Dangerous Travels

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Bill Hosler


Recently, I've been thinking about the founding of my mother Grand Lodge in Indiana. In 2018, the Grand Lodge of Indiana will celebrate their bicentennial. In January 1818, Freemasons from nine lodges, working under charters by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky and the Grand Lodge of Ohio gathered in Madison, Indiana to start the process of organizing their own future.

Back in that day, there were very few choices of transportation by which you could travel across a newly formed state; you could travel by riverboat down the Ohio river (if your town was near the river and you could afford the fare), you could travel via horseback (down rough paths which could hardly qualify as a trail), and if you didn't own a horse, you walked.

No matter which mode of transportation you chose, the journey was guaranteed to be uncomfortable; muddy trails, snow and high winds combined to make the trip difficult. Depending on where you lived, your destination may be several days (or even weeks) away. In the winter you slept on the cold ground, shivering under a blanket near a fire, eating what meager provisions you brought. During the summer, you endured the heat of the day and hordes of insects. You might encounter highwaymen who would think nothing of robbing you of all your possessions and leaving you for dead in the wilderness. You always ran the risk of a wild animal who might see you as a threat to his domain and an easy dinner. There was no 911 or Auto Club to come to your rescue if you were in trouble. You were on your own.

No matter how you traveled, when you arrived at your destination the accommodations were scant at best. Most of these men would stay in the home of another Freemason or in a local inn. Tavern owners usually offered beds above their establishments; you paid to spend the night and you shared that bed with all of the other travelers. You ate what the tavern served that day. Once your business was complete, you began your return trip home facing the same dangers and discomforts as before.

These men so believed in the Craft that they were willing to endure all of these hardships and dangers, not to mention the days of being away from their families and livelihoods, all in order to help advance the Craft.

Traveling wasn't the only hardships our forefathers had to endure. We are taught that Masons originally met in high hills or low vales, which later became the upstairs loft spaces of inns and taverns, accessible only by climbing a ladder. I have heard stories of lodges meeting in caves, in barns, sometimes even in the home of one of the brothers. One thing is for certain, most of these spaces were not ideal for a lodge meeting. Before a lodge was opened, the Masons had to get to work setting up the room, moving the chairs into position, laying out the jewels and the aprons. If degree work was to happen that night, a brother would draw out the tracing boards on the floor which had to be mopped up after the lodge was closed. Once the lodge was closed, the furniture in the space had to be moved back to its normal position. These buildings were drafty, cold and uncomfortable to occupy.

Over the last century, we Freemasons have become accustomed to meeting in beautiful lodge buildings. Sometimes these edifices were marble palaces in the center of a big city, other times a modest room above a storefront in a small town. These buildings all have modern plumbing, are heated for the winter and sometimes even air conditioned for a pleasant climate in the summertime. Custom furniture was commissioned and purchased which never had to be moved. Beautiful carpets lay on the floor beneath the feet of the Brethren.

It’s difficult today for us to imagine the travel involved and the meeting places that our forefathers used to spread the light of Masonry. Sometimes just the events surrounding these men's lives added even more issues for these men to bear.

Most of us know that throughout the last few centuries many Grand Lodges issued emergent charters to men in order to meet during war time. The daily lives of these men are the hardest thing for me in my comfortable modern life to fathom.
These men would march for hours a day, usually with little sleep and even less food, to a battlefield where they had to make camp, and then risk their lives on the field of battle. Once the battle was over, if they survived the conflict and weren’t too badly injured, the men would erect a tent, get out the trunk of Masonic regalia from a wagon, and open a lodge. Sometimes lodge officers had to be continually re-elected, not because the brother quit the lodge, but because the man had been killed on the field of battle. Think of it: these men were hungry, exhausted, and trying to forget the horrors of war they had witnessed that day, but they still thought enough of their obligation to continue to meet, just like they would have back in their homes.

Throughout history, our Masonic forefathers endured hardships of all kinds just to practice what today we take for granted. From rough travel, to bad living and meeting accommodations, to actually risking their lives on battlefields or being tortured in a prison camp for their belief in Freemasonry.

Sadly, not all of these hardships are in our past. Many continue to this day. I recently had the distinct honor to speak with a Brother who asked that I keep his name and his home secret, not because he was worried about his own safety (he escaped and is now in a free country) but because the Brethren of his lodge in his home country are still in peril.
This Brother belongs to a lodge in the Middle East. His government has declared Freemasonry illegal. If the location of his lodge is discovered by their local government, his Brothers will be arrested, placed in prison, and after they are tortured into confessing crimes against the state, they would be executed. In spite of the risk, they still meet on a regular basis, in a secret lodge room. They meet and discuss Freemasonry and how it helps them in their lives. While meeting, they keep an eye on each other and if a member or his family needs Masonic charity they will quietly arrange it. They don't allow a dictatorship or the threat of death to stop their belief in the obligation they took.

Brother! After reading this short piece, I want to ask you a question: if these men can attend lodge with zeal and enthusiasm despite all these hardships, why don't you attend lodge? If our forefathers could risk their lives to the elements of weather and rough travel for days to attend a meeting, why can't you get in your well heated and air conditioned car to drive less than an hour on a well built road to visit a lodge in a well heated or air conditioned building with running water and electricity to spend an hour with the Brethren of your lodge? If the men in a secret lodge living under a dictatorship can sneak away in the dark of night in secret to meet under the possibility of being tortured and executed, why can't you endure the reading of the minutes or a treasurer's report? Is listening to Past Masters arguing about of the price of light bulbs the reason that keeps you away from a group of men you swore to treat as your Brother help him in his time of need?

No. I didn't think so.

I'm not saying dealing with our troubles are trivial. We all have a lot of current issues within our lodge rooms. But is quitting going to change them? No! The only thing not attending lodge will do is allow the problems to get worse and eventually put our Fraternity of the ash heap of history.

Instead of everyone quitting the Craft, why not find kindred spirits within your lodge and start changing what you don't like? Think of it this way: if your lodge only has eight regular attendees, if you and nine other Brethren vote to do something, you will win the majority. If your numbers continue to grow you and your brothers can start to transform the lodge into a place you can look forward to attending, chances are your changes will entice new men into joining your lodge. If for some reason this doesn't work, check with your Grand Lodge and see how many Master Masons it takes to start a new lodge.

Most of the hardships I have listed above, and many others I don't have the space to mention, can be fixed with hard work, perseverance, and time. Roads were built, money was raised for new, comfortable meeting accommodations, and lodges were arranged in secret to protect those in countries where Masonry is still illegal . Whining and quitting has never fixed anything. Neither has letting someone else deal with it. It's time for all of us to stand up, roll up our sleeves and make Freemasonry the Fraternity we want it to be and that it should be.

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Masonic Wisdom: Silence

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Luciano M. Azevedo



Socrates, the wise Greek philosopher, said that eloquence is often a way of falsely exalting what is small and of diminishing what is great.

Words may be misused, masked or employed for concealment. That is why we should speak only when our words are more valuable than our silence.

The reason is simple, our words have power to build or to destroy. They can generate peace, harmony, comfort but they can also generate hate, resentment, anguish, sadness. Our M.W King Solomon said in his proverbs: "Even the fool, when he is silent, passes for wise, for intelligent".

Silence is valuable, it is very essential to all Freemasons to listen more than speak, to think and meditate rather than run into action. Both the word and the silence reveal our being.

How much animosity exists in lodges because of gossip, slander and insults? We must learn that when we loose control and wrongly injure our brother we must pursue the sacred courage to go and ask for forgiveness.

Our words should always be positive and generate well-being, produce edification of the soul and consolation to the heart.

Masons should always speak honestly, react with good judgment and without anger and express their opinion with caution. Often, in the debates, we see so many people talking and few willing to listen.

Great men are those who open their mouths only when others have nothing more to say.

God speaks to us in the silence, when the agitation of the soul ceases; when His word sinks deep on us...

~LMA

WB Luciano M. Azevedo holds an MBA and Bachelor in Business Administration. He has published several scientific and philosophical essays and articles in the secular world. As a sommelier he wrote his own column for a major wine magazine for many years. In Freemasonry Brother “Lou” has contributed with many articles from a philosophical basic approach to an ethical decision-making in regards to masonic conduct. He is the current Worshipful Master of Zurich Lodge 1089 of A.F&A.M of the State of Illinois. W. Bro Luciano is also a member or the Grand Lodge Leadership Committee of the State of Illinois, a 32 Degree active member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and a Shrine Noble of the Medinah Shriners.

A Visit To Historic Naval Lodge No. 4

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Naval Lodge No. 4, Washington, D.C. (photo by Naval Lodge)
I couldn't believe it when Greg Knott told me, "there's a meeting at Naval Lodge No. 4 tomorrow."  We were in Washington D.C. for Masonic Week--an annual meeting put on by the Allied Masonic Degrees.  It was my third trip to D.C. with Greg in two years, and he knew how much I wanted to see that Lodge.  Greg's actually a member of Naval Lodge No. 4, but both times we'd visited before, there wasn't a meeting or somebody available to open the building.  So I was thrilled to learn that LaFayette-Dupont Lodge No. 19 F. & A. M. was having their meeting the next night.  No question about it--we were going!

Naval Lodge has a history going back to 1805, but in 1895 they opened their new building--and it is indeed a remarkable building.  The Lodge is on the 4th floor, and to get there, you can take the winding staircase--the iron support for that staircase is a single piece of cast iron.  Or you could take the tiny hand-operated elevator, which is believed to be the oldest operating elevator in Washington D.C.

Naval Lodge "G" (photo by Naval Lodge)
The Lodge Room is magnificent!  I've visited many Masonic Lodges over the years, and Naval Lodge is certainly one of the most remarkably furnished lodges I've visited.  It's no wonder it has been featured in a number of television productions about Freemasonry, and was a location featured by fiction writer Dan Brown in his novel "The Lost Symbol."  When people who are unfamiliar with Freemasonry try to imagine what the inside of a Masonic Lodge might look like, they are probably envisioning something that resembles Naval Lodge very closely--I know that before I became a Mason I certainly did.

The room is massive in size, the ceiling of which towers two stories above.  There is recessed section in the center of that ceiling that vaults to even loftier heights and features the starry decked heaven.  There is an organ loft over the Senior Warden's station in the West that features a pipe organ.  The small altar (small by comparison to the enormous space it sits in) rests on a black and white tile floor, and was hand crafted from a piece of marble by an Operative Mason that worked on the stonework of many of the buildings in the Washington D.C. area.  Being from the Midwest, I'm used to seeing a Holy Bible on the altar, but Naval Lodge No. 4, due to its location, has always been a more international brotherhood.  The Holy Bible was one of three volumes of the Sacred Law presented on the altar, which represented the diversity of religious beliefs by the members of that Lodge.

Altar at Naval Lodge No. 4 (poor photography by Todd E. Creason)
Every inch of the interior walls are decoratively painted in an Egyptian theme.  Two obelisks stand on either side of the Worshipful Master in the East.  The chairs in use by the dais officers date back to the original Lodge building--1805.  Amazing enough, those chairs are in remarkable shape and are still rock solid--not a creak.  Even the carpet features deeply Masonic symbology.  It's very difficult to take it all in.

Carpet Detail (photo by Todd E. Creason)
Greg and I just walked in not knowing exactly what to expect.  It was the regular meeting night of Lafayette-Dupont Lodge No. 19, which also meets in the historic building.  They welcomed us into their dining room to share in their meal, and after the meal was complete, we had to prove we were Masons.  We were taken one at a time into the preparation room and through of a series of inquiries only a Mason would know the answers to, and after presenting a current dues card, were we admitted into the meeting.

Midnight Freemasons Greg Knott (left) and Todd E. Creason (right) in the East
Every state is a little different in how they do their ritual, and it was interesting to note some of those differences, but other than that, it was the same business meeting I've attended many times before.  Reading the minutes, treasurer's report, discussing upcoming events, reading a petition, etc.  When we were asked to stand up and say something to the Brethren of the Lodge, Greg mentioned we were both contributors to The Midnight Freemasons blog . . . to our surprise, the Lodge Secretary said, "I know that blog well!"  Sometimes we forget just how far and wide our work here on The Midnight Freemasons travels.  

By the time the meeting was finished, we all departed as good friends.  We shook hands, we took photos, and we exchanged contact information--I've already heard from a few of our new friends.  I'd like to thank the Brethren of LaFayette-Dupont Lodge No. 19 for making us feel so welcome, and sharing their evening with us. 

One of the wonderful things about our Fraternity is that no matter where we may travel, it's never difficult to find a Brother.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Brother Ozymandias

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Seth Anthony

We have all met Brother Ozymandias. He is a member of every Lodge in every Jurisdiction. He has been a member of the Craft from time immemorial and a trusted advisor to many Masonic leaders. He tends to appear shortly before the time of installation and stays for a varying duration based on the leader’s program.

Brother Ozymandias is best known for the promise of the legacy he wishes to help each leader leave. He whispers into the ear of Masonic leaders and reminds them that their time in the East is short; that they need a grand design on the trestle board if they are to make an impact on their organization. He cultivates a desire in all to have their name engraved upon the hearts and minds of Brothers everywhere. In some ways, he motivates those in authority more than other, yet he is a fickle Brother. Just as a leader feels as if his legacy is secure, Brother Ozymandias leaves him to begin consulting with the next in line, promising a greater legacy to him than any that came before.

Yet, no matter how many legacies Brother Ozymandias orchestrates, Brother Time erases each with his ever passing nature; in time, “nothing beside remains.”

How much do you listen to the whispering of Brother Ozymandias?

Ozymandias
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

~SA


WB Seth Anthony has been a member of the Fraternity for more than ten years. He is proud to serve Abraham C. Treichler Lodge No. 682 as an officer and as the Lodge Historian.