Words To Ponder

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


In addition to a lot of the research I do for the things I write, I'm also responsible for contributing to my Lodge of Research Twitter and Facebook accounts. All that has left me with a rather extensive collection of quotes, quips and words of wisdom from a variety of Freemasons. Every day I discover more amazing facts about our Craft and the Brothers who have made it what it is. The more Masonic research I do, the more I realize what a stunning and positive impact Freemasonry has had on our country and the world. With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite quotes from our Brothers:
"I don't suppose any organization has done so much for so many with so little selfishness as the Masonic Fraternity." ~Thomas E. Dewey
"The more I come in contact with the Masonic fraternity, the more impressed I am with our great charitable work." ~Franklin Roosevelt
"A pessimist makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist makes opportunities of his difficulties." ~Harry S. Truman
"I always advise people never to give advice." ~P.G. Wodehouse
"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education." ~Theodore Roosevelt
"My Lodge had at least 4 creeds. I was entered by a Hindu, passed by a Mohammedan and raised by an Englishman." ~Rudyard Kipling
"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." ~Will Rogers
"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." ~George Washington
 "Let us not paralyze our capacity for good by brooding of man's capacity for evil." ~David Sarnoff
"Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America." William Howard Taft
"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." ~Eddie Rickenbacker
"Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one." ~Sam Rayburn
"I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money." ~Arthur Godfrey
"Knowledge is ecstatic in enjoyment, perennial in frame, unlimited in space and indefinite in duration." ~DeWitt Clinton
"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." ~Mark Twain
"If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes." ~Charles Lindbergh
"I am a Mason because care for those who cannot care for themselves." ~Danny Thomas
"We were put here for a purpose—to build not to destroy. If I can make people smile, I've served my purpose for God." ~Red Skelton
"A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle." ~Benjamin Franklin
"The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected." ~William O. Douglas
"Our world has nuclear giants & ethical infants. We know more about war than peace, more about killing than living." ~Omar Bradley
"The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation." ~Peter Marshall
"Fear... is something you learn how to deal with and set aside. You want to be alert as you possibly can." ~Buzz Aldrin
"There's no education in the second kick of a mule." ~Fritz Hollings
"Be sincere; be brief; be seated. " ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Life is tough. It's tougher when you're stupid." ~John Wayne
Perhaps fitting for the final quote, and one of my favorites, are the last words, as reported from his wife, of the founder of the Order of DeMolay:
"It is the beginning." ~Frank S. Land
~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also 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. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

In Praise of Conductors

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks



The first things I used to think of with the mention of the word,"conductor" were: music, electricity, and trains. These are still fine examples of the word. The direction and coordination of a large group of musicians, when done well, the conductor is the heart of the music, co-creating it with the people holding and operating instruments. In wiring, electricity travels on the outside of the conductor, something known as the skin effect. It is also what protects you from lightning inside a car or faraday cage. The better the conductor, the easier the flow of electrons to their destination. A superconductor is a material or a material treated in a particular manner. They are cooled to close to absolute zero (less than 1K or around -260 C) wherein all resistance vanishes. Facilitating travel, the train conductor collects tickets, aids in operations, and has the unfortunate task of ejecting the unruly.

Socrates was said to be the midwife of the soul. A conductor of sorts whose philosophic technique still moves me to other places and frames of mind that I find pleasingly challenging. I sometimes feel my soul moving. My mother, using her body, conducted me from concept to creation, my first home in this world. I am grateful to her for using her-self to bring me to life. Parents, relatives, teachers, friends, conducted me through early years to adaptations, ideas and knowledge I appreciate, and some I’m still working to renovate. Literature is filled with all sorts of guides, gurus, and other forms of conductors.

At the start of my Masonic journey, several men brought me to, or to me, conversations about my intentions, qualifications, and expectations. Some of them met with my family to discuss these same questions and offered counsel if there were concerns about my voluntary choice to join. Most of these men were present during my degrees. Three (LaJoie, Gianoukos, and Crooks) endured over breakfast, a lengthy interrogation by me, Corinna, and our sons, as to why women were excluded from what we do (which is when I learned first about GES, Amaranth, & Rainbow Girls).

Now, my experience of the word, "conductor", has significantly changed; my personal experience with the idea, broadened. I was led to the door, the West Gate, to the threshold of my conscious mind and instructed in our way to ask for greater understanding of myself, through our unique process. I was caringly and thoughtfully guided and prompted through the steps, stages, and lessons in darkness and light. Brothers Grenier, Snyder, LaJoie, and Goetz and will always remain presences and voices in my mind of those who tended to my preparation and conducted me through ritual with dignity and grace. Between degrees, Brothers Crooks, Bodley, and Ehrlich helped me perfect the words I needed to perform to progress. Worshipful Marks will always be the face I visualize in the east when I recite the ritual to myself or practice with a new, “younger,” brother.

More recently, as mentors and friends, a host of new and previous Brothers guide and conduct my progress. Worshipful Snyder recently performed from memory a lengthy introduction of me at my first presentation to a Lodge of Instruction (though following the amazing conversation brought by the Brethren who attended at Mt. Hollis Lodge in Holliston, MA, I now think of it as “Lodge of Inspiration”). As I’ve had good fortune to travel, Brothers Jackson, Jarzabek, and Johnson help me through what I write; they help me edit, and encourage me to persist when I feel like giving up.

So, I write in praise of those who have conducted me this far and to those who continue. As a group, you are my superconductors! (Though “cool” people, these superconductors operate at room temperature and also, decidedly, not in a vacuum. Room temperature superconductors are mostly theoretical, where the above-mentioned human conductors are verifiably, real). With gratitude I hold dear those mentioned by name and the many more not named here. We repeat it because it is true: I would never have met these amazing people if it had not been for Freemasonry. The diversity in their thoughts, backgrounds, and ways of living challenge me to rethink what I know, and how I came to know. They present me with their full selves so that I may be present fully as I am, and we figure it out. Through repeated contact, we grow in trust and capacity to be and act harmoniously in the face of criticism, challenge, disagreement (also in fun and faux pas): we help and instruct one another to do this work, together. As in a super-conductive state, our resistance to ourselves and others diminishes, maybe vanishes, in the presence of others who wish only to aid in our growth and learning; to help with the transmission of knowledge, experience, and self-understanding.

I encourage you to consider those still standing among us who have conducted you through life to reading this post. Let them know the ways they have shaped your experience in, and more importantly, outside, lodge. For those whom have been your conductor though no longer with us, consider sharing a story about them with another brother, in writing, maybe…here.

~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

The Five Elements and Five Senses

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. J. Clint Lewey 



FREEMASONRY AND MASONIC SYMBOLISM

In Freemasonry, there always seems to be a rhythm or correlation with any number of things. It seems to nearly never fail for the Craft to line up with all things Hermetic, Kabalistic, mystical or beyond. Whether or not ‘modern’ Ancient Craft Masonry came from the ancient knowledge found prior to antiquity is a subject of debate. However, it does typically fall right into place with it and is unquestionably related.

As we were passed through the degrees of Masonry, we were introduced to esoteric, numerical studies and were explained some of their meanings. As we travel through the (B) and (J) pillars, we begin to ascend the flight of winding stairs. We first come upon three steps of which have an infinite amount of explanation based on the number three. However, we are taught they primarily represent the three main officers of the lodge: JW, SW and WM.

As we continue along, we come upon a set of five steps. Along with the five orders of architecture, each one represents one of our five primary senses. They are labeled hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting. We are taught in one particular degree to primarily focus on the first three senses but as searchers of further light, there is usually a way to correlate similarities with numbers in Masonry and beyond. These five senses are what we utilize to study the seven liberal arts we are later introduced to in the lesson.

In some of the more esoteric Masonic and non-Masonic groups, we are introduced to the four primary elements of the Hermetic and Kabalistic sciences. They are earth, water, air and fire. While many other teachings, such as eastern religions, utilize the same and different elements, I will stick with what our Masonic related groups teach.

Based upon my initiatory experiences and with some research, I found that there is a less known fifth element or Quintessence. According to Dr. Israel Regardie, the fifth element of spirit crowns and connects the other four. [i] This is a culmination of all the elements. One primary difference with this element is that it cannot stand alone as the others do. It is essential that the other four elements are ‘present’ and in alignment have an understanding of the fifth element.

As receivers of light often found in the blue lodge (but more often overlooked) and beyond, we are encouraged to learn and become familiar with numerology. In some of the first lessons taught, we are informed of the many meanings of different numbers but specifically here the number five. In one of our degrees as mentioned above, the number five is alluded to in regards to the five senses (and five pillars) and we are taught that when we are fully in sync with ourselves and surroundings, we can get by without any of our senses, spiritually speaking. In Masonry, the five senses are much needed. Touch whereby one mason may know another in the dark as well as in the light. Sight utilized whereby we see certain signs of recognition given to us or symbols as well. Hearing to hear the word of a brother mason, to also hear music as a part of some lodges ritual. Taste to rejoice among brethren in fellowship with fine food and drink. Smell when we have our ceremonial incense burning in lodge to help center our minds and bodies.

AIR & HEARING

In some Masonic traditions, the element of air is represented as intelligence and/or spiritual growth as well. During the creation days, it was God that breathed into a man’s nostrils and made us in his likeness. With air travels sound. From our time in the womb to our last moments on earth, we primarily hear sound through the air. Also through the air is played one liberal art that is perhaps the most recognizable and it is that of music.

Hearing in Masonry and other ritualistic orders is perhaps the primary means of communication. Whether whispering good counsel or carefully scripted, deeply esoteric lines of a ritual, the sound traveling in the air to our ears to be heard is everywhere. Air being represented by the east, it is from the east we receive most of our Masonic lessons. We are given our obligation from the east and admonished as well as other communications. The sense of hearing and air go hand in hand with gaining knowledge and spiritual growth.

It is not so much to simply say certain words, but to forcefully vibrate them out as to really push the sound waves through the air. As with our sense of smell, we often never see any of the day to day things we hear. From car horns and ambulances to other people’s conversations, the air is filled with constant sounds.

Perhaps no phenomenon in nature is as common and powerful as air. It is a driving force and a symbol of determination. In nature, wind storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes have no rivals accept themselves in destructive power. These forces of air carry with them thunder, howling winds and crashing noises of destruction. Air can also be gentle, cooling and bring in clouds of life supporting rain. It can tenderly blow a wind chime or be pushed through a musical horn or wood wind to produce beautiful sound. If harnessed correctly and brought under control, it can carefully steer a sailboat, generate energy or lift a 700,000 pound 747 jet airliner. Air can blow out fires, dry up water, and shift the earth. As Masons or students of the Hermetic sciences, when we hear the winds coming, it is necessary to be able harness and control these opportunities of learning something new or growing spiritually. 

FIRE & SMELL

In the Masonic tradition, the element of fire is a symbol of life and destruction. In the Winter Solstice Ceremony for Masonry, it is symbolic of creation and energy; a new beginning and life. In tarot and other studies, fire is represented as passion and change, whether good or bad. In alchemy, fire is often associated with sulfur, one of the most potent and distinct smelling chemicals on planet Earth. Fire is represented in the south; the opposite of the cold, dark north.

In Masonry, as mentioned previously, one of the senses less talked about is that of smell. Smell is often one of our first senses to be activated during certain situations. It is also one that could be considered quite subconscious yet if something triggers your sense of smell enough, it can be one of the most difficult to ignore.

When fire is created, we usually smell it far before we see, hear or feel it. Whether literally or figuratively, we often sense the smell of smoke, that all too recognizable smell of sulfur or worse yet, the ‘smell of death.’ On the other hand, fire and smell can have positive meanings as well. The culinary arts, we often smell what we are going to be eating before we ever see or taste it. As with fire, our sense of smell senses a sign of new beginnings, love and passion, physical attraction towards (pheromones) another, or the very familiar smell of a newborn baby. 

Our sense of smell often allows us to sense what is beyond our other senses, even hearing. It can also be right in front of us as we ‘stop and smell the flowers’ as to live in the moment. As mentioned above, you can smell fire miles away and know that there is likely danger and destruction. But you can be rest assured, it is also a new beginning in the making as well.

WATER & TASTE

In the Masonic tradition, the element of water is represented as emotion and intuition and according to Cicero [ii], it has creative, subconscious or mysterious qualities. As for taste, having ‘good taste’ is perhaps all of these things. It is that natural ability to make good choices, react accordingly, without thinking. It is also the ability to see beauty and everyone else in the room would likely agree. It is a subconscious ability to have a positive awareness of what everyone else likely should see or does see in something. Having those water qualities means you are fluidic in that not only do you have good decision making abilities, but that you also can adapt and see the hidden beauty in most everything.

As Masons, we should have the ability to be fluid in most scenarios. If we are demanding to be free and accepted ourselves, we must also be accepting of others as well. As Masons, we are curious about the ancient mysteries, both esoteric and exoteric. From the west is water and fittingly so as it slows the fires our minds for rest. The west is where the sun sets every day. The search for more light from the east is then allowed to be pondered and meditated over. As water is passive and feminine, it is utilized best as a time to contemplate those fiery desires for knowledge.

One tradition that has been long forgotten in our day to day lives of traffic, work and fast food is the slow consumption of our foods. As a whole, we eat more than ever in the history of mankind yet we enjoy our food less than we ever have. We often miss the taste of every nuance in a fine dish we are eating and therefore that likely reflects on our lives for the most part. We tend to not let our minds wander into its subconscious due to busy schedules. If we are missing those moments, it’s likely due to bad taste.

EARTH & TOUCH

In the Masonic tradition, the element of earth is represented as grounding, stabilization or material. This is the element often looked at as the element that really houses all of the aforementioned elements. The earth element is the basis of knowledge, things learned, which allow for further spontaneous/passionate (fire), logical (air), or emotional (water) abilities in our mind and spirit. It is our day to day life. It is what we can see, smell, hear, taste and most importantly touch. Being earthbound in a philosophical way is a less than desirable way to grow spiritually. However, it is the earth element and our physical beings that essentially make us up. While water can be touched and even held, it is more fluid and will change immediately. As for earth qualities, it is malleable, but not as much as air and water and is nowhere near as inspired as fire. The earth is under our feet and is all we can touch.

Earth is represented from the cold north. It is also represented with the color black and therefore represents our lack of ‘light’. We are too concerned about gadgets, money, and other items we must have in our possessions to be anywhere other than in complete darkness. While it is the earth element that houses the others, and is the basis for our growth, it is a virtue to have the stability underneath us. It is the basis for all Masons to be physically born in darkness and to have to put away our possessions we hold closely to us. We are even asked at one point to deposit a physical, metal item for archival reasons into our lodges. This helps us be able to give something up of a physical nature.

Being grounded to the earth to a fault can be a problem. As we can feel earthquakes underneath our feet if our Earth below us is toiling, so should we feel the earthquakes within ourselves if we are toiling inside. This toiling is often what pushes us towards any number of belief systems or to even begin our journey into Masonry. It is important to understand the positive and negatives of the earth element as it can keep us from ever growing but always allows our acacia to grow. 

SPIRIT & SIGHT

In the Masonic tradition, the element of spirit is a symbol of purity and is, more or less, a culmination of all of the other four elements. It is typically less spoken about or even recognized by many students of the ancient mysteries. It is so invisible; it is less visible than air itself yet as Masons we are constantly looking for it. It is nowhere yet everywhere. It is made up of all four elements yet none of them are specifically it. Spirit can also be called Quintessence or aether as well. 

It’s similarity to air is relevant since air is represented in the east, the place we are constantly traveling. As seekers of light, it is sight that we use most literally but figuratively as well. From the dawn of man until now, we have peered into the skies pondering questions of our existence. From worshiping the sun and moon or looking into the heavens for God’s answers, we are constantly looking for the light or spirit.

As humans with sight, we often have to ‘see it to believe it’. As seekers, we know we won’t see it with our physical eyes but with our wisdom and studies. Some believe the ‘third eye’ concept which allows for deeper meditation and understanding of things around us. As we bow our heads and pray, we usually close our eyes. This is most likely due to closing off our ability to actually see but utilize more of our inner sight. In Masonic lodges, we are ceremoniously given light, more light and further light by having our hoodwinked removed. Having a requirement to believe in a higher power, a GAOTU, this ritual alludes to the great light. To our ancestors it may have simply been the sun. To us it could be a multitude of belief systems.

If all things are of the aether element, then on an earthly level we see and detect signs from the universe such as numerology and things we often call coincidental. We use our sight to gain more knowledge that can be transferred into logic and wisdom.

My studies have led me to believe that in lodge, the spirit is represented in the middle of the room. The other elements are represented directionally, but not spirit. As indicated in specific grades of at least one appendant body of Masonry, our ‘spirits’ are positioned in a place of no direction but all directions, facing the east looking for light. Spirit is inside all of these elements and makes up the space each one of them lacks in.

It is often represented with a circle and this symbolizes the infinity of the spirit and how it is all things. It is also represented in the pentagram as the apex point of the star. In Masonry, we are caused to kneel at an altar and give a prayer. The VSL is also in the middle of the lodge as a rule and guide for us as Masons. This is fittingly so as it represents the place our spirit is. Our sight is taken away from us until a certain point and then as mentioned before, the hoodwink is removed for us to see the light.

The element of Quintessence has all of the features of the other elements. It is very logical and intelligent as with air yet as simple and grounded as the earth element. It is very emotional and soft as water yet powerful and scorching as fire. It is highly represented in Masonry but rarely, if ever, talked about. It is the ‘light’ we are constantly looking for.

PRACTICAL FREEMASONRY

The study of the aforementioned and our craft is not exclusive to blue lodge and can be explored via many avenues. Much literature has been written about the subjects and can be interpreted in an endless amount of ways. Also, much of what we learn is obtained from within through meditation and self-study. There are many Masonic appendant or concordant bodies that subscribe to these schools of thought as well as non-Masonic bodies that are considered more “fringe Masonry” but have just as much value as actual Masonic institutes. Incorporating the elements, senses and sciences into our daily lives can further shape our ashlars into that perfect stone we are striving to have.

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[i] Regardie, Israel (1938). The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Body Ch. 9, pg. 185
[ii] Cicero, Chic (2003) The Essential Golden Dawn Ch. 4, pg 117
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~JCL

Brother J. Clint Lewey lives in the greater Rochester, NY area and is a fourth generation Freemason. On the 17th of March, 2015 he was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason at Edmond Lodge #37 in Edmond, OK. Brother Clint is currently a member of Fairport-Flower City Lodge #476, Hiram Royal Arch Chapter #62 and SRICF New York College-Buffalo. He is allowed to divide his working hours serving Veterans in crisis at the Canandaigua, NY VAMC as well as serving his country in the military as a reservist. Bro. Lewey is happily married with two younger children.

Be A Warm Body

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


Attendance… just like the Old Gray Mare, it ain't what it used to be.

As much as ever, maybe more, family and job pressures continue to demand the part of our time we might otherwise be able to devote to outside activities like going to Lodge. Even more than that, we have become a society of non-participators. It's easier to stay at home and watch the latest on Netflix than to go out; and drooling into cell phones on anti-social media has replaced real group interaction. This phenomenon isn't limited just to the Freemasons. Nearly all fraternal organizations, churches, clubs, even once-popular sporting events are seeing an attendance decline. Organizations like these now lack something they used to have plenty of… warm bodies.

There's not much I can do to change society's juggernaut of non-participation. But I've decided to do what little I can. I've declared myself to be a warm body. I'm making every effort to show up where I can, when I can. That's my warm body motto: "… where I can, when I can."

Of course, being a warm body carries with it certain responsibilities. You show up at a meeting these days, you're probably going to be asked to do more. That's OK. I have no intention of going through the officer's line again, but you need a Marshal… I'll be your Marshal. And that's exactly what I am in my Lodge this year. In my Commandery, I've been Junior Warden seven years in a row. I've taken on other similar roles in other groups for one simple reason: so the head of that group has one less officer's chair to worry about filling. Still, the word "no" hasn't left my vocabulary. It doesn't have to for me to be a responsible warm body. You know… "where I can, when I can."

I'm pretty comfortable in my role as a warm body. It gets me out the door and to some meetings where I have a great time, learn something and would be sorry to have missed.

Just showing up is a prerequisite to active participation. Looking at it in that light, we really do need more warm bodies. Try it. Next time you just don't feel like going to a Lodge meeting, put down the TV remote, silence your cell phone and head out. The guys you see there will be glad you did and I'm betting so will you. Be a warm body. It sounds trivial, but it's one of the most important things you can do for the fraternity.

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also 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. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.