Seasonal Gratitude

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Randy Sanders

We as Masons understand charity very well. It’s a part of our existence, right? We live in Faith, we live in Hope, and we live in Charity. As we transition into the holiday season this year, I reflected upon several deep conversations with brothers.

Charity can be a trap, and we as mentors must remain on guard as to the difference of giving as part of our selves versus giving for the feelings of return. How can charity be a trap? Helping others is no trap!

Let us examine the differences and study them so we can learn and grow together. Yes, charity for charity’s sake can turn into a trap. When we feel good, we want to repeat the steps that got us to that feel good place. We want that release of hormones that flood the body with that feel-good feeling of helping our friends and neighbors, especially children. We can become addicted to that feeling and hormone release to the point of pursuing it like a drug.

To that, I say don’t stop doing charity, but we must understand our internal motivations. Let us examine what that means inwardly. Did we just perform an act of charity, or was that act of charity just another part of our being? Those are two different things. Those are three different things if you plug in “reward” as an option. In my opinion, charity with reward is meaningful only to those receiving the charity. Those performing charity with the intent of collecting a reward on the charitable act? I don’t see that as charity.

There’s another difference that should be explored, and that is coming together for fun to do or fund charitable functions. I totally agree with this, and I encourage even more participation. Charitable organizations have a big function within society, and helping them by way of pancake breakfasts, sporting clay events, or other fundraising activities is absolutely legit. It is always good to have fellowship with my brothers while working toward a good cause.

Now we get down to the giving as a natural part of ourselves. We as Masons are not a charitable fraternity. We are not. We are a fraternity that works on a common goal of self-improvement. Period, but not the end. Self-improvement by nature includes helping others as we have been helped ourselves. Consider Plato’s cave as an example. As we come to more and more light, the cave comparison to the degrees is staggering. We are obligated to help others again and again. We are told in lecture after lecture, charge after charge, that we are to be the examples and to lead by example.

When we are living in balance, that balance is Faith, Hope, and Charity. We can discuss the original mis-translation of Agape Love into Charity, and that is a legitimate discussion. However, let’s just focus now on what charity means. Charity is a part of us. Charity/Agape balances two other pillars of that to which we aspire. Masons don’t do charity because we want a reward; we do charity because charity is part of who we are as we continue to be better people.

~RS

Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12 year span. Randy is a 32nd degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.

This is why we can't have nice things!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Growing up, I thought it was just my dysfunctional family.  Every now and then I or my brother or my sister, or two of us in a conspiracy against the other would end up doing something that would start a large argument among the Hosler children.  Screaming and name-calling ensued and eventually, something would end up getting broken because the argument would become physical.  At this point, my mom often would join the chorus of loud voices with her famous “THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!” cry.  I think this was an unspoken code between us siblings that we had better knock it off or the next step would be my father walking into the room like Chuck Norris, belt in hand to bring peace and quiet back to his kingdom. Dad wasn’t concerned about justice, he just wanted quiet so he could hear his television program again.  It wasn’t until I grew up until I discovered that Mom’s famous chant was something every mother says.  (Maybe it is taught at mother’s school right before the “If your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump too?” nonsense.)


Not long ago I was on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Oklahoma City.  The flight was long and cramped.  I was bored so I decided to find something to pass the time.  While catching up with Twitter I saw a tweet and I began to smile.  I knew I shouldn’t do it but the devil sitting on my shoulder talked me into it.  (Maybe the little angel who should have been on the other shoulder was detained by TSA.  But he was definitely not on the job.)


The tweet was posted from the account of the United Grand Lodge of England.  The photo celebrates an open house that was held at the Grand temple in London.  Pictured in the photograph were Dr. David Staples, Grand Secretary of the UGLE and the Grand Secretary of the women’s Freemason Grand Lodge in the UK.  The tweet read: “It's Grand Secretary Central! The Grand Secretaries of both the United Grand Lodge of England and Freemasonry for Women are here at @FreemasonsHall for #OpenHouseLondon today to answer any questions you may have about #Freemasonry for both men and women.


I could almost feel the moderators of The Winding Stairs Facebook Group cringe as I posted the photo.  I knew what was about to happen but since I am a moderator in the group myself with a lot of time on my hands, I thought I could keep the oncoming dumpster fire down to a smoldering campfire.


Before the flight attendants passed out the first package of peanuts the posts started.  Some from the “He-man woman-haters” branch of Freemasonry, who like to throw the word clandestine around and remind everyone they will never forget their obligations by never sitting in a lodge room with women and the usual posts that go with any picture of a person wearing an apron in a skirt.  Then the other side was defending the tweet.  How we need to get more progressive like our English Brethren I thought to myself.  However, my favorite comments are from the Brethren who have no clue and say “Well, if women want to be Masons they can join the Eastern Star” like it is the same thing. They also decide to throw a few SMIB’s into the mix for absolutely no reason and I saw things begin to slowly devolve.


As the conversation progressed, the dialogue started to become un-Masonic.  The Name-calling began.  Some actual threats were made.  I began to think this whole thing had gone too far.  Sadly, for the group and for Freemasonry, I had to ban some members from the group for their conduct.  In a way, I am not sorry because we were able to do what should have been done at their lodge’s West Gate.  If a man is going to threaten, harass, or generally treat a Masonic brother in such a manner he doesn’t deserve to be a member of The Winding Stairs group, or the Fraternity itself.  I can’t do anything about the latter, but I have the power to keep the integrity of the former.


The saddest part of this whole scene to me is all this snarling and gnashing was completely unnecessary.  If someone would do a bit of easy research beforehand instead of going off half-cocked, this wouldn’t be a thing at all.


The He-man woman haters continually say that the United Grand Lodge of England is rubbing shoulders with a clandestine organization.  That they have recognized them as Freemasons.  Allow me to let you in on a little secret: They haven’t.   The UGLE’s relationship with the two female grand lodges in the UK is like dealing with the Mafia: “It’s business, not personal.”.  The ladies help the Grand Lodge at fundraising for charity and they rent the building for their Grand Communication.  There is no Fraternal visitation between the groups.  In no way does the male Grand Lodge consider themselves to be in amity with either of the feminine organizations.  In simple terms it is like they are saying: “You ladies want to be Masons?  Cool! No skin off our noses.  Have fun!” They each do their thing, and everyone is happy. You can read more about it at these links:  http://freemasonsfordummies.blogspot.com/2018/12/ugle-and-female-freemasonry.html

https://www.ugle.org.uk/become-freemason/women-freemasons


Another one of these misunderstood topics which is sure to destroy Freemasonry as we know it is the dreaded Chamber of Reflection.  Basically, the chamber of reflection is a room with no windows, usually painted black.  Before a petitioner is allowed to progress to the Entered Apprentice degree he is placed in the room of complete darkness.  He is given a match and instructed to light the candle before him.  Once the candle is lit, he sees several objects before him on a table with a paper and a pen.  


After some time of thinking about the step he is about to take and whether he wishes to progress he answers the questions on the paper.  If the petitioner answers correctly he is allowed to continue to the degree work.  The process is designed to make him really think about if he is truly serious about gaining membership and if he is truly willing to devote himself to the lifetime of work that lays before him.  The process isn’t that uncommon.  Many Grand Lodges around the world have this as part of their ritual and even the Knights Templar here in the United States uses it in their degree work.  


The "funny" thing is that nearly every time a group of Masons suggests they add this to their lodge ritual, the eyes of several Brethren will bug out and find it hard to breathe.  Without understanding, the reasoning for the room or the fact that is used the world over a knee will automatically jerk up and the brother whose face has now reddened and is close to hyperventilating will be strictly against it, threatening to call the Grand Lodge, then Grand Master, then The Grand Architect of the Universe…Etc. or any other Grand which can keep his lodge from falling down into the rabbit hole of clandestine Freemasonry. 


I heard a tale about one Brother who while in lodge, decided to jump up and compare the Chamber as a place to give a candidate hallucinogenic drug and perform Satan worship.  (I hope that sound I hear is your eyes rolling from here). As silly as it sounds, it is such things that keep our numbers from growing and our retention numbers from free falling.   (Even sillier, I wonder how many of these Brethren whose aprons end up in a wad sat in a similar room before they became Sir Knights of the Knights Templar.  Probably the same number who amount had zero problems drinking libations with real wine during Templar ceremonies but object to having alcohol inside a Masonic temple.)


This brings me to the next item on my rant list: Demon rum.  This may shock none of you, but Grand Lodge Freemasonry began in rooms above taverns.  (I will wait for all of you to regain your composure.). In fact, throughout the eighteenth century and much of the nineteenth century, it was commonplace for beer, ale and hard liquor to be consumed before and after lodge meetings. Wine was also served at dinners and feasts.


It wasn’t until the mid-to-late nineteenth when the Temperance zealots began their assault on American society.  Churches became involved in the movement and eventually, legislation began to come before Grand Lodges asking for the complete prohibition of alcohol within the walls of Masonic temples (It has been my own theory for years this was brought on by Brothers whose wives were members of the Anti-Saloon league or other such groups.) Eventually, most of our Grand lodges became as dry as one of our business meetings.


If you broach the subject of repealing these laws to one of the stalwarts of Masonic tradition, they will almost always parrot the exact same arguments against it. I know this because I have heard these feeble arguments many times in Grand Lodge discussions. Excuses such as: “What if a Brother drinks too much and gets pulled over on the way home from Lodge?”, “What about our Brothers with issues with alcoholism?”, “This would be terrible! The public would drive by our building and see drunken Masons passed out on the sidewalk in front of our building!” These may sound silly, but they work in getting the old guard to vote no to allow us to move forward.


First of all, If we all follow the teachings of Freemasonry like we say we do we will counsel a good Brother a keep him from turning refreshment into intemperance or excess? If by chance, he were to drink a bit too much, I would hope a fellow Brother would drive his Brother home and ensure he gets inside OK. I think I may remember something of an obligation for that sort of thing.


 I don’t know about your Grand Lodge, but my mother Grand Lodge actually has rules against allowing felons, addicts, and alcoholics into the Craft.  However, the only one people seem to dwell on is the felon one. So, the “Brother with drinking issues” should be a non-starter, to begin with, assuming you follow the letter of Masonic law like you want to do on all the things you are against.  


Any the one that gets my goat (pun intended), is the idea of drunken Masons passed out in front of the building.  Tell me, how many times have you seen those same drunken Masons passed out in front of a Shrine temple? Seems to me if a Brother is going to drink himself silly in front of one Masonic edifice a Noble would do the same thing in front of another building.  


Since the United States is one of the few if only Masonic country to have a prohibition against alcohol I’m sure drunken Masons must be a worldwide phenomenon, right?   If it, is I haven’t heard about it in my nearly two decades as a Mason?  


There are so many things in the craft we tend to dismiss or decide about with a knee-jerk reaction. It is almost like we are allowing our Fraternity to die an unnecessary death because an unruly mob carrying torches wish it to be governed by superstition and legend instead of science and facts.   


I bet if we were to sit down and make a list many of Freemasonry’s hot button topics could be put to bed if both sides actually knew the facts and made a plan on the subject instead of believing something told him based on urban legend or what a Past Master believed to be true sixty years ago.  Even if they don’t agree, they can at least have an intelligent discussion and perhaps come to some agreeable solution. 


Like so many things in Freemasonry (and in life itself) a little research on a subject will help you sound more intelligent but will also provide you with the information, you need to make an informed decision or opinion. Who knows? Knowing more about the Craft besides how to hold a rod during degree word or that George Washington and John Wayne were members might even enhance your love for the Fraternity. It might even allow people who were ignorant on a subject to discover that they might actually agree on the topic if they knew the facts. 


I understand that not everyone is a Masonic nerd like I am.  They don’t spend hours researching Masonic topics and history.  They have actual lives with jobs and families. They go to the lodge a few nights a month. They study the ritual and floor work and if they have a question, they might ask a Past Master who, sadly after nearly a century without Masonic education in lodges is probably as clueless as the Brother is. I can think of no other environment or in no other group where someone can argue an opinion with zero facts and not have their argument called into question with a demand that the person produces evidence in order to be believed. Except on social media, especially when talking about those subjects forbidden for us to discuss in Lodge, but that’s a different article. 


Brethren, I know this is a lot to ask.  But if we really want to make our Fraternity relevant again, we must actually embrace the forbidden Masonic “C-word”. That word is change for those of you who have tried to repress it from your memory. The various generations of members must learn to work together and accept both sides may have some ideas that have value.  In other writings, I have laid out how what I believe a lodge can do bring this about and be successful. The only things preventing them are open minds and a willingness to try new things.  I think these things will bring actual “Harmony” to a lodge instead of appeasing one side of an argument over another.  


This all really makes me wonder.  I wonder if my brother, sister, and I would have actually gotten along and worked together instead of constantly arguing and fighting if my mom could have actually have had nice things?


~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 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.

The Mystic Tie and Time

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Saint Joseph #970's newest Master Mason, Tommy Justison, with the Author

One of the most beautiful things about Freemasonry is the mystic tie that unites us.  I recently found myself scrambling to find a lodge putting on a Third Degree for a candidate, Tommy Justison, who was initiated into St. Joseph #970 in 2017 as an Entered Apprentice.  Tommy was a student at the University of Illinois at the time, and due to his internships along with studies, was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft in 2019, and subsequently graduated from the University of Illinois, while the Covid pandemic took hold and stopped all Masonic work in the State of Illinois.  Tommy had recently reached out to Senior Midnight Freemason contributor, Illus. Bro. Greg Knott, about finishing his degree.  The issue was that Tommy lived in Hillsboro, Illinois, a two-hour journey from St. Joseph.  Our hope was to find a lodge somewhere halfway between both cities, but sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to answer the door. 

I found out through my good friend and fellow Area Education Officer, Jordan Kelly, that Pawnee Lodge #675 was having a Third Degree on November 18.  He gave me the name and number of their Worshipful Master, Josh Meach, whom I contacted.  After consulting with his lodge, they allowed me to bring Tommy.  I am usually not in favor of having multiple candidates at a Third Degree, however, in this case, I felt desperate times called for desperate measures.  Tommy was only going to be available to do his third degree for a short window of time, and Pawnee was only about a 40-minute drive from Tommy's home.  

I hit the road for Tommy's degree and arrived at Pawnee around 5:30 PM. I was greeted by Josh and some other brethren and it was that mystic tie that united us that made me feel welcome. Thirty-seven brothers came out last night to help make sure that two men become Master Masons.  The dinner was excellent, Fellowship was had and the degree was masterfully put on. I can't thank the brethren enough for the excellent work.  

Every time I witness the Third Degree, I can't help but end up seeing it from a new perspective. Last night's degree was no exception.  I couldn't help think about the symbolism of time that pervades our degrees.  The Twenty-Four Inch Gauge, The weeping virgin standing at the broken column with Father Time unfurling the ringlets of her hair, the three steps, the Anchor and the Ark, the hourglass, and scythe all have different lessons to teach us about time.  But of these, the one that resonated with me was that of the weeping virgin. While it is such a melancholy scene, we are taught from it that time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things. 

Using Tommy as an example, it took him over four years from his initiation to his raising to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. However, did it really impact his Masonic Journey?  The journey is about the destination. Tommy displayed patience and perseverance, and he finished his journey.  So I ask you, are we pushing candidates through our degrees too quickly?   Should we not slow down and allow time, patience, and perseverance to guide us?  Maybe we can judge the true character of our candidates by seeing those that continue their journey slowly and methodically.  It is my belief that the ones that want to take their time and keep showing up will be the ones that stick around.  So while many lodges will continue to be Master Mason factories with varying levels of success in retention, let us try to use the lesson taught by that weeping virgin to slow down and persevere.  Engage our candidates, bring them slowly along and teach them that it's okay to go at that pace. Let them savor the journey. That will make the destination so much sweeter. 

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our Co-Managing Editor. He is a host and producer of the "Meet, Act and Part" podcast. He is currently serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as the Area Education Officer for the Eastern Masonic Area. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and a member of the Salt Fork Shrine Club under the Ansar Shrine. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com. 

Mindful Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Randy Sanders


We hear a lot about the term mindfulness and being present in any situation. Living in the moment seems to be the catch phrase of the day. How might this apply to Masonry? Better yet, how can I apply these concepts myself?

We experience mindfulness in a lodge when we simply pay attention to ritual. We don’t whisper to others sitting near us, we don’t pull out the meeting agenda or write notes to ourselves for later. We simply pay attention.

This is powerful, especially if you allow yourself to immerse in the experience. How many times have we felt the ritual just feel good, or possibly raise the hair on our necks when we see it performed with intent? Mindfully participating in ritual gives us focus on the here and now. It’s a means of being present in our chairs while watching the movements and listening to the words. It applies equally to officers and members, and when visiting another lodge we quickly feel it. Or not.

If we’re fortunate enough to belong to a lodge that burns incense, then we add another sensory experience beyond sight and sound. Tactile feeling of our butts in the seats, standing when we are called upon to do so, and sitting again, all add to the experience. Yes, even the actions of standing and sitting give opportunity to be mindful and present in the moment.

Mindfulness and being present are simply that, but they can be difficult to achieve with our worldly distractions and full calendars. Lodge gives us a somewhat unique opportunity to explore many things not obvious or as easily obtained outside of the lodge. Let’s take advantage of those opportunities.

~RS

Randy and his wife Elyana live near St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Randy earned a Bachelors Degree in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and he works in Telecom IT management. He volunteers as a professional and personal mentor, NRA certified Chief Range Safety Officer and enjoys competitive tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun. He has 30 plus years teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu, Chi Kung, and healing arts. Randy served as a Logistics Section Chief on two different United States federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams over a 12 year span. Randy is a 32nd degree KCCH and Knight Templar. His Masonic bio includes past Lodge Education Officer for two symbolic lodges, Founder of the Wentzville Lodge Book Club, member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri Education Committee, Sovereign Master of the E. F. Coonrod AMD Council No. 493, Co-Librarian of the Scottish Rite Valley of St. Louis, Clerk for the Academy of Reflection through the Valley of Guthrie, and a Facilitator for the Masonic Legacy Society. Randy is a founding administrator for Refracted Light, full contributor to Midnight Freemasons, and an international presenter on esoteric topics. Randy hosts an open ongoing weekly Masonic virtual Happy Hour on Friday evenings. Randy is an accomplished home chef, a certified barbecue judge, raises Great Pyrenees dogs, and enjoys travel and philosophy.