The Last Chance Halloween

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison, PM, FMLR


I figured I'd better get upstairs.  I didn't want to go to the séance... yes, the séance... and after that the top three floors would be closed — forever.  I'd worked in the building three years and never been up there.  This was my last chance.  With no working elevators, I hoofed it up the stairs and emerged in a dark fourth-floor hallway of the doomed building.  My eyes adjusted and I slowly made my way to the rooms in the northwest corner.  I opened the door and entered the fabled room.  There were no drapes covering the windows and the bright light nearly blinded me.  The room was stark and dirty.  To my left was a broken wheelchair.  A sink jutted out from the far wall.  Its basin was stained and dusty.  Beneath it was a wastebasket — full.  A bed frame with an old mattress was over by the window.  All told, the room was disappointing.  It just didn't seem... well... as auspicious as it should have, given what had happened there many, many years ago on Halloween.

Halloween and Freemasonry: There are probably many tie-ins what with all the costumes worn in degree work, skulls and other symbols; and that's before the conspiracy theorists weigh in.  Occasionally, though, the pairing of the mysterious holiday and Freemasonry brings to mind images of Harry Houdini, a life member of St. Cecile Lodge 568, New York City.

A man of mystery, you could almost say Brother Harry lived Halloween 24/7.  Aside from being, arguably, the world's greatest magician and escape artist, Houdini maintained an abiding interest in the paranormal.  He did not, however deceitfully promote it as he felt many did.  He despised fraudulent seers and mediums and worked tirelessly to expose their chicanery. He felt everything he couldn't expose as being fake must be real.

He made many attempts to communicate with his mother after she died, but found no evidence of contact.  Still, feeling communication with "the other side" was possible, he made a pact with his wife Bessie that the first to die would attempt to contact the other through a coded message.  No one knows what the full message was, but part of the pact was that Houdini would open a pair of silver handcuffs they owned.  Bessie never received any communication from Houdini after his death, but hundreds of psychics claimed they did.  

On Halloween 1936, the 10th anniversary of his death, she held a final séance in which he failed to appear.  After that, Bess declared the search over and said she believed he could not come back, "It is finished."  Two years later she created a firestorm in the world of spiritualists when, playing herself in the film Religious Racketeer, she said she did not believe communication with the dead was possible.

During his life the great Houdini did everything he could to separate the fake aspects of spiritualism from what he thought might be real.  Shortly before his death he testified before congress against spiritualists and fortune tellers licensed to practice in Washington, DC.  So adamant was he that they were charlatans, the hearing broke out in a shouting match and some of the spectators tried to attack Houdini.

On the other hand, still believing there was something to communication with the spiritual world, he worked with Thomas Edison in an attempt to develop a "delicate psychic detecting instrument."  The object of the "ghost machine," as it was called, was to be so sensitive it could detect the presence or touch of an ethereal being from another world.  There is no evidence the machine was ever built.

On October 26, 1926, Houdini received a painful blow to the stomach in a demonstration at McGill University in Montreal.  Contrary to popular opinion, most medical experts believe the blow was unrelated to the appendicitis attack that followed; however, Houdini failed to get treatment thinking the pain in his stomach was due to the punch to his abdomen.  After his appearance in Montreal, he traveled to Detroit where he collapsed at the end of a performance.  Five days later, on Halloween, Harry Houdini died.

I was standing in a nondescript empty room on the fourth floor of old Grace Hospital in Detroit.  The building, once considered progressive and modern, had deteriorated to the point that it would be torn down in a few months.  I ran the Information Technology department downstairs and once my group moved out, the wrecking ball would move in.  I soaked it all in.  Somehow it just didn't seem that special, but shortly several people and the news media — this year including Time Magazine — would gather there as they had done for years on Halloween.  

This wasn't just any room.  This was the very place where, on October 31, 1926, Brother Harry Houdini died.  I took a final look and turned to leave.  As I walked away, people filed past me to enter the room for Houdini's last séance.

Houdini, as had been the case on every Halloween in Grace Hospital since he died, did not show up.

~SLH


Steve Harrison, 32° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor.

The Magick of King Solomon

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. James E. Frey 32°


King Solomon before the Djinn by Jacobus de Teramo, 1473

"I pray thee, O king. Listen to what has befallen all that thy child hath. After we are all released from our work on the Temple of God, after sunset, when I lie down to rest, one of the evil demons comes and takes away from me one half of my pay and one half of my food. Then he also takes hold of my right hand and sucks my thumb. And lo, my soul is oppressed, and so my body waxes thinner every day." (Testament of Solomon, v4)

My Brethren, one tenant of the Masonic system is the constant reflection of the self. We must re-evaluate who we are morally as well as psychologically. It is this constant progression of self understanding that makes us face our archetypal shadow and conquer the negative aspects of the self. This is best personified by the Archetype of Wisdom in the Masonic system, King Solomon. King Solomon is interesting because his archetypal characteristics are found throughout Mediterranean cultures. According to the Old Testament King Solomon was charged to build the Temple of Solomon and was known as the wisest of all men. In the Islamic tradition Solomon is regarded as a prophet and representative of Allah. But there is a hidden side of King Solomon, a side that has been repressed from the western mythos, just as we hide the darker aspects of ourselves.

In the Christian tradition there is a separate myth that recounts Solomon not only as a wise King, but a very powerful Ceremonial Magician. This tradition is recounted in the 15th century Grimoire the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon, and the Testament of Solomon, a Christian text dating to around the 1st and 5th centuries CE. Although the author of these obscure texts is unknown, its legend holds that it was the secret firsthand account of Solomon himself. Solomon’s Testament deals with a variety of astrological and magical themes that even deal with acting as a bridge between Greek Mythology and Christian Theology. The book deals with vast legions of demons, summoning spirits, and magick rings.

The legend begins with a young man who is favored by King Solomon, one day he is attacked by a demon by name of Ornias who used his demonic powers to suck the vitality and life from the Youth’s spirit. Upon hearing this news Solomon summons the archangel Michael through the magickal practice. According to the Lesser Key of Solomon this magickal practice was known as the Almadel, which is how Solomon was said to have received wisdom from the angels. Michael arrives to the troubled King and entrusts him with a magick ring bearing the six pointed star, or seal of Solomon, upon it. With this ring Solomon gained the power to summon demons and sprits using his will to control them and command them to complete tasks.

Solomon then took control over Ornias who then infiltrated the demonic Prince Beelzebul granting Solomon power over the legion of demons. According to the lesser Key of Solmon of the Ars Goetia, there are 72 demons that are paralleled to the fallen angels described in the Book of Enoch who rebelled against God because they lusted after the daughters of man. It is important to note that these fallen angels also first brought sorcery and the magickal arts to the material realm. Beelzebul reveals how he was once a high ranking angel before the fall. It was the four archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel that descended down with their 72 angels of the Almadel and banished the rebellious demons unto the four watchtowers of the universe.

With King Solomon in full command of the 72 demons he commands them to aid in the construction of the Temple of Solomon. This is where the legend of the Goetia and the Masonic system begin to meet. The Goetia’s connections can be found in various places throughout the Masonic system, but often hidden so that the true initiate sees not the Adept’s design. The Angelic names bore on the cross of the older versions of the 29th degree Knight of St. Andrew are a prime example. There is nowhere else in Kabbalistic or Magickal lore are these Angelic names referred to, except the Greater Key of Solomon as the last pentacle of the Sun. But these angels are referred to in Phoenician legend, so it seems to understand the importance of the Testament of Solomon we must look at it from the theological perspective of the time. This book acts as a way to reinterpret Pagan Gods of various cultures and rework them into the roles of demons. I believe King Solomon was chosen by Christians as the Master Magician because of his close association with the worship of Pagan gods to please his many foreign wives. 

Solomon’s Magick Circle, Lesser Key of Solomon
According too Talmudic texts and the Book of Tolbit King Solomon soon was placed face to face with the king of demons Asmodeus. Asmodeus is known for tricking King Solomon into gaining his ring of power that he then cast to the sea where it was swallowed by a fish. This allowed the legions of demons under King Solomon’s power to rise up against the king. Asmodeus then cast the King 400 miles outside Jerusalem. Solomon then lived as a beggar wandering from city to city, working in kitchens and doing hard labor. Ancient Rabbis claim this was a divine punishment by God for Solomon worshiping foreign deities. Years later he was walking in a market and bought a fish for his supper, the same fish that held the Magick ring in his belly. King Solomon then returns to Jerusalem to expel Asmodeus and his demonic rule. Asmodeus is said to be thwarted by the Archangel Raphael who binds him. According to a tale found in the 1001 Arabian Nights King Solomon is known as a master of the Djinn, and captures all the Djinn or demons into a brass vessel and seals it with a magickal symbol and casts the vessel out to the sea trapping the Djinn whom he first summoned to build his temple. This legend is the bassis for the Greater and Lesser Keys of Solomon. 

The Lesser Key of Solomon, or the Goetia, is a medieval magickal text that claims to give the techniques and materials needed to embark on the mystical path of Solomon. It gives directions for casting magick circles, and invoking demons and dark Djinn into the consciousness of the magician. Here like Solomon the magician must unleash the demon from the brass vessel and symbolically slay the demon with a magical sword. Like the Djinn trapped in the magick lamp, the demon may also grant the wishes and desires of the magician, but it is the test of fortitude for the magician to resist these temptations and expel the demon from his mind.

"The spirits of the Goetia are portions of the human brain. Their seals therefore represent methods of stimulating or regulating those particular spots (though the eye)." (Aleister Crowley, The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magic in the Goetia.) 

If we as masons want to look at this in a philosophical sense we are all seeking to be the wise King Solomon. We must unlock the brass vessel of our own unconscious mind releasing all the aspects of ourselves we care not to let out. Each demon can be seen as an aspect of our personality that we keep hidden from the world. It is the goal of the magician with the aid of angels and magickal weapons to face the dark aspects of him and symbolically slay and expel those forces from our own spiritual nature, thus purifying him. This medieval system of what some would consider “black magick” is simply a way to reflect upon the aspects of our own psyche. If we as individuals wish to gain the wisdom of the archetypal king, we should face the shadow of ourselves and the demons that well in the void of our own nightmares. 

Before one sincerely attempts to evoke these demons, one should first spend some time invoking the 72 counterpart angels of the Almadel. The Almadel is a very enlightening experience and puts the magician in touch with the aspects of virtue within the psyche of the individual. This should be required for two reasons, one: one should be in touch with their inner strength before they face the demons, and two: the angels of the Almadel have direct control over the demons of the brass vessel. The Almadel is a system of scrying into a crystal ball over a altar made of wax upon which are engraved the Holy names of God. Remember that invocation is to call down a power within your spirit and mind, so you invoke angels to bring them closer. The Magician will evoke demons, to to bring from within ones self into manifestation. 

Almadel Altar
After one has made meaningful contact with his own inner angelic forces, he is now mentally and spiritually prepared to venture into the darkness of his own being. This system of High Magick should only be attempted by those who have magickal training, or are learned practitioners of ceremonial magick. This system to the unprepared is VERY DANGEROUS, and can be disastrous for those who approach the subject manner with a light heart or contempt in the mind. A short exert from the Lesser Key of Solomon will show the level of seriousness this system deserves. 

“Curse you and deprive you from all your offices and places of joy and place and do bind thee in the depths of the bottomless pit, there to remain until the day of judgment; I say into the lake of fire and brimstone… let all the company of heaven curse thee… let the hosts of heaven curse thee, I curse thee into fire unquenchable, and torments unspeakable as thy name and seal is contained in this box, chained and bound up and shall be choked in sulphurus and stinking substance and burnt in this material fire… which is prepared for thee damned and cursed spirits and there to remain until the day of doom and never more remembered of before the face of God which shall come to judge the dead and the world by fire.” (Lesser Key of Solomon, Book 1: Ars Goetia)

The Goetic demons require quite an elaborate array of magical implements such as a magic robe, wand, sword, circle, ring, brass vessel containing the 72 sigils of demons, black mirror within the magick triangle, and a very good memory. These evocations are quite lengthy and the magickal ritual can last quite awhile, especially when in a hypnotic trance which is required. 
Bro. Carroll Poke Runyon, 
before the Dark Mirror 
of the Goetic Demon


For those of you who simply wish to greet your shadow self and do some soul searching, I recommend you find a mirror and paint it with up to 7 layers of black paint, light some candles in a darkened room as gaze into the mirror without evoking the Goetic demons. This is a form of meditation similar to Trataka yoga techniques and can be very beneficial for self-discovery, or to just scare yourself the way kids have been doing while playing “Bloody Mary” for years. 

For those of you inspired to follow in steps of the archetypal King Solomon, to gain insight of the self or wisdom for above, with a sincere nature this system can be very beneficial and enlightening, even life changing. But for those of you who dabble, or foolishly rush into such things and unleash the spirits of the brass vessel Solomon trapped so long ago… well… like the ancient Djinn say… be careful what you wish for.




~JEF

James E Frey, 32° is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children.

A Masonic Patent

by Midnight Freemason Contributor

W.B. Gregory J. Knott


When the term patent is used in Freemasonry, most will think of a certificate of membership in one of the Masonic bodies. It is used as proof of membership, especially when a brother may travel from one jurisdiction to another.
Figure 1 Courtesy of Library of Congress

But did you know that the United States Patent Office can grant you a Masonic patent? Not for membership in a Masonic body, but if invent something that is deemed worthy of a government patent. Many years ago, especially in the golden age of fraternalism, several patents were issued for inventions that were related to freemasonry. 

Patent number US 133236 was granted on November 19, 1872 to Royal H. Lyon for an “Improvement in apparatus for the display of masonic emblems”. This device was an early day picture projector that could show various slides for use in the Masonic lectures.
Figure 2 Google Patent Search

James McCoy of Ypsilanti, Michigan filed a patent for “Improvement in masonic badges” on March 25, 1876 and was granted patent US183318A. His patent would allow a square and compass badge to be moved up and down a pin, with the badge position being used to indicate the position the member held in the lodge.
Figure 3 Google Patent Search

Perhaps you have an idea for a new Masonic neck ornament as Charles S. Cowell did on January 31, 1956 when he was granted US patent USD176756S for his design of masonic jewelry.

Figure 4 Google Patent Search
Our Masonic brethren have always been creative and builders of ideas. So the next time you are sitting in a lodge meeting and you find your mind wandering during another thrilling session of the reading of the minutes and paying of the bills, you might think of an invention that would be the next greatest advancement for the fraternity. 


~GJK



WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He holds membership also in The Masonic Society, The Scottish Rite Research Society and the Philalethes Society. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters

Masonic Correction


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley

I started wearing tweed jackets when I was sixteen years old. I own and wear three-piece suits, a vintage pocket watch, and a gold watch chain. I tie my own bow ties, and have enough sweater vests that my wife rolls her eyes when I buy another one. I was delighted to be asked to join the Rose Croix line in the Valley of Danville, AASR-NMJ, because I love the 17th and 18th Degrees, and I count the other Rose Croix officers, both past and present, among my closest friends, but my first reaction was the thrill of having an excuse to buy a tuxedo. I usually wear a lodge polo shirt and khakis to my home lodge for stated meetings (we’re fairly informal), but I normally wear a jacket and tie otherwise. And should the powers that be in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite ever lower their standards enough to grace me with the 33rd and Last Degree, I’ll gladly accept it, giddy in the knowledge that I’ll be able to wear white tie and tails before I die. Suffice it to say, I don’t normally underdress for things.

The photo in question.
So you might think I’d be curmudgeonly in my response to the meme that’s floating around the internet that features Fellowcrafts and Master Masons in their aprons and in casual dress down to ripped jeans and t-shirts, with “STANDARDS” in bold letters below them. It’s elicited a bunch of comments on the Freemasons for Dummies blog, some of it cautionary, much of it condemning.  I can sympathize. I like dressing well, and I like being in the company of other well-dressed people. If ever I were to have a “get off my lawn” moment, surely it would be in response to that picture. But I’m not. I’m actually more upset at the tone taken by some of my well-meaning Brethren. Yes, I get it that having high standards matters. Yes, I understand that we’re a fraternity of gentlemen. Yes, I’m delighted that there are lodges that wear tuxedos at all degrees, and I hope to take part in one someday. But I would be grateful if a word of correction would be given by whispering in a Brother’s ear, rather than by making his “transgression” go viral. 

Recently, I participated in two degrees where the candidate expressly dressed as he would for church: in once case, it was in a suit; in the other, it was shorts and a t-shirt. In neither case did it reflect the standards of the man wearing it; it represented how he interpreted our instructions based on his own experience. “But it’s common sense to dress up for church (or lodge)!” people cry. No, it’s not.  When people talk about common sense, they usually mean the way they themselves think based on their understanding of the world, which is in turn based on their experience. When we tell other people to use their common sense, we generally either think they have the same experience we do, and therefore don't need to do any research, or we haven't looked at the problem closely enough to realize that it actually requires research. When we say, in response to some disastrous decision, “but it should have been common sense” to do something different, we’re just holding ourselves out as being superior. Which isn’t common sense at all. 
In this photo, Justin Bieber is not properly 
attired for a stated meeting: 
he's not wearing an apron.

Now, do we want our Brethren to hold themselves to a high standard of behavior, dress, and morality? Yes, we do. Would I whisper council in a Brother’s ear if he showed up for a degree dressed in torn jeans and a t-shirt? Sure. I’d tell a candidate who showed up dressed that way that he should set the standard of his appearance for his next degree by what he observed around the lodge. And, taking an example from a comment by Brother Chris Hodapp, I would ask a Brother who showed up for a funeral dressed in jeans and a t-shirt to please change clothes or not participate. But correction can easily be perceived as coming from a place of assumed moral superiority and self-importance. I am required by my obligation to assume my Brothers’ best intentions, but expressing myself in a condemning tone is a good way to prevent him from assuming mine. Holding up Fellowcrafts to public correction on the Web isn’t assuming their best intentions, and doesn’t attempt to understand the culture of their lodge. 

And culture really matters. There’s a very active and successful lodge in my jurisdiction that had an air conditioning failure during a heat wave. They didn’t cancel their stated meeting, but had a luau lodge, with Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and flip-flops the dress for the evening. I don’t know if they used leis as chains of office, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Had a picture of that night been sent out, I imagine the comments would have gotten heated, but the Brethren who were there still talk about what a wonderful night of Brotherhood it was.  I don’t know the culture of the lodge in the picture, but I’d be happy to visit, and I’ll call ahead to find out what the standard of dress is. I’d rather do a little research than relying on my common sense.

So I’ll keep wearing what I wear, enjoying the many opportunities Masonry offers to dress well. And I love my tuxedo, but it isn’t my first. Years ago, when I was thinner, much younger, and still had hair, my father bought a new tuxedo for his 25th college reunion, and gave me his old one: a 1953 Brooks Brothers beauty. I tried it on, looked in the mirror, and was feeling just a bit special. Much smitten with my appearance, I asked my grandmother, who had been raised in very posh circumstances, how I looked. She flicked the ash off her cigarette, leaned back in her wheelchair, and said, “why, you look like a waiter.” Her experience was different than mine, after all.

A link to the original article from Bro. Chris Hodapp is HERE

~MHS


R. W. B. Michael H. Shirley is Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master for the Eastern Area for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M, as well as a Certified Lodge Instructor and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. A Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332, a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua Wisconsin and he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Explaining The Explanatory


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
L. Scott Niccum 33°




The very first lecture of the 1st Degree that a new Mason hears is called the Explanatory. Very simply, it is supposed to give explanations to why he went through what he did during his Degree.

It has been almost 2 years since I received my 33rd Degree for Scottish Rite and as is custom in our area one of my Lodges had a reception for me. I kinda’ broke tradition and had a roast,-- yeah, anyone who knows me knows I really go against the grain on a lot of things. My thought process about a “roast” was that I love to have fun and it would be a great event, second as I told Steve Bell “The Worm runs his mouth at a lot of guys, here’s a chance for them to zing me back.”

That night it was said I was a Mason before being brought to light. And I truly believe it was because of the lessons I learned growing up.

The last time I was reviewing for an upcoming 1st Degree that I would be helping with, I really looked closely at the ritual and saw many instances which reminded me of my Father Larry Niccum and Father-In-Law Robert Westover.

The first part makes reference to getting ready for the ceremony. It begins with removing all metal so 
 othing offensive or defensive can brought into the Lodge. No, it doesn’t mean we as a Fraternity are concerned about a shootout, but it is to help the candidate drop the defensive thoughts and nervousness he has and to help keep his mind open to what he will experience.
My father who was a lineman for the local power company for many years (30+), was the guy you saw hanging onto a power pole in a blizzard and got your electricity going again. I remember many times he would mention that when a new procedure was implemented, his job function as foreman was to educate his crew. More times than not he would be concerned with something new because of his philosophy “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. But when he would go to training, he would walk in with a true open mind. I remember those times when I was young, when he reminded me to keep an open mind in conversations. One quote he had was “If you want people to respect your opinion you need to respect theirs even if you don’t agree. If you want to talk your points, and you want them to listen then you need to listen too.” It’s ok to disagree but in the end we need to remember we are Brothers

Next, is a reference to a particular garment for the ceremony. As a Fraternity we as Freemasons don’t consider a person for their net income or portfolio but rather the character of their heart. One thing Dad loved to do was have his morning coffee. He worked like clockwork, 5:30 at the Arcade Café and on the weekend it was 6:00. Every now and then I got to go with and I felt like a hot shot sitting at the table with his buddies. 

It was my job to flip the top of the carafe when it was empty. I used to drink my chocolate milk in a coffee cup (a prelude of things to come as Todd Creason would say). What a time, listening to his friends talk about work, farming and the school football team etc. He’d also tell me info about everyone who walked the streets. It was a small town, everyone knew everyone. One morning an older guy came in kinda’ dirty and weird and sat down by himself. At that particular moment the table was razzing each other and trying to fit in and caught up in the moment I made a comment about “The creepy guy at the end of the counter…” Everyone at the table laughed except dad, I didn’t know why. 


Later next week my mother told me I had to do something after school for a friend of theirs. I got home from school and she took me to a house and said they would bring me home. I knocked on the door and it was the “Creepy weird old guy”. I remember I wanted to run but mom had left and he called me by name and smiled so warmly and invited me in. He led me to the kitchen where there were several paper plates wrapped in foil on his table. He asked me to put them in boxes for him and carry them to the car outside. I noticed as I was packing them, that there were names on the foil. After the car was loaded we left and took the plates to three older ladies he knew, we brought them in, he visited with each for a short time and we left for another. When we were done, he took me home and said how much he appreciated the help and I was “Such a nice young man, Larry must be very proud”. I went in, Dad was home and we had supper. During supper, I asked him why he made me do that. His response “The creepy old guy you made fun of is a WW1 vet and that food you delivered was for the wives of his buddies in his group who had passed away, they all promised to take care of each others families if anything happened. He’s fulfilling a promise”. This was before there was such a thing as Meals On Wheels. 

In my hometown, this same lesson which I remember to this day is the reason when I took communion to homebound church members I would make it a point to spend a chunk of time with them and visit to let them know that they are not forgotten. This “creepy old man”, who I had so quickly labeled had a heart of gold and integrity to match, Dad just had to remind me things are not always what they seem. Look at the whole picture and the whole person. Through the years he would tell me, “If you can get past this (whatever it was), this person is a really good person because of this or that“. I think we all need to be reminded daily to look past outward things and look at the heart of person before we make a decision. As Masons we say “the strength of our character and our heart is what defines us.” Dad taught me a hard lesson, what happens when we judge too quick. I still learn from that to this day. Thanks Dad for that lesson.


~LSN

L. Scott Niccum, 33° is a member and Past Master of Greenup Lodge No. 125 (IL) and a plural member of Hutton Lodge No. 698 (IL). He is a member of the Valley of Danville, and is Past Thrice Potent Master of the Danville Lodge of Perfection. He also serves as the Eastern Illinois Area Coordinator for the IL CHIP Program for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. and is the Traveling Degrees Chairman for the Valley of Danville. Scott and his wife Marie live in Charleston, Illinois.

...And Cast No Shadow.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Robert Johnson 32°

Presented to Waukegan Lodge 78 on August 19th 2013 for Lodge Education


What is light? Of course we may think of it in the basic way, illuminations making things visible so that we may traverse lands, read and see the things around us, things that are necessary and some things which are just captivating, perhaps best described as those things which make us contemplate the glorious works of the creation. 
Original representation of the Sun.
The oldest pictograph for that of light is of course the sun. It is that which fixes the duration of seasons and years. Light brings us much joy and not just because it brings a bright and sunny day. We must consider the gifts that the sun brings; crops, a habitable planet even the gift of good mood. Exposure to the sun increases the body’s production of Vitamin D, which according to studies promotes a sense of mental well-being, a literal “sunny-disposition”.
It is no wonder our ancient ancestors including some brethren worshiped the sun. It only makes sense.  We as Freemasons may see light a different way; we think it synonymous with knowledge. To be illuminated is to know something, perhaps to be wise to something which is lost unto the rest. And this is the way of our craft, to illuminate brothers to a new way of living, a new way of seeing and a new way of hearing. 
The Circumpunct as
used in Freemasonry
To change direction but for only a moment, let us consider the space in our degrees in where we are taught the meaning of the circumpunct, the point within the circle. We are told that the point represents man and the circle; well that represents our boundary or our scope of concern. What about other areas in our Masonic system? In many Fellowcraft lectures, in countless jurisdictions the point is described and explained in the quote “A point is a figure without dimension.”
If a point is a representation of a man, then a man is without dimension. This is almost insulting. However, let us consider the following: the point represents a man indeed, who is without dimension, a mere spot on a piece of paper or indent in the sand or dirt, until that is, he grows.
Next let us look again at the circumpunct. A point or a man, surrounded by the circle, but again what does this circle represent? Perhaps not your boundary but instead its original meaning. The sun. 
The point within the circle can be described also as a seed. A man surrounded by the light of the sun, the sun having the effect on a man that it has on a seed or the point. Eventually the seed grows and becomes more than just a point, it becomes a sphere, growing exponentially feeding on the light of the sun or in this case the knowledge that surrounds him. 
Now we have come all the way around. The circumpunct, a point within a circle. A seed surrounded by the sun. A man surrounded by the light of knowledge. 
When the point in the center becomes so big that it lapses equally around the circle, the man (you) now becomes the light. It then becomes your duty to be that light which shines on the seedlings, or new brothers. You must shine bright, be there to comfort, to guide and to nourish the new brothers growth. Let that light, let your light be so bright that you illuminate all things, and from you, let no shadow be cast.
~RHJ


Bro. Robert Johnson, 32° is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He belongs to Waukegan Lodge No. 78. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council, Knights Templar, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts a weekly Podcast (internet radio program) Whence Came You? which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

Beacon of Light


by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Jack Riddle, PM


I have only been a Mason a relative short time, having discovered the craft just over 6 years ago, and I was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on the last day of my 30th year. I had the honor and privilege to serve my lodge as an officer shortly after joining and progressing through the oriental chair.  I have learned much in this short time, and I am honored to know and call “Brother” the great men that make up my lodge and this fraternity. My only regret with regards of joining this ancient society is that I did not know of it sooner.

I did a good deal of my growing up in a small town, and like most small towns, there was a Masonic lodge there. In my youth, I must have walked past that building with the strange symbols on it at least a few hundred times. Yet, never did I have any idea what took place there or even an ideal as to the purpose of the building. I knew not of Masonry nor did I know any members to be as such. All I did know was that occasionally, there were cars in the parking lot, but most times the building sat vacant.

Many years later when I did learn about Freemasonry, it was with memory of that rarely used lodge from that small town that I sought out an active lodge. I may have received more than I had bargained for at my very busy lodge, but it was certainly more in kind with what I had hoped for. Yet, for all the joy this lodge has brought me, I am regretful of the years I missed out on the fellowship of the Masonic institution. If only that small town lodge had been more involved in the community, or the Masons there had shared their character more openly, I might have found my beloved fraternity a decade sooner.

While our lodge is more visible to the public than many due to our ongoing fish-frys (about 36 each year), I cannot help but wonder how many men walk past this building without knowing what happens here when we are not frying. How many qualified men could improve themselves in Masonry if they discovered the craft? How many young ladies would benefit from the Rainbow assembly if only they knew about it? How many young men would profit from being a part of the DeMolay chapter, if they learned such an organization exists? The lodge should be a beacon of light in its community, yet I am fearful that for most it remains shrouded in mystery.

It is a violation of our custom to recruit members, and instead rely on men of strong character to seek out Masonry on their own. While I certainly would not wish to change that, I ask: how can one find what he does not know about? Thus, I issue a challenge to my brothers to find ways to let our Masonic light shine for all to see; to make ourselves known to those around us, so that those good men that seek the light know where to look.

~JR


Jack Riddle is a member of Suburban Lodge #740 F&AM in Louisville, Kentucky where he was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on August 23rd, 2007.  A short time thereafter, he assumed the duties of editor for the lodge newsletter and joined the line as Sr. Steward. He served his lodge as Master in 2012, and is a member of the Society of Past Masters of Central Kentucky.

A. A. O. N. M. S.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian




When the public at large thinks of the Shriner’s, they think of “the guys in the silly hat’s in the parade”.  When Master Mason’s think of the Shriner’s, many think of “those guys in the silly hat’s that know how to party...”


Both may be correct, but there is a deeper meaning and mission that these Brethren take on than most people probably know.  Originally, the Shrine was established to provide a social and entertaining setting, to further Masonic Beliefs and Brotherhood.  Based on the Masonic creed of - “Faith, Hope and Charity”, holding “Charity” as the greatest, they created their own charity, The Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.

The organization is organized by “Temple’s” and controlled by an elected Board called a Divan.  The chief officer is known as the Potentate.  All Temples are overseen by Shriner’s International, the Imperial Divan and Imperial Potentate.  Each Temple has numerous Clubs and Parade Units for the members to be apart of based on their interests.

The first Temple, Mecca Shriners, was organized and established in New York City in 1872 by Walter M. Flemming (a prominent physician) and William J. “Billy” Florence (a popular actor).  By the early 1900’s membership was soaring as did the calling for the establishment of an official Charity.  In 1922, the first Shriner’s Hospital for Children opened in Shreveport, LA., providing pediatric orthopedic medical care, regardless of the families ability to pay.


Today, there are nearly 200 Temples (or Chapters) throughout seven different countries and thousands of Clubs around the world.  What started as one hospital has grown into one of the most world renowned healthcare systems with 22 facilities in three different countries.  20 of which provide specialized services in pediatric orthopedics, medical and rehabilitative services to children with congenital deformities and conditions, issues arising from orthopedic injuries and diseases of the neuro-musculoskeletal system.

In the 1960’s the Shrine recognized a lack of expertise in the field of burn care and henceforth entered the field.  The 1980’s saw the opening of the nation’s first spinal cord injury rehabilitation center which was specifically designed for kids of course.  These patients receive long term rehabilitation, physical, occupational and recreation therapy.  The most recent addition to the menu of specialties is the cleft lip and palate surgeries, orthodontia, audiological, speech and psychological therapies for children.

All of which are free including transportation to and from the hospital and family lodging during treatment.  After all, “No Man Stands So Tall, As When He Kneels To Help A Child.”


Shriner’s Hospitals For Children operates completely on donations and thru the interest earned from a Hospital Annuity Fund that the members support in the form of annual dues.

The Shriner’s Hospitals provided speciality care to over 12,200 patients in 2012.

To learn more about the healthcare system, please visit: www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org

To become a Shriner, please visit:



Famous members of the Shrine include, but are not limited to:

Buzz Aldrin
Mel Blanc
Ernest Borgnine
Theodore Wills
Col Harland Sanders
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Earl Warren
Gerald Ford, Jr.
Frank Stallone, Jr.
Glenn Ford
Gordon Ford
Harold Clayton Lloyd
Hubert Humphrey, Jr.
Jack Dempsey
James Doolittle
John E. Hoover
J Phillip Sousa
John Wayne
Red Skelton
Roy Rogers
Harry S Truman
Sam Hornish, Jr.



Dedicated to Butch.
As a Medinah Aviator he flew children to and from Shriner’s Hospitals for treatment.



~BJS

Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a husband and father of two. Bro. Brian is also the lead contributor to the Brothers In Armsblog, a pro 2nd Amendment blog page. "Start Square, Finish Level"

Come for the Conspiracy Theories, Stay for the Fellowship



by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro Robert Patrick Lewis



I love a good conspiracy theory, and I always have.  Brother Robert Johnson likes to make fun of me for my tinfoil hat-wearing ways, but in reality I've always been a conspiracy theory nut.  It's a bit funny and not surprising to me that most of the conspiracy theories we have come to know over the past few decades have come to fruition and proven themselves to be reality over the past couple of years, so for the time being I'm not throwing my tinfoil hat in the recycle bin just yet.

As one who enjoys delving into various conspiracy theories from time to time and chasing them down the rabbit hole, the topic and idea of Freemasonry and myself becoming a Mason have been on my mind for almost as long as I can remember, but as many other men in my generation I had no real idea how to join, and believed that it was purely predicated on the pedigree of your bloodline, and that one day when the time was right, a man would approach me and take me to a Lodge for initiation if it were in my destiny.

It's not that I'm a paranoid schizophrenic searching for some non-conformist reasoning to explain my lack of "fitting in" to the world, as many popular outlets would have you believe we conspiracy theorists are.  I'm quite the normal, conformist guy, what we would call pretty "squared away" in the Army, or even a "square" in the 1950's vernacular.

You see, even though I have followed the formula for the American dream my entire life, being a football and lacrosse stud in high school, going to college, joining a business fraternity, playing on the men's lacrosse team, graduating with a marketing degree, joining the Army and finding my way into Special Forces and on to combat in every theatre our country has been in over the past decade, returning home and joining the business community, I've always viewed the world a bit differently than most who were considered my peers or colleagues.

The great grandson of a famous American author, grandson of a military intelligence Colonel and son of a fighter pilot, I've been raised to be a military man and even a company man, but one thing that the men in my family have always shared and cherished is the most important skill of critical thinking: looking at the "big picture" rather than the slice of life you currently see.

It seems trivial to most, but to anyone reading this who has spent time in the Craft knows just how deep that concept can be.  As a man who values critical thinking and root-cause analysis above all, I've never believed what I've been sold in life, whether it be from history lessons, the media, or the timeline of humanity.  Not that I think it's all a complete fabrication, but rather that something has always been.........missing.  

As a bit of a book nerd and history buff, I continued following the rabbit hole past my teenage years, through college, into my Army career and then on to the private sector.  It had begun driving me up the wall that everything I dove into, ran into the same dead-end: the Freemasons have the answers and are pulling the strings.

It seemed that no matter where I turned, no matter what internet website or dark and dusty unnumbered book I read that I came to the same unsatisfactory answer, and was quite unhappy that my thirst for Light, Truth, Knowledge and answers would never be quenched, and that it was due to something (I thought at the time) that was completely out of my control.

But then, just a few years ago, came my big break; my Grandfather had passed away a few years previously, and as my dad and I were talking about him, my dad let it slip that my Grandfather had been a Mason during his time in the Army.  It was my chance!

I immediately jumped on Google the mighty and starting looking for contact numbers.  I wasn't exactly sure how the hierarchy worked or what the Blue Lodge system was, so I went right for what I had heard the most about: the Scottish Rite Lodge in Washington D.C., the heart of a very unhealthy portion of conspiracy theories.

I searched for every email address and office phone number I could find, and before long found myself on the phone with the secretary of the Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction.  Being the studious and organized individual that I am, I had an entire page of notes and questions, lest I forget to ask something crucial and miss perhaps my only opportunity.

My mouth was dry, my heart was racing, and not knowing where to start, I began with my lineage, what I thought was my key and only chance to prove that I was worthy for entrance into the Craft.

I wasn't more than a few sentences in before I heard the secretary laugh just a little bit; I felt my heart drop, imagining that all of the stories were true, that something about my pedigree just wasn't good enough, and that I would either not be admitted or be relegated to the "outer circle" so famously spoken about in conspiracy groups (by those who have no true Knowledge of the Craft itself), whose only purpose is to finance the worldly intentions of the secret "inner circle" of Freemasons who rule the world.  

Why we would proudly claim Presidents, leaders of nations and generals as members of our Fraternity and not this secretive "inner circle" has never quite been answered for me, which should have been an answer in and of it self a long time ago.

The secretary heard me pause and inserted something that was somehow missing from every book, online forum or television special written and concocted by the uninitiated that I had ever come across: it didn't matter where I came from or what my last name was, all I had to do was find a Blue Lodge and go to a stated meeting dinner.

Suffice it to say I was at the next stated meeting for Los Angeles Lodge #42, initiated as an EA just a short, nail-biting six months later, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason within the year.
I soaked up every bit of instruction I was given, listened intently to every lecture, attended every single degree ritual that I could at my Lodge, and counted (I'm not kidding about this) every column, artifice, rug pattern, light fixture, steps of the officers and adornment in the Lodge, looking for some clue that would lead me to the secret I had been searching for, the lost keys that Brother Manly P. Hall so famously wrote and spoke about.

But alas, the elusive "key" seemed hidden to me; I noticed some very peculiar patterns in certain things that were quickly dismissed when I asked about them, found that my Lodge wasn't alone in not practicing the esoteric work anymore, and seemed to be led to the idea that the "secrets" I was looking for had to be found on my own; the "key" was not one that would be given to me, but rather one that I would have to find, now that I knew what I was looking for.

Somewhere along the line I took a step back to reflect, which is just as important to critical thinking and project management as anything, and realized that I wasn't seeing the forest for the trees.  All along I had been looking at everything with a microscope, not realizing that the bigger, perhaps more important piece was standing all around me.

I had become very close to some of the members of my Lodge, especially those with whom I had been progressing through the degrees with, but only seeing each other once a week, sometimes only once a month, can only go so far if you're in a hurry.  I had joined many LinkedIn groups and visited quite a few other online forums to quench my thirst for deep conversation, began listening to the Whence Came You podcast with Brother Robert Johnson, and actually sought him out and had become rather close.

As a guy who's been on athletic teams, in fraternal organizations and in the military, I can take relationships for granted sometimes, as I've always had a lot of very close friends and have had a deep respect and understanding for the need of man, a social animal, to have those bonds.  But as with many things in life, it becomes very easy to lose sight of the importance of things that you've always had.

So when it came time for my 3rd Degree, I have to say that I was more than a bit surprised when I walked into the dining area of my Lodge and saw a very familiar face; Brother Robert Johnson, who had secretly traveled from Illinois to California to be there with me on such an important day, and to fellowship with the Brothers of my Lodge.  And not only did he grace us with his presence, he brought presents!

Perhaps a month later, my Lodge had its annual picnic, a tradition of Los Angeles Lodge #42 that has lasted for quite some time.  My eyes were still a bit fuzzy from having been opened for the first time after my Raising, but for the first time, somewhere between the snow cones and kids games I truly saw what it was about: Fellowship.

If our goal is to make good men better, for the first time I realized that it didn't have to come from ancient texts, online forums, patterns in the stars, aliens, or even, not even, my beloved tinfoil hat.  It comes from us.

As I looked around Griffith Park and at my Brothers and their families, enjoying themselves but most importantly being together, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Just as humanity started with Adam, alone but a good man, so has our Craft.  It all begins with the one good man, the GAOTU, the Worshipful Master, but that one good man influences another, who in turn influences another.  
Before long there is the Trinity of good men, now influencing thrice the amount of good men to be better, who in turn "pay it forward," and on and on it goes.  One good man can't change the entire world, but a Brotherhood of good men can.

So as it turns out, for all of my studious research, for all of my searching, thinking that I would never find the secret of life or the Craft that I had been searching for, it looks like it was staring me in the face the entire time, just waiting for me to look up and notice: I came for the conspiracy theories, but I stayed for the Fellowship.

~RPL

Bro. Robert Patrick Lewis is a Brother out of L.A. Lodge 42. He is a husband and father of two. He is the author of "Love Me When I'm Gone", a memoir about his time in the Special Forces. Bro. Lewis is also the host of the "Far From Centered" podcast (available on iTunes) and writes for iRON MiKE Magazine. He is currently serving our country yet again in the Middle-East.