Join The Midnight Freemasons On A Roadtrip To Scotland and England

Left to right: Midnight Freemasons Senior Contributor Greg Knott, Managing Editor Robert Johnson, and Founder Todd E. Creason
Join Midnight Freemasons Greg Knott, Robert Johnson, and Todd E. Creason on a tour to the United Kingdom between September 12 - 22. The tour begins with several days in Edinburgh, Scotland before journeying through the English countryside to London, England.  This was a tour organized by a Master Mason for Freemasons, so there are a lot of events and locations that were scheduled because of their interest to Freemasons in particular.  We'll be visiting both the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the United Grand Lodge of England, and attending a Lodge meeting while we're there.  There's a link below to both a full itinerary of the trip and the registration page--but there is limited space and this trip is likely to fill up fast, so don't delay.

Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and is from the 1st N. E. District of Illinois.  He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master.  He is also a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N. E. District of Illinois.  Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? and Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry.  He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show.  He is a husband and father of four, works full-time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid homer brewer.  He is currently working on a  book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Greg Knott is the Senior Contributor at the Midnight Freemasons blog.  He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL), and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754, Homer Lodge No. 199, and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, D.C.  He's a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illinois High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana.  He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philalethes Society.He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 (IL) and serves as its Secretary.  Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

Todd E. Creason is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of both Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL).  He is a 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) and a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.

You can join us on the tour by registering HERE.  You can find a full itinerary of the trip HERE.  Don't wait too long to register--there is limited space available!  This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to tour Scotland and England on a tour designed for Freemasons, so avoid future regret by booking early!  

Blue - It Isn't Immemorial

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson




Blue. Blue is a color we love in Freemasonry. We call our lodges "Blue Lodges", we use it in our symbolism and in the basis of our allegory which ties into the Old Testament, it was also a sacred color then. In a presentation I give, I refer to the color as relating to the sky, representing the idea of limitlessness and even universality. But while these idea are seemingly immemorial, the color Blue is decidedly not. At least in terms of perception. What follows below is a paraphrasing of several articles I linked in the sources below and some of my own brief commentary.

It turns out that the color Blue is a recent "discovery" in terms of our ability to see it. But I guess, I should really say it's a recent "ability" we've been able to utilize. A fellow by the name of William Gladstone (1809-1898) made an interesting observation. In Homer's Odyssey, Homer never describes the water or the sea as, "Blue". Instead he uses the term "wine-dark".

This is very curious indeed! Did humans adapt the ability to see the color blue? Did the eye change? No, not really. It was always there, and we did see it, however our brains did not discern it or distinguish it in any particular way. The evidence wasn't just brought forth by the 19th century Prime Minister Gladstone.

A short time later a gent who studied the origin of words, Mr. Lazarus Geiger analyzed the languages of Icelandic, Hindu, Chinese, Arabic and Hebrew and confirmed, no mention of the word "Blue" in any of the earliest texts from these languages. The first society to actually mention the color as we know it didn't happen until the Egyptians, who had a dye to make the color.

Modern science has taken a look at this and arguably the best work on the topic comes from Dr. Jules Davidoff who is a Psychologist from London. He's figured that essentially, we just didn't recognize it until recent times. He conducted studies with remote cultures like the Himba Tribes in Namibia, who had many words for the color Green, but not one for "Blue". In fact, when shown a chart with many green squares and one that was blue, the couldn't pick out the blue one.

Wild? I'd say so. However he also found that that same tribe could pick out a slightly different green square from the others and his participants here in the USA could not. It's a matter of perception. Recently MIT conducted a study and found that native Russians have no real word for Blue, but do have a word for "Light Blue" and "Dark Blue" and further, these people can distinguish between shades of colors much faster than we can in the United States.

Reading all this, made me think about the sacred blue in the Hebrew tradition called "Tekhelet". The  recipe for which has been lost to time, but reportedly was made from snails. I reached out to a few scholars on the mater inquiring that if Blue is so new, why do we have evidence of this ancient Blue in the Hebrew tradition? The answer? Simple. It's still relatively recent in terms of Homer and that ancient world. It came after the ability to recognize it which is what added to it's mystique.

Sources:
Progress in Colour Studies: Volume II. Psychological aspects

~RHJ


RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He is also a Past District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Whence Came You? The Challenge of Meeting Our Tenets

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


The Mission Statement

Whence Came You? Three simple words. A question follows. What came you here to do? Another Question. You are a Mason, I presume? Another Question. What makes you a Mason? Another Question. However, is the answer to this last question really all that makes you a Mason? Yes, technically, but aren’t we more than that? Is the answer to the last question what really makes you a Mason? I just can't believe that. I believe that it’s part of what makes you a Mason, but being a Mason is more than just that two word answer.

I envy the Odd Fellows. They know exactly what they are all about. At the end of every Odd Fellow meeting, you recite the Odd Fellow Valediction. It is pretty much their mission statement. It is as follows:

I AM AN ODD FELLOW:

I believe in the Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of Man;

I believe in Friendship, Love and Truth as basic guides to the ultimate destiny of all mankind.

I believe my home, my church or temple, my lodge, and my community deserve my best work, my modest pride, my earnest faith, and my deepest loyalty, as I perform my duty “to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan” and as I work with others to build a better world because in spirit and in truth, I am, and must always be, grateful to my Creator, faithful to my Country, and fraternal to my fellow man;

I AM AN ODD FELLOW!

If you ask any Odd Fellow, what the Odd Fellows do, they can recite this and give you a pretty good idea of what they are about.

What would happen if you ask a Freemason about our Mission Statement? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you ask ten Freemasons this question, you’re going to get ten different answers. This is part of the problem we have. We don’t have a singular identity. Yes, we have a long history that we like to talk about. We have a list of famous dead people (for the most part) that were Masons. We talk about the halcyon days of Masonry, when all of these magnificent buildings were built, when Pike and Mackey were writing, when we think the lodges were packed to the rafters with Masons. The truth is, that Pike and Mackey were experiencing the same things we're seeing now. To compound matters, there are so many differences from one grand lodge to another in the United States, that ther's hardly anything to unify us as a fraternity.

Do we need a valediction like the Odd Fellows? I don’t think it would hurt to have some idea of what our Mission is. I believe if we have one, it’s in pieces in our ritual. In order to not break my obligation, I’m going to just try to piece something together, paraphrased from our ritual. Here’s what I came up with:

I believe in a supreme being. I believe that I should meet my brothers on the level, act by the plumb and part upon the square. I believe in brotherly love, relief and truth. I believe that I need to subdue my passions and improve myself in Masonry. I am taken and accepted among brothers and fellows. I have been often tried, never denied, and I am ready to be tried again. I hold my obligations as binding. I know the meaning of letter ‘G’. I try to apply the cardinal virtues in my everyday life. I believe that I have a four-fold duty to my country, my neighbor, my family and myself. I will work to aid in the relief of distressed brother Master Masons, their widows and orphans. I work every day in the quarry to make my rough ashlar into a perfect one. I am a Master Mason!

Does the valediction above sum up what it is to be a Freemason? Would this be something that you’d be willing to repeat in your lodge at the end of your meetings? I think it gives a good summary of core beliefs, but I’m not sold on it. There is one thing that really bothers me about it. The phrase: “Improve myself in Masonry.” What does it mean? How does one improve themselves in Masonry?

Getting Pushy

How many of you have been at the end of the third degree to hear one of the various men assembled say something like this to the newly raised Master Mason?: “You get out of Masonry what you put into it!”? Are we not already basically telling the new Master Mason, “Hey Bro., I’m glad you’re a Mason! Don’t sweat coming back though. As long as you pay your dues, it’s cool.”?  Don’t we need to set our expectations, instead of lowering them? The idea that we're perpetuating, is that we only care about the candidate until he’s raised. After that, they're on their own. In many cases, we don’t seem to care about the guy once he walks out that door as a Master Mason. This is utterly and completely wrong.

It also irritates me when someone hands the newly raised Master Mason a petition to an appendant body right after his degree. I mean seriously, give the brother a break. If he wants to join the Shrine/Grotto/York Rite/Scottish Rite, he can do it in due time. Let him enjoy his moment in the sun, don’t shove something in his face, and pressure him to join xyz body. It’s  rude, and unbecoming behavior for a Mason. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Becoming a Better Man

You see my brothers, there is a relationship between the expectations we should set for a newly raised Master Mason, and those we should have for ourselves in order to improve ourselves in Masonry. I believe that they are one and the same. We need to be educated. This should be the first and foremost duty of the Lodge of Freemasons. We like to say that we take good men and make them better, but how do you do that? You have to teach them, and that means that there has to be education. How do get teachers? You have to educate and make them. We need to start a train the trainer process. Those that have knowledge, need to give that knowledge to those that do not. I’m not only talking about Masonic knowledge. Part of becoming a better man, is in-fact,  learning how to be a better man. We need to teach each other how to behave in public, on social media, in private. We need to teach each other what to wear to lodge, and the importance of a good suit. We need to teach each other how to use technology. We need to teach each other how to be leaders. Then of course, we need to share our knowledge of ritual, floor work, esoterica, and our ideas about the history of Freemasonry. We need to mentor each other, and the mentoring shouldn’t be a one way process. It should be reciprocal. Each man should have something that he can contribute that the other man or men in the lodge don’t know. By sharing this information, we learn and become well rounded individuals.

Participation

We need to be held accountable. How many times have you been at a stated meeting and had an activity in the community or socially in the lodge come up for a vote? Everyone thinks it’s a marvelous idea, and everyone votes unanimously to do it. Then the time for the event comes, and it’s you and one other brother who shows up. My brothers, this is unacceptable. If you don’t want to participate, don’t vote for an activity. If you vote for an event, then in my mind, you’re basically volunteering to be there and participate. It is quite frankly disheartening for me as a Worshipful Master to say that this happens time and time again in my own lodge. Yes, I understand that family and work comes first. Which is why I stated above to not vote for something if you have no intention of showing up. This doesn’t just apply to social gatherings or community events. If we have a degree or other work, we need to show up. There’s a good chance the date for the degree was discussed in the meeting. If you can’t make it, then you can explain why in that meeting. That’s assuming that you’re coming to the meeting in the first place.

Social Media

We need to remember that we represent something bigger than ourselves. How many times have you seen something on Facebook posted by a fellow Mason that is in questionable taste? Remember that if you post an opinion and you have a Square and Compass as your profile picture, people are going to make assumptions about Masonry. We shouldn’t be engaging in religious or political debate on Social Media if we have Masonic symbols all over our Facebook homepage. We also need to watch what we say in public. Don’t cry about the lack of Millennials joining lodge when you were just calling them "snowflakes" a minute ago. I’m tired of having to bite my tongue when certain brothers sound off about sexual orientations, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, insert minority or religion here. I don’t agree with you. I don’t want to say anything because you’re a brother and I’m trying to be respectful of my obligation, but you’re not being smart if you’re doing this. Don’t put brothers in a position where they need to hold you accountable in public (or on social media). You should be able to hold yourself accountable (See the part about subduing my passions above.). Remember, you represent Freemasonry all of the time, there’s no off duty time.

The Quality Meeting

We need to make our meetings into quality events. We should have a nice meal before the meeting. We should think about having a nice cigar or drink after the meeting. We should dress up for every meeting. We should have quality education at every meeting complete with discussion about the education we just received. We should keep the business to a minimum so that we can focus on the above things. The same holds for degree work. We need to set a standard that everyone agrees to follow. We need to work so that everyone who is there knows their role. Because once again, it boils down to expectations. If we set the expectation with our degree work for the candidate, they think that this is what Freemasonry is all about. Telling them that they get out of Freemasonry what they put in has led us to our current predicament. Set the expectation of having them come to meetings and make the meetings so spectacular that they don’t want to miss them. Continuing to read the minutes, communication, etc. was necessary when we didn’t have the ability to mass communicate. Now most of the business can be done via email, a private web page or Facebook group. The business part of meetings shouldn’t be taking 2 hours. If they are, you’re doing it wrong. Trust me, I’m currently worshipful master of a lodge doing it wrong.

The West Gate

We need to guard the West Gate. When we begin to only admit men that will adhere to and buy into the above, then we will be able to advance ourselves and the craft. If the current members of our lodges aren’t buying into what needs to happen, it’s because they weren’t vetted properly. If we continue to vote in every man with a checkbook and money for dues and degree fees, what are we really doing? We need to be closing the doors and guarding them, not letting them remain open for everyone. Not every man deserves to be a Freemason. Call it "elitism". I only want the best for the Fraternity. If we profess to make good men better, then we should only be admitting good men. We need to admit men that agree with the core principles I’ve laid out above.

You see not every Mason takes the meaning of improving themselves in Masonry to heart. If they did, we wouldn’t have to set out the expectations above time and time again. We say our obligation, we kiss the bible, but do we really understand the words? Do we  listen during the lectures? Should we already be doing the things I’ve mentioned above. Not every Mason is. We think we are working on our rough ashlars, but it’s quite clear that we are just making them rougher. We are not subduing our passions.

Solution?


"So what’s the solution?", you may ask. My answer is this. If you are not getting the experience in Masonry that you desire, either join a lodge that gives you this experience, or find like-minded individuals and form a lodge that gives you this experience. You can’t expect to change Freemasonry wholesale. It’s too institutionalized. There are too many members that will resist any change we offer, even if it makes the most sense. So I say, reject their reality, and substitute your own. Create your own little corner of the world with some like-minded brethren. It’s going to take work, but wouldn’t you rather work for something that you have a say in building and creating? I know I would.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

BLASPHEMY - We are More than Masonic Education

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



Masonic education is all the rage with the crowd I run with; and this is, by the way, a good thing. I seem to hear more about Masonic education now than ever before ("ever before" being defined as since I joined the Craft 19 years ago).

We may not always stop to think that "Masonic education" is a broad term that can take many forms. It can be a deep, spiritual, esoteric subject that, frankly, sometimes winds up being over my head. Or it can be something lightweight – maybe an account of something a Brother did or even a funny anecdote. Usually the subject falls somewhere in between. Doesn't matter. Whatever form it takes, Masonic education is the hot topic du jour. Hallelujah. When we are new to the degrees and are asked what it is we want, we respond that we want light, and progressively more of it. In other words, our Masonic journey is a search for enlightenment; and the path for that journey is education. Keep it coming.

However, I hear a lot of dissent about some of the other things we do: "Oh, man, not another bean dinner," or "what's with all the service projects, what are we, the Rotary?" (No offense meant to the Rotary, a fine organization, but different than the Freemasons).

See, I like those things, too. The bean dinners, the meals before the meetings and all the social events give me a chance to get together with my Brothers and informally kick things around. Those conversations usually aren't very heavy but they're enjoyable. The social interaction we have with our Brothers is an important part of what our fraternity is. We don't want our organization to be all joking and no substance but I also wouldn't want to exclude it. All work and no play makes Hiram a dull boy.

Also, there are the service projects. In my area we help with the Child Identification Program (MoCHIP) which, in the past decade has helped return at least eight missing or abducted children to their homes, out of about a quarter million registered. We've assisted with disaster recovery and are currently helping my city build a playground for disabled kids. We are, by the way, way over our heads financially on that one, but we'll figure something out. All of these projects give the Brothers a sense of fulfillment. You know, it's the old, "it is better to give than receive" thing. Community service – let's have more of that, too.

So, recapping, when we get together as Brothers, we're doing a broad range of things: We have social interaction at our events; we help make our communities better places through our service projects; and we seek enlightenment.

Freemasonry needs all of these. In fact, couldn't we call our social interaction Brotherly Love, our community service Relief and our quest for enlightenment a search for Truth? Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Where have I heard that before?

We are more than Masonic education, and that is outright blasphemy to some. It shouldn't be. I suspect the emphasis behind Masonic education derives from the fact we sometimes make it the stepchild of our other activities. We have plenty of bean dinners and service projects but seem to fall short on Masonic education. Still, in a perfect world, we should clamor for social events and service projects just as loudly as for Masonic education. It's "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth," not "Truth and whatever."

Maybe if our quest for Masonic Education is successful enough we can get to the point where we have to start emphasizing the other tenets: "More bean dinners!" Now that sounds like the ultimate blasphemy, doesn't it?

~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.