The Reports of My Death

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro Bill Hosler, PM


There is an old story (which may or not be true) about Brother Samuel Langhorne Clemens who is more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain. Clemens was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in Polar Star Lodge 79 in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1861. 

In May of 1897 Brother Mark Twain was approached by reporters in London. Twain was abroad on a world speaking tour and a rumor was started in the United States that the author had grown ill and had sadly passed away. It has been said that the rumor had grown to such proportion that a newspaper published Twain’s obituary.  

When reporters approached Brother Twain about the rumor and asked the humorist for a quote. Twain told the assembled group of reporters, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

When I first asked a friend of mine for a petition to become a Freemason, I was invited to attend dinner with the Brethren of my future Mother Lodge. The members of the lodge were hosting the Brethren of our sister lodge in Canada. Each year the two lodges gathered together, one year in the United States and the next year in Canada, to spread the cement of Brotherly love. 

As I sat down to a wonderful meal of Hoosier style beef and noodles, one of the Brethren, an outspoken Past Master, piped up and said, “I don't know why you are joining the Masons. The Fraternity will be dead in five years anyway.” 

Of course, his statement shocked me. At that moment of my life, I knew absolutely nothing about the organization. For my entire adult life, I had seen the windowless high-rise building downtown, the one I was currently eating dinner in, and never given a moment of thought to the possibility that the organization may have had membership problems. I ignored the man’s declaration and progressed through the degrees to become a Master Mason. 

That dinner I attended is now thirteen years in the past, and our beloved Craft is still at labor many years after my Brother's prediction. Recently while reading social media I've seen many Brothers who, in their frustration with the direction of Masonry, have been making the same declaration: “Masonry is dead!”

As a member who has been fighting with the establishment since my raising, I truly understand the frustration these Brothers are laboring under; the slow progress of change (please pardon my use of that dirty word) can be quite frustrating. But I truly believe, as in the case of the reports of Brother Twain’s demise, the reports of our beloved fraternity’s death have been “greatly exaggerated”.

The year I became a Mason (2002), many lodges were merging with other lodges, or just surrendering their charters to their Grand Lodges.  Buildings were being sold to developers or given to local municipalities.  It was a sad time for our gentle Craft. There was one lodge in the Masonic Temple where my lodge met that had to call a Past Master of the lodge to come from his home to sign the book in order to have the minimum number of members to open a lodge in our jurisdiction. It was looking dim for the members of most lodges. 

Since those dark days, many young men have discovered Freemasonry through the writings of Dan Brown. Brown made us look cool and relevant, not just a bunch of old men arguing over fish fries and pancakes.

Even though I still get frustrated myself with the glacier-like slowness that our fraternity moves in, I can say without hesitation that even though the movement is slow, we are still moving. 

Today, more lodges are including Masonic Education into their meetings, and more Grand Lodges have voted to allow subordinate lodges to open on the Entered Apprentice degree. We have even seen some lodges vote to raise dues to common sense amounts (no elderly Brethren on fixed incomes were harmed during this staggeringly significant event). Although we still have a way to go, the fact is that we are making progress.

As long as we have men who are willing to stand their ground and not waiver in their beliefs in this institution, it will never die. This beloved group has, for three hundred years, withstood wars, economic depressions, anti-Masonic movements, and dictators who wished to erase it from the Earth. We stood our ground and we practiced our beliefs.  The only way we will see it cease is if we allow it to, through apathy, through hopelessness, and through quitting. 

I often wonder what would have happened if all of the Brothers who threw their hands up in frustration, picked up their apron and went home had instead stayed and, with other like-minded brethren, banded together and worked as a group to make Freemasonry what they wanted it to be?  I have a feeling that many of the issues these men were having with the craft would have gone away! 

We all have to work together Brethren. Instead of giving up, try finding Brothers who feel the same way you do and make a difference! With all of us working together, we will soon see Freemasonry awake from its slumber and rise to become vibrant again. None of us can do this alone. Come and help us show that the reports of Freemasonry’s death are greatly exaggerated! 

~BH

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

The Secrets of Harry Houdini!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Many people know that Harry Houdini (Erich Weiss) was a Freemason (Read more here). Among the several things Harry is known for e.g. exposing the fraudulent practices of fortune tellers, warring with fellow Brother Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and of course magic and escaping from death traps, one is little known. 

It's reported that he was a member of the SRICF and, he was an avid reader of occult texts. In fact upon his death, he bequeathed his entire collection of occult books to the Library of Congress. His collection is located on the 2nd floor in the Rare Books Room in the Jefferson Building. Next time you're there, check it out. 

~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 also serves as the 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.

300 Years - Pt. 1 - On the Road

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


I think we're all keenly aware of the 300 years of Freemasonry were all about to witness. But, in case you aren't...the TLDR is, the United Grand Lodge of England was formed on June 24th, 1717 and Masons around the world are  about to celebrate the 300th anniversary this Saturday, June 24th, 2017. Note* I am aware of the 1721 date as well, so you don't need to email me over it ;)

Two years ago Myself along with the other members of the Masonic Roundtable decided to put on a party for this event. So we planed and are holding the biggest 300 celebration anywhere. We rented out the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. We sold tickets, invited speakers and its sure to be a blast.

Before the festivities, I had a busy week. Stated meetings on both Monday and Tuesday and then a flight to Columbus, OH on Wednesday morning. What's in Columbus? York Lodge 563, thats what! I had the honor of being their keynote speaker over their festive board last night which by the way, was a great time. The fellowship and hospitality were amazing. Thanks to Brothers David Rice, David Gizzo and brethren for having me out.

Also meeting me in Columbus however, was Bro. Michael Hambrecht, our "intern" and awesome webmaster for TMR. He and I would share a hotel room and be driving to Alexandria the next day (today...like in 20 minutes!) So he and I have about a 7 hour drive coming up, which is sure to be enjoyable as we talk about all things Masonic, not the Facebook group, just the generalizing of Masonic topics ;)

It's time to grab a bite from that delicious continental hotel breakfast and hit the road. See you in Virginia, brothers!

~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 also serves as the 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.

A Problem with the Dues

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Each year as Secretary, I have the duty of sending out dues notices in November. They are due by January first. About April, I compile a list of those members who have yet to pay as well as those who are eligible for suspension for nonpayment (2 years or more in arrears.) So it’s a bit of work but I manage to send everything out.

The men being notified for suspension get a certified letter explaining what they owe and have a date about 40 days into the future as the dead line they need to pay by before the lodge votes to suspend them. Last year we had 27. This year, only 7. Of course we make all the contact we can, asking if it’s a financial burden or if they’re in a bad spot. Largely it just isn’t the case. It’s almost always “I have no interest.”

How do I know? Along with those notices I also send out a nice sheet that was made by our District Communications Officer. It’s a little survey. “Do you consider yourself to be an active Mason?”, “Why, Why not?”, “What could the lodge do more of to gain your involvement?”

The questions are easy. Along with the questions there is a little section to update their information e.g. address, phone, email. Last week I received the first response back after sending these out. This brother owed over $400 in past dues and we’d not seen him, well, since he was raised, about 30 years ago.

In the envelope was the survey form and the dues notice. His form came back to me with some very interesting points, things I had suspected for a long time but hadn’t actually seen confirmation of. In the note the brother said, “No, I am not an active Mason. In fact this is the first time in 30 years since being made a Master Mason that I’ve ever been contacted. I took the degrees at the request and pressure of my father, he died about 20 years ago. I have no intention of paying the dues. Please suspend me and take me off of your list.”

I read it and thought, “Well, that’s that.” I had suspected this happens more often than not—a brother brings his sons or vice versa into the lodge and the only reason they become Masons is because it’s a favor or they were pushed into it, all the while having no interest at all. Obviously it goes without saying that this isn’t good for the craft.

In the next month or so, I’m sure I’ll get one or two more responses whilst the rest simply won’t respond and I will appeal to the Grand Master to suspend these members, thus eliminating the dead weight and shedding the financial responsibility of paying per capita on them. A Secretaries job isn’t always fun, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…Keep calm, and pay your dues.

~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 also serves as the 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.