Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners, PM



Riddle me this my brother, can you handle it?” is the first line to the seminal track “Shadrach” on my favorite Beastie Boys album, Paul’s Boutique. Shadrach is the second and final single released from the album, which came out in 1989. Paul’s Boutique was produced by the Dust Brothers and uses between 100-300 samples in total. What does this have to do with Freemasonry? We’ll get to that. The title references one of the three characters referenced in the Old Testament Book of Daniel Chapter 3 which tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

The story is summarized like this: King Nebuchadnezzar had an idol constructed on the plains of Dura in Babylon which was made of gold and was sixty cubits (90 ft ) tall and six cubits (9 ft) wide. He ordered all of the officials working in his government to come to the dedication of the idol and commanded them to bow down and worship the idol when they heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music. He declared that anyone refusing to worship the idol would be cast into a fiery furnace. There were three Jewish officials, named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, which refused to do this. Nebuchadnezzar was outraged when the matter was brought to his attention and ordered the three brought before him. He asked them why they refused his order, to which they replied: 
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The answer made Nebuchadnezzar even more furious, and he ordered the furnace stoked to seven times hotter than it was normally heated. He ordered them bound and tossed into the furnace. In the haste to execute the order, the mighty men that Nebuchadnezzar had ordered to do this were consumed by the flames of the furnace while tossing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into it. Upon this happening, Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see four figures unhurt walking around in the flames. He asked his counselors about this, as he was sure that only three men were cast into the fire. When they agreed that there were only three, Nebuchadnezzar went near the furnace and ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out from it. He and all of the other officials were amazed to see that the men when they emerged were unharmed, their clothes and their hair was not singed, and they had no smell of fire coming from them. Nebuchadnezzar then declared: 
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.  Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 
 He then promoted the men.

The three are represented in the Royal Arch Degree of the York Rite as the sojourners who make their way from Babylon to Jerusalem to work on the rebuilding of the temple. Mackey says the following in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry under the entry for Zerubbabel: 

“As soon as the pious pilgrims had arrived at Jerusalem, and taken a needful rest of seven days, a Tabernacle for the temporary purposes of divine worship was erected near the ruins of the ancient Temple, and a Council was called, in which Zerubbabel presided as King, Jeshua as High Priest, and Haggai as Scribe, or principal officer of State. It was there determined to commence the building of the second Temple upon the same holy spot which had been occupied by the first, and the people liberally contributed sixty-one thousand drachms of gold, and five thousand minas of silver, or nearly a quarter of a million of dollars, toward defraying the expenses; a sum which sinks into utter insignificance, when compared with the immense amount appropriated by David and Solomon to the construction of their Temple.
The site having been thus determined upon, it was found necessary to begin by removing the rubbish of the old Temple, which still encumbered the earth, and prevented the workmen from making the necessary arrangements for laying the foundation. It was during this operation that an important discovery was made by three Sojourners, who had not originally accompanied Zerubbabel, but who, sojourning some time longer at Babylon, followed their countrymen at a later period, and had arrived at Jerusalem just in time to assist in the removal of the rubbish. 
These three Sojourners, whose fortune it was to discover that stone of foundation, so intimately connected with the history of Freemasonry and to which we have before had repeated occasion to allude, are supposed by a Masonic tradition to have been Esdras, Zachariah, and Nehemiah, the three holy men, who, for refusing to worship the golden image, had been thrown by Nebuchadnezzar into a fiery furnace, from which they emerged uninjured. In the Chaldee language, they were known by the names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
It was in penetrating into some of the subterranean vaults, that the Masonic stone of foundation, with other important mysteries connected with it, were discovered by the three fortunate Sojourners, and presented by them to Zerubbabel and his companions Jeshua and Haggai, whose traditionary knowledge of Freemasonry, which they had received in a direct line from the builders of the first Temple, enabled them at once to appreciate the great importance on these treasures.
As soon as that wonderful discovery was made, on which depends not only the existence of the Royal Arch Degree, but the most important mystery of Freemasonry, the Jews proceeded on a certain day, before the rising of the sun, to lay the foundation-stone of the second Temple; and for that purpose, we are told, Zerubbabel selected that stone of foundation which had been discovered by the three Sojourners. On this occasion, we learn that the young rejoiced with shouts and acclamations, but that the ancient people disturbed them with their groans and lamentations, when they reflected on the superb magnificence of the first Temple, and compared it with the expected inferiority of the present structure.”

The argument for the sojourners being Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is further supported by Mackey in his work: “The Book of the Chapter; or Monitorial Instructions in the Degrees of Mark, Past and Most Excellent Master and the Holy Royal Arch.”, as well as in “The Manual of Freemasonry” by Richard Carlile.

~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 No. 282, 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. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

Are You Truly and Duly Prepared?

By Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Are you truly and duly prepared? The night you took your degrees, you had a brother that vouched for you that you were duly and truly prepared. But this question was in reference to your progress thus far in your journey through the degrees. What about after you became a Master Mason? Do you feel you were duly and truly prepared for the day after becoming a Master Mason?

I recall thinking the night I completed the third degree, that I didn’t have a full comprehension of what I had just experienced. There was so much information and activities that were coming my way that night, it was hard to take them all in. Numerous brothers congratulated me for finishing my degree work, yet somehow, I felt that I didn’t know everything that I should.

The Masonic Service Association Short Talk Bulletin from May 1926 spoke about what a Mason should know after being raised:
“Having received the Degrees of Masonry, an initiate needs to know something of the regulations of the Craft, its constitution, its Landmarks; and the nature and authority of the Grand Lodge under whose obedience he lives. It is only fair to tell him the relation of the Blue Lodge to other Masonic Bodies, both York Rite and Scottish Rite; and in a way to emphasize the supremacy of Craft Masonry. It will be useful for him to know that the Shrine, the Grotto and other such organizations, while made up of Masons, are not Masonic any more than any club made up of Masons is Masonic. More important still is the etiquette of the Craft, in the Lodge and outside, and the discretion necessary in making himself known as a Mason, or in responding to the advances of others.”
While this is good advice, it seems to barely scratch the surface of what a Master Mason needs to know to proceed and succeed on the journey ahead. So, what should a Mason due to ensure they are duly and truly prepared?

Here is some advice as to what I have found has worked for me:

  • Study the ritual and gain an understanding of what the degrees are teaching you.
  • Begin committing a passage or two that interests you to memory so that it gives you something to focus on.
  • Research what this passage means, the internet makes it easy to do research.
  • Talk with other brothers about what they might know or understand about the passage.
  • If you have an opportunity, put together a small lodge education presentation and share what you have learned with others.
  • Work towards applying what you have learned in your daily life, perhaps at work or with your family.
These small steps have helped me towards my goal of becoming duly and truly prepared in not only becoming a more proficient Master Mason, but more importantly a better father, husband and community member.

~GJK

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

Occult Profiles: Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



Samuel Lidell McGregor Mathers was born in January of 1854. There is some confusion of whether it was on the 8th or the 11th. He is most well known for having been one of the original founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. 

In his “real life”, he was a simple clerk with a simple education. His school was the all boys Bedford School, which was founded in 1552. In Samuel’s day to day he was a speaker of several languages. He had mastered of course English but was also fluent in French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and even Gaelic. There are reports of him even being able to speak in the late stage Egyptian language known as Coptic. He also had two more interesting traits not usually attributed to anyone in those days, he was an avid non-smoker and a vegetarian. 

He was made a Freemason in Hengist Lodge No.195 on the 4th of October, 1877 and was made a Master Mason on January 30th, 1878--  all under the provision of the United Grand Lodge of England. Many of the influencers of Occultism came from this mid to late 19th Century and it stretched into the 20th. We see the rise of Spiritualism as a religion, not merely an interest. Later this religion, which still exists today, branched out. I might suggest but also with air of caution that this evolved into the New Age views. Again, with caution. 

Samuel, living in this evolving spiritual and metaphysical world naturally made use of his talents. Because he was a speaker of multiple languages, he was able to make translations of books not ever read before by English speakers. Books like, The Book of Abramelin, The Key of Solomon, The Grimoire of Armadel, and the Lesser Key of Solomon. He also was involved in writings that compiled the work of John Dee and Edward Kelley, the two famous occultists responsible for Enochian Magic, and the Emerald Tablets of Thoth

The later work mentioned above is a wonderful amalgamation.The roots of the works, are however, dubious. In a small tangent, it is important to note that while the works of John Dee are as reputable as any in the field of the occult, those of Edward Kelly, are not. This becomes a problem later when we trace the lineage of what was taught in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the later Alpha et Omega and other bodies which branched off from here or hold a relation to; e.g. Ordo Templi Orientis, A:.A:.,  A:.O:. etc. I mean no disrespect in pointing this out, merely stating the obvious. I will be blunt and as factual as possible while writing these “profiles”.

While involved in Masonry, Samuel joins the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, or SRIA (Origin 1865). This ‘Masonic’ body is a sanctioned version of Rosicrucianism which does predicate membership on being a Master Mason. It was men only. While involved with this, evidence shows that Samuel was also involved in receiving degrees in many other bodies, which one might consider any number of classifications i.e Irregular, Clandestine, or just plain spurious. Again, it was the late 19th Century, and spiritualism was the hot ticket. Offering someone “light” or a new philosophy was very enticing, and let us not forget--lucrative. 

While being heavily involved with the Rosicrucian order, many members began to wonder about practical application of these esoteric concepts contained within the system. The system relied heavily on the once again dubious texts, revered by the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Origin 1750). This order and others similar in nature have for their legends and texts those known as Cipher Manuscripts and the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1459) among others. These texts, also have questionable origins, which of course calls into question the validity of anything later which uses them. A firm foundation these texts are not.

For a while, members of the SRIA were satisfied with their memberships,but this question of ‘practicality’ loomed. Meanwhile, Samuel receives some prestigious rewards in the SRIA. Conversation began between three of the members of that SRIA chapter, Samuel, William Wynn Westcott (a physician and Worshipful Master of Quatuor Coronati research lodge 1893–1894), and Robert Woodman and this resulted in the formation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1887. Westcott was the prime mover in the creation of this order. Relationships bloomed between these three fellows. In fact a bridge was formed in 1891, when Samuel was requested to give a lecture to the Theosophical Society, an organization whose founders (Blavatsky, Olcott and Judge) we will cover individually in further installments of this series. A prominent member in Theosophy was William Wynn Westcott.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was starting to take off.  Woodman would become the leader of the Golden dawn but died before the organization was expanded to create an insiders group within called,  ‘the Second Order’. Mathers becomes the new leader. The Golden Dawn was one of the first esoteric societies which allowed for co-ed meetings and in many ways, venerated the status of women. As spiritualism wasn’t just a religion for men, women also had an avid interest and the new Hermetic Order was a place that allowed their ideas to flourish. The Golden dawn relies on an interesting system of grades which were very well put together by Brother Clint Lewy in his piece, read it HERE. Upon Westcott’s death, Samuel became the Golden Dawn’s new leader. 

During Samuel’s time in the Golden Dawn he took on many students, one famed student was Aliester Crowley. Later the two would find themselves to be at odds. Part of the Golden Dawn system involved a concept and legend of the “Secret Chiefs”, not unlike the idea of Unknown Superiors (not to be confused with the title of Unknown Superiors in the OM Martinism) or even the Hidden Masters e.g. “Master R” or “St. Germain”.

Samuel at a point in 1900, was expelled from the Golden Dawn. There was some controversy over what we could call a scam by a couple of mediums and also a power move by Samuel to demand loyalty from everyone else. At this same time, he and Aliester Crowley attacked each other “psychically” and it led to a rift. Crowley was expelled at the same time as Mathers.  Samuel had essentially said that he was equal to the ‘Secret Masters’. Samuel and his wife Moina (Mina) moved to Paris, where they performed interpreted Egyptian rituals for theaters and the like to make money. While in Paris, Mathers starts an offshoot organization called Alpha et Omega, a Rosicrucian / Golden Dawn type organization with himself at the head. This organization eventually made it to the United States, in fact another couple of people we will cover in this series (Paul Foster Case is one) was a member of Alpha et Omega. Paul Foster Case was subsequently expelled by Moina Mathers for informing the members that the ritual and lectures were verbatim copies from two books available in the New York Library. Those works will be disclosed in another piece in the series. 

The life of a clerk didn’t always pay the bills. As a married man, Samuel had responsibilities. Some say hardships and others say a disinterest in the Craft, lead Samuel to become delinquent in his payments to the organizations from which he had borrowed. This led to his expulsion in 1903 from most of recognized Freemasonry. 

Samuel, as I have referred to him in this piece, was an interesting man. The name he is usually cited as, is McGregor Mathers, and yet this is a name he added for himself to emphasize his Scottish heritage, of which there is also little support for. Likely he took this additional name, to bolster claims that his contemporaries and followers believed--that he was the reincarnated King James VI, the “WIZARD king” of Scotland. In his early 20s, Samuel joined a volunteer military service, and although he never went further than the rank of Private, he did have portraits made of himself in uniform to display, which added to his influence and ego. 

He died somewhere between November 5th and 20th in 1920. The mode of death? Questionable. There are some wild assertions here. One is that he blew himself up, of which there is zero evidence. One from his own wife, Moina who believed Samuel died, the result of a psychic vampire attack from Aliester Crowley and finally, the most likely scenario, that he died of the spanish flu. 

In conclusion, Samuel Lidell Mathers was an influential and esteemed occultist who was a regular member of our Craft, an inspirational leader (although egotistical) and really, a genius. Whether or not the systems he promoted, the teachings he gave, or the rituals he performed were based on fact, or hokey spiritualism, there is something of value in giving people a means to aspire to greatness, to altruism, a return to the oneness with God. 

Samue Mathers, like so many of his day made a living as a sort of spiritual tramp. Who through his conviviality and charming nature was able to become somebody. A man who offered solace and hope to a Victorian world rife with mind blowing sexual revolutions, emerging ideas of equality for women and death at every turn from consumption. He made a lasting mark on the occult world and we should all agree that Samuel Mathers did in fact die, a somebody.

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the 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 Theatrewhich 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. 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.


_________________
Sources:

Nevill Drury, The Dictionary of the Esoteric, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2004, p. 208.

S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Practical Instruction in Infantry Campaigning Exercise, Translated from the French ( London: City of London Publishing Co., 1884); cited in Christopher McIntosh, The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology and Rituals of an Occult Order, page 111 (second revised edition, Crucible, 1987). ISBN 978-1852740252

William Butler Yeats, The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III: Autobiographies, pages 452–453 (edited by William O'Donnell and Douglas N. Archibald, New York: Scribner, 1999 edition). ISBN 0-684-80728-9
History of the SRIA, T M Greenshill, MBE, published 2003

"Samuel Liddel MacGregor-Mathers", accessed 17 February 2007.

John Michael Greer, The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Hidden History, page 28 (HarperElement, 2006). ISBN 978-0-00-722068-7

Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. p. 194.



Freemasonry and "Just Enough"

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Randy Sanders




In Kabbalah we find the Pillar of Beauty balancing the extremes with “just enough” of each to bring harmony and balance. This balance is explained by Eastern martial artists, especially internal kung fu practitioners as the harmonious interplay of opposites. And in Freemasonry we describe Wisdom and Strength coming into balance by way of Beauty. But why "just enough"?

I believe this remains a lesson for me and many of us finding ourselves taking on offices, tasks, and responsibilities within Freemasonry. We need to focus on “just enough” in balancing our 24-inch gauge, in keeping circumscribed in our passions, and especially in remaining square and level. I sometimes find it difficult to remember the Masonic Lost Word of, “no” when asked by respected Brothers to step up and take on additional responsibilities. Personal growth means opening ourselves to the new, to the stretch goals of finding a way to do more in our lives. But how do we push that goal to be better every day, to expand our minds, and to take on these additional challenges? I want to succeed in my every task. I want to exceed all expectations. I competitively want to be the best Grand High Exalted PooBah Commander Emperor that the Masonic world ever saw. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Freemasonry is showing us a lesson in ego into which too many become trapped along an extreme of one side or the other.

The Pillar of Too Little is the other extreme, as "Idle hands are the Devil's work" reminds us. We find ourselves passively sitting on the sidelines, or declining invitations. We take on a responsibility then push away others making excuses like lack of time. This important down time, or time for recreating yourself, refreshes, heals, and refocuses. Finding a means to structure our down time is maybe, more important than how we focus on our projects or responsibilities. We balance away from, "too little" not by simply taking on more responsibility, but by actively pursuing recreational options. A walk in a park, a nap while watching NASCAR, and creating play time with children or family members, all makes for refreshing options to give us a reprieve from the, "Pillar of Too Much."

The lesson of balance becomes just enough in a world of declining membership and consolidation. When we take on responsibilities, it feels difficult to keep our heads above the water at times. An officer in this line, a secretary of this other body, committee memberships, Grand Lodge responsibilities, taking on other Masonic responsibilities…, and suddenly all the meetings pile up like a bad multi-car collision. The difference is, we can do “just enough” and be completely successful. We should do “just enough” to be completely successful. Does that mean dues cards come out late again this year? Of course. Does that mean minutes get posted a few days after the meeting and not directly afterward? Sure. But they get posted. Dues cards are sent. I'm not saying ignore deadlines and due dates, quite the opposite. Be responsible to those expectations. The business of the Craft gets completed, ritual learned and delivered maybe imperfectly but better than last time, and we do just enough to get the job done. That’s how we keep this fraternity moving forward. That’s how we bring more good men into the fraternity. With a stretch, If we all do just enough by keeping our lives and Freemasonry in balance, we will continue to be successful.

~RS

Brother Randy Sanders is a lodge education officer in two Missouri blue lodges, co-librarian of the Valley of St. Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Reflection, and active in York/AMD. He lives in the suburbs of St. Louis, enjoys Chinese martial arts/chi kung, reading, Western esoterics, and cooking.