Virtuous Resolutions

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Jason Richards

Photo by Bro. Jon Ruark, PM

Late December is, for many people, a time of introspection and self-reflection. For me, Christmas Eve is particularly sacred in that regard. As long as I can remember, I stayed up extra late on Christmas Eve--not to wait for Santa or in anticipation of opening gifts the following morning--but to allow myself time to reflect on how my life has changed since the previous year's Christmas Eve and muse as to how my life might change before the next one rolls around. As I reflect, I always attempt to thank God for the blessings, lessons, and difficulties of the past year and also for the hope that comes with the next.

This past year, Masonically, has been a whirlwind adventure for which I am very thankful. I've been blessed with many new friendships with brethren across the world through The Masonic Roundtable, Midnight Freemasons, and Masonic Radio Theatre. I've also been granted increasing responsibility in my mother lodge, and look forward to my time in the East in the coming years. 

But Christmas Eve isn't just a time for self-reflection and poor attempts at forecasting the future; for me, it's always been the time to set my resolutions on how to live and act the next year. Resolutions, while often carrying negative connotations for being broken soon after they're made, can be a useful tool for sanctification whereby we chip at our own rough edges in hopes of one day becoming that that elusive, idealistic "perfect ashlar." As I was pondering my 2015 resolutions, the four cardinal virtues of Masonry about which we learn in the Entered Apprentice degree (temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice) stood out in my mind. As they necessarily touch all parts of our lives as men and Masons, these virtues formed the perfect framework for what I resolve to accomplish this next year:

1. Temperance: Spend more time with family.

Masonry is a vast, complex machine with many moving parts; however, it has relatively few workers to keep those parts moving and may have fewer in the future if current Masonic membership trends persist. As a result, Masonry has no shortage of work for those men who choose to be active--even to the point where family life suffers as a result. This year, I resolve to give my family the quality time they need.

2. Fortitude: Put all I can into my lodge.

Spending more quality time with my family doesn't mean that I slack off on my Masonic duties. Masonry should be about quality, not quantity. As such, I resolve to give my Masonic endeavors my all (within the length of my cable tow) this year, recognizing that I cannot (and should not) do everything; but what I do do, I should do exceptionally well.

3. Prudence: Exercise more patience.

We all know brethren who drive us nuts for whatever reason (if you're on reddit or facebook, you probably know several). While our obligations may keep us from completely writing them off or telling them where to shove it (or may not, depending on how you frame them), disharmony in the Craft can still abound in cases where brethren rub each other the wrong way. This year, I resolve to exercise more patience with brethren I find difficult to befriend and relieve.   

4. Justice: Be as good of a man as I can be. All the time.

We've heard it time and time again. Masonry makes good men better. Why else would we join? You can read the rituals online. A non-mason can buy a Masonic bumper sticker to put on his car or lapel pin for his jacket if he wants to do so. We're here to build each other into men of high values and character; as a Mason, it is my duty to be as good of a man as I can be, as I resolve to do the same to the best of my ability throughout the next year.

As we move forward into 2015, I wish all brethren wheresoever dispersed a joyous new year filled with temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice--four virtues upon which our craft was built, all of which are essential tools to master as we go forth and attempt to carry out our end goal as Masons: to make good men better.


Bro. Jason Richards is the Senior Deacon of Acacia Lodge No. 16 in Clifton, Virginia, and a member of both The Patriot Lodge No. 1957 and Fauquier Royal Arch Chapter No. 25 in Fairfax, Virginia. He is the sole author of the Masonic weblog The 2-Foot Ruler: Masonry in Plain Language, and is a co-host on the weekly YouTube show and podcast The Masonic Roundtable. He lives in Virginia with his wife, cats, and ever-expanding collection of bow ties.

Brotherly Love - Part III

By Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB. Sam L Land

The fight of the two wolves needs to be thought about just a bit more now that we have definitions and purposes of Brotherly Love. We need to look at how that Brotherly Love is demonstrated (or not) in the Lodge. It is a part of the battling wolf brothers that apply here. There are two distinct ways in which Brotherly Love is displayed; for my benefit (ego) and for your benefit (altruism); we need to understand the differences and evaluate our conduct in the light of what we discover.

The ego which drives every one of us to achieve is an uncontrolled driver who does not really care what happens to you as long as good happens to me. Ego wants the best of everything it sees and everything it can conceive. Ego will cause things to happen to us so that those things are achieved without thought of other outcomes or circumstances. Ego can create very great things that will not last or things that will not matter much in the greater realm of things.

When we have earnestly and thoughtfully made the decision to control our passions and desires, we begin the process of change and use the tools of reason, compassion, and understanding to make our decision; decreasing the uncontrolled emotional decisions of egoism. We begin to look at how decisions that we make for our self will affect those around us. Our decisions become much less of what will this do for me and becomes very much more of how will this decision make things better for everyone.

Let's look at a few times in the life of a Brother and the Lodge and see if this distinction can be make clear. Starting at the beginning, let's look at when we manage to get to Lodge on meeting night. It would be best for all Brothers to arrive at the Lodge at least 30 minute before the meeting begins. This is tough for us to do because our ego tells us that it doesn't matter as much as relaxing in our chair for just a few more minutes. We want to finish what we are doing and have it out of the way. We feel the need to accommodate someone else instead of letting them know we must leave. We might decide not to go at all if we are tired enough or the work is piling up and needs to get done.

But what about our Brothers at the Lodge? It is not really a matter of what they will do but what we need for our self to do. We need to consider how our timeliness effects them. Are we an officer so that we will need to be replaced? Do we have things that need to be said and will not? Will the Lodge just be less because of our absence? How will what we decide be an education for those who watch us and learn?

How we dress for Lodge is an indication of how we feel about the Lodge and our part in it. Our ego tells us that it is fine to dress comfortably as we have had a hard day. We deserve to relax and be comfortable. We can always dress up more when the work is more important. Even work rules have relaxed their dress code; why should we dress up for Lodge? Actually, the really correct question is, "Why shouldn't we?" In whom do we put our trust? Does not all work begin and end with words to deity? Are we not there to IMPROVE our self? Should we not be more concerned about how our dress will affect the other members of our Lodge? Will the new Entered Apprentices learn that dress is not very important from watching what we do? Will our dress take away from the spiritual atmosphere of the Lodge meeting? Which wolf are we feeding?

I have heard so many members tell about how hard it is for them to learn ritual. They are not as young as they once were and the mind just seems not up to the task any longer. That is the ego talking and giving very comfortable excuses not to do the work. Some people are gifted at ritual and others find difficulty. The gifted will work up to their potential with less effort but the regular guy will just have to work at it harder. It is possible for every member to learn the ritual word-for-word and present a more professional and conversational effort that will please and teach the young that good work, square work is very important. Everyone makes mistakes but those who are not prepared will do it with more vigor and more frequently giving an improper lesson. Take a few minutes each day to study something from ritual. There are times that can be found. In the bathroom, while driving to and from work, in the exercise routine, and before sleep are just a very few. Much may be done from little if it is consistent. Again, it is the lesson to the young member that is very important here.

Serving on committees and serving at fundraisers is also very important for the life of the individual and the life of the Lodge. We need accomplishment for positive self-esteem and the Lodge needs the service and income. We can tell our self that we are too busy or have more important commitments but now we know that that is our ego talking and justifying what we wish to do for our self. It does not take into consideration that we, too, are a part of the Membership and have an obligation to work. If we do not, we leave the job we would have done to another Brother to do. We actually make the work harder instead of easier.

How about singing the opening and closing odes? Does ego tell us not to sing because we feel we have a poor voice? Do we not want to embarrass our self in front of our Brothers? The sound made by a Lodge full of men singing is uplifting no matter how the individual sounds. It causes a feeling or Brotherhood and togetherness that cannot be achieved any other way.

Brothers, we cannot afford to let our unrestrained ego be in control of our lives. Brotherly love will not operate in that atmosphere. We will find the feelings of oneness with the Brothers that we seek by always using our mind to decide what is best for the Lodge not for the individual. Freemasonry is a decision to travel a different road from the unsatisfied others. It is about doing what is right and good for all mankind. This can only be accomplished by circumscribing our desires and keep our passions in due bounds with all mankind, especially with a Brother Freemason.

WB Sam L. Land is the Worshipful Master of Linn Lodge No. 326 A.F. & A.M. in Linn, Missouri. He also holds membership in both York and Scottish Rite, including Knight Templar. He is a life member of the Missouri Lodge of Research, a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, and the Southern California Research Lodge. His articles appear regularly in The Missouri Freemason Magazine and he has been published by The Working Tools Magazine. He has also presented research work to the AMD. He is currently enrolled a student of the Guthrie College of the Consistory and has received the been awarded the Past Venerable Master and Past Wise Master Orders.

The Danger Of Education

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Adam Thayer

This piece,  is about Masonic Education, and the dangers it can pose. To start off, though, I don’t want to talk about Masonry. Instead, I’d like to tell you a story.
There was once a young boy in Greece, walking through the mountains. While he was wandering, he stumbled across a large stone that was set upright, and marked with what appeared to be an ancient inscription. He rushed home and told his father, who called up a famous archaeologist from the neighboring town.
The archaeologist gathered some tools and equipment, and had the boy take him to the stone. It being in a remote location, the hike was difficult, and through rocky terrain, but they finally arrived at their destination. The archaeologist took a cursory look at the stone and was overcome with joy! The script on it was one he recognized immediately: it was an ancient form of Greek, and he happened to be the world’s leading expert on the rare dialect. Any new examples of this writing would greatly expand the archaeological field’s understanding, and help his study of the language immensely.
The archaeologist got to work scraping off the moss and dirt that had collected on the stone over the years. After many hours of work, at last the stone stood naked before him, and he was able to analyze the writing more closely. The writing was large, and contained very few words, which, combined with the situation of the stone, led him to believe that it was an ancient grave stone. He settled in to interpreting the writing, pulling out his notes, other examples of the writing, an ancient Greek dictionary which he had written, and numerous grammatical studies. Several times he burst out with excitement over the hours, and finally, as the sun was setting, he had finished what he believed to be an accurate translation.
“My boy,” he said, “you may not understand the importance of what you have found, but I do! This grave stone says ‘A warning to all who pass me by: tread lightly, for the ground be unstable.’ We use a very similar saying now, that says ‘Remember me as you pass by, as you are now, so once was I.’ This stone helps link our ancient Greek brothers to our culture today, and will help close so many gaps in our understanding! Thank you, my boy, thank you so much for leading me to your discovery! I can’t wait to get my whole team up here to do a more thorough excavation.”
So, the boy and the archaeologist returned home. The archaeologist spent the next several weeks assembling the equipment he would need, and the best excavation team in the country. When they were finally prepared, they transported the large and fragile equipment to the site by helicopter, and took the basic supplies by donkey. The helicopter landed with the archaeologist, and soon the donkeys began to arrive, carrying their loads. The archaeologist stood back, and surveyed with pride the massive undertaking that was about to commence. He took a look at the ancient burial sign and smiled at all he hoped to accomplish and learn.
Just then, the ground began to violently tremble. The donkeys started to act strange. Deep noises could be heard from under the ground, and, in one horrific instant, the whole surface of the ground they were standing on gave way, and the whole team, all of the equipment, the donkeys, the helicopter, and the archaeologist were all swallowed up by the earth. In his excitement, the archaeologist had failed to heed the warning of the sign, that the ground was prone to collapse.

Our ancient brethren have left us a wealth of knowledge and instruction, but if we only examine the surface words and not the underlying meaning, we too are at risk of falling into a pit of confusion and despair. Don’t allow yourselves to fall into the trap of believing that your cursory understanding of a lesson is the right one, or even the only meaning available. And most importantly, never forget the true meaning of the words of the inscription: A warning to all who pass me by: tread lightly, for the ground be unstable.


Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Deacon of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Senior Warden of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, and the Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at


Over the last year, we have had many Guest Contributors to our site. It has been a huge help to have new perspectives and styles of writing about Masonic subjects available to the readership. This year in fact, we had 27 guest posts! So much great work and at the beginning of the year we brought one of them aboard. This was of course, Bro. Robert Walk Jr.

Toward the middle of the year we brought on Bro. Jason Richards, and now just before the close of the year, it is with great pleasure I am able to add to the rolls of the regular contributors once again. Please join me in welcoming Bro. Adam Thayer!

Brother Thayer brings a very academic approach to our blog, as he is on the Committee of Education for the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. He is also a member of two lodges there and is "in line" in both of them, which is quite a commitment. He is a member of the Scottish Rite and Knights of St. Andrew as well.

I know I enjoy his writing and perspective into the craft, and I think you will too!

Welcome aboard Brother Thayer!

Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Deacon of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Senior Warden of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, and the Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at

Brother Davy Crockett — The Rest of the Story

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

A section of the painting "Fall of the Alamo" by
Robert Onderdonk features Davy Crockett and his band
of Tennessee volunteers near the end of the battle.
It has long been a well-known historical fact Brother Davy Crockett (1786–1836) was a patriot and hero who gave his life in defense of freedom at the Alamo in 1836.  By the late 19th century, however, Crockett was largely a forgotten figure.  The events leading to Texas' independence and eventual statehood were long in the past and very few remembered the names of the brave soldiers who helped bring it about.  The situation changed when, in the mid-1950s, Brother Crockett transcended all that and became an American icon with the release of Walt Disney's television series about his life, as well as the movie, "Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier."  Since that time the series has been replayed to the point that every kid learns about Crockett's heroism at an early age.

Interestingly, Crockett's rise to the level of superstar almost didn't happen.

In 1946, famed artist Thomas Hart Benton (related to two famous Masons with the same name, but not a Mason himself) briefly worked for Disney, and came to him with an idea for a show.  He presented Disney with an outline for a musical about Crockett's life called "Hunter From Kentucky."

To be generous, Disney (who as a youth was a DeMolay) thought Benton's concept was poor and he quickly shelved the project — with the intention it would never be used.  However, in 1954, the weekly TV series known today as The Wonderful World of Disney premiered.  Less than a year later, the Disneyland theme park opened, TV ratings skyrocketed and Disney started a daily show, The Mickey Mouse Club.  Producing a minimum of six shows per week, Disney's appetite for material became voracious.  So he went back to his "dead ideas" file and there he found Benton's mercifully forgotten manuscript.

Disney handed the project to his staff, which reworked the idea into something that, in reality, bore little if any resemblance to the outline from Benton.  The product Disney's talented writers came up with arguably might be the most popular show ever to emerge from the Disney studios — but one thing is certain: the series almost instantly catapulted Brother Davy Crockett from obscurity to rock star status.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is 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 Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft, will be released later this year.



by Midnight Freemason Guest ContributorWB. IRA S. GILBERT, PM, PDDGM
With the success of Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol there seems to be an increase in interest with more people inquiring about our Masonic fraternity. The book is about the symbols of Freemasonry. One would only hope that there would be a similar resurgence of interest by our brethren in making the journey of studying about our fraternity, its philosophy, its history, and the meaning of the symbols that make up our ritual. 
When a candidate first knocks upon the door separating the preparation room from the lodge hall he starts upon this journey of enlightenment about our brotherhood. The candidate is introduced as having been in darkness and now seeks light by being brought into the fraternity of Freemasonry. In the first section of the Entered Apprentice degree the candidate is asked what he most desires. The response elicited is “light”. In the first section of the Fellowcraft degree his response to a similar query is “more light. In the first section of the Master Mason degree ritual, the appropriate response is “further light”. This seems to imply that the authors of our Illinois ritual indicated that the achievement of the Master Mason degree is not an end to our Masonic education,  but there is much more. There is nowhere in the ritual of symbolic or blue lodge Freemasonry where a brother is given the “most light” or a completion of the quest to find light in masonry.
Attendance has fallen drastically at lodge meetings. The number of new petitions has also diminished in recent years. Why is it that Freemasonry has fallen in popularity?  Why is it that even when new masons are brought into the lodge that they are no longer active after being raised to the degree of Master Mason? Many blame the current situation with our economy. People are having a hard enough time making ends meet and having to spend time with their occupations and their families. Freemasonry no longer occupies a prominent place in our culture. 
In the volume 14, 2005 edition the Transactions of the Illinois Lodge of Research, Brother Edward A. Rund authored an article entitled, We Are Failing Our Masonic Educators. Brother Rund stated that statistics indicate that over 95% of the new Master Masons felt no need to return to lodge and take an active interest in our fraternity. Of those that do return to lodge they only do so sporadically. Few of our new Master Masons take on the obligation of becoming officers in their lodge. Brother Rund places the reason for this fall off in Masonic feeling on the lack of a focus on Masonic education. 
In volume 16, 2007 of the Transactions of the Illinois Lodge of Research, Brother Neil Neddermeyer, Past Grand Master of Minnesota, postulated that there are three groups of Masons. There are those that feel that Freemasonry is a social club. A second category consists of those that feel that the main function of Freemasonry is to support charities and philanthropic institutions. Finally, there are those Masons that are in the fraternity to receive Masonic light and learn as much as possible of Masonic symbolism, history and philosophy. While all of these reasons for becoming Masons are important, it is this latter group of brethren that this article is trying to reach. 
Rollin C. Blackmer, in his book, The Lodge and the Craft, states that at the writing of the book in 1976, there were more than 100,000 brethren who held memberships in Masonic lodges in the state of Missouri. Of this number he postulated that perhaps 75 were sufficiently interested in the brotherhood to undertake further study of the fraternity to which they belonged. This is a most lamentable state of affairs, which, I submit, continues to this day. Perhaps if more of our brethren took on the task of learning about our fraternity we could greatly increase attendance at lodge and bring along a cadre of brethren who would take on the roles of leaders in their lodge. Ritual is important. It is the ritual that is the first exposure that a candidate has to the philosophy of masonry. The ritual consists of the lessons that freemasonry teaches so that a brother can lead a life that is rich and fulfilling. As Blackmer states, “The ritual is the vehicle which the principals of Freemasonry ride into the hearts and minds of men.” However, the words of the ritual are not enough. It is the meaning of the words that lead men to live up to our teaching. These words are capable of interpretation that is nuanced by the historical background of those who wrote them. A study of the history and symbolism of the ritual is essential to understanding the meaning behind the words. There is much research to indicate that it is easier to learn ritual when one understands the meaning of the words that are being memorized. 
There are many areas of Masonic research that can be undertaken depending on the inclinations of each individual brother. Some brethren may become interested in the history of the craft. Others will take an interest in the philosophy of Freemasonry. Those with a legal bent may become interested in Masonic jurisprudence. There is also the symbolism inherent in the words of our ritual. The bottom line is that there is something for everyone in our fraternity. The full meaning of Freemasonry becomes a life long study of the various aspects of our brotherhood. This study can be rewarding and give the Masonic brother a meaning for life and, as our ritual tells us, “There stands a just and upright Mason”.
Blackmer, Rollin C., The Lodge and the Craft, 1976,  Macoy Publishing Co., Inc., Richmond, Virginia
Haywood, H. L., The Newly Made Mason, 1973, Macoy Publishing Co., Inc., Richmond, Virginia
Haywood, H. L., More About Masonry,1980, Macoy Publishing Co,, Richmond, Virginia
Illinois Lodge of Research, Transactions, Vol. 14, 2005

Illinois Lodge of Research, Transactions, Vol. 16, 2007 


Bro. Ira Gilbert was raised on January 8, 1968 in Isaac Cutter Lodge #1073 and was Master in 1972. Isaac Cutter Lodge merged with Chicago Lodge #437 and he is now now a member of Chicago Lodge. Bro Gilbert is a member of A. O. Fay Lodge #676 as well. He is also a member of the Valley of Chicago Scottish rite. Bro. Ira's dedication to Masonic Education has afforded him the ability to serve on the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education and the Grand Lodge Committee on Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira comes from a Masonic family, his father being Master of Universal Lodge #985, now a part of Decalogue Lodge through a series of mergers. His father was also a Grand Lecturer. His main interest in our fraternity lies in the philosophy and history of our ritual and in Masonic Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira was a DDGM twice, once in the 1980's and once four years ago. He is also a fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research and the ILOR awarded him the Andrew Torok Medal as well.

The Mason's Wife and Daughter - A Degree or Degrees Unto Themselves

A Real Deal Masonic Degree You Can Give Your Wife! 

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Robert H. Johnson

Okay, so I hope the title drew you in, but this is serious! In my searches for Masonic tidbits and sometimes, what some would call scandalous information, I recently came across an interesting entry. It is from the 1916 edition of Mackey’s Masonic Encyclopedia - And it’s Kindred Sciences. The entry I am writing about is called “The Masons Wife and Daughter" and it references a real degree, or possibly degrees (explained later) that any Master Mason may confer to any woman in his life as long as they meet the requirements. The purpose? To seemingly give a way to be recognized among those of the fraternity. 

Below is the text copied and pasted, but for those who want to see it to believe it, I did find the book, edition and entry on “Google Books” an online scanned version of the text. Below you will see the copied image of this text:

Scanned text from Google Books

A Degree frequently conferred in the United States on the wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of Freemasons, to secure to them, by investing them with a peculiar mode of recognition, the aid and assistance of the Fraternity. It may he conferred by any Master Mason, and the requirement is that the recipient shall be the wife, unmarried daughter, unmarried sister, or widowed mother of a Master Mason. It is sometimes called the Holy Virgin, and has been by some deemed of so much importance that a Manual of it, with the title of The Ladies' Masonry, or Hieroglyphic Monitor, was published at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1851, by Past Grand Master William Leigh, of Alabama. 

A copy of the 1851 published material which
was recently on sale on eBay and sold for $125.00
Not much information exists on this “Holy Virgin” degree that was so popular in 1851 that the ritual was even printed, and that Mackey states it was “…A degree frequently conferred…”. Some fairly basic searches for this book, brings you a library search where the subtext of the title is revealed, and what a surprise it offers! The subtext reads, “Hieroglyphic monitor : containing all the emblems explaind in the degrees of the Holy Virgin and Heroine of Jericho, duly arranged, to which are added illustrations, addresses, & c” I wonder what happened to this degree or degrees, was it absorbed into one of the other appendant bodies open to women like the Daughters of the Nile, the modern version of the Heroines of Jericho or The OES? Without the printed original ritual, we may never know. 


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 is the Master of 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.


by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor

As soon as a candidate takes his obligation in the first degree he changes his designation from candidate to brother. At the moment that the candidate detaches his hands and kisses the Bible he is embarking on a journey that is a long and difficult, although rewarding journey through our fraternity. There are many paths that a brother may follow as he progresses from Brother to Most Worshipful Brother. He may not aspire to, nor achieve all of the designations listed in the title to this article. But nevertheless the journey will be a gratifying one that will make his Masonic life satisfying and enjoyable. 
This is an article about aspirations. How one achieves his aspirations is dependent on the new Brother’s thinking, but even more so, on the aid given to him by the brethren in the lodge to help the new Brother along the way.  
Last week I participated in a Grand Master’s Class as the Mentor for the candidates from my lodge. The candidates entered the lodge hall and as they stood before the Wardens and the Master the Junior Deacon was asked at each station if the candidate was “duly and truly prepared” Now most brethren think that being “duly and truly prepared” means is he properly attired in the costume, and has the cable tow and blind fold been properly affixed. But if the candidate is really been “duly and truly prepared” this also means in his mind as well as his body. Has the candidate studied the Intender Manual for the Entered Apprentice Degree? Has the candidate learned and been properly examined on the Catechism? Has the candidate been schooled by his Intender on the meaning and symbolism of the ritual in the Entered Apprentice degree?  I fear that in many cases the candidate was not really “duly and truly prepared” in his mind to be raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. 
As the candidates were raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason they were embarking on a life of study. They were starting out on a journey where, depending on their aspirations, they were beginning their advance from being a Brother to becoming a Worshipful Brother, and then, perhaps, to becoming a Right Worshipful and possibly even a Most Worshipful Brother. 
To progress in many organizations there is a preferred route to the top. In the corporate world this may be by becoming proficient in marketing, sales, or finance. In the military, the route to the top might lay through experience in combat. In Freemasonry, the path upward lays in proficiency in the ritual. 
Proficiency in the ritual not only means that the Brother is capable of memorizing the words. But it also means studying and becoming proficient in the history and symbolism of the materiel presented in each of the degrees,
The path leading from brother to Most Worshipful Brother starts with the learning of the catechism in each degree. In order to achieve recognition in the catechism the new brother must learn the long form  catechism for all three degrees and then be examined in open lodge on his proficiency in these catechisms. Upon a satisfactory examination the successful candidate will be recognized for his accomplishment by the Grand Lodge. 
The next step in one’s Masonic advancement is the procurement of three books from the Grand Lodge of Illinois. The first book to acquire is the Book of Standard Work. Next is the Book of Ceremonials. The third acquisition is a pamphlet that is chock full of information. That pamphlet is The Handbook For Officer Advancement. The latter publication contains a listing of what a Brother should learn at each position and station as he progresses through the chairs once he achieves an appointive officer in the lodge.
If a Brother is fortunate enough to have been appointed by the Master to a chair in the lodge he starts his progression in the hierarchy of Freemasonry. The Brother starts to learn the materiel from the Book of Standard Work and the Book of Ceremonials appropriate to his position in the officer’s line of the lodge.  The progression on learning as a brother moves through the chairs is outlined in the pamphlet Handbook For Officer Advancement.
It is at this point in the Brother’s  advancement toward the Master’s chair that he should consider attending one or more of the excellent schools in the area. He should also attend the Grand Lodge Officers Schools that are scheduled throughout the Masonic year. Learning the ritual in the Book Of Standard Work or in the Book of Ceremonials is but a start to Masonic education. It is at the schools that the brother will learn the floor and rod work that is essential to performing a good ritual. If memory were the only route in the path for advancement, the brother would have a relatively easy road to the top. When the brother feels comfortable enough to really delve into what Freemasonry means, he can now start to look into the many books that are available that teach the history, symbolism and philosophy lying behind the ritual that he is now mastering. It is the understanding of our ritual and the application of these principals that make a man a Mason and prepares him to become an officer in the fraternity.
The next stop on the way to the top on our fraternity is to achieve the title of Master. The trip from Brother to Worshipful Brother can take as long as seven years if one fills each station on the way. Starting at Marshall the Brother fills the stations of Junior Deacon, Senior Deacon, Junior Steward, Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and perhaps Chaplain, before achieving the station of Worshipful Master. At each station there is the prescribed material that must be learned and mastered. 
If the Brother has done well and learned the ritual, floor, and rod work, the next step to Right Worshipful Brother is not too difficult. There are two routes to this title. One can become involved with the Grand Lodge and perhaps become a District Deputy Grand Master. Along with the title comes the satisfying job of working with a number of lodges in your district helping them achieve a good working lodge.  Another way to become a Right Worshipful Brother is to be appointed to a station in the line of Officers in the Grand Lodge. 
A different way to become a Right Worshipful Brother is to attend one or more schools that teach the ritual, rod, and floor work and become proficient enough to pass the rigorous test to become a Grand Lecturer. Prior  to achieving this prestigious position the Brother may become a Certified Lodge Instructor. This title can be attained by being skilled in the ritual of the first section of all three degrees. To become a Grand Lecturer, it is necessary to achieve perfection in all of the material in the Book of Standard Work along with the floor and rod work that goes with the ritual. 

Right Worshipful Brother may be all that one wishes to accomplish.  However, the road to Most Worshipful Brother comes with another long and difficult path. The Brother may be appointed to the station of Junior Grand Deacon. Then, after the passage of two years at each station, that is ten years total, I will be able to call the Brother Most Worshipful Grand Master. The trail is a long and demanding one to follow. But I can assure you that the long, hard years are well worth the effort to gain the position that only a few can achieve.


Bro. Ira Gilbert was raised on January 8, 1968 in Isaac Cutter Lodge #1073 and was Master in 1972. Isaac Cutter Lodge merged with Chicago Lodge #437 and he is now now a member of Chicago Lodge. Bro Gilbert is a member of A. O. Fay Lodge #676 as well. He is also a member of the Valley of Chicago Scottish rite. Bro. Ira's dedication to Masonic Education has afforded him the ability to serve on the Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education and the Grand Lodge Committee on Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira comes from a Masonic family, his father being Master of Universal Lodge #985, now a part of Decalogue Lodge through a series of mergers. His father was also a Grand Lecturer. His main interest in our fraternity lies in the philosophy and history of our ritual and in Masonic Jurisprudence. Bro. Ira was a DDGM twice, once in the 1980's and once four years ago. He is also a fellow of the Illinois Lodge of Research and the ILOR awarded him the Andrew Torok Medal as well.

That Noble Contention

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Adam Thayer

My brothers, in the past I have endeavored to reduce large sections of Masonic theory down into bite-sized pieces that would be easily understood by everyone, from the newly raised Master to the highly knowledgeable Past Grand Masters. In this piece, I am going to attempt to do the exact opposite by examining and over-complicating a single phrase from ritual.
That phrase is: “One sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work, and best agree.” We all know the phrase from our degree work, but how many of us have actually tried to analyze the meaning behind the phrase?
It begins by reminding us that, as Masons, we are part of a greater society, the sacred band of Freemasons. Although each of us are from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and financial situations, each with a wealth of unique experiences, yet we all share one common experience that unites us under the banner of Freemasonry, which is the initiatic ritual that we all passed through on our Eastbound journey.
The ritual goes on to give two very specific examples of our bond: we are both friends AND brothers. Why did our ritual writers feel the need to give both? Shouldn’t the fact that we’re brothers presuppose that we are also friends?
This always reminds me of one of the great theological debates: can you love someone without liking them? The general theological assumption is that love has less to do with emotions and feeling, and more to do with actions. Love is wanting what is best for someone, and doing so to the best of your ability. In comparison, liking is an emotional connection to something specifically appealing to you.
Paul refutes this quite directly, in Romans 12:9, when he stated “Let love be genuine. Love one another with brotherly affection.” He is directly telling us that when we love, we should love with an emotional component, the affection we have for a brother.
Coming back to our ritual, it’s my belief that those early ritual writers, who would have been well versed in this type of argument, which was common in their day, decided to reflect Paul’s statement within our ritual, and in so doing head off any potential uncertainty by directly spelling our obligation out: we are brothers, which implies we want what is best for each other due to a connection of love, and we are also friends, which implies a sincere affection for one another. Without both components, our sacred bond could well fail.
We go on to learn that, among this group of men, no contention should ever exist. Ever, period, end of discussion. There is one exception, which we will discuss later, but excluding that, there is never a reason that any contention should exist within the lodge.
Since contention and emulation are not words that most of us use in our daily lives, I’d like to spend a few moments with them.
Contention is best defined as a belief or opinion that is strongly argued. Its root, contend, generally involves a struggle or a battle. Contention appears multiple times in the Bible, generally involving strife between brothers and friends, although it is also frequently used as a warning, as is the case in Proverbs 16:28 “A false man sows contention, and a liar separates friends.”
Emulation, by contrast, is an endeavor to equal or exceed another person in specific qualities. To emulate someone is to try to be like your perception of that person. The words are in sharp contrast; emulation is a peaceful attempt to change yourself, whereas contention is trying to forcibly change another person.
It is no accident that these two words are placed immediately following each other. It teaches us that instead of fighting with our brothers, we should each try to emulate those qualities within each other that will help us as we smooth our ashlars. The lesson of the final working tool is to regulate our lodge in such a manner that discontent is unable to take a foothold. This lesson is so important that it is mirrored in the Senior Warden’s duties: to see that none go away dissatisfied, harmony being the strength and support of all societies, more especially of ours!
Who best can work, and best agree? This is a difficult question, and it always depends on the task to which it applies. A healthy lodge is made up of brothers with a wide variety of backgrounds and knowledge, any of which may be useful to the lodge. One of the many duties of the Worshipful Master is to assign each task to those brothers who are best suited to it, which requires an intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each brother in his lodge.
The discovery of who best can work, and who best can agree, is the only exception that our ritual leaves us to allow any contention within the lodge. While I cannot pretend to know the minds of our ritual writers, I would guess that this loophole was specifically left because it is possible, even likely, that the Worshipful Master does not know every strength and weakness of every brother within the lodge. Therefore, any brother could request extra work based on knowledge and skills that the Worshipful Master is not aware they possess.
In addition, the ritual specifically says the emulation of who best can work, and best agree. This implies an active effort to improve the abilities of each brother, to emulate and learn from those who are already able to perform those tasks. For those poor brothers who, for whatever reason, cannot learn the task, they are to passively agree and not interfere. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” 
Taken as a whole, the lesson of the trowel is to teach us how to function within a group, and as such it differs significantly from the other working tools. All of the other working tools within blue lodge Masonry provide us with lessons on various ways to regulate our personal lives and actions, whereas the trowel reminds us that we are but one small part of the whole. This makes sense; the brother receiving this lesson is soon to be a fully raised Master Mason, and will have a voice and a vote within the lodge, and so must be instructed in how to properly behave within that setting.
It has been said that Masonry has no room for selfishness, and the entirety of the Master Mason’s degree reinforces that. The obligation gives specific forms the selfishness may take, such as Atheism, and the raising shows selfishness taken to an extreme. Even in the lecture of the beehive are we reminded that we are but part of the greater whole that is Freemasonry.
You have to bear in mind that when our ritual was codified, most men were used to working alone, or in a group consisting of their family members only. Those who did work in a group setting, such as factory workers, were working at the direction of a foreman, and had no say in the direction of their employer. Masonry was the first time that most of our past brothers were placed in a setting where their input was valued, and could influence the works of the craft. The lesson of the trowel, therefore, was necessary to provide a foundation in teaching them how to behave within a larger group.
One of the courses at Carnegie Mellon teaches students how to work within a group setting. Here are a few of the tips they provide their students with, and a Masonic examination of them, as they apply to the lesson of the trowel.
  1. Find things you have in common. We all belong to the sacred band of Freemasonry, and have passed through the same initiation experiences.
  2. Check your egos at the door. There is no room for ego if we are only concerned with the facts of who best can work, as those who cannot best work can best agree.
  3. Be open and honest. Recall the lesson from Proverbs: “A false man sows contention, and a liar separates friends.”
  4. Avoid conflict at all costs. Within our group, no contention should ever exist.
They include many other tips that, while they do not specifically speak to the lesson of the trowel, are interesting in a Masonic sense nonetheless. Here are a few of them:
  1. Meet people properly. As Masons, we meet on the level.
  2. Make meeting conditions good. They specifically point out to meet right after a meal, as food tends to soften people. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’ve put on a good twenty pounds since I joined Masonry, due to our great meals.
  3. Let everyone talk, within reason. In a lodge, this is at the discretion of the Worshipful Master, and a wise Worshipful Master will know how long to let a discussion go on before it no longer benefits the lodge, and becomes a distraction.
  4. Put it in writing. This is the reason our poor secretaries have carpal tunnel syndrome. Every meeting and every action of the lodge is recorded by our hard working lodge secretaries.
Our lodges, which have been functioning basically unchanged since the 1700s, are performing at the level that research conducted in the 1980s shows is the most efficient way to perform. The suggestions given follow so closely to how our lodges function, they could have been written by observing us directly.
While most Masons today have more experience working within a group or committee setting, this doesn’t mean that the lesson of the trowel is no longer important. Indeed, with the rapid erosion of respect happening throughout all areas of society, this may be one of the more important lessons we teach! The value of respect is still taught within our walls, as long as there are men willing to display it for our newer brothers to learn it.

For being only a single sentence, the lesson of the trowel is surprisingly complex, and a thorough meditation on it could fill a book, while tonight I only had a few minutes. I would encourage each of you to remember the lesson of the trowel in all your Masonic duties, so that we will continue to strengthen the sacred band of Freemasonry. 


Bro. Adam Thayer
is the Senior Deacon of Lancaster Lodge No 54 in Lincoln (NE) and the Senior Warden of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, and the Knights of Saint Andrew. Adam serves on the Education Committee of the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. You can contact him at


Pioneer Freemason Joshua Pilcher's Curious Return From The Dead

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Born in Culpeper County, Virginia in 1790, Brother Joshua Pilcher, like so many others, moved to the Louisiana territory to seek the opportunities afforded in the western frontier.  An ardent Freemason, in 1815 he was instrumental in the formation of Missouri Lodge #12 and later became its first Master.  A well-connected businessman, he was a good friend of such influential Missouri pioneers as General William Clark and Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and was a cousin of Thomas F. Riddick, who eventually became Missouri's first Grand Master.  He also held the rank of Major in the US Army.

In 1820, Pilcher co-founded the Missouri Fur Company, a trading group associated with Freemasons.  He played a key role in the founding of the Grand Lodge of Missouri and may have been one of those under consideration as its first Grand Master.  In 1838, he succeeded General Clark as the Superintendent of Indian Affairs and had such a strong friendship with Senator Benton that he served as Benton's second in his infamous duel with Charles Lucas.

Brother Pilcher passed away in early June of 1843.  The evening before his death, he attended an extravagant banquet with his friend Senator Benton, and his body was discovered the following morning in his bed.  The funeral of the founder of the Missouri Fur Company and a true pioneer of the west was an auspicious affair.  He was buried in Christ Church Cemetery in St. Louis in a special metal casket imported from Europe.

Nearly a half-century later, November 30, 1892, the good people of St. Louis woke up to read a headline in the St. Louis Dispatch, which screamed, "IT IS WEIRD!"

The article said on the previous day, men working near the old Christ Church Cemetery had discovered a highly ornamented metal casket.  The casket contained no nameplate, but it bore the trademark of an English manufacturer.  The article went on to say the remains inside the casket were surprisingly well-preserved, but "withered" a short time after being exposed.  The discovery caused a minor stir in town and subsequent research on the curious finding led to other newspaper articles and speculation about the identity of the body.  

Dispatch reporters eventually determined the body was that of Warren Pilcher, who had died following a banquet attended by Senator Thomas Hart Benton.  Reports continued to unfold and chronicle the life of Warren Pilcher.

In the meantime, Warren Pilcher himself, the grand nephew of Brother Joshua Pilcher, watched the story develop with great amusement.  He let the case of mistaken identity rage on until one report claimed Warren had at one time been a debtor and died owing back rents.  At this, Warren Pilcher appeared at the offices of The Dispatch and revealed that the body was that of his great uncle Joshua, who had founded the Missouri Fur Company.

Great speculation followed concerning the life and death of Brother Pilcher, including reports that some unnamed scoundrel may have murdered him with robbery as a motive.  Warren even reported that at his death, Joshua's servants had come forward claiming to know who was involved, but demanded to be given part of his estate before giving details of the dastardly plot.  Pilcher's relatives refused to play along with the scheme and the matter died.

Brother Pilcher's body was reburied in Bellefontaine Cemetery where it rests today after its brief, but adventurous return from the dead.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is 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 Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft, will be released later this year.

Brotherly Love - Part Two

A continuation of an exploration into Brotherly Love

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Sam L. Land

Now that we know what Brotherly Love is and even know four different definitions of love, we can proceed to an understanding of what Brotherly Love looks like. Pictures are always better than works because thoughts are much more difficult to put into words.

In the First Degree we explain to the candidate that the religion of Freemasonry is an "Unfeigned" belief in the one living and True God. Unfeigned is a clue work telling us that we are talking about love in its all encompassing agape form. The emotions of agape love do not always seem to be as loud or overbearing as eros love (passionate love), or even sorge love, (love for children). It is a much deeper form of love that usually simmers quiet yet very deep but is all encompassing from a fulfillment sense. If you happen to see a little child playing with a puppy you will understand this. The emotion generated here hits us in many different ways and fills us with many differing thought. Some may not be as joyful as others but they all sent a feeling of deep love throughout our mind, soul, and body.

This also has consequences for us a Mason and a Brother. Let's look at that wonderful time when we have a candidate to initiate in to the Mysteries of Freemasonry. We are all around the Altar and the candidate is professing his desires and intentions through his obligation. We should also be doing just that very same thing for this new initiate. We should be considering how we as a Lodge are going to fulfill our obligation to this new Entered Apprentice.

Will we accept him with open arms, excited to hear everything there is to know about a new Brother? Will we make every effort to get to know his immediate family and make them feel welcome? How have we planned for his education and what shape will it take? Will we insure that he learns our history so he will have a sound foundation for future learning? Will we put him right to work so that he will feel involved? Will we give him a special teacher (think mentor) who will be with him and help him thought each step of his journey? Will we continue to nurture him through the first few years of his membership? Will we require proof of his learning so that he will both know that we do really care and that he is indeed learning? Will be there for him all the way to the Masonic Home or Masonic funeral?

As far as I can tell from my experience, we are not dong all of this. A point to examine is if we have taught all these principles to the new members, why do none of them attend Masonic funerals for Brothers they did not know? Have they been properly taught to respect Brothers who have given life and livelihood to the Brotherhood for many years? Are the newest members attending training and ritual practice? Have we not loved these Brothers enough to teach them what they need to know and do?

I charge you to know that if each Brother does not do all in his power to enhance both the Lodge and his Brothers of all ages, he is not in the grip of agape Brotherly Love. It then becomes the duty of every member who has the ability to know, to remind each member, in a most tender manner, of his failings and aid his reformation.

The new Brother, the old Brother, and the deceased Brother have need of your services. It is your duty to provide them assistance.

WB Sam L. Land is the Worshipful Master of Linn Lodge No. 326 A.F. & A.M. in Linn, Missouri. He also holds membership in both York and Scottish Rite, including Knight Templar. He is a life member of the Missouri Lodge of Research, a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, and the Southern California Research Lodge. His articles appear regularly in The Missouri Freemason Magazine and he has been published by The Working Tools Magazine. He has also presented research work to the AMD. He is currently enrolled a student of the Guthrie College of the Consistory and has received the been awarded the Past Venerable Master and Past Wise Master Orders.

A Tale Of Two Masons

Stephen F. Austin and Anthony Butler were Masonic Brothers but bitter enemies

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR 

Anthony Butler (1787–1849) was a lawyer, a politician, a diplomat, the ward and friend of Brother Andrew Jackson and, yes, a Freemason.  Brother Jackson, when President, thought highly enough of Butler to appoint him United States chargĂ© d'affaires in Mexico City.  He also appointed him his secret agent in a surreptitious plan to purchase Texas for the United States.

Some say Butler was dedicated to the point of ruthlessness in carrying out this plan.  Historian Justin H. Smith described him as "shamefully careless, unprincipled in his methods and openly scandalous in his conduct...In brief, he was a national disgrace."

Brother Sam Houston, who had more than one encounter with Butler in the United States' effort to purchase Texas, was not an admirer.  "Such men as he is," said Houston, "would destroy a country, but take my word for it, he will never gain one!"

Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836) had known Butler in the US and, although Masonic Brothers, they were far from friends.  Many, including Austin, felt President Jackson's plan to purchase Texas was nothing more than a scheme to secure Texas' public lands at a pittance, without regard to the well-being or future of the territory.  Austin refused to go along with the deal.  Butler, in return, offered Austin a one million dollar incentive (some might call it a bribe) to change his mind, but Austin would have no part in it.

Butler remained in the area attempting to gain Texas for the US despite Austin's opposition.  While there, he became interested in and began courting the daughter of a prominent Mexican family.  Austin was a friend of the family.  Upon hearing what Butler was up to, he exposed him as a man who had a wife and three children back in the US.  

Exposing Butler no doubt won the gratitude of his friends but it also sealed Butler's animosity.  Butler was delighted when the Mexican government imprisoned Austin for sedition in 1833.  Andrew Jackson, however, was not at all pleased when he learned of Austin's arrest.  He wrote letters to Butler asking him to act as a United States agent and to use his influence to secure Austin's release.

Rather than ignore Jackson's letters, Butler so despised Austin he made the perilous journey to Mexico City to visit Austin in jail and taunt him with them.  During that visit Butler read the letters to Austin and told him the only way he would work for his release would be if Austin gave him large land grants back in Texas.  Austin refused and Butler, ignoring President Jackson's request, left him to rot in the Mexican prison.  Austin gained his own release eight months later.

The men remained adversaries for life.  Austin's place in history is well-known.  Although he died at a young age he is revered in Texas for his pioneering efforts... but whatever became of Anthony Butler?

Although he definitely engaged in some questionable behavior, Butler may not have been quite the scoundrel some claimed; or, at least he may have in some measure redeemed himself.  As a Freemason he was well-regarded enough to serve as Grand Master of two states, Kentucky (1812 - 13) and, indeed, Texas (1840 - 41).  Then, in 1849, the 62-year-old Butler was a passenger on an ill-fated riverboat that exploded and sank on the Mississippi River.  Butler died as he swam into the burning wreckage in an attempt to save fellow passengers.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is 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 Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft, will be released later this year.