What An Opportunity!

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason

As the Coronavirus sweeps the nation and events are canceled, and many of us are working from home, we have to see this as an opportunity—especially for Masons. Sometimes we forget that being a Mason isn’t just about doing things—going to degrees, and meetings, and putting on events, and raising money for this pet project and that. There’s a personal growth aspect to the fraternity that many of us neglect. We’re so busy doing all the time, we never really get the chance to work on ourselves. We hear those words over and over again, but we never have the opportunity to actually think about them—how might I apply those concepts to my life?

So while we are at home, and the cabin fever begins to settle in (it has for me already and it’s day 3), instead of looking out the window longing to go to a meeting, take this opportunity to work on yourself. There’s a Japanese word “tsundoku” that I think has special meaning for me right now. Tsundoku is Japanese slang, and it refers to the practice of letting books pile up without reading them. It’s the combination of two Japanese characters—the one for “pile-up” and the one for “read.” I don’t know many Masons that don’t have a huge read pile they’ve been meaning to get to.

Why don’t you read them? What Masons seem focused on right now is figuring out how we can do virtual meetings. We can’t go a month without listening to our Secretary read the mail? What I did is I sat down last night and made a “Sanity List.” On that list, I wrote down a long list of books I have that I haven’t read—both on my library shelf, and books that have been sitting on my Kindle for a long, long time. I’ve started a list of article titles—I’ve been neglecting my writing for a long, long time. I put on that list household projects that I’ve ignored for a long time—Tuesday I finally took ten minutes and got the bugs out of the kitchen light. Whatever that list is for you, don’t waste the time watching Netflix or whatever. Here are a few ideas for you.

Start clearing that Tsundoku from your shelves. If you have time now and don’t read them, you never really wanted to read them to begin with. Give them to somebody that will read them.

Start a daily devotion. Whatever your beliefs, start your day over coffee and scripture. Think about those areas that you need to work on, and begin improving those areas.

Learn some ritual. Has there ever been a better time to sit down and begin learning that lecture you’ve always meant to get to, or that part you’ve always wanted to do?

Seriously look at your schedule. Over the last few days, I’ve realized there are way too many unnecessary meetings—meetings that we are quickly finding out could have been an email. Look at where you’re spending your time and your energy and ask yourself if there are things you’re expending energy on that would be better used elsewhere.

Those are just a few off the top of my head. But make use of this time—don’t squander it away. Don’t look back at this season as a missed opportunity. Make the best possible use of it. This could be a turning point in your life. This could be your reset button. This could be an unprecedented opportunity to look at yourself, look at your life, look at where you’ve been and where you want to go. An opportunity to work on yourself, learn some new skills, chip a few chunks off that rough ashlar. Many of us don’t know how long this will last—maybe a short time, or perhaps a very long time. It doesn’t really matter how much time it is before we return to normalcy—what’s important is to use it to its full advantage.

 ~TEC

Todd E. Creason is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog.

A New Regular Contributor - Spencer A. Hamann

A New Regular Midnight Freemason Contributor


I was a District Deputy Grand Master when I first noticed RW Brother Spencer Hamann. It was his lodge's annual Official Visit. I noticed his keen eye for the precision of the work, his exceptional delivery of ritual, and yet there was something else. Is there a word for it when you think to yourself, "I need to be friends with that guy."?

Fast forward several years, and now we are great friends, Brothers and he's even the Sr. Warden of my lodge, Spes Novum. Spencer has written a couple of times for us here at the Midnight Freemasons and each time, his posts are shared, well-received, and our readers tend to really enjoy what he has to say.

I reached out to Brother Hamann to see if he would take me up on the offer to become a regular contributor--he said yes! It is my absolute pleasure to announce that RWB Hamann will be writing for us on a somewhat regular basis. I hope you enjoy what he adds to this blog and that you all find it edifying.

Here are some of his works that we've published in the past.

Missing the Point on Masonic Closures http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2020/03/weekend-special-missing-point-on.html

Fair and Fowl Correspondences http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2019/10/fair-and-fowl-correspondences.html

RWB Spencer Hamann is a luthier and musicologist working in northern Illinois. He is an avid woodworker and artificer, and enjoys antique restorations and custom commissions. Curatorship and adding value are core to his personal philosophies. Spencer was Raised in 2013, and served Libertyville Lodge No. 492 as Worshipful Master from 2017-2018. He is the Senior Warden of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183, and serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as their Grand Representative to Wisconsin, District Education officer for the 1st NE District, and is a Certified Lodge Instructor (CLI). He can be contacted at spencer@sahamann.com

Out of Darkness, Comes Life

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson, PM


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with my Nephew, who is attending University in Providence. I knew the route well, peppered with businesses, confusing roadways, and several old buildings. Some of the architecture I find beautiful, others not so much, but nothing was different, until the chimney. Atop an older house, or perhaps an industrial building that once employed the citizens of Providence years ago, a dilapidated chimney stood out. Not that it was particularly beautiful or unique architecture, but this particular chimney had a plant growing out of it!

It was such an amazing sight. Somehow, sometime, a seed must have fallen to the chimney. Perhaps it was dropped from a bird, one way or another. I suppose it's possible that a strong wind, deposited a seed that has been traveling for miles. Regardless of how the seed arrived at this dark and abandoned location, it took root, sprouted, and grew.

Although it wasn't a particularly cold winter in New England, it was still cold. The stone that wrapped the chimney and protected it for years have lost any bit of heat that once rose through the darkness to the sky above. The darkness, the blackness of the creosote after years of carbon buildup, blocking any attempts for the light to permeate. The remains of the fuel that once protected the residents from the blizzards and nor'easters of the past. How is it possible that the beauty of nature can not only survive but thrive in this environment?

At a high level, the plant only needs a few things to live: certainly water, air, and nutrients. But the quality and amount of these nutrients can be critical. The air might not be as critical, so long as the temperature is within a sufficient range. This might be more challenging at the heights of Everest, but not so much in Providence, Rhode Island. The water can't be too much, so as to drown the seed or wash it away. Too little water and the seed will never germinate, or the plant will wither and die. Of course, there is a third component; the nutrients that feed the plant and enables it to reach towards the sky. As I write this, it doesn't seem that difficult to achieve these three goals. However, several plants of my past would vehemently disagree (if they were still around).

It must be so difficult for life to take hold in such a depressing situation. For something of beauty, that can create more beauty and life, to grow in such a bleak environment. As Master Masons, we can relate to such an analogy. In the darkness of our world, we still can plant our own seeds, and introduce some beauty into this world, of course, we must heed caution, and the four cardinal virtues can help guide us. If we focus, our own plants (our thoughts) can emerge from the darkest environments, but too much focus can cause drown them out, and prevent them from rooting.

As I continued to drive, my mind started to wander, as it tends to do, about the transformation of that seed into a plant. A plant large enough to be seen from the road. I can imagine that perhaps for a year, thousands of cars passed that plant. I was driving through the middle of Providence on Rt. 95 at approximately 55 miles per hour. I wonder how many fly right by, without looking up and contemplating this magical event. I don't fault them, as many of us progress through every day without noticing the sadness of a friend…we are all just too busy.

Obviously, this seemingly simple event made an impact on me. We all plant seeds each and every day, both in our minds and in the minds of others. The world appears so dark to me these days. The hoarding rooted in selfishness and the political cow patties over-fertilizing. What seeds will you plant?

~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past Master and Secretary of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org

Occult Profiles: A. E. Waite

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



"For myself, it was a curious experience in more ways than one, and perhaps especially because it was so patent throughout that I could have told the Worshipful Master all that he was communicating to me. My Initiation was nothing therefore but a means to an end: I awaited the Grades beyond" So said Arthur Edward Waite after being made a Freemason on September 19th, 1901 in St. Mary Lebone Lodge No.1305. 


Waite, as I will refer to him in this paper, was a prolific collector of degrees, a soul looking for a way back to the source through the Mystic Quest--and also, a buffoon. Before the reader begins to degrade me for those words, I ask for the common courtesy of reading the entire article, you may yet agree with me.


Waite was born in October of 1857 to unwed parents in Brooklyn, New York. Shortly after he was born, he gained a sister as well. His father was a merchant shipper who died at an early age, condemning Waite, his sister, and mother to a life of squaller. Waite's mother was from a wealthy family, but because she had children out of wedlock, her family was not keen on supporting her. Somehow, he still had a decent enough education, having attended a private school in the North of London and later at thirteen years of age, he attended St. Charles College. While that sounds impressive, it shouldn't be thought that he was some kind of genius. This was simply the way of things in those times. 


When Waite reached the age of 17, he lost his sister, Frederika, which threw open the gates of the esoteric. His faith up to this point had been in Roman-Catholocism, but no longer. At this time, Waite was, as many men of his day and social stature were--a clerk. It's an often-used title, and it is indeed vague. When amassing records from the British Library, we find that Waite was active in research there quite often beginning in his 21st year of life. And just 3 years later, Waite makes an astonishing discovery, the writings of Eliphas Levi, a prominent French occultist and 'ceremonial magician.' 


In 1887, Waite got married to Ada Lakeman, and later they have a daughter together. In Arthur's studies, he came across the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (HOGD). Befriending a homeopathic London based doctor, E.W. Berridge, he joined the Order in 1891. At this time, the two orders of the HOGD were in existence; Waite had joined the Outer Order. It appears as if he removed himself from this Order after just two years. Three years later, in 1886, he joins again. 


Three years later, in 1889, Waite joins the Second Order of the HOGD, and two years after that, he becomes a Freemason. It is interesting to note that a Masonic organization like the self-styled Rosicrucian Order [SRIA] begets the HOGD out of a need for practical occultism, which gains members who are not Freemasons and then who go on to become Freemasons. And, if you're A.E. Waite, you then join the SRIA (Societas Rosicruciana In Anglia). The Ouroboros of initiation is pretty intense. Joining the SRIA is an amusing thing for him to have done considering his own commentary on the organization. In the final chapter of a book on Rosicrucianism, he wrote the following,
"The most notable circumstance connected with this society is the complete ignorance which seems to have prevailed amongst its members generally concerning everything connected with Rosicrucianism."
Freemasonry was also not outside the bounds for an attack. He wrote the following on the gentle Craft, 
"...it [being] singularly devoid of prejudices and singularly unaffected by the crazes of the time It preaches a natural morality and has so little interest in mysticism that it daily misinterprets and practically despises its own mystical symbols.
It seems appropriate to say that Waite searched everywhere for an organization that would give him the confirmation bias he so needed. He collected degrees and orders faster than a Grand Lodge festival day. He even received honors of being connected with Martinism by way of the mail--He literally sent his obligation in by mail, and the return letter gave him the title he was looking for and implied permission to start a London based version of Martinism (1887). Curious, isn't it? 


Like so many occultists in his day, Waite founded his own Order in 1903. It was called the ‘Independent and Rectified Order R. R. et A. C.’ and was disbanded a little more than ten years later. The actions of Waite caused much internal strife within these organizations, HOGD, SRICA, his Rectified Order, and eventually, in 1914, he left many of them. Again, it's unclear why he did this...speculation rules the day, but most likely, it is due to his failure to be elected to the high office of Celebrant in the SRIA. But, Waite wasn't done. He then formed the ‘Fellowship of the Rosy Cross’, one more Rosicrucian type order within the London area. If we examine the various records, there are eight other 'Rosicrucian orders' at that time. The first meeting of the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross was on July 9th, 1915, at a hotel. The organization was styled similarly to the HOGD with Inner and outer Orders.


Shortly before this Rosicrucian / Golden Dawn debacle, in 1910, Waite had been installed as Master of Runneymede Lodge. A peculiar episode was a celebration he held as Master of the Lodge, where he conferred some strange rites on his brethren present --’the Great Mystery of the Vault of the Adepts-under dispensation from the Unknown Superior of the Sodality of the Shades'. Sounds legit. If you felt the earth move just now, it's because you just channeled my eye roll. 


Waite had become prolific in his writings, by 1915 having published works on alchemy, ceremonial magic, divination, general esotericism, and more. He was a regular old genius when it came to these things. In fact, even today, some of his works are still considered the gold standard. Books like Eliphas Levis's Transcendental Magic, it's Doctrine, and Ritual was not only translated to English by Waite but also edited--no small feat. This version of the text is still in print today. 


While some celebrate his writing by claiming that academics praise his works, there is really no evidence to support this. On the contrary, Waites's writings were often rude, arrogant, and written in a way that was condescending to his contemporaries. His books were full of the worst kinds of errors. No, not grammar--historical and factual errors. Grammar Police may be triggered. Sorry, guys. 


The Grand Lodge of Iowa, in 1916, contacted Waite and awarded a strange title, ’Past Senior Grand Warden’. One doesn't make much of this, although Waite certainly must have because he uses it on the first page of his book, A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry. Some years later, Ada, his wife, dies, and in 1924, he remarries. Of his new wife, Mary Broadbent Schofield, not much is written. 


Waite had been genuinely dedicated to the study of the occult. So much so that in addition to writing and publishing, he even founded a study group. The ‘Masonic Study Society’ was founded by him in 1921. Going through some research on Waite, one finds reference to a strange and out of place, yet exciting tidbit. The great and prolific writer, Reverend Joseph Fort Newton, author of the acclaimed book, The Builders, is said to have been quite fond of Waite. 


No article on Waite can be complete without mentioning his one overwhelming gift to the world, his Tarot deck. Based on the Italian Tarot deck Sola Busco (1490/91), he produced his styled deck, which was one of the first of its kind and would become one of the most recognized contemporary decks ever produced. It contained not only the Major Arcana (Trump Cards) but all of the cards, 78 in total. The artwork for them was completed by Pamela Coleman Smith and published by the Rider Publishing Company. Today, the deck is mostly referred to as the Rider-Waite deck. It is this author's opinion that this is a tragedy. The lesser-used name Smith-Waite deck is what should be used. It was Pamela's artwork that made these cards readable, accessible, and useable. To her, I think we are all indebted, just as much as to Waite.


The deck was published in 1910 by the company I mentioned earlier - the Rider Publishing Company. Today, that company is attached to none other than Penguin, which is attached to Random House. On a personal note, I picked up my first Tarot deck--a Smith-Waite deck, at a Goodwill for $7.99...a steal. Speaking of money, Waite then in 1911 produced a companion book for his Tarot deck called, a Pictorial Key to the Tarot. Again, it should be noted that the publishing of this pack, was the defining moment in the Tarot for ages to come. 


Men like Paul Foster Case (Founder of BOTA) based entire systems on the Tarot and became known far and wide as the foremost expert on it as used as a tool for psychological work, introspection, and contemplative work in general. Dr. Paul Clark, founder of Fraternity of the Hidden Light, and former member of BOTA, writes in his biography of Paul Case, the close relationship and correspondences between Waite and Case. It's fascinating reading. When Paul Case eventually publishes his own Tarot deck, it was considered to be similar to the Smith-Waite Deck, but without the 'errors' made by Waite. 


There is so much I can write about Waite--so much has been written. I do it a discredit to retell much of what has been already stated, but it's my hope that this short and fascinating look at him will prompt the reader to dive deeper. 


Waite had joined the Royal Arch, the Knights Templar, CBCS, he traveled all over the world to collect strange and wild degrees--one such degree, “The Grand Rite of the 47th” in Sweden. He was original in thought but rude in his critiques. If you didn't agree with him, you were an idiot. If he reviewed your work, you were an idiot. Only he knew the true doctrine of anything, and his pompous, arrogant attitude was and is contemptible. You love to hate him. 


In 1942, Waite transitioned, and his obituary was published in the Freemasons Chronicle. In three paragraphs, his works and life are laid out in a way that doesn't quite praise him but instead, simply acknowledges him. He was indeed a prolific individual but, as with everyone we've covered, had faults. 


Earlier in this short essay, I mentioned that Waite had favor with the Reverend Joseph Fort Newton. Newton wrote of Waite, 
“Brother Waite warns us against the dark alleys that lead nowhere and the false lights that lure to ruin, and he protests against those who would open the Pandora's Box of the Occult on the altar of Masonry. After a long study of occultism, magic, omens, talismans, and the like, he has come to draw a sharp line between the occult and the mystical, and therein he is wise.” 
Of course, Waite was probably okay with all that occultism and traveling down the dark alleys...as long as he was your guide, and you worshipped at the altar of his own pen. 


Waite offers us some beautiful readings and perspectives and deserves our attention. If we read his works, it's important to recognize his bias toward his own thoughts. To be conscious of his superiority complex. But also to open our minds to the possibilities of his most outrageous claims no matter how mysterious.

~RHJ


*Note*
There are other claims that Waite initially joined Runneymede Lodge No. 2430 in Wraysbury, England. This is true, to the end that the lodge which was performing the ritual was doing so as a courtesy for Runneymede Lodge. 


Sources
-Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, UGLE in Volume 99 for the year 1986. [pp. 6-20.] Minor typographical errors corrected, 2002/04/08.
-Gilbert, R. A. "The Masonic Career of A. E. Waite". Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. QCCC Correspondence Circle Limited. Archived from the original on September 5th, 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
-Waite, A. E., Shadows of Life and Thought: A Retrospective Review in the Form of Memoirs, London: Selwyn and Blount, 1938

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.