Joining the Shrine

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Michael Hambrecht


Any who know me, know that I wasn't really interested in bodies like the Shrine, Grotto, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, or even the High Twelve Clubs. It’s not that I had anything against these other Masonic bodies, it’s that I wanted to spend my time working in the York Rite bodies and some in the Scottish Rite first. That part hasn’t changed. What has happened is a different story.

I became a Master Mason back in April 2016. Sometime after that my Mom started asking me if I was ever going to be a Shriner. I remember telling her, “I don’t have any desire to be a clown or drive around in little cars, so probably not. But maybe someday.” She said, “ok”, but she never stopped asking. She even began to tell me why she wanted me to join, because of their Children’s Hospitals. My response was, “Yes they do that but I can just donate to that. I don’t have to join.” Finally in late 2017, she said, “If you join, I’ll pay your dues for it as long as I live.” I said, “Okay, if it’s that important to you. Let me think about it but I think I will. For you.

Well, as usually happens life and other things got in the way of doing anything about it. In February 2018, my Father, a new Mason, her husband of 53 years passed away. This was pretty devastating to the whole family and had a profound effect on us. I now had other things, including my Freemasonry to think about and work on. As with all things like the loss of a spouse, it had an extra profound effect on my Mom. She actually never let it show. So I had no idea how much until she passed in December 2018, only a mere 10 months almost to the day that my Dad did. To say this shattered me would be an understatement, but I have persevered with the help of my Brothers.

Now when she passed, it turned out that she and my Dad left my sister and I some money. Enough to make some long term decisions. One that still took me some time to make-- Should I join the Shrine? I spent quite a bit of time going back and forth about it. I still really hadn’t decided on her offer. I spoke to quite a few Brothers about this. Some Shriners and others not.

I had decided that I would do it one day soon, maybe next year. A Brother of mine told me that they were planning a ceremonial, the initiation, on June 8th (last passed), if I was really interested. I immediately asked for a petition, for two reasons, 1st my birthday is June 7 and 2nd, June 9th was my Mom’s Birthday. It seemed like a sign. As soon as I turned in the petition, I began to get excited for it. After I was informed that my petition had been voted on and accepted, I was really excited. Not just because I was joining something new but because I was doing this for Mom.

On June 8th, I went through the ceremonial and got my Fez. I owe this to my Mom for giving me a reason to consider joining this, but honestly, I am now a member not just for her but for all of the Children we help every year at the Shriner’s Hospitals. I listened to many stories about what's been done and what Brothers do every day for these children and their families. I have finally learned a little more about the charitable side of Freemasonry. I can’t explain the feeling but I want you to know it’s not the financial side of charity I am talking about. It is the dressing as clowns to make children smile. It is driving little cars, motorcycles or trucks to let people see us. It is talking to a burn victim’s family and offering them hope. It is talking to the family of a child with bone issues or the child with cleft lip and or pallet issues and offering them hope. I realize I am mentioning hope but the charity of caring enough to speak with these families, caring enough to volunteer to get them to and from the hospitals and caring enough to do this, without asking anything from those families, just so they can hope and their child can be healed. I am glad I did this but I am sorry I didn’t do it when my Mom was alive to see me do it. She knew how right this was to do.

~MH

Bro. Mike Hambrecht was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on April 20, 2016 in Village Lodge #274 F & AM in Burton, Ohio. Currently he is a member of Triandria Lodge #780, where he is Junior Deacon and Lodge Education Officer, and a member Lake Shore Lodge #307. He is also a member Willoughby Royal Arch Chapter #231, where he is Scribe, Ohio Royal Arch Chapter of Research, where he is Secretary, Windermere Council of Royal & Select Masters #113, Eagle Commandery #29, where he is Standard Bearer, Scottish Rite Valley of Cleveland, and more recently a Noble of the Al Koran Shrine. He also serves on the Grand Lodge of Ohio’s Education Committee. He works in the IT field and has a wife, daughter, two dogs, and two cats.

A Three Day Long Meeting with No Minutes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


July 11th, I pulled into my driveway at 10:30 P.M. I’d been at a Lodge meeting that was meeting for the last time before they merged into another. I was relieved knowing I wouldn’t have to make the 60+ mile drive again. No sooner had I walked in my house, did I have to start packing.

All the necessities packed away neatly, bags set by the front door. “Alexa, set an alarm for 5:10 A.M.” Lights out. The next thing you know I’m at 29K feet on my way to Burbank airport and from there, to South Pasadena Masonic Lodges MasonicCon (SPML). I know you all likely read reviews of the MasonicCon event which has occurred every year at (the only US based lodge I’m a member of that has a charter currently), Ezekiel Bates, in Attleboro, MA.

Two years ago, Dago Rodriguez came out to be a vendor. He was representing the Southern California Research Lodge’s magazine, The Fraternal Review. One of the best out there. Dago went home after that weekend, two years ago and started planning his own MasonicCon. And by God, SPML with Dago as Worshipful Master knocked it out of the park.

I could give you a full rundown of events as I’ve done before, but this time I’ll be brief. We started with a seven course festive board with multiple toasts celebrating pop-culture icons within the craft. That was Friday night. The festive board included our ladies and many guests of honor. It went till midnight and was amazing.

Day two began the speakers. We heard from Angel Millar first, who spoke about art in Freemasonry and pop culture iconography. I personally enjoyed this presentation the most over the weekend. Nothing against my other friends, you know...we just have favorites sometimes 😀

The other speakers included Charlie Fisher, Bryan Simmons, Mike Jarzabek, Adam Kendall, Joseph Wäges and Art de Hoyos. By the way, Art de Hoyos was amazing--speaking on esoteric Masonry. (Not his typical thing, and it was so perfect. Thank you, Art!)

There were screenings as well. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about these MasonicCons, is that each one carries a regional flavor. In Attleboro, it’s the original recipe. It’s Coca-Cola. Refreshing, original and feels like tradition. SPML was distinctly “Hollywood”.

We watched the finale of Sacred Steel Bikes, with Brother Jason Wilson, the star of the show. After was a Q&A with Brother Adrian Fulle of Variety Content Studio. A unique part of the day was a screening of the movie, Fight Club. It’s been 20 years since the movie came out, and it has a distinctly philosophical flavor. Bro. Fulle grilled Dago Rodriguez, myself and Mike Jarzabek in a panel Q&A about the movie and topic of the Duality of Man. I think we did the movie justice, but I may be biased 😉

At 6:00 P.M. we broke for dinner. I took off to King Taco with my Brothers from EB for some amazing Mexican food. After dinner we talked about the benefit of these conferences. Not only to support the research we’re doing, not only to have fun, but to come together and share. To see what works and what doesn’t and to go back home with those nuggets of success. We implement those things, and slowly and incrementally change the fraternity--across the nation, for the better.

Next up? 8:00 P.M. we watched High and Outside: a baseball noir, directed by Bro. Evald Johnson and starring Bro. Phil Donlon. This movie was fantastic. Dark and reflective. Afterward, I conducted the Q&A / Interview with these two Brothers. They shared their personal experiences on the movie, life, struggles and everything else that goes into making a movie of this caliber.

10:00 P.M. we were able to see for the first time, Illuminated, the true story of the Bavarian Illuminati. An incredible documentary written, directed and narrated by Bro. Johnny Royal, whose previous major project was 33 & Beyond: The Royal Art of Freemasonry. Since the movie isn’t out yet, and I think I am among the lucky few to have seen it, all I will say is that it is a must see. After the film, I again interviewed and conducted Q&A with the director, Johnny Royal. He was very candid about the issues he faced while making the documentary but also shared personal thoughts on why it was important to tell the story of Adam Weishaupt. When we asked Johnny what the goal of all this is, he gave an eloquent answer,
“Uplifting consciousness, and making this realm a better place is what we’re trying to do.”
Was that it? No. We made our way back to the hotel and got some rest. Sunday began at 10:30 A.M. with a screening of some “sizzle” reels from Tim Hogan on a couple of new projects he has coming up. I can’t say much about them, but rest assured they look fascinating. Also, I feel compelled to tell you that Tim Hogan bought me a coffee. That, ladies and gentlemen is how you know you made it to the big time. 😎 Thanks Tim!

After this, Bryan Simmons, the architect of the original MasonicCon in Attleboro, MA gave a talk on “Hope”. It was a perfect way to end the day. A talk that told us to get off our butts and do the work instead of hoping for it to transpire. Thank you Bryan.

I could go on about the amazing weekend, I could regale you with the intellectual musings of Joe Wäges and Adam Kendall, I could tell you that Art de Hoyos is an undercover spicy meme lord, I could tell you that I met with the Grand Master of the Women's Masonic Lodge of California, I could tell you that Dago Rodriguez lost it at the end of the weekend with tears of thanks. But some things you just have to experience. This weekend was certainly that. A real experience.

In life we go through the motions, the ordinary. If we’re lucky we have occasions that stand out. The birth of children, graduating, marriage, becoming a Master Mason or adept in your own practice, landing your dream job, parachuting, climbing a trail, and sometimes it’s a weekend with 150 best friends--Thank you all for these memories. I will treasure them always. As for the next iteration? Well, I think I'm just going to plan a Masonic Con for Chicago--2020. Look out, it's gonna be rad.



~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183 UD. He is 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 Theatre which 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.

Contemplative Cornerstones: A Point Within An Ever-Expanding Circle

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Erik Marks


Returning to center, to the beginning, to here and now is a vital practice; it is necessary more than ever in our remotely connected and e-laboring lives. It is the basis for our invocation of deity before beginning any important task: we return to the point of origin. From there, we grow, move, expand, reach out. It is a skill we hope to impart to our children: remain grounded and go out into the world. As we circumambulate the sun through the cycles of our lives, we expand to come in contact with others and our disposition matters. To these ends, I offer a lesson I return to at intervals. It has many forms and found in a broad range of traditions. It utilizes the powerful human capacity for visual imagination. This skill is treasured, practiced, and utilized by many. You can search for and find many personal accounts of how visualization makes a difference in people’s lives. It is a skill most of us can learn. We can use it in every aspect of our work. Here is my evolution of the first version I learned:

Sit still and comfortably. As this is a mental/energetic visualization, please practice in a place where you feel comfortable keeping your eyes closed. Avoid allowing your back to rest against a chair or other object if possible. Sit with your body erect, spine naturally upright. Place the palms of your hands on your thighs, fingertips close to your knees and elbows close to body. Imagine an invisible thread attached at your sternum lifting your torso effortlessly towards the stratosphere. Take three long, slow, deep, breaths. Next, imagine a point either just below your navel or in your heart, equidistant from front and back, from both sides, in the center of your torso. Focus on that point. As you breathe, notice how the point changes color to a sunny, yellow, golden, dot. Sense the unwavering goodness of the color, how it relieves all distress, all confusion, and contains complete peace. Stay with the calm and peacefulness of the golden dot within you for a few minutes.

As you focus on the dot, you will find you can slowly and intentionally cause it to expand. It becomes a sphere of light instead of a single point. Ever growing, you see it enveloping your organs, your chest and lower body. Continues its growth to surround every part of your body. You are held in a sphere of light. Pause there for a few minutes, noting how the experience works on you.

Expanding the circle further, you remain the point at its center. The Sphere may be expanded to encompass the whole room, all its contents, other beings or people. You can intentionally expand the circle to contain the entire structure within which you are located; if you are outside, this would constitute all you saw immediately surrounding you before sitting down.
Slowly, use your minds ability to visualize an ever-expanding sphere encompassing the block, area of town, the city, region, state, country, continent, globe. Take your time, include details, visualize the person who fixed your car, who bagged your groceries, the guy who gave you that look walking down the street last week, lodge, the powerplant, beach, expand, include. When you notice something that causes you distress, frustration, annoyance, anger, recall the clam and peace of you, in the light. Breathe slowly and don’t expand the circle further until you feel cam, grounded, peacefulness has returned to every part of you. If you wish, expand to include our solar system and all of the universe (or multiverse if you have time) that you can visualize. See the totality of creation contained in a circle of light. The light isn’t yours alone, but your intention moves it outward.

Why this? As I said above, we have an amazing ability to visualize or “model” with imagination things in our lives. Due to this ability, we can become angered by visualizing a challenging interaction. Our body responds very similarly to the situation happening in real life. Our heart rate quickens, sympathetic nervous systems mobilizes for conflict—we become physically taxed, stressed. Using the same biologic system, we can do the opposite: we can calm and heal. We can practice remaining calm and present. This does not mean being emotionless. To the contrary, it means feeling everything and practicing remaining calm and relaxed, soothing the stress internally. By remaining grounded, peaceful, and fully aware of all aspects of a situation, we build towards ever increasing personal efficacy. Using this training tool regularly, we strengthen our mind and body’s ability be ever more present and productive. There are many levels of metaphor and esoteric experience to explore. You might only want to practice for stress reduction, you may want to see what else is possible. More important than external evidence with regard to this exercise is your experience. When you practice, what changes? How does it relate to Freemasonry for you?

~EAM

Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org

Where Do You See Beauty?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson


Over the years, I've been involved in several conversations about the physical attributes of others. Beautiful, handsome, hot, sexy, ugly, homely, but it all comes back to 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

As a society, we seem to be infatuated with beauty. Fancy material items, medical procedures, expensive clothing, extensive workout regiments, all things we do to make ourselves appear to be more beautiful. It is a common joke, that some people are just “too ugly for TV”, or that performers have a “face for radio”. We have television shows that never, never, never die that are completely focused on outward appearance…that which society thinks is “beautiful”. And yet, starting at a young age, we are taught that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Why as a society, do we seem to lose sight of that simple and common phrase?

The origination of the term is actually a paraphrase from Plato’s Symposium:
"Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may."
This phrase was later simplified by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 book, Molly Bawn. This is where we get “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but like many things in our life, in order to truly understand the meaning, we need to dig for the foundation.

Thinking about Plato’s original statement, through our human eyes, we may perceive beauty. However, beauty is subjective, qualitative, and there is no Truth in perception. It is important here to distinguish between a Truth, and an agreement. Truth is a quantifiable measure. A divine attribute that can not be argued. There is a Truth in mathematics, a Truth in geometry, a measurable Truth in astronomy. And although there may be a Truth in nature (golden ratio), there is no truth in a persons physical attributes. After all, when discerning the beauty (or lack thereof) of a human, isn’t that where we often apply this common phrase?

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, in reference to anything but physical beauty. And not just physical beauty, but physical beauty of a human. We see a couple, and we aren’t physically attracted to either party, it doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t cause us to emotionally erupt in a storm of verbal artillery. Why not? We remember the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we move on.

So now I must ask, why do we only seem to apply this philosophy to physical beauty? Why is it so easy to accept that physically, our attraction (or lack thereof) to another can vary so greatly, but when we have discussions about food, music, politics, religion, we suddenly become more polarized? Yes these are topics we can feel very passionate about, but just because I find the music of Iron Maiden to be beautiful, that doesn’t make it Truth. One may be incredibly dedicated and passionate about a political or religious belief, but that doesn’t make that belief Truth (isn’t that why we call it a belief)?

Now, I’m not suggesting that anybody abandon their personal beliefs. I would simply like to posit that the term "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" does and should apply to far much more than our physical attributes of the meat suit. I can’t believe that Plato was merely thinking about the figure of a woman (or man) when he wrote his Symposium, but without summoning him, we’ll never know. 

However, if you were able to apply this phrase more universally, think of how it would help you. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Shallow Hal,’ think about how happy Hal’s character was. His friend couldn’t accept it, and was nearly driven mad! Instead of an elevated heart rate driven by anger and confusion, accept that our perceptions and beliefs are different. If you’re ambitious, try to understand that beauty that another might see. And the next time you see a post, or hear a discussion, that you don’t agree with…simply remember, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

~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