Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away

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

"Geometry, the first and noblest of sciences is the basis on which the superstructure of Freemasonry is erected. By Geometry, we may curiously trace nature through her various windings to her most concealed recesses. By it, we discover the wisdom, power and goodness of the Grand Architect of the Universe and view with delight the proportions which connect this vast machine. By it we discover how the planets move in their respective orbits and demonstrate their various revolutions."

We, as Freemasons, see a close and direct relationship between the functioning of the physical universe and God. After all, we do, in fact, refer to Him as "the Grand Architect of the Universe." He created it, constructed it, runs it, and that's all there is to it. In fact, you don't have to be a Freemason to hold that belief. We are so in awe of this creation that we ask, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him?"

This belief doesn't just come out of thin air. We see so many things around us that tend to confirm there is something intelligent – perhaps divine – that is in control. In the classic "double slit" experiment, for example, we find electrons that behave one way if someone is watching and differently without an observer. Or, any scientist will tell you we know there is a "force" holding galaxies together. We have no idea about its nature and call it "dark matter."

If we draw a line in the sand, as some do, and say those paranoid electrons behaving that way indicate a form of divine intelligence, or buy into the common claim "dark matter" is in fact God holding the universe together, we set ourselves up.

There are plenty of examples where those lines have been drawn only to be erased by scientific discoveries. In the 17th century people saw the heavenly bodies moving around the earth and said they do that because God put the earth and mankind at the center of everything. Then a couple of guys named Galileo and Copernicus came along and burst that bubble. If we think those electrons and "dark matter" prove God exists, what will we do when a modern-day Copernicus finds a scientific causation? It's easy to fall into that trap.

If we keep doing that, and then back off on our definition and understanding of God with every scientific discovery, we seemingly wind up with what astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson calls "an ever-receding God."

Maybe it should be the other way around.

In other words, if we discover some phenomenon is not caused by a mysterious action of God, does that not also teach us a little more about what God is? The Second Degree lecture teaches us we should embrace the sciences. As those discoveries come to light the fact is God isn't receding. With each new discovery we learn more, not less, about the true nature of God: the spiritual, not the physical is what's important. Read our ritual carefully. It says By Geometry... science... we discover God's wisdom, power and goodness, not that we use it to discover God Himself.

Scientists have proven the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. This has led to a theory about its end which says it will just keep expanding until the stars all burn out and the universe will die a dark and cold death. If you're looking for an area where science and religion… or spirituality… are in agreement, look to Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." Don't get hung up about the physical universe. Both God and the scientists say it won't be around forever; but God's words – those spiritual lessons – will be.

Let's not worry over the fact that God didn't put the Earth at the center of the universe, or he may or may not be manifest in a bunch of shy electrons. Let's use His spiritual teachings to learn how to live our lives, improve them, and the lives of others. 
 
~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.

Giving Thanks

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

Every November we Americans (and for my Brethren in Canada October) do the same thing. We gather together and enjoy a feast with our family and friends for a feast, fellowship, and football. It can warm the heart of even the most sarcastic, bitter old Past Master. (Yes, I’m talking about myself.) 

At some point between the ”pass the stuffing” and Grandpa falling asleep in front of the television after ingesting too much turkey someone will suggest (At least on TV and in the movies. I’ve never seen it done in person) for everyone to tell the group assembled something they are thankful for. 

Normally, I’m not one for doing something so corny, but in this year of one devastating body blow after another, I feel like I need to express my gratitude to all those who helped me and their fellow man survive this span of three hundred sixty five days.

First off, I want to thank my Creator, family, and friends. The last few years have been difficult for me healthwise and personally but thanks to all the prayers and emotional support we all have made it through and we will all be will be stronger when the pandemic is finally over. 

Of course, I am going to thank all the front line workers (Hospital personnel, ambulance drivers, restaurant workers, and grocers, and everyone else who kept the country together while the rest of us hunkered down in our respective homes). 

Since I live with an ”essential worker” and hear about not only the hardships the patients and families have to endure but also the struggles the workers are dealing with. Exhaustion, isolation from their families, the lack of necessary materials..etc. It makes you proud that these people give so much of themselves to care for their fellow man.

Masonically, I also want to thank all the Brethren across the globe who helped the Craft rediscover Masonic relief. Without all the pressure to continually bring in new numbers the members of our Fraternity rolled up their sleeves and once again began t practice Freemasonry once again.

Masons checking on their elderly Brethren and the widows of the lodge and making sure they have the necessities of life like food, their medications, ensuring their homes are comfortable and well maintained. It was also great to be able to gather “virtually” with lodge members that I haven’t been able to see for a long time due to their distance away from me.

I am also grateful to all of those who have taken the time to better themselves and others by reading, writing, and help to spread Masonic education.

It has been amazing to see how many of us, many of who never embraced technology before the pandemic, participate in Zoom meetings learning about their Fraternity. I know myself personally I was able to attend several lectures I would never have had the opportunity to participate in during a typical Masonic year. Talking with many of my friends they had to turn down multiple invitations to speak because they had already been booked by Masonic organizations from across the globe to spread light. (Surprisingly, with all this Freemasonry being discussed by members all through cyberspace secrets of Masonry haven’t been stolen by some virtual clean. I’ll pause right here for a moment to allow you to compose yourself after this shocking revelation )

I would also like to thank my fellow Midnight Freemasons. Until I met Robert Johnson and the rest of the group, I had never thought about trying to write anything. With their encouragement and guidance, they have opened up an entirely new world for me I never would have dreamed existed. It has allowed me to serve the Craft in a way I never would have imagined and given me opportunities to do things I never realized I was capable of doing.

Lastly, on behalf of myself and my fellow Midnight Freemasons, I want to thank you, the person who is reading this. Without you reading, commenting, and sharing our works this website wouldn’t be as popular as it has become.

I know I can speak on their behalf by saying none of us have ever dreamed this blog would have become as popular or as well known without your patronage and sharing what we write with your friends and the Brethren of your lodge.

I hope you will indulge in my sappiness just this one time. But honestly, I think this plague has opened my eyes to what is important in life. I think maybe a lot of us have also discovered or rediscovered what was important to us; Our family our friends and our Craft. 
 

~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 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.





 




Ketchup on a Saltine

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners


Before I begin, I want to make sure that I disclose that this is my own personal opinion and does not reflect any official opinion of any Masonic Body that I am affiliated with.   I know a lot of Freemasons that take offense when some of our brethren publish something that says Freemasonry is dying. We are seeing more attrition than we are seeing replenishment of members.  That is a fact.  If that means we’re dying, then we’re dying.  I’m not sold on that as being our fate.  However, I will say that we have a lot of hard decisions to make about our future.  That being said, Freemasonry is local.  The decisions you make can only impact your local lodge or as I am going to suggest in this article local lodges. 

To begin, what I see as a major issue in Freemasonry is an existential struggle within Freemasonry borne out of an identity crisis.   We have a distinct subset of members that want Freemasonry to be a social organization, we have others that want it to be a mystery school, others that want it to be a philanthropic organization, and others that probably have another idea entirely of what it should be. In fact, I would be willing to bet that if you sat your own lodge membership down and asked them what they wanted Freemasonry’s identity to be; you’d receive a different answer from each member.   Some of the members will most likely regurgitate the tried and true: “Freemasonry takes good men and makes them better.”, while others might actually come up with something original.  Freemasonry has a rich history, but our members can’t even agree on our origins.  Some of us think we came from the guilds of the middle ages, or from the Knights Templar, or from the mystery schools.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that our membership can’t agree on what we are as an organization.  My point is: as members, we don’t know what we want to be. Ultimately, what Freemasonry was up to this point shouldn’t matter.  We need to start focusing on what we want to be.  My caveat is, you can only do this at your local lodge level.

If you’re anything like me, I know you’re thinking that your local lodge is part of the problem.  In my case, we’ve got a bunch of older members that don’t want to change anything.  We literally take six months to decide to change a light bulb.  Masonic Education?  When it does happen, I’m usually the one giving it, and I feel rushed through it.  The members don’t want to do anything outside of the lodge.  In my case, I had a plural membership in two other lodges within 10 miles of my home lodge.  I have just withdrawn my membership from one of the lodges, so I have a plural membership in one of those two.  In total, I was paying 145 dollars a year for my dues.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with paying that amount of money for dues if I’m getting something from the meetings.  Personally, it’s hard for me to justify paying money for something that is advertising something it’s not delivering.  Let’s take a real-world example:  If you’re hungry for pizza, and you order a pizza, but what you receive is ketchup on a saltine cracker, are you going to pay for the pizza?  Any sane person is going to demand a refund or a new pizza.  

Freemasonry for many of us has become just this…Ketchup on a saltine.  Maybe when you first joined you didn’t know any better.  You kept going to the meetings because you felt like you were missing something.  Then, you kept going because you felt a sense of duty to do so.  Suddenly, you’re one of the officers, because let’s face it, you’re a warm body and the chairs need to be filled.  Then you’re a Warden, and before you know it, you’re Worshipful Master.  All of the time, you’re eating ketchup on a saltine.

Then something happens.  In my case, it was a visit to Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I’ll call it the Morpheus moment, as it’s analogous to the scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the Red Pill or the Blue Pill.   As described by Morpheus: "You take the blue pill...the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill...you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”  For Neo, the red pill represents an awakening to what reality is, and the blue pill represents the status quo.  The same happened to me after that visit.  It gave me a glimpse of what Freemasonry could be.  This vision was: Quarterly stated meetings, a traditional Observance/European Concept Lodge, formal dress for all lodge functions, an education program given at a Festive Board after every meeting, and the belief that dues should be paid to provide for and maintain the quality of the lodge and its programs. After visiting there, I realized that I had been eating ketchup on a saltine all of this time.  I have been taking the blue pill when I should have been demanding the red one.

Many lodges don’t know how to serve up anything other than ketchup on a saltine for its membership, and unfortunately, as nasty as it is, it is some nourishment for its membership.  It keeps the lodge alive, barely, but it’s not really attracting new membership nor is it retaining it on the off chance the lodge does get new membership.  Most of the members don’t know any better, so they keep eating it.  So many members are so used to it, that any suggestion of changing the menu is met with resistance.  In order to keep the harmony of the lodge intact, the menu remains ketchup on a saltine. 

Now imagine my current scenario, in the three lodges that I belong(ed) to, we are barely making quorum to open a meeting, the older membership is dying off or getting to the point where you can’t climb those stairs to the second floor, there isn’t a lot of new members and on the off chance that there is new membership, it is driven off by the lack of substance of the experience (ketchup on a saltine).  One of the lodges is providing an educational program every meeting, while the others are not.  The writing is on the wall.  These three lodges will eventually become one lodge.  So I dare ask the question, why should we wait to consolidate?  If I had my way, I’d start my own lodge, like Vitruvian.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure that I could find 19 other Freemasons in my area that would be willing to join me. If you’re reading this, know me personally, live in my general area and you’re willing to take such a chance, drop me an email or text.  That being said, if I have to eat ketchup on a saltine, isn’t it better to eat it once a month instead of three?

In my mind, the answer is yes.  I’d rather not eat it at all, but if I have to, the less that I can eat it the better.  But more importantly, maybe having to force your membership to confront a decision to consolidate, you might be able to do something that you hadn’t been able to do prior to now.  You might be able to get them to agree to look at changing the menu.  Maybe you’ll get them to agree that what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working and that it is time for a change.  Let’s hope that’s the outcome.  Maybe your members will agree to clear the trestle board and you can design a lodge that will appeal to everyone.  However, for the purposes of the article, let’s say that doesn’t occur, and you decide to consolidate with the other two lodges.

The major benefit that I see from consolidation is the growth in active membership.  Say for example each lodge averaged about 10 members per meeting.  Imagine what you could do with 30 active members. The first thing to do would be to get those 30 active members to agree on the mission of the lodge.  There would be a new trestle board that needs designs.  In the post covid world, you might actually be able to engage your communities again, and have programs that help the community, like hosting reading programs at the library, sponsoring AED/CPR classes, and supporting local charities by volunteering time instead of just money to name a few ideas. You could suggest having a festive board with an educational program just to try it out to see what the reception is.  Or at the very least, you might be able to get enough members to be interested in having an educational program that took place outside of the stated meeting.  That way, if your members weren’t interested in attending, they didn’t have to, but you still have a good percentage of the membership that might show up.  You’d be setting the menu, so hopefully, you can all agree that if ketchup on a saltine is what caused your lodges to merge, it probably might be a good idea to avoid serving it in the future.  The most important thing is that you’d have enough membership to support the programs above.  

In my scenario, two of the three buildings have renters and make income.  I would immediately put the one that does not up for sale. I would then look at converting one of the other lodges into a space that could generate more income, in this case, there’s enough room to make a nice loft apartment out of the space with minimal investment. The other lodge building would be held onto as the primary meeting spot for the new lodge.   With the income from the sale of the other building as well as the rental income, along with a discussion on how raising dues to make programs like the above possible would be beneficial, you might be able to get them all to agree that the lodge can afford more than ketchup on a saltine.    

I truly believe that a lot of Freemasons don’t know what Freemasonry can be because they’ve never been offered a choice.  If all you ever knew of was ketchup on a saltine, and someone offered you pizza; would you accept it?  You’d be wary of taking a bite.  But guess what, once you were convinced to take that bite, do you think you would go back to eating ketchup on a saltine willingly?  I know that I haven’t.  I’ve been fighting for change.  Unfortunately, change does not happen overnight and it only happens at the local lodge level.  It also happens incrementally.  One member at a time.  That’s what I think often gets lost in the shuffle, in order for change to happen, you need to be willing to be the one to offer it.  You need to start offering pizza to the other members.  If that means traveling to a lodge locally or not so locally that seems to be offering pizza, then do that.  My eyes were opened when I saw a lodge offering something different.  That’s ultimately the choice for the future of your lodge.  You continue to serve ketchup on a saltine, take the blue pill and see what status quo brings your lodge, or you can serve pizza, take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. I hope you choose the red pill. 

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of 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). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com 


Precendents

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christopher Hathaway




Ask just about anyone who the most famous Freemason is, and you will probably get the answer of George Washington. As the 1st President of the United States, it is an obvious answer. Most Masonic Lodges will have a portrait of Brother George somewhere in their lodge. He set many Presidential precedents that are still followed to this day, most notably only serving two four-year terms. The 20th Degree in the Scottish Rite is called Master Ad Vitam or what we like to call in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ), the George Washington Degree. The only thing that is the same in the 20th Degree between the NMJ and the Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) is the name of the degree. Master Ad Vitam means Master For Life. George Washington could have been ‘Master For Life’ for the United States if he wanted to be, but he chose a different path. He did what he thought was in the best interest of the country. Can you say the same thing about the precedents you are setting in your lodge? 

Officers in a Masonic Lodge set precedents every year whether you know it or not. The precedents you set will either be for the better or for the worse for your lodge. For the purpose of this article, we will use Marriam-Webster’s definition as defined here: 2asomething done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind. 

As Master of the lodge, are you shifting responsibilities and powers to the secretary? As Senior Warden, are you preparing for the new year or waiting until you are installed as Master? As Junior Warden, are you making meals members want to come to or are you throwing something together that is quick and easy? As an outgoing Master, are you disappearing, never to be seen again? Every action sets a new precedent for your successor in line. A Grand Lecturer was just explaining to the lodge last meeting that if you learn the ritual wrong initially, it's very hard to re-learn the ritual correctly. This is the same with precedents. When bad precedents get set, they are very hard to overturn, and it leads to the one phrase we all love to complain about ‘that’s not how we did it in my year.’ Precedents are set at every level starting at what we expect out of our candidates all the way up to the Grand Master and his edicts. 

We should always be looking at successful lodges and organizations to borrow their ideas, traditions, and precedents. Be such a leader that when you are done with your term, it sets a new standard for your lodge to follow for many years to come. Other times, the best way to lead is to step aside and let the new leaders take reign just as Brother George did. If you have not had the chance to see the George Washington Degree, please do so, it is one of the favorites in the NMJ. 

~CJH

WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is the current Worshipful Master of Bloomington Masonic Lodge #43. 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. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto, Mohammed Shriners, 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.