Meet, Act and Part

By Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor

WB Gregory J.Knott



Let me be clear from the start, this article is a shameless plug for the Meet, Act, and Part podcast.  Darin Lahners, Bill Hosler, Todd Creason, and I started the podcast in early 2020 as another means of sharing Masonic information and topics with others.   I have long been a radio junkie and when the podcast movement began to take off, I quickly began listening to them, so creating our own podcast seemed like a natural thing to do.

I have to be honest, I wasn't quite sure what direction the podcast was going to take.  The group of us had some brief conversations on topics and format, but eventually, we just decided to dive in and figure it out as we went.  We bought a domain name, found a recording platform, and figured out what kind of equipment we needed such as microphones to begin.  


Our first episode was on Masonic education, which seemed like the perfect topic to begin with considering that is one of our major interests.  On episode number 4, we had our first guest MWB Roger VanGorden, Past Grand Master of Indiana, who spoke with us about The Path Forward Campaign and the new website Be a Freemason.  Over the course of 2020, we had several other guests such as Chris Hodapp, Robert Johnson, Steve Harrison, and Michael Poll.  We went international with guests Sotoris Sakellarious from Greece and Mathew Christmas from England.  


The format has continued to evolve and we have worked to create our own niche in the Masonic podcast world.   There are some fabulous podcasts out there right now, such as Whence Came You, The Winding Stairs, and The Historical Light to name just a few that each have their own style. 


We utilize a conversational tone with our guests and each other.   I like to think of our podcasts as the type of conversations you might have with a brother in the dining room or parking lot.  Free flow of ideas, learning from each other, and sharing our experiences.    


Darin Lahners is our editor and does a great job taking out our miscues.  Bill Hosler uses his fabulous web skills on maintaining our website and getting us out into the social media world.  Without them, this podcast wouldn’t be possible.


Where are we going in the future?  We will continue to have a wide variety of guests and topics.  We are especially looking for new voices within the fraternity.  Do you have any suggestions for guests?   Please let us know.


Let me close by thanking our listeners.  We appreciate the positive comments that we have received from so many people.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations we have had with so many outstanding brothers and am looking forward to many more.  Until then Brethren, let us Meet, Act, and Part.  


~GJK


WB Gregory J. Knott is a founding member and Senior Contributor of 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 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini 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 Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. 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. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com



Life is short, Shoot the ball

by Midnight Freemason Regular Contributor
WB Christopher Hathaway 

Graphic by Catherine Lee Balsamello-Rutledge

Death doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes” 
-Hamilton

The past twelve months have been a year to remember, or maybe a year we would all like to forget. COVID deaths are now at 2.46 million worldwide and we are still in masks and under tight restrictions. In a normal year, I would say not many people give thought to eventually dying but this year is different. This year it is all around us. This year we are actively taking extra precautions to live more than we would at any other time. If you are a Mason, you should be prepared and okay with eventually passing away from this earth and into the next. But are we? And even if we are, are we making the most out of our time here? Life is short and we need to make it count.

In our Masonic Rites given at the funeral of Freemasons we say ‘the cradle and the coffin stand side by side…that at the moment you begin to live, you also begin to die.’ I was discussing this line with a friend who pointed out that scientifically that was not exactly accurate, which is okay by me because much of our teachings are symbolic and not meant to be literal. After a little digging though, I found that we actually begin to die around the age of 25. Not that that is any better! We are fresh out of school beginning our careers, starting families, understanding how mortgages and 401k(s) work and you are rewarded with the process of dying. How lovely! But this lesson teaches us the urgency of living a fulfilling life pleasing to our creator, our families, and our communities. Whatever you have on your to-do list, do it NOW. What are you waiting for? My grandpa once told me if you wait until you have time to do something, you will never do it.

In a song called Death Bed by Powfu he says this:
Yeah, I don't wanna fall asleep, I don't wanna pass away
I been thinking of our future 'cause I'll never see those days


Can you imagine being on your deathbed knowing you did not give it everything you had? Are you forming relationships with people, so you have a legacy? Everything that I am today is due to someone else giving me their time and teachings. I hope to be their legacy even if it's just bits and pieces of me. Do the same for someone else. As 1 Corinthians says "Charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity."

So, love your people today, tomorrow, and the next day. Don’t wait until the funeral to give your speech about them. Say it now, write it now. I fall into this trap constantly. I get too busy to slow down and make that extra phone call or go out of my way for that extra visit. I have never regretted an extra effort and you won’t either.

As my middle school basketball coach liked to say “Life’s short, shoot the ball!”

~CJH

WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is a plural member of Normal Masonic Lodge #673 as well as Bloomington Lodge #43, where he is a Past Master. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman.  He is the Oriental Guide in the Divan for the Mohammed Shiners, and the 1st Vice President of the Bloomington Shrine Club. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys spending time with his wife Taylor and cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs.   

The Point of the Lost Word






by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Ken JP Stuczynski 






















I was extremely gratified when I was introduced to the Lost Word in the completion of my Degrees. Whereas it might seem like unfulfilled suspense to some, it was a palpable representation of a concept I recognized from my own spiritual journeys long before I was a Mason.

"The way that can be told is not the Way."

Absolute Truth lay beyond both senses and conceptualization, in the realm of the Mystical. To give something a name is to kill it, or at least separate its reality from our knowledge of it. This linguistic mirage becomes a label, a placeholder, or "substitute" for the real thing at best. In a world of fingers pointing to the moon, we cannot help but err to fixate on the fingers, not the moon.

It's also why some faith traditions do not give G-d a name or even spell that word out fully. When Moses was asked who he shall say sent him, the Answer became a sacred acronym, the tetragrammaton. And yet, regardless of such answers that may be given in other degree systems, it is still a placeholder. It is a few steps forward toward an infinitely distant horizon. (I have to admit, the pretense of a definitive answer for the Lost Word in further rituals disappoints me, as it takes away the purpose I suggest here.)

This is why I have said you could not impart the secrets of Freemasonry even if you wanted to. They are not in the words and grips themselves. Knowing them does not make you a Mason. They are like a key to a door you do not know, and yet can pass simply by knocking, as it will be opened onto you. It is the Gateless Gate.

So how can a secret society impart such a secret to life, the universe, and everything? I have heard ritual wonderfully described as using inadequate words and symbols to show and say what cannot be shown or said. Our whole craft is a language designed to transcend not just operative, literal interpretations, but even themselves. The objects in our rooms and hands draw us beyond "this crude matter" to a thought-form. That much is easy, though many may not have an awareness of even that at first. But perhaps if we let go a little, it can be realized as an ungraspable truth. In a moment of timelessness and everywhere-ness, we catch a glimpse of light, not as seer and subject, but as an object — the Light itself.

And so we cannot be given the True Word, less we kill it, or worse yet, deceive ourselves to think we know, missing the transformation of true Knowing. We give ourselves titles and certificates and other accolades, all of which point to things that may or may not exist. We corporal beings are distracted by such things or derailed altogether.

Even the anchor of ritual, meant to steady oneself against moral relativity and nihilistic libertine-ness, can sink us under the water. A disciple of John was once admonished, "Scripture is like the messenger sent by the Rabbi; do not mistaken the messenger for the Rabbi." Such it is with ritual. Like a name or even a conceptualization, it does not exist for its own sake.

The loss of the Word is about the fall of Adam, and the search for it,  the desire for redemption. It is the perfect ashlar we expend tremendous effort to become, even aware it can only be completed by transcending that horizon, that Level of Time through the profundity of mortal transformation. If we possess the Real Word, even a glimpse of it, our Perfect Ashlar awaits us.

If we get caught up in the idea, the concept, the knowledge, and intellectual prowess we achieve and are not willing to let go of it in favor of the Real Word, we are like those who reach the other shore but refuse to get out of the boat once its usefulness passes. And yet these are the things of this World. These are the tools we must work with because they are the things we CAN work with.

So when does one receive the Real World? Perhaps this is neither the time nor place, and the trials of being human are nothing more than the impetuousness of those who can't bear to wait until their Temple is finished. Perhaps that is the nature of suffering, and Masonry leads us out of it, to that Mystery which cannot be told.

~JP

Bro. Ken JP Stuczynski is a member of West Seneca Lodge No.1111 and recently served as Master of Ken-Ton Lodge No.1186. As webmaster for NYMasons.Org, he is on the Communications and Technology Committees for the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, serving his second term as Sovereign Prince of Palmoni Council in the Valley of Buffalo, NMJ. He also coordinates a Downtown Square Club monthly lunch in Buffalo, NY. He and his wife served as Patron and Matron of Pond Chapter No.853 Order of the Eastern Star and considered himself a “Masonic Feminist”.

As a masonic speaker throughout New York State, he has also given presentations at town hall meetings regarding the use of technology in the Craft. His numerous Empire State Mason articles have been republished in Arizona and New Jersey. To aid in his outreach on these topics, he authored “Webmastering the Craft: Fraternity in a Digital World”, available worldwide in softcover and eBook.

Having lifelong interests far and wide across philosophy, world religions, and all the natural sciences, his degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Ethics and a minor In Psychology. He has written articles and essays on the topics of science and religion, culture and politics, business and economics, technology and futurism, as well as various aspects of social psychology. Usually, with interdisciplinary contexts, many of these focus on the ideals of intellectual honesty and tolerance in all forms. Having edited and contributed to Books of Transactions by the Western New York Lodge of Research of which he is a member, he plans to formally publish some of his larger works, starting with the upcoming book, “Contemplations on Astronomy”, and a special Masonic edition will contain his “Astronomical Tour of the Lodge”.

He runs his primary business, Kentropolis Internet, from home where he lives with his wife and plenty of pets. In addition to various community service projects, he teaches Tai Chi to veterans at the VA Recovery Center. He is also an independent interfaith minister with hospital chaplain credentials who does weddings, funerals, memorials, and other services. His personal project is the “Earth 2 Mouth” program which connects farms, volunteers, and soup kitchens. He also enjoys carpentry and keeps bees with his daughter at an organic farm in East Otto, NY."


A Profile In Courage

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR


Author's note: This is in no way meant to be a political post. It is an account of events that occurred nearly a half-century ago with no intent to imply any relationship to events of today.

The 1956 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, is a series of biographies of eight United States senators who endured criticism and personal loss after unpopular acts they each thought were the right thing to do. Among those accounts are courageous votes of Masonic Brothers Thomas Hart Benton and Sam Houston, both of whom opposed extending slavery into the US territories, and subsequently lost elections because of their actions.

Such politicians taking action against the majority views of their constituents in spite of the consequences are a rare breed. Another of our Masonic Brothers, Gerald Ford, falls into that category.

Living in an intensely divided nation today, it is hard to imagine a time when the mood of the country, short of the Civil War era, may have been more politically separated or rancorous, but the Vietnam/Watergate era of the early to mid-1970s clearly qualifies for that.

In 1968, Richard Nixon, after losing a close presidential race to John Kennedy in 1960, made the political comeback of the century. He won the presidency with a promise to end the unpopular Vietnam War. Instead, he expanded the war, even taking it into countries neighboring Vietnam. With those actions, war protests, which had been going on for years, hit a new level of intensity.

At the same time, Nixon's acerbic Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, who himself had been intensifying the divisions in the country, came under fire for corrupt practices while Governor of Maryland. After a two-year acrimonious battle, Agnew pleaded nolo contendere to felony tax evasion, was fined, and placed on probation. With that, Agnew resigned from the vice presidency and President Nixon selected long-time Republican congressman Gerald Ford to succeed him.

With all that going on, the 1972 presidential elections saw Nixon's re-election. Subsequently, his involvement in and cover-up of the 1972 break-in at Democratic headquarters gradually came to light, in what has now become known as the Watergate Affair.

So with the Vietnam War in full swing, war protests raging, the vice-president battling accusations of corruption, and Watergate grinding on, the US went through a three-year period of political meltdown. Nixon's involvement in Watergate, his lies, and attempts to cover up his actions finally brought him down. Leaders of his own party convinced him there were sufficient votes in both Houses of Congress to impeach and convict, leading him to resign the presidency before that happened. Brother Ford took office on August 9, 1974.

Ford took charge in the midst of all the political turmoil, wanting to put it in the past. Some of his first words to the country were, "Our national nightmare is over." But it wasn't. The country would now have to turn its attention to a laundry list of charges being brought against former President Nixon. The aftermath of his actions could have lasted for months, possibly years, through indictments, trials, endless rehashing of events, and a plethora of incessant and merciless windbags debating it all.

Ford saw it as his responsibility to end the turmoil and get the nation back to some semblance of normalcy. With that, he granted Richard Nixon a "full, free, and absolute pardon." Political opponents and even members of Ford's Republican party leveled a firestorm of criticism at the new president. They accused him, among other things, of making a deal with Nixon that would lead to Ford becoming president. That was not the case. The only deal Ford made was that Nixon had to admit guilt. Nixon accepted the pardon and withdrew to his home in San Clemente, removing himself from further involvement in the political arena.



Historians agree Brother Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon was one of the main reasons contributing to the fact he lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter. Ford simply said he knew the aftermath of Nixon's actions could go on and on, and he knew he was the only one who could end it.

John Kennedy, along with Ted Sorenson, wrote Profiles in Courage. Had they written it today, they might have included more than senators, and they may well have included Gerald Ford.

In fact, in a sense, he was included. In 1989, the Kennedy family established the "Profiles In Courage Award" in order to recognize the kind of political courage emphasized in the book. Then, in 2001, they named Ford the recipient of the honor, "for his courage in making a controversial decision of conscience to pardon former President Richard M. Nixon."

Brother Gerald Ford, 33°, was a member of Malta Lodge No. 465, Grand Rapids Michigan.

~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 is 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.