  3. Han, Y., & Qiao, Q. (2009). Records of solar eclipse observations in ancient China. Science in China, 52(11), 1639-1645. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11433-009-0241-8

  4. https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-history#:~:text=In%20Ancient%20China%2C%20solar%20and,the%20Moon%20during%20lunar%20eclipses

  5. https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2017/08/solar-eclipse-awe-wonder-and-belief/

  6. https://vikingr.org/other-beings/skoll-hati


~JS

Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

The Doorman Fallacy: Decorum of the Masonic Fraternity

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Patrick Dey


In the last year, the question has arisen of how much artificial intelligence will affect future jobs. One argument that has arisen to counter this pessimism is the “doorman fallacy.” The doorman fallacy is when short-term planning eliminates something that seems unnecessary and easily replaceable with an automated version of it, but in the long run turns out was a financial enhancement. With the advent of automated door openers and motor-operated revolving doors, many hotels began to get rid of their doormen, as they simply viewed them as just the guy that opens the door, and now unnecessary. However, doormen do a lot more than just open a door. They provide security by keeping out hoodlums and vagrants, they will hail a cab in the rain for someone while they wait inside, they will remember faces — e.g. while you wait on your taxi, they will ask you where you are heading, and when you tell them you are heading to the theater, they will remember to ask you upon your return, “How was the show, Mrs. Smith?” — et cetera. Doormen did a lot more than just open a door. Myopic hotel managers were unaware of just how important these jobs were, and then they thought they could save costs by modernizing their facilities with an automated door opener. They did not realize that within a few years their hotel became less valuable. The hotels that kept doormen were seen as more prestigious. Clientele viewed the venue as more prestigious if there was someone who would open the door, greet them, remember their face, get them a cab, et al. Thus, those hotels were able to keep high-end clientele and even raise rates, while those who fired their doormen would either rehire doormen or make do with lesser clientele and lower their rates.

The basic principle at work here is that something may seem invaluable and therefore cost-effective to eliminate, but it actually in the long run was a valuable asset that was a mistake to eliminate. We could look at how this may work in the future of this uncertain politico-economic sphere, but obviously, we want to focus on how this principle applies to Masonry.

For me personally, there is a decorum in having a doorman. They appear like a luxury, and that is how many hotel managers viewed them: a luxury that can be scrapped for short-term profit margins, but actually proved more useful than myopia could dream of. Further, for me personally, in Freemasonry, it is the decorum of the fraternity in which the allure, the attraction to the fraternity resides. Of the countless arguments floating around out there about how to draw more men to Freemasonry, I think the decorum itself is an aspect that is never once mentioned.

Years ago, while visiting here in Colorado, Adam Kendall gave a lecture on Masonic artifacts, and one thing he stated that stuck with me as he showed countless images of beautiful Masonic museum pieces is this: that there was a time when Masons were so proud of their Masonic affiliation that they had custom, handmade items fabricated for themselves. Beautiful items, be it a set of Lodge Jewels, Masonic rings, or a simple box to put things in. These illustrated something greater about the Masonic fraternity than mere appearances suggest: Masons loved this fraternity so much that they wanted something unique and special made that illustrated the pride they held for being a member of such an elite fraternity in material expressions. I viewed these images of artifacts with utter captivation, and I held onto his words so dearly, all the while abashed that I was wearing a mass-produced cloth apron, subpar to the beautifully hand-painted aprons he was showing. He was right. We lost something in these latter years, and it is the decorum of the fraternity.

I was inspired. When I was elected and installed as the High Priest of my Royal Arch Chapter, as well as the Thrice Illustrious Master of my Cryptic Council, I splurged and procured custom, handmade real leather aprons with real gold fringe and gold-plated tassels that jingle when I walk. They are beautiful and well-made, and I am honored to wear them, because I was proud to serve in these offices, and I am still proud to have served as such. What is comical is that while serving in these offices, I would make a superior Grand Line officer feel inferior by the fact that my apron was nicer than his. While High Priest, on one occasion at a regional official visit, I was standing next to two Past Grand High Priests, and they were wearing cheap cloth aprons with yellow-dyed nylon fringes and tassels, while mine was real leather and real gold. Someone made a remark to me that I appeared to “outrank” them by my apron. I mean, sure, if you looked at our collars, they clearly had the nicer collar and clearly outranked me, but as was remarked, by our aprons, I appeared to outrank them. That was not my intention, but that was the reality. My apron was legal within Colorado Royal Arch law, but these two Past Grand High Priests decided they did not want to shell out the extra $70 or $80 for a really nice apron like me. Seriously, that was about how much more money I paid for my apron over theirs. Sure, it was double the cost, but also less than $200 is not that much. And I know both these men made substantially more money than I did. The same thing happened when I presided as Thrice Illustrious Master when the Most Illustrious Grand Master visited our Council. So why cut costs? What did it really save them? Their dignity as the superior officer, perhaps.

Well, this is exactly the same phenomenon as the doorman fallacy. I cannot exactly say what was their exact motivation in procuring lesser quality aprons, again because I know they all made way more money than me. I mean, apart from their known occupations, they were in invitation-only bodies with annual dues of $500 or more that I had to decline on account of the fact that I am a broke son of a bitch. I would suppose, if I had to guess, that they believed their value lay in the title they held, and therefore had little regard for a material expression of their station. Sure, if you examined our aprons, you would see that they had emblems of their office that far outranked mine. But in material value, you would think I outranked them.

The only difference, I suppose, was that I was more proud to be a High Priest than they were to be a Past Grand High Priest, and I showed off my pride with a nicer apron. At the very least, that is how this may be perceived. That is presumptuous, yes, but it really does appear that way. Again, this is how the doorman fallacy works. This is how decorum works. It is an outward expression of our immense pride in being Masons. Of course, Masonry regards no man for his external wealth or honors, but even someone such as myself — who makes way less than some of these other guys — is willing to pay the extra money to get something special, something unique, something they take immense pride in because they are just that proud to be a Mason. And it shows.

Recently Ben Willians, publisher of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine acquired the Knights Templar magazine and has taken it from this cheap, half-sized pulp magazine published monthly, to a full-sized quarterly magazine printed on quality stock paper with high-resolution printing. He did this because he understood that the quality of the thing is an expression of the quality of its content. If he produces something of higher material quality, then its readers will regard it with greater prestige. And as far as I am concerned, it has worked. I mean, I used to toss out those old Knights Templar magazines after I was done with it, but the first new one I received, I put it up on my shelf.

There is something in the decorum of the fraternity that is not just a mere outward expression of Masonry’s content, but an expression of its value. Masonry does not demand that you spend thousands of dollars to show your love for the fraternity, but a significant material expression certainly helps illustrate the pride Masons have for their membership. Even when the Lodge Jewels were cut and stamped on tin, these were handmade and may have been all that the Lodge could afford, it was a meaningful expression, and that is recognized in examining such an artifact today. We still have my lodge’s old tin jewels and keep them on display, because they’re unique and cool.

The term decor (from Latin) itself really means “seemly or appropriate.” Thus decorum meant something fitting and appropriate. In Masonry, decorum’s utility is the expression of the pride we have for the fraternity, and this pride is so strong that we wish to express it in material value. We love and value Masonry so much that we build grand edifices to house our events and functions. We love and value it so much that we splurge the extra money to have a nicer apron than even the Grand Officers wear. And there is a value in this decorum.

That value is that others, non-Masons will see this decorum and they will know that we value this organization. They will know by our outward expression, even among the lowliest of craftsmen, that we love this fraternity and that we desire to show the rest of the world how important it is to us. A simple lineman or truck driver wearing a $1000 Masonic ring is proud to be a member of this fraternity, and that means so much more than the stock investor who wears no ring but shows up at official Masonic functions wearing a $50 apron bearing the emblem of his Past Grand Office.

My paternal great-grandfather was a coal miner in Michigan, and I have his 18-karat gold ring with a .25-karat diamond embedded in a 4-karat ruby Masonic ring. I know how much he loved being a Mason by this very ring. His father, also a coal miner (but in Kentucky), had an 18-karat gold ring with gold square and compasses encrusted upon a 4-karat ruby, which I also possess. I know how much he loved being a Mason by this ring, which is worn down so much that you can barely recognize the square and compasses. It is clear he wore it every day. My Nanna, their daughter, and granddaughter, respective, had an 18-karat gold Rainbow Girls ring, as well as a 12-karat gold bracelet, which I also possess, also illustrates her pride in having been a Rainbow Girl, and she was only ever a housewife of a Detroit factory worker. Men and women of not much money understood the decorum of Freemasonry. None of this was meant to financially devastate them, and it didn’t, but they understood the value of this fraternity and they showed it in the decorum of the Masonic paraphernalia they possessed.

How is a prospect supposed to know the Masonic fraternity is something very special when they show up to a prospect event and everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts? How are they supposed to know that the members of this great fraternity are so proud to be members that even a coal miner will wear a $1000 ring? When they see such material decorum — and they do see it — they know this is something special.

This is the doorman fallacy that Masons have fallen into. It’s not the Grand Lodge’s or even the Lodge’s fault, but every Mason who feels it is more important to carry the dues cards of over $4,000 worth of affiliations — dues cards, which, mind you, are kept privately concealed in your wallet, or you just leave it at home — but won’t bother with even a $250 ring that materially expresses the value they see in this fraternity. People notice this.

Don’t break the bank, but also, decorum goes a long way. Remember that.

~PD

Patrick M. Dey is a Past Master of Nevada Lodge No. 4 in the ghost town of Nevadaville, Colorado, and currently serves as their Secretary, and is also a Past Master of Research Lodge of Colorado. He is a Past High Priest of Keystone Chapter No. 8, Past Illustrious Master of Hiram Council No. 7, Past Commander of Flatirons Commandery No. 7. He currently serves as the Exponent (Suffragan) of Colorado College, SRICF of which he is VIII Grade (Magister). He is the Editor of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine, serves on the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge of Colorado’s Library and Museum Association, and is the Deputy Grand Bartender of the Grand Lodge of Colorado (an ad hoc, joke position he is very proud to hold). He holds a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Colorado, Denver, and works in the field of architecture in Denver, where he resides with wife and son.

On the Perfect Points of Our Entrance: An Exploration of the Cardinal Virtues

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Paul D. Saltz



When a man enters a room, it could be at his lodge, his place of business, a place of civic engagement, his house of worship, a place of social enrichment, and most importantly his own home; how does he wish to be perceived? For the sake of argument, we shall hold to the premise that a good man wishes to be known for his positive character and sound behavior. The attributes and desires of evil men shall be laid aside for other authors to contend with. Yet knowing how a man desires to be perceived by the larger community does not ensure that he will be. While strangers may be given the benefit of the doubt, those with history are continuously weighed against the tome of their daily actions.

We are taught in the lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree that we are to be known by the perfect points of our entrance. The four points allude to the cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice. By having our entrance to every room ornamented by the adherence to these virtues, a man may increase the probability of a warm welcome. For this reason, a deeper understanding of these virtues is of great importance.

Before the dissection of these virtues commences, please permit me to discuss virtue as a moral habit. Now much has been written and debated in the realm of human development as to how we learn and how habits become part of our behavioral repertoire. So for this discussion, we shall rest on the premise that consistent practice shall demonstrably lead to the formation of habit. As Manual Velasquez, et al stated:

“Virtues are developed through learning and through practice… Just as the ability to run a

marathon develops through much training and practice, so too does our capacity to be fair,

to be courageous, or to be compassionate… Virtues are habits. That is, once they are acquired

they become characteristic of a person.” (Manual Velasquez, et al, web)


Our observed habits speak volumes about who we are as men and Masons. Like a fanfare of trumpets, they precede our entrance into any room. So just as we are to use our working tools to rid our rough ashlars of superfluities, it should become our daily practice to use them in the development of our moral habits, and of the cardinal virtues especially.

The lecture as prescribed by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio, defines temperance as:

“that due restraint upon the affections and passions which renders the body submissive and

frees the mind from the allurements of vice.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

Such a definition can read quite constrictive to the modern ear. Aristotle did not view the temperate person as one who completely despised life’s pleasures. Rather, they hold such enjoyments within the context of human life as a whole, not permitting overindulgence to undermine other aspects of their existence (Summers, web). Temperance can be viewed as a process of reflection upon our wants and desires to understand why we feel we want them and to what extent the fulfillment of them affects other aspects of our lives, including our relationships with others. Having this self-knowledge allows us to set priorities and create balance based on what we truly value. As Paul Bloomfield wrote in “Some Intellectual Aspects of the Cardinal Virtues”:

“Know Thyself and Be Temperate can be seen as the same thing due to the self-knowledge required for sound decision making… It is within our own consciouses where we must examine the effects of how we judge ourselves, our self-conceptions, and our views about the world around us. This is why temperance is the hardest to master.” (Bloomfield, 301, 303)

This kind of reflection can be very uncomfortable if not downright unsettling. We may not like what we see when it comes to why we are passionate about one thing over another, or why we throw caution to the wind to overindulge in one activity at the expense of something or someone else. In the end, it is not about stripping our lives of everything that gives us even the tiniest amount of enjoyment. Rather the goal is to keep all of our passions within due bounds so that we remain faithful to our obligations and live a balanced life in line with our values, the foundation of our plumbline.

The Entered Apprentice Degree closes its section on temperance by aligning it with the guttural. The explanation given is that by being over indulged, such a state could lead to the disclosure of secrets, which is in direct connection with the historic penalty of the obligation. While many of life’s pleasures are certainly enjoyed through the guttural and that altered states of euphoria can make men say all kinds of things, it can be speculated that its position between head and heart signifies the focus of our reflection in our efforts to be truly temperate Masons. It is also through the guttural that we communicate our needs and wants to those we hold most dear to us. This positive usage, while in contrast to the lecture, does promote the healthy relationships needed to have a balanced life.

Various lists of the cardinal virtues interchange fortitude and courage. The reasoning is because:

“People who have fortitude are described in an admiring way for their courage and this word
comes from the Latin fortitudo, meaning ‘strength’.” (Vocabulary.com)


Under the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio, the word fortitude is used. In its Entered Apprentice lecture fortitude is defined as:

“that noble and steady purpose of mind whereby we are enabled to undergo pain, peril or danger, when deemed expedient.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

In one sense fortitude can be seen as the polar opposite of temperance because where temperance guides us in regards to what is pleasing, fortitude moves us forward in those situations that we wish to avoid. Yet they can be more similar that it would appear at first glance. Both of these virtues aid us in striking a balance in life. Temperance guides us in preventing life’s pleasures from becoming all consuming. Fortitude assists us in evaluating situations so that we do not take risks for “trivial ends.” (Bloomfield, 295) Instead, fortitude provides the courage to act boldly for those ideals and goals worth risking for. Thus temperance and fortitude both require us to examine what we value most and as a consequence, where we set our plumbline.

It has been fortitude that has shaped human history. Every innovative idea ever presented, every new technology utilized to ease then human workload, to every great societal shift brought about by war or peaceful protest, all required fortitude to carry them out. From world changing events to those that change a family unit (marriage, having children, changing jobs, etc.) we rely on fortitude to help us strike the balance between “excessive timidity and excessive boldness.” (Summers, web) We can’t become paralyzed by fear or ruined by recklessness. Rather fortitude allows us to move forward, eyes open, and with full understanding of the costs and potential benefits of an action.

The Entered Apprentice lecture connects fortitude with the pectoral due to our being received on the point of a sharp instrument. While fortitude is certainly required to knock on the door, be received, and proceed with the initiatory ritual, there is more to it than that. Fortitude and courage have long been associated with the heart. A popular culture example would be the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz (originally featured in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in 1900, followed by film adaptations in 1914, 1925, and the classic version in 1939 where Bert Lehr was cast as the lion). Towards the end of the story the lion is presented with a heart by the wizard, acknowledging the courage he already possessed. This longstanding association makes a natural connection between the pectoral and fortitude.

Prudence is described in the Entered Apprentice lecture as that which:

“teaches us to regulate our lives and actions according to the dictates of reason and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudentially determine upon all things relative to our present as well as our future happiness.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

Prudence can be seen as practical wisdom, guiding our choices as we determine what is good in the present moment. (Summers, web) Learning prudence is primarily through lived experience. We gain situational wisdom by broadening our experiences and learning from them, both the positive and the negative. We also learn through shared wisdom from those of both lengthier life and of different paths than our own. As Henry Summers writes in “What Were Aristotle’s Four Cardinal Virtues”:

“Aristotle’s moral framework thus emphasizes the role of mentors in the ethical life. We must
learn how to judge rightly from those who have experienced more than we have and who have
gained insight over the course of their lives. Moral education, then, is key.” (Summers, web)


Brethren in Freemasonry are uniquely positioned through both formal programming and informal gatherings, to share wisdom gained with each other. One does not need to be an official Master Craftsman to a candidate in order to impart knowledge gained during the course of his life. Neither does a new brother need to wait until he has sat in the east or received a twenty-year service pin to share his thoughts. Every man comes to Freemasonry with life experiences and wisdom that can be shared for the improvement of all. In the spirit of brotherly love even the shyest Entered Apprentice can be encouraged to share their own wisdom, thus allowing the lodge to benefit from the strength of every living stone within it.

The lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree assigns prudence to the manual, for how we held the volume of sacred law. Every man can gain wisdom through the study of their faith’s sacred texts. Yet independent study of limited perspectives only takes us so far. Humans are social animals who need interaction. As Freemasons we have the benefit of learning from the collective of our diverse brotherhood. The process of becoming prudent is enhanced and even expedited through our experiences with shared knowledge. Who better to learn and share with than one in whom we share a grip.

Justice is defined in the Entered Apprentice lecture as:

“that standard or boundary of right which enables us to render to every man his just due without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society.” (Entered Apprentice degree)

As temperance and fortitude are connected to where we set our plumbline, justice demands strict adherence to the level. In matters of justice, how we view our own place in the world and our relation to others is just as important as how we view a situation where a person(s) claim wrong doing and insist on restitution. To hold mankind on the level ensures that we hold the concerns and needs of all men as valid and do not dismiss them because the other is viewed as less than. The philosopher John Rawls once wrote that “justice is the elimination of arbitrary differences.” (Bloomfield, 306) This definition can be seen as the foundation of every social justice movement through history, from rights for aboriginal peoples, women, to more current struggles for racial equity, and over sexual orientation and gender identity. While difference has created a beautiful spectrum of diversity across the human family that is to be celebrated, our interactions and decision making as it relates to other individuals and our relationships with them require us to see all people as individuals whose lives are just as valuable and deserving of respect as our own. As Albert Pike wrote in his essay on the 16th Degree – Prince of Jerusalem in Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry:

“the work of justice shall be peace, and the effect of justice, quiet and security, and wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of the times. Walk ye righteously and speak uprightly; despise the gains of oppression, shake from your hands the contamination of bribes; stop not your ears from the cries of the oppressed…” (Pike, Freemasoninformation.com)

The level is our tool against oppression and discrimination in all forms for it demands that we see each person on earth by their character and not by which they are different from ourselves. This is the foundation of a just society.

The Entered Apprentice lecture connects justice to the pedal, by way of the time we stood squarely in the northeast corner of the lodge. It was in this position where each Mason was to begin laying the cornerstone of their own temple not made with hands. While it can be speculated that the spiritual cornerstone should consist of all of the virtues, it must be leveled with justice. Otherwise, the stones laid upon it will not stand. Likewise, a society without true justice is doomed to crumble into anarchy. Thus every Mason must stand as an embodiment of justice for the larger world.

The old adage “actions speak louder than words” brings our exploration of the cardinal virtues into pristine focus. As with all lessons within Freemasonry, it is in their practical application that we improve our lives and it is by our actions that we are known by the world around us. A man can want to be greeted and welcomed as a good and upright individual but do the actions he is known by warrant it? We are all called to deep reflection; to honestly face our rough ashlars and submit our lives to the painful strikes of the gavel, to rid ourselves of negative thought processes and behaviors. Are our lives in balance? Do we act with courage for the right reasons? Do we let practical wisdom guide our decision making and are we willing to learn from and mentor others? Do we see every human being as valued and beloved children of our creator and do we stand for taking actions that maintain the worth of each individual? How do you truly enter a room?

~PS


Brother Saltz was initiated on June 27, 2023, passed on September 26, 2023, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on February 13, 2024, at Reynoldsburg Lodge #340, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. While still a newbie in many respects, he enjoys delving into ritual and helping his brothers with the monthly breakfast which supports the Reynoldsburg Special Olympics. He has been a lifelong student of history and philosophy and looks forward to researching and writing on the breadth of what the craft has to teach us in our modern times. 

Outside of Freemasonry, Brother Saltz serves the residents of his home county at the Child Support Enforcement Agency, where he is an Administrative Assistant to the executive team and manages the office's diversity initiatives. He is a self-described anglophile, foodie, avid reader, and lover of the arts. When not at work or with his brethren, he finds sanctuary at home with his husband Aaron, and their two cats.