Take Off Your Hat!

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°
 
The Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine, 33° and Frank Sinatra fight in "From Here To Eternity" (1953)

We've all seen that scene in a movie. Some army sergeant challenges his superior officer by saying "if you weren't wearing that hat, I'd teach you a lesson." Of course, the captain takes off his hat, and the two wind up in a fist fight--just two equal men settling a quarrel between them. 

Symbols of rank and authority are respected because they represent something larger than just the one individual. They represent the values of the military or of the law enforcement agency in which those individuals wearing the symbols belong. Those individuals are still human beings, but while they wear the rank and insignia of their office, they represent everyone involved with that organization. They often have to suppress their personal feelings while they are representing the entire group. 

The same is true of Masonry. When we wear our hats, lapel pins, rings, or have that emblem on our bumper, we are out there in the world representing ourselves as Masons. We are still human beings, but when we make that choice to represent ourselves publicly as a Freemason, we need to act like one. We should work very hard to make sure we are demonstrating the core principles and values of the Fraternity that more than 6 million Freemasons belong to world-wide. 

The same is true on social media. I couldn't tell you the number of times I'm disappointed by the way Freemasons behave on social media. A couple weeks ago, I unfriended and blocked a number of Freemasons because I didn't want to be associated with the things they were posting, saying, and doing on social media. I'm not a prude, but I was embarrassed. I don't want our Fraternity tarnished by the poor judgement of a few of our Brothers that seem to lack the good sense to conduct themselves appropriately in a public setting. 

If you're wearing the red fez in your profile picture, then act like a Shriner--that fez represents us all and you should conduct yourself accordingly. And if you display the square and compass on your homepage, then don't get into ugly debates and call people names and generally act like an idiot--again, you represent us all. Part of being a Freemason is learning to subdue our passions and keep ourselves within due bounds. Likewise, if you see that behavior and say nothing to your Brothers that are involved in it, you're contributing to it yourself. When we see our brothers acting foolishly, we should gently try and correct their behavior because it reflects badly on us all. We are, after all, our Brother's keeper. Right? 

Now people will criticize me for saying this. That's a given. They'll say that just because they're a Mason doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to express an opinion, post what they want or get into a debate on social media if they feel like it. You're right. We live in a free society that values few things more than free speech. I'm just saying that if you're going to do that, and you can't keep the discussions civil, then do so as an individual, not as a member of an organization that holds in high regard values like tolerance, equality, and harmony. An organization of men from many ethnic, religious, political and educational backgrounds. If you can't represent the best values of the Fraternity, then do us all a favor and don't represent yourself as a Mason. 

In other words, take off your hat! 

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is 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 a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

With Each Upright, Level Step

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If you think about it, your Masonic journey to the East began the same way, from the West
with one upright regular step. When I was advancing through my degrees I couldn’t wait until
I was raised to be a Master Mason. I was so excited to receive my “Masters wages”, which I thought would be the right to wear a Masonic ring and have all that insider information and of course, the secrets and such.

As I was going through the degrees, several learned brethren said to me “Don’t forget the Master Mason degree isn’t the finish line. It’s truly the starting line.“ I smiled like I believed them and drove myself insane in anticipation. When I was raised as a Master Mason, my feet barely hit the floor and I was running! I wanted to memorize every piece of ritual I could. I started out with a piece which impressed me so much during my Master Mason degree called “the Optional Charge". Many know it better by the “On Yonder Book” lecture.

The Brother who performed the piece for me impressed me so much I wanted to learn it, not just of the beauty of the piece but to honor that brother who performed it so beautifully. I continued my run for a long time. I read, I studied, I memorized. I took a lot of offices and I wore some funny hats. My Masonic journey had become a long-distance marathon. One day a lady in my family who had been a rainbow girl started asking me questions. Simple questions in which an Entered Apprentice should have been able to answer. I became embarrassed because I couldn’t answer them. I remember hearing the lecture in which the questions were answered but I couldn’t give her an answer. Luckily the subject was changed and the conversation moved on but the embarrassment was still there. 

I realized instead of taking upright, regular steps I was running and my journey had become tunnel vision. I realized I forgot one of the first things I memorized: “To learn to subdue my passions.” In pursuit of “Trying to improve myself in Masonry.” I was off on a pursuit with no goal, no map and no direction. Instead of advancing to the East I was just like Moses, walking around in the dessert aimlessly. I tried to cram everything in my brain instead of taking a slow journey of upright steps -- reading, thinking and conversing with Brethren who have been on their journey longer, who can help you in your journey. I know now what the guys at my lodge all those years ago were talking about. I used my Master Mason degree like a race horse uses a starting gate. Off on a dead run to cover miles and win the prize, I’m not sure they were referring to an actual Masonic Education. 

I’m sure many of them, in their minds were referring to titles which I might receive and experiences I would have. But in the end, they were right. Brethren, this is just my opinion but after giving the matter some thought, I feel now that the prize I will receive at my journeys end, will be a sprig of acacia and my own white leather apron, because I truly believe the “finish line” is when I take my last level, upright step at the West gate of the Grand lodge above where (I hope) I will hear the Tiler tell me ”Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I am now trying to bring focus to my studying. As I am writing this piece I have just mailed the last lesson in The Scottish Rite’s Master Craftsman program number one: The Symbolic lodge. I can honestly say, now that I have completed the course it was a very challenging and thought-provoking course, and an excellent foundation for my remaining Masonic studies. I hope to start Master Craftsman 2 in the fall. I still read as much as I used to but now I am also trying to think about the words I just read on the printed page. Like if I were attempting a lavish banquet instead of trying to devour every morsel of food there is to offer and make myself sick just pick a few of the tastiest treats and savor them. Eating this way is better for your body and I believe studying this way is healthier for your mind.

I hope this will not only help me retain more information but also, maybe help provide more inspiration for my writing. I guess what I am trying to say Brethren, is like I was told in the North east corner “At your leisure hours, that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will be ready to receive "instruction.” Improve in Masonic knowledge or as I am trying to get through my own dented skull “learn and retain it!”

So Brother, just remember “...We are traveling upon the Level of time to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.” Take those upright, level steps slowly so that you don’t miss anything that life is prepared to give you.

~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.

Past Master Advisory

by:Midnight Freemason Contributor Emeritus
Bro. Aaron R. Gardner, 32°



What happens to the newest Past Master? It’s election time again within the Craft—at least it is here in Michigan. Under the Grand Lodge of Michigan, we operate under the progressive line technique.Meaning, this year’s Senior Warden is usually the next person to approach the East. There are unsuspecting events that may occur causing that not to happen, and sometimes Masters serve more than their yearly term because of it. However, in the event that everything goes according to plan, where does the current sitting Master end up?

Some lodges kick him out into the Tyler’s position, because it is the most relaxing job within lodge. However, I fall under a different belief structure. The newest Past Master shouldn’t take an officer’s chair, he still has a job to complete after he abdicates his position to the incoming Worshipful Master.

That job is to assist the incoming Worshipful Master.He should be the right hand man for the incoming Worshipful, next to the Treasure, and Chaplain. He should be sitting in the chairs in the East still. Every time the new Worshipful Master has questions about the job, the newest Past Master should be there in an advisory role. The Secretary provides the law for the Master to abide by, the Treasurer provides the funds, the Chaplain provides the spiritual guidance, and the newest Past Master guides the Worshipful Master in the interpretation of the laws provided to him, both spiritual and Masonic.

Ultimately, it is the Worshipful Master’s interpretation that will be carried out; however, the Past
Master, in his new advisory role, can help ease the stress of such interpretations. We have all
experienced a job where we were tossed to the sharks, with no help. If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. Yet, it is most likely an everyday occurrence when you are placed in a position, given a book of rules to follow and told “good luck”. It doesn’t have to be that way with our Fraternity.

Everybody who has ever sat in a chair, is a leader in that lodge and has the ability to walk beside the Worshipful Master as he sets his goals and expectations for the year to come. The advisory position, should be able to help the Worshipful Master set those goals and expectations based on his experience in the East. His previous successes can be the successes of the new Worshipful Master, and his previous failures do not have to be repeated.

The latest Past Master must show the Worshipful Master there is more to the job than memorizing lines. He must set a clear and concise plan of execution. He should make a general plan for what he wants to accomplish in the year as Master. Then he should break it down, 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. 180 days if he is feeling ambitious. Then, with clear and concise plans to move forward; he must trust his officers to accomplish his mission.

If you have ever served in the Military this is the method of action for commanders. Consider the
Worshipful Master as your Company Commander, the Senior Warden as your First Sergeant, the Junior Warden as the Platoon Sergeant, and the remaining appointed officers as the Non-Commissioned Officers that get the job done. The Past Master is the previous Company Commander that is conducting a Right Seat—Left Seat transition, to make operations move forward with ease and keep the wheels of a well-functioning organization greased.

So with the upcoming elections, I urge you to please, do not kick the newest Past Master into a chair that is outside the lodge, or even into the sidelines. Keep him as close to the Worshipful Master as possible, at least until the transition is completed. That doesn’t mean put him in the Secretary role, which happens more often than not. The Secretary has a job that includes advising the Worshipful Master, but is responsible for many other things as well. No, it is best to keep the Past Master in the East, in a chair next to the current Worshipful Master. There are plenty of chairs up there that don’t get their use unless Grand Lodge Officers are in town, so use them.

~ARG

Is It Time?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

This week the Boy Scouts of America announced that they will allow girls to become Cub Scouts and to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. On the 23rd of October, I am going to receive my initiatory degree in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which became the first fraternity in the United States to allow women when it adopted the “Beautiful Rebekah Degree” on September 20, 1851. It’s time for Freemasonry to do the same. We need to start allowing women into our fraternity.

I know, what I’m saying is blasphemy to many of you. We’re steeped in historical tradition. We’ve been founded on the principles of brotherly love. We’ve already got a branch of Masonry with the Order of the Eastern Star that allows women. Part of the oath we take specifically states that we can’t assist or be present at the initiating, passing or raising of a woman. The root word in fraternity is frater, which is Latin for brother or brotherhood. How dare I even mention this?

Honestly, the answer is pretty simple. Women deserve to have the right to join us if they so desire. Women can enjoy and learn from our mysteries as much as men can. There is nothing in our mysteries that appeals to men only. Our fraternity teaches universal lessons that all of humankind can learn from. If a woman wants to learn our secrets, and meets our qualifications, I say we allow them to do so. If we can belong to an organization that teaches the universality of mankind regardless of his race or religion, then why do we not also teach this about gender? It seems hypocritical to me that we stop there. Can we not form similar bonds with females that we have with our brothers now? I believe we can.

I know the argument is that all fraternal organizations, including those that allow women are seeing a decline. This is true. The numbers are there. They show a decrease across the board. The Masonic fraternity has lost 3.8 million members since the late 1950’s according to one article I read. So why bother with admitting women? Aside from the answer above, we’re excluding one half of the population as potential members. We’re also not seen as very progressive, which is hurting us with our target membership pool, which are Millennials.

We need to attract Millennials if we want our organization to survive. I know, we have many millennial members of our fraternity. As of 2012, it was estimated that there were approximately 80 million millennials in the U.S. However, there is another reason I say this. Millennial women outperform millennial men in the classroom. As of 2015, 57 percent of the undergraduate population were women. They are in general known for being determined, confident, intelligent and curious. They are always seeking new ways to improve. Are our lessons not perfect for them?

Furthermore, Millennials generally as a trait are civic-oriented, ethical, globally – minded, authentic, compassionate, progressive and liberal. Our belief in the universality of brotherhood regardless of race or religion could be easily expanded to add gender. I believe that with including women, we would see our fraternity undergo a renaissance. We would need to market ourselves to them of course, but instead of saying we make good men better, what better phrase to use but: We make good people into extraordinary people.

Think of how many members’ wives, girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, or great granddaughters might be interested in joining as well. For many years they’ve wondered about what goes on behind the closed doors. Here’s that chance to engage them. I know as current master of my lodge, I have a hard time getting my members to show up to events because they have other obligations to their families. But if their wife, or family were also members, I wonder how many might show up? Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I’m willing to bet that it might increase their engagement in our activities. I know several Masons that only have daughters. I’d be willing to bet that some of them might like to be able to see their daughters join Freemasonry, and be able to share the experiences of our gentle craft with them.

There could also be an economic benefit. I just attended the Grand Lodge session in Illinois, where our Grand Lodge made a desperate plea to increase the per capita by $20 dollars a year. (It was amended down to $20 dollars from $25 dollars.) This amendment was voted down by the Illinois Brethren. I also watched as another amendment to allow individual lodges to hold two raffles a year was amended to allow lodges to allow gambling where permissible by local laws, which was also defeated.

My point is: Our beloved fraternity is hurting for money, at both the Grand Lodge level and individual lodge level. Would you rather allow all forms of gambling be part of our organization instead of allowing women? Do you want to see every lodge turned into a video poker parlor or casino? Would we be having these discussions if we had the other half of the population as potential members? If we had women members, they would also be contributing dues at a local level and more per capita to the Grand Lodges.

Of course, I know we’re a long way off from this. We still have many Grand Lodges in the United States that haven’t even recognized Prince Hall in their state as Regular, which is another issue altogether. However, we need to adapt or die. I love Masonry. I love the friendships I have made and the bond between my brothers and I. I don’t want to have future generations lose the chance to make those authentic connections. I fear that if we don’t adapt, that they will.

~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 U.D. 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.  When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music.  You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.