The 50 Year Member- That Noble Contention

   by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

The stillness of the temple’s Masonic library was shattered by the sounds of footsteps walking down the creaky wooden floors of the hallway outside the wood-paneled room.  The 50-year member seemed puzzled to see the door of the library opened for a change.  It is so rare to find anyone actually visiting the beautiful old room containing tomes of Masonic knowledge and history written by some of the greatest minds of the last few centuries.  “Someone must be cleaning in there or using it as a storage room again.” The old man thought.

To the old man’s surprise and delight he noticed a light was on as he walked by the room, but the room was occupied! Stopping dead in his tracks his feet left the creaky wooden floor of the hall and stepped into the deep plush blue carpet of the library. 

There in the corner of the room with his feet resting on an ottoman, quietly seated in an in a beautiful old leather Queen Anne chair.  The brown leather still in magnificent shape despite years of non-use was Pudge.  It appeared Pudge’s mind was a million miles away lost in the contents of a dusty book the young man had pulled from the shelves of the Masonic library.

Pudge jumped in a startled fright as the old man exclaimed “There you are! I thought you dropped off the face of the earth! I have not seen you on social media in a few weeks.  You have not been texting or returning emails.  You have not even here in the lodge for a couple of weeks.  We missed you during degree work the other night.”  

Still trying to catch his breath from the fright, his hands shaking, Pudge put his book down on his lap and sighed.  “Yeah, I have been taking a little break from everything recently.  I really needed to recharge and recenter my mind.  I really think I am having a nervous breakdown.  My stomach has been tied up in knots, I feel nervous when I leave the house. I just cannot cope with all this negativity and constant arguing going on around me all time, so I have been spending a lot of time at home reading books, listening to calming music, and meditating."  

Pudge continues “Everywhere I look all of my friends are at each other’s throats over one issue or the other. I cannot turn on a TV or look at social media without people I know and love hating on each other, calling each other names, threatening violence.  It just doesn’t seem to stop. It almost makes me feel like my skin is crawling.”

“You can’t even seek refuge in lodge anymore.  There are people being nasty towards each other at supper, or fighting afterward if we stop off before going home. I even notice it within a tiled lodge.  I know there has always been bickering in stated meetings.  Either we are spending too much on light bulbs about the proper way to do floor work.  It has always been that way and it will probably never change but right now all of it just feels like fingernails across a blackboard.  I just feel like I need to get away from all of this for a while or I will literally lose my mind.” 

The old man smiled and slowly sat down in the chair next to Pudge.  “I feel bad you didn’t think you could come to me for help. I want you to know you can always come to me to be a sounding board or if you need a shoulder to cry on. It is like I have told you, I think of you like I do one of my sons.”   He patted the young man on his hand.  “I totally understand, Pudge.  Honestly, I honestly think all of this has been hard on all of us.  I wish I could say a few magic words and make all this craziness go away but sadly I cannot.  Hopefully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I have been thinking about this, I do not think we have any more discourse or angst than we have had before, we just have it in our face more.  Enough twenty-four news coverage and up to the minute news, via the internet we just cannot escape it. We cannot even go out for a walk or venture out for a cup of coffee without a device bringing it to your attention. It is like you can’t get away from it.  Add to that everything else we have encountered this year and it is almost like shaking a can of pop and opening it while the contents are still under pressure.  All the soda shoots out everywhere spilling over everything and if you get a face full of it.”

The old man continued: “I cannot change the world, but I can do my best to tidy up my little corner of it.  Sometimes when a man, a Brother is caught up in the moment he is blind to his surroundings.  It is kinda like tunnel vision.  Sadly, he may not see he is on the road to destruction until he has reached the point of no return.  Maybe if you happen to encounter one of these Brothers who has forgotten how to subdue his passions, Maybe let's say has gotten caught up in the moment, maybe try to take him aside just the two of you and try to whisper some good counsel in his ear.  It is a gamble.  He may understand what you are trying to say to him ad heed your advice, or he may cuss you out.  Hopefully someday what you had said to him will begin to make sense and if it is not too late, he can change course.  All you can do is try to help your brother, but it is up to him whether he accepts it. 

He paused and said: Not long ago I came across a Past Grand Master from California, MWB Russ Charvonia.  He has dedicated his Masonic career to Masonic civility. The Brother has written on the subject and gave talks about civility.  Most of this material he provides was created long before our current situation, but I can sure tell you all of it sure hits home right now.  He has taken all the material he has collected and he has created and he put it all together on a website https://www.masoniccivility.org/. It really has a lot of great information that one can use in lodge newsletters or present during your lodge.  Some of it can even be used in the profane world. Kinda reminded me of a song my son used to listen to back in the '80s, called People are People by Dispatchy Moods.” Pudge replied and laughed: "I think you mean Depeche Mode."

The old man smiled and said: “Yes, that's what I said. When I was your age I always remember hearing: “You are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem!”  Sitting here with your head in the sand like an ostrich, hoping it all goes away is a way to deal with the problem, but in no way is it a solution.  I know it's hard to stand in the line of fire between two opposing forces but like it says in the Volume of Sacred Law: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

Pudge started laughing and said, “There is also another saying, “The pioneers get all the arrows”.  Pudge continued. “Seriously, I get what you are saying.   All of this does not seem like it is going away anytime soon. I guess instead of sitting at home in the dark cowering in the corner until someone else fixes all the problems I could at least put my fears aside and try to be the solution.   If it’s to be, it's up to me like they say. Let’s give it a shot. I hope I can count on your help and support on this.  I have a feeling I am sure going to need it. “

“You know you can count on me.” The 50-year member said “I think between the two of us we can come up with some kind of program to help get this off the ground.  The DDGM is a friend of mine I will see if there are resources the Grand Lodge can provide to help us with this.  Who knows? They may even want to adopt what we create and introduce it to lodges across the jurisdiction.”

Pudge eyes widened with amazement “Wouldn’t that be something?”  Pudge said, “Honestly, that would be nice if it happened but If I did this it wouldn’t be to make a big name for myself.” The 50-year member chuckled “I understand that.  Your humility is legendary.  Call me later in the week and let me know what you come up with.  Just do not become a hermit.  You are too young and not rich enough to become the next Howard Hughes.” 

“OK, Bro.” Pudge said with a confused look on his face.  “Right now, I am going to sit here and finish reading this book.  I wish someone would have told me about this room long before now.  But I have one question for you.  Who is Howard Hughes?” The old man groaned and put his hand on his forehead.  “Oh geez!!! I must be getting old! Tell you what, just Google him!” He paused and then said mischievously: “I’ll talk to you later.  I’m going to go home and take some anti-aging pills as long as I remember what I was planning to do once I reach the house!

~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.




Famous American Freemason: Brother Harry Houdini - Revisit

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason

“My brain is the key that sets my mind free.”

Every day, the boy’s boss, the local locksmith, went to get a few beers over the lunch hour.  Most days, he didn’t leave the boy alone with a hulking, surly giant, but one day he did.  There was no question that the boy was afraid.  The man was the ugliest, most terrifying looking character the boy had ever seen, with a bristly beard, a mean disposition, and an jagged scar that ran down the side of his face.  And this man—a criminal and prisoner—was wearing heavy handcuffs.  The sheriff had brought his prisoner, handcuffs and all, into the shop because he’d broken his key off in the lock, and there was no way to get the handcuffs off. 

Because the sheriff and his prisoner had arrived near the lunch hour, the locksmith instructed the boy to get a hacksaw and cut the handcuffs off while he and the sheriff went out for a drink.  The boy frantically sawed away at the hardened metal cuffs, breaking several saw blades in the process.  The last broken blade had very nearly cut the man’s hand, earning the boy a sharp, ominous threat from the man.  In nearly an hour, the boy hadn’t made even a dent in the cuffs, and his boss was due back in a few minutes.  The boy didn’t like the idea of setting this man loose in a store that sold, among other things, pistols and derringers, but times were hard then.   He was lucky to have a job, and his desire to please his employer was stronger than his fear of the man.

There had been a good reason his father had arranged the apprenticeship for the boy with the locksmith and a good reason the locksmith had taken the boy on—he was good with locks.  As a youngster, he used to lock and unlock all the cabinets and cupboards in his house using a small common tool—a buttonhook.  In fact, he was notorious for being the little boy who’d unlocked the doors of all the shops in his hometown one evening.  That day when he failed to saw off the handcuffs, he decided that if he couldn’t defeat the cuffs by hacking them off, maybe he could pick the locks.  That was not what his employer had asked him to do, but it was the only alternative he knew. 

He clipped off a piece of piano wire and fashioned it into an appropriately sized tool.  Then he paused.  The last thing he wanted was for this criminal to see what he was about to do. 

“Do you mind looking the other way?” he asked gently. 

“Like hell I can,” the man responded. 

After the boy worked on the first cuff for about a minute, it suddenly clicked open.  It took him half that time to open the second cuff. 

The locksmith and the sheriff returned just as he was finishing.  The prisoner was still sitting there, stunned at what the boy had done.  He picked up the cuffs and looked them over carefully.  When the locksmith suddenly realized the boy hadn’t cut the cuffs off, he took them from the giant and looked at them in amazement. 

“That is good work, Ehrich.  That is damned good work.”

Ehrich would go on to become a great locksmith, the best the world has ever seen.  There wasn’t any kind of lock that he couldn’t defeat, but he specialized in handcuffs.  He opened locks and handcuffs all over the world.  He escaped from many unusual situations—he was locked in prison cells, mailbags, straight-jackets, and coffins.  He could even escape being locked in a large milk can filled to the top with water.  And nobody ever knew his secret. 

Well, that’s not exactly correct.  Ehrich was forced to reveal something to the prisoner that day.  He’d seen a great secret which made that young boy into a world famous man and an iconic figure.  Ehrich said of the prisoner years later, “He is the only person in the world besides my wife who knows how I open locks, and I have never heard from him since.”

That  boy would grow into the man known the world over by a single name—Houdini.

Ehrich Weisz was born on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary, to Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz and Cecilia Steiner Weisz.  Hoping to secure a better life for his family, Mayer immigrated to America and changed his last name to Weiss.

Through a friend, Weiss gained a job serving as a rabbi to a small Jewish congregation in Appleton, Wisconsin. His family followed him to America in 1876.  Because Mayer Weiss’s religious views were considered old-fashioned by the Appleton congregation, he was dismissed from his position. The family moved to Milwaukee when Ehrich was about eight.   The times were difficult. From a young age, Ehrich helped out by working.  He sold newspapers and shined shoes to help support the family. When he was not working, Ehrich practiced acrobatic stunts.  His first public performance was when he was nine years old.  He hung on a trapeze suspended from a tree while wearing red socks made by his mother. He billed himself as “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.”

At age twelve, Ehrich ran away from home, hopping a freight car to Kansas City. A year later, he re-joined his family, who were by then living in New York City but still struggling to survive.  In New York, Ehrich and his younger brother, Theo, began to pursue their interest in magic. Ehrich’s idol was the great French magician Robert Houdin. When Ehrich started performing magic, he added an “i” to the end and began billing himself as “Houdini.” He undoubtedly got the “Harry” because it sounded much like his childhood nickname Ehrie.

Harry Houdini began his professional career at age seventeen, doing magic shows in music halls, at sideshows, and at the amusement park on New York’s Coney Island.  It wasn’t unusual for him to perform twenty shows each day. For a short time, he worked with Theo, billed as the Houdini Brothers.  But when Harry met Beatrice “Bess” Raymond, a teenager who was also attempting a career in show business, she joined the act as Harry’s new partner, and Theo started a solo career as a magician under the name “Hardeen.”  Harry and Bess married in 1894, remaining devoted companions and partners for the rest of their lives.

In 1895, the Houdinis joined the Welsh Brothers Circus. Harry did magic while Bess sang and danced.  Together they performed a trick called “Metamorphosis,” where Harry and Bess switched places in a locked trunk. Harry wasn’t satisfied with his small act.  He continued to work on new tricks and to develop his showmanship. He also became an expert at escaping handcuffs. Arriving in a new town, Houdini would claim he could escape from any handcuffs the local police had—and he did.  These publicity stunts were excellent advertising for his shows.  Houdini offered $100 to anyone who could provide handcuffs he couldn’t get out of, but he never had to pay that reward.

As his name and reputation spread, Houdini decided to take his show on the road to Europe.  In 1900, Harry and Bess sailed to England with no bookings and only enough money to survive a week, but Houdini was able to get an engagement at a London theater.  After one particularly successful stunt, he found himself booked solid.  Sold-out shows followed all over Europe.  Wherever he went, he repeated the stunt.  He called upon local police to restrain him in any way they could think up, but he escaped from all of them.

By the time Houdini returned to the United States in 1905, he was an international celebrity. Among the stunts performed in America were escaping from prison cells, squirming from straitjackets while suspended upside-down, and jumping into rivers from bridges while chained and handcuffed. 

His death-defying stunts and showmanship also extended to his famous milk can escape.  Houdini was cuffed and shackled, lowered into an oversized milk can that was filled to overflowing with water, and then hidden by a curtain.  Before he submerged himself and the can was sealed, he would ask the audience members to take a deep breath and hold it as long as they could.  As the members of the audience, red-faced, could hold their breath no longer, they realized that if they were in the milk can, they would be drowning, and yet Houdini remained trapped.  Hidden behind his curtain, Houdini was able to escape in three minutes, but he frequently stayed behind the curtain for much longer to make his re-appearance all the more dramatic.

Harry and Bess lived in a large house they purchased in New York when they weren’t traveling. They never had children, but Harry’s mother lived with them until she died in 1913.  Her death was the greatest tragedy of his life.  For weeks afterward, he made almost daily visits to the cemetery.  He said in a speech to the Magician’s Club, “It seemed the end of the world when she was taken from me.” Eventually, Houdini was able to return to work, but he continued to mourn his mother for the rest of his life.

Partly as a result of his mother’s death, Houdini renewed an early interest in spiritualism, the ability to communicate with the dead. Houdini wanted to believe that such communication was possible, but after many years of tricking people, he knew a trick when he saw one.  He went on a crusade against phony spiritualists.  He felt they were profiting by preying on people who, in their mourning, wished for nothing more than to talk again with their departed relatives.  He often passed up better-paying opportunities to lecture on the subject, and he unmasked many frauds in the cities he visited.  In his own act, Houdini often recreated many of the tricks the charlatans used to trick people at a séance into believing they were making contact with spirits from beyond the grave.   Houdini had a standing offer of $10,000 to anyone who could produce a result in a séance that he couldn’t reproduce himself using magic and trickery.  No one ever collected that reward either.

Houdini did believe contact with the dead was possible, but he didn’t believe that most of the mediums claiming to be able to make that contact were legitimate.  Because of his interest in spiritualism, Houdini developed a close friendship with the creator of Sherlock Holmes, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a true believer in spiritualism.  In fact, Doyle was convinced that Houdini employed psychic powers to perform his remarkable escapes.  Houdini denied that he had such powers.  He even tried to explain to Doyle how he actually did some of the things he was able to do, but Doyle didn’t believe him.  Eventually, this rift over spiritualism and psychic ability ended their friendship.

When America entered the First World War, Houdini attempted to enlist in the army, but at forty-three, he was rejected as being too old. Unable to fight, Houdini found other ways to serve.  He entertained the troops by performing free shows and organized Liberty Bond shows to help finance the war.

In the fall of 1926, Houdini put together a new show and took it on the road. It was an elaborate, two-and-a-half-hour show that required Houdini to be on stage almost the entire time. The highlight of the show was the Chinese water torture escape, which had become one of Houdini’s most famous stunts.  In that escape, Houdini’s hands and feet were bound while he was lowered, upside down, into a glass tank filled with water.  The tour seemed plagued by bad luck from the beginning.  The first bad luck was when Bess contracted food poisoning. Houdini stayed awake all night by her side. By the time they reached the next town, Houdini had gone three nights in a row without sleep. Then, during another show, he broke his ankle during the Chinese water torture escape.  Houdini was used to working with injuries and completed the show, but the pain from his ankle was excruciating, and he was awake all night.  Even so, the show must go on, and the tour proceeded.

Houdini stuck to his schedule, which included giving a lecture at McGill University.  The next day, several students from the lecture were chatting with Houdini in his dressing room.  One of the students, an amateur boxer, asked if it was true that Houdini could withstand any blow to his body above the waist. Houdini admitted that it was true and, despite his weakened condition, gave the student permission to test him.  As Houdini began to rise from the couch where he was sitting, the student dealt him several sharp punches in the stomach before he had time to tighten his abdomen.  The blows caused Houdini a great deal of pain, which persisted until his show that afternoon.

The next day, he was no better.   By then, he was also suffering from chills and sweating.  Houdini performed two shows, and the company moved on to Detroit, Michigan.  Still in pain and feeling worse all the time, Houdini finally saw a doctor, who urged him to go immediately to the hospital, but he refused.  Only after completing the show did Houdini finally agree to go to the hospital.  He was in bad shape.  When the doctors operated on him, they found that his appendix had burst, causing peritonitis, a usually fatal disease in the age before antibiotics.

Houdini was given little hope of surviving even after a second operation. Realizing he was near death, Houdini shared a secret message with Bess to be used as proof of his identity in the event that he was able to communicate with her from beyond the grave. Harry Houdini died on Halloween, 1926.  Despite annual séances on the anniversary of his death, Bess was never able to contact him.  She died in 1943. 

Without question, Houdini was one of the greatest magicians and showmen in history.  He continues to fascinate magic aficionados.   His famous tricks have been done over and over by many of the talented magicians that followed.  Some of the tricks have been updated and modernized over time, but by their death defying nature alone, they are still very much identifiable as belonging to Houdini.  The great magicians who have kept Houdini’s spirit alive by continuing to bring these illusions and tricks to new audiences do so not to outdo Houdini but to honor his great mastery of the craft.

Brother Harry Houdini became a Mason in St. Cecile Lodge No. 568, New York, New York, in 1923.  He received his Entered Apprentice Degrees on July 17 and his Fellow Craft Degree on July 31.  He was raised a Master Mason on August 21, 1923.  He became a life member on October 30, 1923.   He was also a member of the Shrine Temple.

~Excerpt from Todd E. Creason's award winning book Famous American Freemasons Volume II

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL). You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

May Brotherly Love Prevail and Every Moral and Social Virtue Cement Us

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW:. Bro. Daniel Lort


These are words from the title, in many cases, we either don’t take note of or “tune out” when we hear them or some variation thereof, recited during the closing of every Symbolic Lodge regardless of jurisdiction.

I think we all have a good idea of what moral virtue is. Social virtue? Perhaps not so much. The definition of social virtue addresses the need for us to respect the rights and freedoms of others, establish peace and harmony (anyone recognize “harmony” from our ritual?).

These original words, coined by Bro. Francis Bellamy, when he wrote our Pledge of Allegiance and amended after his death by adding “under God,”--“One nation, under God, indivisible...” should most certainly give us pause as we look with wide eyes at our Nation and the world today. Social unrest, pandemic, and natural disasters the likes of which we have never seen in one short period of time. The world remains on edge as COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head, and we, domestically, seem to be literally fighting for our lives to get ahead of it.

Political polarization has gripped our Nation with a firmer hand than in many generations. Discussions among our Brethren often deteriorate to the point of anger or hurt feelings. During the Civil War era, there are many references of Freemasons confronted with a Brother against Brother scenario, often ending well. One such act of kindness was documented during the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. Union Col. W. H. Raynor was critically wounded and suffered many indignities at the hands of his Confederate captors. Near-death, he was rescued by Confederate soldier J. H. Lemon, given ice for his head wound and offered money. As Col. Raynor thanked his captor for his kindness, Lemon addressed the Masonic pin on the Colonel’s shirt, saying, “I can only hope to get the same treatment from your men if I ever fall into their hands. If you relieve the distresses of a suffering Brother Mason when in your power, I shall be well paid.” History is full of renditions such as this. We would be well rewarded if we were to mimic these acts of kindness in our current times.

Politics is a long-established taboo topic in our lodge rooms. Nothing is a surer bet to pit one against another as the mention of opposing political views. It is said that Freemasons are a fraternity of “gentlemen.” Our Pledge says we must be indivisible, unable to be divided or separated.

Why then are we now seeing Brother pitted against Brother as in a war? Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are awash with divisiveness. And no, I don’t reference random folks. I reference Brother Masons, who have become so entwined in the politics and turmoil of the day that they openly chastise, belittle, and confront each other. Brother against Brother. While Freemasonry has been physically shut down for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have struggled to remain centered as Masons. Sure, we have Zoom, Houseparty, etc. where we can meet virtually. This is certainly helping. We must, however, remember that the refuge of social media is not a sanctuary of anonymity.

Words written on social media carry the same barbs as those spoken in person, perhaps even more so. When things digress to the point that our leaders must issue us guidance on what is and what is not acceptable on social media and remind us of who were are as Masons, then I fear we must look in our mirrors and re-boot our thoughts and how we portray them. In no way am I talking of controlling what we do in our personal lives but am suggesting that we temper what we say and do with respect to our Brothers. We, as Masons, must remember that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and must be leaders amongst ourselves and in our communities. As many say, “Masonry never stops.” Let’s keep that in mind.

I recently heard matter-of-factly about a Brother of 4 years taking a demit from a Concordant body. No explanation. No inquiries as to why. No one knew. Knowing this Brother as active, a good ritualist, a dedicated member of the Fraternity and community, I decided to call him and find out if all was well and what might be troubling him. After some chatting, the truth was revealed. The Brother was offended by things being written on social media and spoken in person in assorted venues. Inflammatory and incendiary language as it relates to our current political situation is not what he is about as a man and as a Mason.

He felt it was in his best interest to distance himself. We are on the verge of losing a good Mason. Indivisible? All I could do was to apologize for the words of others and offer my support.

My Brothers, we must be aware of who we are as Masons and respectful of our Brothers who may not share the same politics as we do.

The election approaches. Now is the time for us to heal. May Brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us.

Be safe, my Brothers.

DGL

RW Bro. Lort is a Past Master of Alexandria Lodge #297 in Alexandria Bay, NY, and a dual member of Gasport Lodge #787 in WNY. He is also a member of the NYS Grand Lodge Committee on Charters, Committee on Law Enforcement, as well as others. He is a 32°member of the A.A.S.R Valley of Syracuse, current High Priest of Sackets Harbor Chapter #68, RAM, & a member of the Divan of Media Shrine, in Watertown, NY. RW Bro. Lort is a past DDGM of the Jefferson-Lewis District, Grand Lodge of NY, and currently is a Grand Lodge Regional Asst. Grand Lecturer. He is a retired Law Enforcement officer and enjoys many outdoor activities. He attributes his successes in Freemasonry to his early days in DeMolay in Western NY.

Properly Tiled

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners


At the opening of our lodges in Illinois, there is the following exchange:

WM: “Brother Junior Deacon, The first great care of Masons when convened?”

Junior Deacon: “To see that the lodge is tiled.”

WM: “You will perform that duty and inform the Tyler that I am about to open BLANK Lodge Number 111, direct him to take due notice and tile accordingly.”

Junior Deacon performs that duty, he returns to his chair, and reports: “The Lodge is Tiled, Worshipful.”

WM: “How Tiled?”

Junior Deacon: “By a Master Mason, armed with the implement of his office.”

WM: “The Tyler’s Station?”

Junior Deacon: “Outside the inner door, with a drawn sword in hand.”

WM: “To guard against the approach of Cowans and Eavesdroppers and see that none pass or repass but such as are duly qualified and have permission.”

Before you decide to email me about revealing the ritual, I want you to know that the Illinois book of Standard Work is not ciphered, and anyone happening upon one would be able to know this part of the ritual, as only the modes of recognition and passwords are not revealed within it. Since it is not ciphered, I have no issue with revealing it here.

Many of our brethren have no problem bringing up the landmarks of Freemasonry whenever someone tries to discuss allowing atheists or women to be Freemasons, but they don’t think twice about violating the 11th landmark which reads: “THE NECESSITY THAT EVERY LODGE, WHEN CONGREGATED, SHOULD BE DULY TILED, is an important Landmark of the Institution, which is never neglected. The necessity of this law arises from the esoteric character of Freemasonry. As a secret Institution, its portals must of course be guarded from the intrusion of the profane, and such a law must therefore always have been in force from the very beginning of the Order. It is therefore properly classed among the most ancient Landmarks. The office of Tiler is wholly independent of any special enactment of Grand or Subordinate Lodges, although these may and do prescribe for him additional duties, which vary in different jurisdictions. But the duty of guarding the door, and keeping off cowans and eavesdroppers, is an ancient one, which constitutes a Landmark for his government.”

What if I told you that a majority of you have violated this landmark time and time again? And I told you that you are contributing to our lodges not being properly tiled. And you have revealed the secrets or Freemasonry over and over and over again, and that you don’t even realize that you have been allowing cowans and eavesdroppers into the lodge room. You’d think I was crazy.

How many of you have had this eerie experience? You’re having a discussion with someone. You look at social media, Facebook is particularly notorious for this, and you see an ad for something that came up in the discussion. I’ve had it happen, time and time and time again. Many of you might not make the connection, many of you might, but the issue is that when you install applications on your phone, and grant them permission to use your microphone, and you carry that phone into the lodge room, you have just allowed cowans and eavesdroppers to enter a tiled lodge. You have done everything that I have just accused you of above.

By this time, I’m pretty sure that most of us in the era of smart phones have violated our obligation to “always conceal and never reveal any of the secret arts, parts or points of the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry which have heretofore, may at this time, or shall at any future period be communicated as such to any person or persons whomsoever.” Every time we bring a smartphone into the lodge, we are revealing the secret arts, parts or points of the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry to the profane. Don’t believe me? Read this: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2019/12/19/your-smartphone-mobile-device-may-recording-everything-you-say/4403829002/

This is why I found some of the arguments against having virtual meetings so hypocritical. There was a fear among brethren about not being able to tile the online meeting properly. That essentially, we couldn’t insure that the profane wouldn’t infiltrate our online meetings and learn our “secrets”. While these secrets have been widely available on the internet since its invention, that didn’t deter the arguments. Funny that I’ve never heard any similar arguments regarding the use of smartphones in the lodge, especially because they are recording our “secrets”.

We should always remind ourselves of the ritual which is given when the Tyler is installed into his office. "As the sword is placed in the hands of the Tyler to enable him effectually to guard against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, and suffer none to pass or re-pass except such as are duly qualified, so it should admonish us to set a guard over our thoughts, a watch at our lips, and post a sentinel over our actions; thereby preventing the approach of every unworthy thought or deed, and preserving consciences void of offense towards God and towards man." How many of us are remembering these words when we are on our phones, hastily replying to something on social media? I dare say that if we can’t be trusted enough to have alcohol allowed in our Lodge buildings, for fear of how we might act, then why are we trusted with our mobile devices inside of the lodge room where anyone could easily take a video of our proceedings?

If we want to properly tile our lodges, we need to keep our mobile devices outside of it. The Tyler should be collecting them as we enter, much like he insures we are properly clothed when entering the lodge room and he guards the west gate. The fact of the matter is that it’s difficult enough for the Tyler to keep the influences of the profane world outside of the lodge room. It’s even more difficult for the Worshipful Master to run a meeting when everyone is staring at their cellphone. We need to start remembering that there is etiquette to be followed during our events, and that Masonic etiquette should dictate that we should be divested of our phones prior to our entry into the lodge room. It’s the only way to make sure our lodges are properly tiled.

~DALWB Darin A. Lahners is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and 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 is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com