Why Memorial Day Matters

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Memorial Day for many is the beginning of summer and time to spend outside with family and friends.   I have done so many times myself, but in recent years I have begun reflecting on what Memorial Day really should mean for all of us.
Sgt. Arthur J. Knott 1917-1944
In World War II my Great-Uncle Arthur J. Knott was serving in the 8th Infantry Division, 45th Artillery Battalion of the U.S. Army and was participating in the Battle of the Bulge near the Hurtgen Forest in Germany.
The 8th Division was driving hard through what was described as “the dense and forbidding forests…During this day and night artillery hell in the mud and snow of the Hurtgen Forest…”  The 45th Artillery was having on average one soldier per day wounded during the battle.  On December 24, 1944 Sgt. Knott stepped on a landmine and died two days later from wounds he received because of the explosion.
I have some letters that Art was writing home to his sisters.  The first few are from July 1944 when he was in England and things were going well.  In an October 13, 1944 letter, while he was in Belgium Art wrote, “I haven’t been feeling so well for the past few weeks.  My back has been hurting right smart, but the doctor don’t do it any good.  You know I am not a young chicken anymore and I can’t take it like I used to.  Have you heard any more about Junior (his brother/my Grandfather Hiram Knott Jr. who had been injured in Europe)?  How about Dad and all the rest (of his siblings)?”
Things were tough for Art and were going to get tougher in the weeks ahead, as the Battle of Bulge began in full force.  Yet from his letters, I could tell he was mainly concerned with his family.  How were his brothers and sisters doing?  He had two other brothers in the service, Hiram Knott, Jr. and Dillard Knott.  In many of the letters he was asking about his father Hiram Knott, Sr., but seemingly had not heard from him in many months.
Art’s letter give insight into what I believe most soldiers are feeling, that is they are serving their country to help and protect their loved ones at home.  They are ensuring our freedoms and liberties to help our democracy survive and prosper.
I never knew my Uncle personally, but learned his story him from his brothers and sisters all whom have passed on now.  
To the Gold Star families who have lost loved ones in the service to our country, I extend to you my heartfelt thanks for helping defend freedom.

WB Gregory J. Knott is the 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.  Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. 

The Divisions of Empires - The Scottish Rite Northern Masonic and Southern Jurisdictions

A story of jurisdictions within the Scottish Rite body of Freemasonry.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

*Updated May, 2015 from the original which was published in The Working Tools Magazine

In light of the recent events of Celebrate the Craft 2016, the annual fundraiser for the Southern Jurisdiction House of the Temple, the upcoming November 12th celebration of Scottish Rite Day, and the absolute awkwardness that was the Scottish Rite NMJ survey, I found myself fielding tons of questions as of late regarding the Scottish Rite, it's jurisdictions, schisms, differences and similitudes. So below is a slightly revised version of an article I wrote for the Working Tools Magazine quite a while back. Enjoy...

When I joined the AASR (Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite) in 2012, no one told me that there were two jurisdictions within the order (in North America, let alone the different versions which exist globally). All I knew, was that when I took the tour of our new cathedral (The Valley of Chicago) it felt like both a country club and a great fraternal organization to be a part of. 

Let’s explain for the brothers who might not know about the two jurisdictions or empires as I jokingly referred to them. We begin in the fog of antiquity. There are some documents and writings which suggest that the Scottish Rite was active in the 1730s in England, but I am not here to debate the origins. I will talk about what we know. 

We know that the Scottish Rite was basically a bunch of Scottish Masons who left Scotland to go to France. Some say they (the Scotsmen) were defectors, but this is not official. After a stay in France these Scottish Masons were tired of their Masonry being diluted with French culture (again, additional speculation), so they left and took with them the system of degrees.

There were many spinoffs of the Scottish Rite system, Memphis-Mizraim for instance with its 96 or 99 degrees depending on which source you use, but again, I wont be touching that one. When the system reached America the Scottish Rite system was almost a product, in that it was being sold by the multitudes like traveling salesmen selling vacuum’s or steaks to an unsuspecting sucker err brother.… There was no quality control, no authority on the degrees and there were versions galore. So, the Mother Council of the World was created in Charleston North South Carolina in 1801. They added a few degrees to the existing 25 and now had the well known 32 degrees plus 1 honorary degree, the 33rd (some say the 33rd was actually taken from the competing “Cerneau” degrees, a system which later caused the biggest schism the fraternity had then known.)

They adopted a new motto, a latin phrase, “Ordo Ab Chao” meaning Order Out of [from] Chaos. Most would agree this phrase was adopted because it refers to the chaotic status of the Rite during the preceding years, in plain language, it was a mess, but no longer. Well, ….kinda.

There were still a few rogue groups of Scottish Rite enthusiasts way up in the North and North East (“Cerneauism”) They were ordered to get their stuff together, and they did. In 1806 the Supreme Council of The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was formed, holding precedence over fifteen states, the remaining thirty-five plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico being under the Southern Jurisdiction.

Coming back now to the year 2012, there I was sitting in the theater of the VOC (Valley of Chicago) receiving my degrees over an amazing three days. I remember at the time I was working a 1st shift job, I woke up at 4:30 am, worked 9 hours then got dressed and went to the reunion at night. I was super tired. Nevertheless, I had a great time. I was introduced to the awesome system of Scottish Rite Degrees. 

During that reunion, the Valley of New Orleans had come up to share in the fellowship and put on a “Red” third degree. That degree was amazing, but is a story for another time. Over dinner I sat with the Brothers from New Orleans and that is when I first learned of a difference between our two jurisdictions.  I was thoroughly confused. The Brothers from New Orleans advised me to check out the Master Craftsman Program, which is a correspondence course set up by the Southern Jurisdiction to help us understand the degrees and gain better insight. 

So needless to say, I did it. I started the MCP (Master Craftsman Program), and that's when I realized that these degrees were different. Not just a little, a lot. The names were different, the degrees were different, the messages were different, not one thing was the same, not even the “Royal Secret”. When I looked to the all powerful Internet for further information, there were no official statements or even articles which explained the differences of these two organizations. There was nowhere to turn other than forums like Reddit. So I really hope this article helps anyone who was in my situation. Well, it wasn't long before I decided I needed to see this “Southern Jurisdiction” first hand.

Lucky for us, this was easy. Both jurisdictions recognize each other, although if you see a degree in either jurisdiction it doesn't count if you are a member of the opposite. And now I knew why. The answer? Because they are completely different. You would think that the AASR is the AASR no matter where you go, but it isn’t. I talked to my good friend, mentor and SR brother, Frank about visiting the Valley of St. Louis. Then I called the Valley of St. Louis and inquired what I needed in order to attend their Spring Reunion. 

The secretary advised me to bring my current dues card and my cap. ( I thought, I guess I have to buy a cap?). I asked if there was a fee for us to pay, and there wasn’t. I asked about hotels in the area, and they gave me a bed in the dorm for free. Apparently this trip was going to cost me a tank of gas, and that’s it. I was excited. My next step was to ask my Scottish Rite Mentor, Frank about these caps. Frank loaned me one to wear on my stay. At this point, all I knew was that the hospitality at the Valley of Chicago wore the typical black cap. Turned out, in the SJ, everyone wears a cap. I later bought one while at the Valley of St. Louis.

So, I got down there, had a great tour, stayed in the dorm, was fed meals and given drink. It was definitely Brotherly love in action. I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I saw the degrees of the SJ. I had a little grasp since I had done the MCP, but again I thought, “How different could it be?”. The answer again was COMPLETELY. I’d like to outline a few things and differences between the NMJ and the SJ, between these seemingly amicable empires who strive so hard to spread light among brothers. 

The first thing which strikes a difference between the NMJ and SJ is the degrees themselves. In fact this is probably the biggest difference. The easiest way to describe it, is that where the SJ maintains the look and feel of a traditional degree, complete with an alter, VSL (Volume of Sacred Law) and various implements associated with the degree, the NMJ uses only a scripted play, no altar, no aprons just a skit which should impart the lessons contained. The SJ tends to style each degree as most blue lodge and York Rite members are accustomed. There is an explanation of the degree, a password (in some degrees), specific aprons and esoteric fundamentals explained. Most of all, each degree in the SJ is set up where it feels like a lodge being opened and closed with a small drama in-between and a typical explanation on the meaning and secrets of the degree after. 

The NMJ, usually starts with a preface, and then explodes into what I can only describe as “Broadway”. There isn't an explanation into the mysteries per say, but rather a specific “take away” that the degree team hopes you have seen and realized. Further the NMJ uses “passports” which you have stamped after each degree in order to keep track of what you have seen and also each page which has the title of the degree also has the “take away” or moral lesson printed therein. No passwords, no grips, no aprons. Just a performance with a message, which is pretty modern. 

In short, the NMJ was a modern adaptation of a play, where the SJ was a ritual that you watched, like a play. I hope that makes some sense. 

Further differences between the two seem to be that, as I stated before, in the NMJ, the black hats worn by members are typically worn only by the hospitality (Although this varies by state and sometimes particular valley.) whereas in the SJ, they are given to each member as a part of their initiation into the Rite (again this varies from valley to valley). On the whole, all members regardless of how they got their hat, are encouraged to wear their black hats at all SR events in the SJ. The basic membership or 32nd degree members in the NMJ typically do not wear caps.

Another interesting difference is the emphasis on the 14th degree and it’s ring. In the NMJ little is mentioned about this ring whereas again, in the SJ there is an explanation of it and sometimes one is given to each candidate. This practice has been suspended in many valleys due to the cost of buying a ring for each candidate, nevertheless, candidates who have received the 14th degree in the SJ are encouraged to acquire and wear this ring and to wear it always until which time IF they are chosen to receive the honorary 33rd degree. The NMJ really focuses on the Fraternity aspect or even social qualities and really emphasizes the 32nd degree.

There are a great many more differences as well, for instance in some valleys in the SJ, the members perform a public play for the profane (uninitiated), this play is actually the 20th degree of the NMJ. It deals with George Washington and Benedict Arnold. What is a private degree for the NMJ is a public event in the SJ. The 4th degree of the NMJ in many cases is given as a video presentation and is kind of a “general preview” of what to expect in the degrees of the AASR NMJ. According to some sources, the 4th degree video was originally intended to be a promo for the AASR NMJ for Masons and their families, and possibly to give them an idea what the SR was all about and somewhere along the line, it just became the 4th degree. The 4th degree in the SJ is again, more of a lodge ceremony similar to the blue lodge and York Rite degrees. 

The degree structure in both is a bit different as well, in the NMJ and SJ the 4th through 14th degrees are under what is called “The Lodge of Perfection”. However, after this there are some differences. The NMJ then confers the 15th and 16th degrees under what is called “The Princes of Jerusalem” while the SJ confers the 15th through18th as the “Chapter of Rose Croix”. The NMJ confers the degrees in the “Chapter of Rose Croix” in just two degrees, the 17th and 18th. From there the NMJ confers the 19th through the 32nd under the “Consistory”, while the SJ confers the 19th through the 30th under the “Council of Kadosh” and finally, the 31st and 32nd as the consistory. 

After seeing degrees in both jurisdictions it was apparent to me that both merit applause. Hard working Brothers, putting on the best degrees they can for the betterment of the AASR. I will continue to receive degrees in both jurisdictions because they are complementary in certain ways. 

Still after all this had a question, “Why the difference?”. Why was the SJ just rocking these revised Albert Pike rituals and why did the NMJ decide to revise and in many cases continually revise degrees? While there seems to be no “official” language, there is speculation on the reasons for the contrast.

One reason often cited, was that Albert Pike being a confederate officer, the status of which, was “held against him” and so the North refused the degrees he rewrote, siding instead with the Charles T. McClenachan version, which was a re-write of Pike’s re-write. Although there is often stated that there is no contention between these jurisdictions today, writings often refer to these jurisdictions as “rivals” in the early days. 

Also, it should be noted that the Charles T. McClenachan version of ritual was from what I have researched, not a re-write of any published work of Pike’s, but a re-write or updating of Pike’s unofficial ritual, Magnus Opus and that Charles T. McClenachan used parts of the never published “Secret Directory” which was a hand written explanation of degrees in a five volume set that the NMJ had acquired. 

Another often cited reason for the differences is yet another objective opinion which harkens to the idea of the “Northerner’s need for progressive and liberal changes.”. In this notion it is supposed that the “old degrees” hold no truth for today’s Freemason, and that the degrees need to be updated continually to be properly understood. This was accomplished by updating the degrees and rewriting them to showcase more familiar and relatable concepts while trying to maintain the original “take-away” or lesson of the degree. Essentially a modernization in an extreme form. What I find interesting is that if this is indeed true—that the degrees need updating to be understood by today’s Mason, why then have the blue lodge craft degrees not done this? I would say personally, that no degree needs updating, but that is my humble opinion. 

To revisit the idea posed earlier, that there is no contention and that today both jurisdictions work in unity together, is an accurate statement as it relates to visitation, recognition and cordiality, but is what I would describe as a partial facade when it comes to the attitudes of individual members and their beliefs about the “other guys”. In my travels, I have found that members believe in the superiority of their system, although they respect and recognize each other. Of course there are jokes about the respective “camps” on both sides. In fact while in the Valley of St. Louis, I was told,  “We don’t have any fancy submarine degrees.”, as he chuckled, and then made a jab about the NMJ having video degrees but it was all in jest. Yes, I did say that degrees are on video. This still comes as a surprise to Masons residing within the NMJ and SJ members as well. It's not something many of us are happy about. But this paper is not for critiquing, rather to advise and educate. As for the SJ, I have heard in my own valley, some rather interesting comments made about the “clinging to old ways” and monologues that “droll on and on…”, referring again to the SJ rituals. There definitely seems to be some underlying animosity. 

In the end, the AASR, whether you're  talking about NMJ or SJ, have excellent systems of moral instruction and degrees. Which ever you join, whether you like it or not, is recognized by the other which means you can visit either one you like. There is of course the problem of degrees themselves being recognized, which they are not. So just keep track of the degrees you see and take notes. I think there is an interesting conclusion to be made, which is that perhaps the AASR is not 32 degrees, but rather 64 degrees with honorary 33rd degrees in both, which again, are different from each other. 

I hope this aids in your search for light my Brothers. Here is to all 64 errr 66 degrees of the AASR!

Below is a video which just came out. It is made by the NMJ I believe in prep for the Scottish Rite Day on November 12th. It has some good history and is only 3 minutes long. Enjoy. 


References: Scottish Rite Ritual and Monitor, Committed to the Flames, Bridge to Light, Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia.

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a past member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

The First Step in Masonry

An examination of the role of the Senior Warden
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to sit as Senior Warden for a number of Entered Apprentice degrees. Of course, as often happens, my mind starts to wander during the “downtime” of the station, and I found myself considering the truly magnificent role the Senior Warden plays, that we usually take for granted.

At a relatively early point in the degree, the Senior Warden teaches the candidate, who is not yet a Mason, the proper way to approach Masonry. This lesson is often glossed over, as immediately after the man takes the first obligation and becomes a brother, however there are infinite depths that can be explored from this very short, simple teaching.

The Senior Warden is responsible for helping the candidate take his first step in Masonry. What a powerful moment, when we are reminded of how Masonry should be taught: an experienced, established brother guiding an inexperienced one, by example and by allegory.

The candidate is taught (and we are reminded) of the importance of walking and standing uprightly. This lesson is repeated over and over throughout the three degrees, however this is the first time the candidate is exposed to the idea.

The candidate is also taught to take growth slowly, and to only take one step at a time. It is very easy, in our excitement for the teachings of the fraternity, to get ahead of ourselves and try to learn everything at once. Freemasonry, however, is a progressive science, and it is pointless to try to learn the wisdom that we aren’t prepared for. So, for now, just take the one step in front of you.

Finally, we remind the candidate of the importance of acting on the square. Again, this is reemphasized at many different points in the degrees, however as it is one of the most valuable teachings of our institution it cannot be discussed enough.

All of this is taught in just a few sentences, which is a constant reminder to me of the depth of teaching that our ancient ritual writers were able to understand, and that we hope, by a constant application of study, to rediscover.


WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

How Good it is for Brethren to Dwell Together in Unity

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

On a recent trip to Washington DC, I had the honor of visiting Potomac Lodge No. 5.   Potomac Lodge is located in the heart of the Georgetown area of DC.  It was a fantastic night for a visit as the Entered Apprentice degree was being conducted that night.  In addition Corinthian Lodge No. 18 of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia was visiting.

The lodge room of Potomac Lodge No. 5 in Washington DC
One of the first things you notice in any visit to a DC lodge is diverse array of brethren that are in attendance.  These brethren are from all walks of life, many of whom are career military, work in government or are civilian contractors.  
Though I didn’t personally know any of the brethren, I was welcomed like a long lost friend.  We had dinner before the meeting, where the conversation was both interesting and enlightening.  
As with every lodge, Potomac Lodge has many historical artifacts in their possession.  But no other lodge in the world has the gavel that George Washington used at the laying of the cornerstone of the United States Capitol building.    The actual gavel is stored in a bank vault across the street from the lodge.
The brethren of Potomac Lodge did a fantastic job with the ritual and floor work.  Four new brethren were initiated as Entered Apprentice’s that night.  You could feel a true sense of excitement in the room as these new brothers began their Masonic journey.
It was a great pleasure to also meet the brethren of Corinthian Lodge who are some of the finest Masons I have ever met.  There seriousness in regards to the craft was obvious.

Brethren of Corinthian Lodge No. 18 MWGLPHDC who were visiting Potomac Lodge.

I encourage you to visit a lodge in DC if you ever have the opportunity.  You will find the brethren friendly and ready to welcome you.   I have found the visits so gratifying myself that I became a plural member of Naval Lodge No. 4 in 2014.  It is truly an opportunity to “Dwell together in Unity.”


WB Gregory J. Knott is the 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. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters