Camp Masonry 2018 Recap

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

"What in the world is Camp Masonry?", you may be asking. Well, I suppose before I tell you how it went, I'll tell you what it is. About three years ago, Bro. Jason Shamy and a group of close Brothers decided to do a camping trip together. Long story short, it's evolved into a huge thing. Two days at one of the largest campgrounds in America, cabins, tents, presenters, home cooked camp meals, fellowship and a few choice vendors. This year I had the opportunity to go and the honor to be a presenter. What I experienced was nothing short of what I can only describe as "a truly unique and definitive Masonic experience."

I arrived on Friday morning before the event took off. We pulled into the large parking lot of Camp Miakonda, the 6th largest camp in America and oldest in Ohio. It's a Boy Scout camp. The history at this camp was inspiring. I loaded my bags onto a cart and climbed aboard. We took a short cruise through a forest, over a bridge to a hollow where there stood a picnic ground, a large hall called "Council Lodge", the Ford Center and several small bunk house cabins.

The Council Lodge building was really nice. It's a round building which we were told used to have a fire pit in the middle and the roof would allow for ventilation. I'm unsure if it can still accommodate this feature, but it was amazing nonetheless. Walking around the camp grounds and familiarizing myself with the surroundings was a small adventure in itself. I soon met up with and made quick friends with Dan Hrinko, author of "The Craft Driven Lodge".  I'll spare you the details of our conversation and instead direct you to his awesome book linked above.

Later on I was able to set up my bunk. An old metal frame bunk with a vinyl pad, a sheet courtesy of Bro. Shamy and my sleeping bag...the one I borrowed from my 8 year-old son. I set out to explore more of the camp sight and meet new brothers. I met Nate, a thirty year-old Army Veteran who's looking to become a pilot. I met Bro. Ken, an educator by trade who had a knack for keeping us focused on the days first real task, a free form exploration of Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia.

We sat around the park benches, we all had a copy of Mackey's and we arbitraraly flipped through pages until we found something of interest. We took turns reading the excerpts and discussing what we knew. Bro. Ken kept us on track. Before long it was time for the next agenda item, The Demolay Initiation.

I had never seen an initiation quite like it. They had a full slate of officers and lecturers perform the ceremony for six new members. I watched Masonic dads from around the room become very proud. Their sons were either performing the ritual or becoming initiated. It was a sight to see. Dinner followed and it was just a great time to eat and fellowship.

There were some brief remarks made by some Ohio VIPs and then I was up. I gave a presentation on Esoterics 101, what I refer to as part one of the Quantum series lectures. After this, it was 9:30 at night and it was time for the Mark Master degree. We began the walk down the trail through the dark forest, buzzing with nightlife noises. Frogs and bugs of all sorts provided the backdrop for a walk lit only by torches. The degree was put on in the "Fort", an enclosure with an open roof. The trees were all lit up red. Bro. Dave Bacon was one of three Brothers to become Companions. Full costumes and they had the A-Squad for the degree work.

The night wasn't over. We made our way back up the trail to camp where Bro. Albert H. McLelland provided us with an exclusive screening of Terra Masonica. If Albert sounds familiar, he is the creator and founder of MATSOL. After the movie, I headed off to bed, it was well after 1:00am.

Waking up at 7:30am and headed to the Council Lodge for a nice breakfast and to start out the days events. We once more made our way down to the Fort for the exemplification of the first section of the Master Mason degree. It was hot out. I had my black Camp Masonry shirt on and I had forgot my sunglasses in my bunk. A remarkable experience in any case. Next up, Lunch followed by a wonderful presentation by Bro. Jason Bryce.

Jason spoke about the varied symbolism within the letter G in our Craft lodges. He went into some deeper aspects of our spiritual work as Masons. I highly enjoyed his talk and found it edifying. Dan Hrinko, whom I had met the day before was the next presenter. We gathered outside and sat around picnik tables while he talked about Masonic experience and how to make it better. He outlined much of what his lodge, "Arts and Sciences" does and detailed it's success.

Next up was Dave Bacon who had quite the crowd. He spoke on how our individual experiences shape how we see symbols. He dove into the science of our brains, how we interpret things and as any good presenter will do, he made us all a little uncomfortable, a necessary part if we're to grow.

Bill Carter from the Grand Lodge of Ohio was the next to speak. He spoke at length about cellular technology, the ramifications for using it constantly, and how to counteract those consequences through fraternal means. It was my turn to present again, this time I spoke on the Tetragrammaton, or the ineffable name of God.

The Festive Board was the next thing on the agenda. Bro. Hrinko lead the evening with songs and toasts. The last speaker for the Festive Board was the Grand Master of Masons of Ohio, Eric R. Schau. WB Schau talked about his experience at the 300 event in UGLE. It was a great conversation.

After the Festive Board wrapped up it was time to take the "road to Eleusis", that trail lit only by torches once more, to the second section of the Master Mason degree. Arriving at the Fort again, this time in procession, and the trees were now lit by blue lights. It was a sight to behold. What followed, you can guess. Top-notch degree exemplification and a changed man.

On the road back to camp many of us said our goodbyes and went to bed. I awoke the next morning, packed up and flew home. Writing this, I cannot help but reminise on the new friendships, experiences and feeling I had over the weekend. I certainly hope anyone reading this will consider coming next year. There are few national Masonic events that are noteworthy. Most are filled with expensive dinners, endless introductions and programming aimed at raising charity funds. Those events are fine, but are not truly Masonic.

This was a Masonic event in every impart of the word. Education and Fellowship. No administrative tasks, no whining, no pomp just conversations which offered solutions. It was refreshing. Thanks to all who put on the event and to all my new friends. Until next year, Brothers!


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 is also a Past 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 the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Impact of War – Part 3

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Part 3 of a series of the Impact of War on the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Freemasonry. Part one is here and part 2 is here.

Illinois had long been a destination for those immigrating from Germany. Many of my own ancestors had come to Illinois looking for opportunities in farming, commerce and industry. They brought with them their German languages and culture. By 1850 35.9%of foreign born Illinois residents were from Germany.

So, it was only natural that as freemasonry grew, lodges were forming with the work done in the native language of the membership. By 1918 according to the Proceedings of the MW Grand Lodge of Illinois, nine lodges were working the ritual in German, all in the Chicago area. But the Great War was about to have a direct impact on these nine lodges.

MWGM Austin H. Scrogin ordered that these lodges cease working in German and conduct work only in English. Scrogin said, “Fully realizing the great danger to America institutions by the German propaganda, I took up with the nine German-language lodges in Illinois the advisability of a change to the medium of speech in America. I had a consultation with the masters of the German lodges in Chicago. A second meeting was then held. At this all the masters, wardens, secretaries and most of the past masters of the lodges in the state, working in the German language, were present...”

Six of the lodge readily agreed to change their work to the English language. Three did not agree and MWGM Scrogin issued an edict that was mandated to be read in all lodges in Illinois that forbid the use of the German language in the work. Only English was to be allowed. His edict said in part, “A World Crisis is impending; the right of the Nations of the World to choose the form of government under which they shall live is attacked by a predatory militaristic power with a savagery and inhumanity which shock the moral sense of the world; the success of this attack would destroy democracy and free government and the achievements of the moral and religious progress and development of the human race for the past two hundred years; the liberties of all free nations, the perpetuity of the fundamental principles and precepts of Freemasonry now hang in the balance. At such a time, in such a crisis, every loyal and patriotic Mason must be conscious of the personal duty resting upon him to aid in all ways possible, in this supreme moment, to defeat this menace to humanity….”

One lodge refused to submit, Leasing Lodge No. 557. The proceedings reported that by a nearly unanimous vote, the members refused to adhere to the edict. MWGM promptly pulled Leasing Lodge’s charter. Scrogin made a visit to the lodge and concluded that the lodge membership did not understand the power of the office of Grand Master. Leasing lodge later complied with the edict and their charter was reinstated.

The 1918 proceedings also include a section titled “The Point of View” written by Delmar D. Darrah, Past Most Worshipful Grand Master of Illinois. Darrah was a Professor at Illinois Wesleyan University and one of most prolific masonic authors of his day. On the German speaking lodges, he wrote: “…This action was inspired, not so much because of prejudice against the German people in this country and their language, as it was to prevent the segregation of peoples of one nationality under the guise of Freemasonry. The fathers of Freemasonry who formulated the principles under which the fraternity is today working never contemplated the organization of class lodges wherein men of different nations, creeds, and professions might segregate and use the lodge as a means of propagating their own peculiar ideas and practices. The purpose of Freemasonry as originally conceived was that of a fraternal democracy, wherein men of every country, sect, and opinion, religious belief and political party, might come together around a common altar, upon a common equality and meet their fellows as children of one father. Lodges made up exclusively of Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, Swedes, and using the particular language of constituents is not a Masonic lodge; but a lodge composed of men representing these different nationalities and using the language of a country wherein the lodge is located is Masonic. If the war has done nothing else, it has awakened us to the danger of class lodges and has served to bring to us a better understanding of the object and purposes of genuine Freemasonry.”

In part 4 of this series, I will look to the future of Freemasonry in Illinois (after 1918) and provide a reflection 100 years later how these changes initiated in 1918 are still having an impact on the fraternity.


WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

Off to Camp Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Well, I was out at lodge late last night and I hurried home to quickly pack. Why? Well, I was invited to attend this years "Camp Masonry". Up at 5:15, hot shave and out the door. Friday morning airport commuting in Chicago isn't fun. Thanks to my wife Cori for taking me. Ask her to give you a ride to the airport and she'll likely give you a slap-- especially at 5:30 am.

Camp Masonry is something new for me. It promises to be a fun filled weekend full of speakers, fellowship and edification. You can read all about it on their website, . There, you will find a wonderful array of speakers, events and even degrees which will be performed. I've always enjoyed camping and the outdoors and with that the chance to disconnect.

Disconnecting is hard for me and I am sure it's hard for you too. We manage facebook pages, moderate groups, write articles and keep in touch with our close friends on social media and text our closest loved ones. Take away a phone and it's bound to cause some anxieties-- anxieties that fade after 48 hours, but the point is they do fade.

I'm looking forward to disconnection from the glowing handheld block in my pocket and connecting face to face, through a handshake and good conversations. It's a rare chance in the fast paced world of today. I've written about things like process improvement, time savings, maximizing results and all of it is done through maximum technology engagement. What are we supposed to do when it's time to go against this? I imagine we're supposed to just sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. And that's just what I am going to do over the next couple of days. Sit back, relax and enjoy the company of friends and brothers. To be sure, I'll still be connected, but perhaps a bit less distracted.

Have a great weekend brothers, cheers!


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 is also a Past 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 the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

A Point Within A Circle

Masonic Symbolism Hidden In Plain Sight On The Coast of California

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

I'll admit it, I was a fan of the TV show "LOST." Yes, I loyally tuned in every week as the show veered off course from the code, the bunker, and what those mysteries all meant, in favor of time traveling and character side stories that spun the storyline out of control. Sometimes during my journey for Masonic knowledge, I feel like I am chasing the same answers the characters on the show pursued during their time on the island. One of my favorite quotes from the show comes during an exchange between John Locke, played by Terry O'Quinn (who won an Emmy for that role), and Eko, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

The scene that came to mind follows Locke and Eko when they discovered missing film footage that explained the mysterious scientific research, performed on the island. "Think about it," Locke says to Eko, "somebody made this film. Someone else cut this piece out. We crash, two parts of the same plane fall on different parts of the island. You're over there, I'm over here. Now, there's the missing piece, right back where it belongs." While Locke is splicing the film back together, Eko sternly says to him, "don't mistake coincidence for fate."

That exchange echoed through my head when I received a text of Lodge building from my younger brother, David, who lives in Modesto, California. During my "wine and sunshine" visit with my girlfriend this past February, he remembered my disappointment when the local Lodge was meeting did not fall during the week of my trip. Since then, whenever he spots something to do with Freemasonry, he'll snap a pic of it and send it to me.

One Friday afternoon, fate arrived via a text message as I was coincidentally collecting my thoughts for an upcoming discussion on a Point within a Circle. I am working on a presentation with our Senior Warden for the upcoming Masonic year. Our goal is to cover the esoteric meanings explained in ritual along with the practical application of the teachings in everyday life. My phone buzzed on the table near my computer, I looked down at the screen and saw this.

Pacific Grove Lodge #311, Monterey County, California

Symbolism In Plain Sight

Freemasonry teaches that a certain Point within a Circle is represented in every Lodge. For the Brothers living in the coastal community of Pacific Grove, California, that symbol is present in and around their building. That is what I had to find out. Why? How many Masonic buildings have you seen where the traditional square and compass is moved to the side in favor of the Point within a Circle? Why would a Lodge place this symbol, this way? I reached out to Tom Thiel, Worshipful Master of Pacific Grove Masonic Lodge #311, to learn more.

"After talking with our Lodge Secretary, PM Herschel R. Amos, we're not exactly sure why they did that," shared Brother Thiel. I have to admit, I was hoping to hear a story that comes with so many artifacts and treasures in the Lodges and Temples I've visited. Bro. Thiel continued, "the members built the Lodge back in the fifties, all with volunteer labor. They definitely had thing for that symbol because it’s also on several paintings in the building." That caught my attention. Bro. Thiel then shared more photos of the Lodge and a video walkabout. 

The Master's Station

Above the Master's Chair

His last photo was a detailed painting that portrays the lesson symbolized in the Point within a Circle.  

A Point Within A Circle

The story behind this portrait exemplifies the meaning of where are first made a Mason. The painting was done in 1956 by Bro. Ernest U. Hardenstein Jr., who laid down his Working Tools on August 7, 2007. Bro. Hardenstein was born in Mississippi and made his way to Monterey, California during his service in the US Army. After the war, he settled in the community, raising a family. By the 1950's, Bro. Hardenstein completed several large paintings for his church and the newly constructed temple. His story reminds me of every Brother I have met, and those who I never will, who have physically contributed in someway to the care, decoration, and upkeep of their lodge or temple. Bro. Hardenstein’s paintings remain above the several stations in Pacific Grove Lodge Temple today, serving as an educational tool and inspiration for members and visitors.

Two Brothers, One Craft

What makes Masonry special is the history that is proudly displayed in our lodges and temples. I can't recall a Masonic building that I’ve visited that doesn’t have a local artifact, legend, story, or claim to have a famous member in their past. In the case of Pacific Grove, the Brothers raised their lodge, building it together. I asked Bro. Thiel, during a follow up phone call, how he explains the meaning of the Point within a Circle theme to visiting Brothers or guests who seek admission. It was at that point that we discovered that two Brothers, belonging to different jurisdictions on opposite sides of the same country, share a common bond. 

I opened up my Standard Work and Lectures of Ancient Craft Masonry, the ritual book that is given to every Master Mason when they are raised in the State of New York. From my book, I read an excerpt that explains the history of lodges. After my reading, Bro. Thiel opened his Monitor and Officers' Manual from the Grand Lodge of California, to read a passage that sounded very similar to what we profess in New York. A few seconds of silence passed before we agreed: the Brothers of Pacific Grove Lodge were simply following the instructions given to us as Masons. That symbol in and around their Lodge serves as a constant reminder, impressing the meaning of its lesson in everyday life. How could you pass by that building with that knowledge and not, for a few seconds, instantly connect what you learned to what you had just seen?

From The West

It’s fitting that you would find this symbol on the outside of a lodge building, in a city with the nickname "America’s Last Hometown." The historic city of Pacific Grove is nestled in Northern California’s Monterey County, one of the most beautiful coastal communities you will ever see. If you've never visited, I highly recommend walking through their Cannery Row, have dinner or drinks at Restaurant 1833 (it’s haunted and loaded with history), and if you’re a golf fan, take the iconic 17-Mile Drive to Pebble Beach. Don’t forget your camera! 

The last time I visited Monterey was almost five years ago for my brother's wedding, which just so happened to fall at the time I sought a petition from my mother lodge in Schenectady, New York. Ironic that fate would give me another reason to return… a trip that you bet will include a stop at Pacific Grove Masonic Lodge. They meet on the first and third Thursday of the month, September through May. Pacific Grove Lodge has been a part of their community for more than 100 years and I've heard they have some amazing portraits of a Point within a Circle that I need to see for myself.


Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at: