Something I Probably Shoulda Wrote in My Journal

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



All I can think about right now is what is to come. I'm stunned. I'm dumbfounded at the world around me. Yeah, COVID-19--that's old news. We had a wild election. We had people breaking into the Capitol Building. Now, the vaccine is here, so I guess I'll be getting that as soon as I can. My kids are in school virtually with plans to return to a hybrid learning environment in the coming weeks. I just got back from the Mayo Clinic, and I am still undiagnosed. Oh, and my production computer took a crap. All this stuff...not all of it bad, not all good--but it's like life itself boxed me around, and I'm standing there, stunned, looking at the stars circling my head.

Am I thinking about these things? Only as much as they might be words floating around in my head. They're like objects getting in the way of a daydream. I see this future where I'm back at an amusement park on a hot summer day. The world spinning around me, my kids running to the next ride, and my wife is smiling. Everything about the moment is perfect, even the smells. The funnel cakes, the cotton candy, even the garbage cans.

Flash to another one. The backlot behind lodge standing around with my Brothers. It's too damn hot for tuxes, and we've all lost our ties. There's laughing, and talking and the stars in the sky are clear to see--a rarity for a summer night around my neck of the woods. Driving home, with the windows open and listening to good music.

Flashing to another one. Driving home from the office. The sun is starting to go down, and it's blinding the hell out of me. But I can't stop smiling. The golden light is just baking my left arm. 

All these things are gone right now. No amusement parks, no Lodge, no office. Someone asked me recently what the first thing I would do when this was over. I said, "Go to the movies with my kids and eat too much popcorn and a tray of those pretzels and cheese." That sounds to me, like a slice of heaven right now.

Freemasonry teaches a lot of things. One of those things is Hope. We use it in a pretty singular way in Masonry, "Hope for a future life." Or something to the effect. I sure do hope for the future. I'm not really concerned about my own "future existence", but I do hope that the future has some surprises for us that don't seem to knock us on our asses again. Make no doubt about it. We'll pull through, and we'll be stronger for it. 

For the first time in months, I've seen some kind of light at the end of the tunnel. Reflecting on what this time has been like, spending it with close family, and really experiencing people I interact with--it's changed me. Hell, it's changed you too, I'm willing to bet. We needed this. When this is all over, maybe I'll see you at the amusement park, or at the movies. Until then, I'll be daydreaming on occasion.

Keep working hard. Keep hoping. We'll get there sooner than later.

"If you can't suffer joyously, suffer patiently."
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

~RHJ


RWB Johnson is a Co-Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master 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 focuses 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. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.


The EA Degree and the Lodge Closing Ceremony

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


The other evening, I was honored to be included in an interactive presentation by North Carolina’s Past Grand Master Shaun Bradshaw. In this presentation, Most Worshipful Shaun described the Hero’s Journey and how it fits into Masonic initiation. Several of us described the travels of the initiate, the 12 steps the candidate takes in each degree, and even how the whole of the three degrees itself becomes the journey.

MWB Shaun skillfully guided the group in comparing and contrasting the Hero’s Journey and the Masonic initiation by listening to the participants and adding perfectly timed insight to the conversation. I highly recommend any opportunity you may take in listening and learning from the Most Worshipful in this and his other presentations.

A new Brother goes through the degree, takes his obligation, receives the lecture and charge, and is seated among the brethren. This was a powerful moment for me when I received my EA because now I was recognized as a Brother and had become a part of the Lodge. It was very exciting. I watched with wonder and anticipation as the Lodge conducted what little business needed to happen, then proceeded to close on the EA degree. How cool it was for me to witness the actual ritual of the lodge!

We as candidates hadn’t been a part of the opening ceremony of course, and the Lodge created the sacred space into which we were escorted by a friend, who we later came to know as a Brother. The lodge had prepared itself for us, and we were prepared, instructed, and escorted. As the evening progressed, we were included in the closing ritual. Included! This was a part of the Hero’s Journey in and of itself, but it didn’t end there.

The EA degree doesn’t actually end with seating the new Brother amongst his Brethren but actually ends with the closing of the lodge. That’s right, our initiatic experience isn’t over with the degree... Now we take an active part in the ritual in which we just received. The closing, in many jurisdictions, includes a closing charge, and the closing becomes a part of that initiation, of the circumambulation, the hoodwink, the lecture, and the EA charge. This closing of the lodge, of releasing the sacred space, of being challenged to go out into the world to be better men, all tie back into the degree we each received.

Brothers, this was another powerful reminder to me, a newly made Entered Apprentice, that I was a part of the Lodge. I could now be a part of the ritual, of the opening and closing, and it reminds me now that the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason degrees extend beyond the ceremonial degrees themselves. My point is to ask us to remember our own Hero’s Journey through the degrees such that we continue to help new Brothers in their own journey. So may we ever meet, act, and part.

~RS

Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live in O'Fallon, MO just outside of St. Louis. Randy earned a Bachelors in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in telecom IT. He volunteers his time as a professional and personal mentor, is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol. He has a 30+ year background teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy's Masonic bio includes lodge education officer of two blue lodges, running the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, active in York Rite AMD, Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis co-librarian, Clerk of the Academy Of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, a trained facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. As a pre-COVID-19 pioneer in Masonic virtual education, Randy is an administrator of Refracted Light and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy enjoys facilitating and presenting Masonic esoteric education, and he hosts an open, weekly Masonic virtual Friday Happy Hour. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Welcome Randy Sanders!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


I've known Randy for a long time. Way back...I decided to visit the closest Valley that was Southern Jurisdiction of the AASR (Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite). I pulled into the parking garage and began to walk to the entrance of the building. I was met by a gaggle of Brothers having some cigars and just talking outside. 

It was a muggy day. The kind we complained about then, but look back on and wish for right now. Chris Tully was out there, being Chris. Goofy and serious and joking--all smiles. Jacob Thompson was there with his astute bowtie, a briefcase, and a stack of papers under his arm. Jacob looked like a frazzled professor running late for his next lecture.

That weekend was something else. After one of the degrees, Jacob Thompson was teaching a class about what we had just gone through. This is why I went down there, why I drove 5 hours to a reunion. Education! 

So there I was, sitting at a long table, on a metal folding chair, drinking black Folgers out of a styrofoam cup. Sitting next to me was this really friendly guy. How do I put this? Have you ever just met someone and, bam! You have a new super close Bro? That was Randy. I'll never forget that weekend.

Fast forward a bit and I meet Randy at more reunions, more conventions, more educational conferences. This guy was/is learning everything. The day I met Randy, we were students together. Now, Randy assists and teaches the classes along with Jacob. He does so much, including looking after the Valley of St. Louis's library--something I can't thank him enough for.

A few weeks ago, fellow managing editor, Darin Lahners said to me, "You think Randy would consider becoming a regular?" And it was a brilliant question. I asked Randy if he'd be interested and of course, he was in.

Welcome, Bro. Randy Sanders to the Midnight Freemasons as a Regular Contributor! I'm excited to read what Brother Randy brings to the mix as I know you all will be as well. 



Bro. Randy and his wife Elyana live in O'Fallon, MO just outside of St. Louis. Randy earned a
Bachelors in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in telecom IT. He volunteers his time as a professional and personal mentor, is an NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer, and enjoys competitive tactical pistol. He has a 30+ year background teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy's Masonic bio includes lodge education officer of two blue lodges, running the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, active in York Rite AMD, Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis co-librarian, Clerk of the Academy Of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, a trained facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. As a pre-COVID-19 pioneer in Masonic virtual education, Randy is an administrator of Refracted Light and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy enjoys facilitating and presenting Masonic esoteric education, and he hosts an open, weekly Masonic virtual Friday Happy Hour. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

Horticulture in Freemasonry Pt. 1

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Cory Missimore



Author note: Recently, I presented on how Freemasonry, both speculative and operative, can be found in the noble art of horticulture. This article, one of three, contains a more in-depth explanation of the presentation.


Who are Freemasons? When you Google what Freemasons are known for, often pictures of grand builders and architects appear. Other images populated include pyramids, temples, monoliths, spires, and buildings. While these are all true and applicable to a certain extent, I want to discuss another noble and practical entry that is often ignored: gardens. In this series, we will examine the aspects of a garden (to include its design, purpose, and content) and their ties to Freemasonry.

Gardens are as applicable to Freemasonry, as is the building of Solomon's Temple. For one, there are a myriad of types of gardens. Sculpture gardens, stone gardens, foliage gardens, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, etc. Further, all these gardens use tools (both operative and speculative) employed by Freemasonry, such as the trowel.

The trowel is one of the essential tools to a Freemason. As speculative masons, we are taught that the trowel symbolizes the "spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection; that cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work, and best agree." Further examining the trowel, the tool's versatility, and its depiction in use amongst Freemasons and gardeners are prolific. While Freemasons use the Masonic trowel, so is the garden trowel used by the Order of Free Gardeners.

The Order of Free Gardeners is a fraternal society founded in Scotland in the middle of the 17th century and later spread to England and Ireland. Like numerous other friendly societies of the time, its principal aim was to share secret knowledge linked to the profession and mutual aid. The Order of Free Gardeners focused on the best knowledge in gardening and horticulture. Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture. Horticulture is the agriculture of plants for food, materials, comfort, and beauty for decoration. Horticulturists apply knowledge, skills, and technologies to grow intensively produced plants for human food and non-food uses and personal or social needs.

While Free Gardeners have always remained independent of Freemasonry, the two orders' history and organization show numerous similarities. For instance, their primary insignia is of the square and compass with a pruning knife. Coinciding with the rise of the Order of Free Gardeners was the rise of garden landscapes. Wealthy landowners, who are speculated to have been Masons and who were interested in Renaissance architecture and the design of formal gardens for their vast estates, became intrigued. These landowners commissioned Free Gardeners amongst others to design gardens that communicate with us today.

For Masonic garden designers, both architecture and garden ornament was just as important as the garden's planning; indeed, the three were inseparable.

A garden is an interface between nature and art, and there are many examples of gardens in which nature and art are combined to communicate with us to convey a message. That message may be moral, philosophical, spiritual, or esoteric. A message can be created in a garden in three different languages. The language of form and shape, the language of the plants and their symbolic meanings, and the language of the manufactured features that are placed in the garden. For Masonic garden designers, the plants, architecture, and garden ornaments were given equal importance.

When designing a garden, mathematics and specifically geometry become critical tools. For Freemasons, geometry, or more specifically, sacred geometry, which is that geometric order (shapes, curves, and constructs) that precedes all physical existence--that geometry invented by the Great Architect of the Universe as a structure through which to order all of creation.

Under this tradition, its symbols take on metaphysical and symbolic meanings. "Geometry, or Masonry, originally synonymous terms, is of a divine and moral nature," wrote William Preston, a seminal figure in 18th century British Freemasonry.

"By Geometry, we may curiously trace nature through her various windings to her most concealed recesses. By it, we discover the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Great Artificer of the Universe… A survey of nature, and the observation of her beautiful proportions, first determined man to imitate the Divine plan, and to study symmetry and order."

An example of the language of form and shape is the motif of the center, the idea that when one marks the center of sacred space, one is symbolically marking the center of the world, the axis Mundi. This concept found heavily in Georgian gardens is emblematical of the circle and dot picture found in Freemason lodges, where the point or center of the circle is the individual brother. The circle is the boundary line of his duty to God and man, beyond which a man should not allow his passions, prejudices, or interests to betray him. Like how people can relax, play games, and enjoy nature, yet should control how they behave. This design is known as the circumpunct.

The garden may also have multiple points of focus, where people may sit and gather and enjoy the scenery. Supporting the scenery are often works of art, statues, and central plants. The Renaissance garden designers filled their gardens with motifs from classical mythology, taken from Greek and Roman works. These motifs were put there to convey a message. For example, Hercules' statue in the garden of the Villa Castello in Florence was to denote courage and virtue, characteristics that Freemasonry honors and exemplifies. An even more direct influence of Freemasonry in garden design can be seen in the New Garden beside a lake at Potsdam, built by the Rosicrucian King Frederick William II of Prussia. One of the Rosicrucian motifs in the New Garden is an icehouse in the form of an Egyptian pyramid, which is emblematical to [Freemasonry's] pyramid and the all-seeing eye.


In reviewing this first part of the series, we can see Freemasonry is a garden's design. Some pivotal content of a garden applies aspects of sacred geometry and gives a focus of purpose--growing from the design and placement of motifs in a garden. In our next essay, we will look more at the structures in gardens, both at their design and in their message.

~CM




Bro. Cory Missimore Bro. Cory Missimore is a Freemason out of Silver Spring MD. He currently serves as the Senior Deacon of the Silver Spring Lodge #215. He is a husband and father of two, works full time in cybersecurity, and is also an amateur sleuth in masonic research. He can be reached at cmissimore@gmail.com.