Not In My Lodge!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

It isn’t often that something I see, in regards to the Craft, makes me lose just a little faith in humanity. And I think that somewhere along the way, we missed the opportunity to make a difference.  The other day, the moderator of a Facebook group for Masons made a post stating that posts of a “religious” nature would be taken down so as to not offend anyone that may feel excluded and that they considered the internet talk group the same as a Lodge room and thus the “religion & politics” doctrine pertains.

Let's see... 

First of all, the internet is not a tyled lodge room so the same rules do not apply. This is the internet. Any attempt to compare the two is beyond outlandish. 

Second of all, Masonry is, in fact, inclusive of all religions. To say that a religious post will be removed because it may offend someone simply because it is religious in nature tears the roots of Masonry as an inclusive, accepting and tolerant society out of the ground. 

I do believe that if most (not all) of you actually take a second and bring yourself down on to the Level and read your GL doctrines, the Holy Bible is specifically referenced as the VSL (Volume of Sacred Law) that must be on the altar and any others that a Brother would like can join it on the altar.   At least it is in my GL, as it is in many of the Grand Lodges in the United States.

Regardless, this was not exactly a correct post in the spirit of the Craft.  In my humble opinion, anyway.

Then some other Brethren chimed in and a hearty discussion was had.  Things like this make me proud to be part of this great organization:

“Personally if someone wanted to post a positive scripture quote that can edify a mason to be a better man, no matter what Holy book it comes from so be it. Our rituals and degrees have religious overtones all over. If one, or all Holy Scripts can be open on our alters, then a post of positivity (not for promotion of a particular religious sect) that can make a man better, help him, or enlighten him, the better he is for it."

"I have my faith, yet I love to learn from others, and their enlightenment from their faith. This is one of many rays of light we should seek and give an ear to. If we earnestly seek truth, light, and don't exclude any faith then what is wrong a quote of enlightenment.”

Then things went someplace that I never thought they could in this day and age…

A Brother of the Craft actually posted this:

“I can give you many versus from the holy bible that are used in blue lodge. If a candidate ever wanted to take his obligation on the Koran I would get up and leave the lodge never to return. Just my two cents.”

I was blown away, to say the very least.

Apparently I wasn't the only one because responses like this were bountiful:

“I have sat in Lodge when 4 sacred scriptures were placed on the Altar of Free Masonry due to the different faiths present. Please remember that your lodge opens on Old Testament passages only. 
Masons do not practice religion, but require that members believe in deity which is described as the Supreme or Grand (depending on your Grand Lodge) Architect of the Universe.
Blue Lodge Masonry does not identify any religion by name in any ritual. 
I have been honored to sit with Muslims in Lodge. They were good men, just and upright in their beliefs and manner."

"Sadly, I would rather be in their company than yours due to your posted statements in this site. They are definitely un-Masonic."

"I sincerely whisper this counsel into your ear: please go back and study your obligations in the three degrees. Some how you appear to have missed their meaning."

I will not share the names of the people making these comments or the Lodges that they say the hail from… I will say that the Brother that would rather walk away from Freemasonry because of the choice of VSL one would make does attend under my same GL jurisdiction.  I am throughly disgusted that such an opinion exists within Masonry today.  This just goes to show that religious extremism is alive and well in all sects of religion today.  It is supposed to be Freemasonry that fosters the tolerance and acceptance of those that are different than us.

Saying that about a Brother that wants to take his obligations with a different VSL is so anti everything Masonry stands for. 

There are Brethren in other Countries that  have given more and risked their lives just to attend Lodge than anyone in America can understand. Just like in Germany during WWII when Brothers went "underground" and had to stop using the S&C as identification and opted to use the Forget Me Not flower instead. 

I will close with this, we as Speculative Masons are charged with certain obligations.  Among these are the application of the working tools of Operative Masons to the world we live in.  I would challenge every Brother to reread his obligations and the lessons contained within the degrees of Blue Lodge.  There are only very certain times, people and instances in which your obligations do not apply.  And these obligations are not just to Brothers, sisters, mothers and so on… they are to extend to everyone as long as it is within your cabletow.

Use that trowel to spread the cement of brotherhood.

Be the example, be the Light for all others.

It is 2015, these are not new ideas by any means. Grow up and move on...or get out of the way. 

Why So Serious?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Aaron Gardner, 32°, MPS

Throughout time there has always been some sort of governing body that has dictated how we act. They tell us how we should think, dress, walk or even laugh. It could be a formal governing body such as the the legal system in the country, or just the cultural norms of any given culture that we belong to. 

Our sub-culture in Freemasonry is no different. We must adhere to all the cultural norms of our broader culture, as well as the laws of our society. It’s silly to say, but, the cliches in High School are more well defined and developed outside of school. In School you had your Jocks, Band Geeks and you had the groups that didn't fit into the typical stereotypes. Those stereotypes and subcultures did not just vanish outside school; you have your ‘Professional Businessmen’, ‘Hippies’ and you still have the social outcasts that don’t fit into any of the generic stereotypes. If you are a ‘Professional’ you are expected to wear a suit and tie, be well read and live the life of a businessman. As we get older, our interest , belief systems and life structures change. Some become more carefree while others “buckle down”. This is the way of life as we all know it. Some may call it a mid-life crisis, but, we really change through out our entire life. Just trying to find what feels right for us. 

We are taught that Freemasonry is there to guide us, to show us better ways to act. It is a society of “Free-Thinkers”. You can find all age groups in the organization, from your young and inexperienced, to the older and well acquainted. We can’t really put an age group on any of these, though. We all would like to believe that life continues in a linear formula. However, it doesn’t. There are older gentlemen in our Fraternity who are just as inexperienced as some of the younger gentlemen; there are younger men who are more experienced than some of the older. The idea that one should listen to his elders is null and void. The idea that we should classify an individual based on their background or culture is ignorant. 

Our informal governing body of our social norms is encompassed by a larger formal governing body, we call Grand Lodge. Grand Lodge dictates the laws of the subordinate lodges, and subordinate lodges are in themselves a sub-culture of a sub-culture. Every lodge you go to will be different from the lodge down the street. In one lodge it may be required to wear full Masonic dress, while the lodge that shares the same building only requires that you show up. Is one lodge right and the other wrong? As long as the lodge is in adherence with Grand Lodge laws, no. Normally, we would say that's the culture of that lodge. Traditional Observance culture is full tuxedo, others are more relaxed. Some lodges are extremely somber and grave, while other lodges are less serious. We take it upon ourselves to try and correct ones behavior because “That isn't how a Freemason must act.” So many times the memes about Freemasonry are torn a part by gentlemen who are bit too sensitive to the jokes portrayed in the picture. Are they wrong for not finding the humor? No. Just the same as a brother who does find it funny isn't wrong, either. 

We are too caught up in the “what would so-and-so think?”. Brothers, if you find a joke funny, regardless of the nature, laugh. If you don’t find any kind of humor in it, don’t. Perhaps you think it's juvenile, or you just don’t understand it. Either way, there is no need to ruin the fun others may see in it. If you think that our Fraternity is a such a prestigious organization that humor doesn't belong, I would like for you to look at yourself and ask why. We are a prestigious organization, there is no denying that. We are also an organization that deals very closely with the ideas of mortality. Death, though, is very serious business and is not the only meaning behind the term mortality. Mortality is literally defined as subjected to death. That means our focus is not on death but what is subjected to death, which is life. Life is something we learn as we go. It is not all serious business, it is a roller coaster of emotions that we learn on our own individual non-linear path. We are an organization that professes the ideas of free thought. It is not our place to demean another person because they thought differently than you, let alone a brother.  

Why do we continue to oppress an individual because we disagree with them? 

Why are we so serious?


Bro. Aaron Gardner, an American Soldier who just recently transitioned into the Reserves after 8 years serving the Active Duty Army. He dedicates the majority of his free time to Freemasonry with his constant studies, writing and traveling from lodge to lodge to learn as much as he can regarding Freemasonry. He likes to relate his everyday life to the Craft and anything he finds he wants to spread to the world. It is his passion to study people, religion, history and Freemasonry. When he isn't working as a Soldier he is dedicating his time to the amazing and supportive Emily, writing about Freemasonry and writing his very own novel. His blog page is Celestial Brotherhood.

My Hero

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

“The riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money.”  —Ernie Banks

Bill Bryson, who is one of my favorite writers, in his memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, told of his father, a sportswriter for the Des Moines Register, taking him along to ballparks, where he met Major Leaguers. “Once,” he recalled, “on a hot July afternoon I sat in a nearly airless clubhouse under the left-field grandstand at Wrigley Field beside Ernie Banks, the Cubs’ great shortstop, as he autographed boxes of new white baseballs…. Unbidden, I took it upon myself to sit beside him and pass him each new ball. This slowed the process considerably, but he gave a little smile each time and said thank you as if I had done him quite a favor. He was the nicest human being I have ever met. It was like being friends with God.”

I’m not much given to envy, but I envied Bill Bryson when I read that. Ernie Banks was my hero when I was growing up. I came of age as a baseball fan in the 1960s, when there were only two teams a kid growing up in Chicago could root for: the Cubs or the White Sox. Northsiders were Cubs fans, and so I came by my love of the Cubs almost by default. I’d spend hours watching channel nine (WGN), home to the Cubs, with Jack Brickhouse doing the play-by-play, and rooting for my guys: Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Hickman, Kenny Holtzman, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Ron Santo, and always, always, Ernie Banks. By that time, he was at the tail end of his career, no longer the great shortstop who’d won back-to-back MVP awards while playing for a last-place team, but still a deadly bat and a soft glove at first. But his skill wasn’t the reason I adored him: he was my hero because of who he was as a man. I didn’t find out he was a Mason until recently, but all the things I want to become as a Mason were things Ernie Banks radiated from the core of his being. He was always smiling, fundamentally kind, and invariably optimistic. He was, in a word, joyous, and that joy was infectious. Everyone who knew him, if only through watching him on television, felt a bit better about the world because of Ernie Banks. Even the normally acerbic Dick Young, sportswriter for the New York Daily News, gushed when he spoke of Ernie: “Ernie Banks,” he said, “is a beautiful man.” 

He should have played in a World Series, but never got the chance. His best hope ended when the Cubs collapsed in the last month of the 1969 season, and he had to watch the Miracle Mets win it all. Even then, he was not publically bereft. Although he certainly had regrets about it, I sometimes think his fans were more upset about it than he was, because he never forgot how wonderful it was to play a game for a living, to do what you loved doing, and to make the choice to be happy. 

When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, he said, “What in the world have I done to receive this wonderful honor?” To that display of true humility, I can only shake my head in wonder, and continue to be grateful for having lived in the same world as Ernie Banks. 

My hero, Brother Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, Baseball Hall of Famer, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, and truly beautiful man, was a member of Fidelity Lodge No. 103, MWPHGLIL, and was named Mason of the Year in 1959. He passed to the Grand Lodge Above on January 23, 2015, AL 6015, at the age of 83. His column is broken; his Brethren—and all who knew him—mourn. 


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves the Valley of Danville, AASR, as Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

Masonic Instruction

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

One of the difficulties of being certified to teach Masonic ritual is the requirement that the instructor can only instruct if asked. Too often, no one does. In Masonry, we tend to complain that the ones most in need of instruction are the ones who don’t show up to Workers’ Clubs and other schools. It’s not surprising, really. It’s not a problem specific to Masonry. I’ve been a high school and university teacher for nearly thirty years, and I’m fairly approachable, but the number of students who need individual attention is much higher than those who come to my office hours. So when a student actually shows up to office hours, my colleagues and I are usually delighted, at least if they're serious about learning, and not just bent on begging for extra credit. 

In Masonry, at least, you either know the Work or you don’t, so extra credit doesn’t come up. I can’t speak for other instructors, but I’m always impressed by Brethren who take a serious attitude toward learning the ritual and the floor work, and I’m eager to help anyone who asks. So the last time we had a District School, I asked the certified instructors to stand, and told the Brethren assembled there that we couldn’t instruct them if they didn’t ask, and that we would all be grateful if they would do so. A couple of nights later, I received a call from a Junior Deacon at a lodge nearby. He had been present at the District School, and was wondering if I could give him some personal instruction on his floor work, as he felt like he didn’t know what he was doing. We agreed on a day and time, and when I got there, the Master-elect, Junior and Senior Deacons, and the Junior Warden-elect were all waiting. 

It was just the kind of Masonic teaching situation I like: plenty of time for individual attention, for going over small details on which big things turn, and with the added bonus of being able to have the Deacons work together, which is never easy when you're trying to figure it out for the first time. After 90 minutes, everyone had shown marked improvement, not so much because of my instruction, but because they had shown up ready and eager to learn. Being able to do it right mattered to them, and that attitude amplifies learning a hundredfold.

It wouldn’t have happened if the Junior Deacon hadn’t picked up a phone to ask me to teach him. So I make a plea to all my brethren who want to get better at ritual and floor work: ask for help. There are instructors out there who will drive a long way and spend a lot of time just to help one brother learn our wonderful Work. They took a long time to earn a commission as a Certified Lodge Instructor or a Grand Lecturer, and that commission is an implicit offer to teach anyone who asks. Take them up on it. They’re waiting.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves the Valley of Danville, AASR, as Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

Are The Odd Fellows Part Of Freemasonry?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason33°

The All Seeing Eye is only one of the symbols used by both Fraternities
"In 18th century England, it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind.  Those who belonged to such an organization were called 'Odd Fellows.'"

I get the question a lot.  Believe it or not, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) is not affiliated with or an appendant body of Freemasonry.  However, it is pretty obvious that the two Fraternities are very similar in both the symbolism they use, the values they share, and in the way they began.  Both Fraternities use many of the same symbols--the "All Seeing Eye," the sun and moon, the Holy Bible, and the beehive are of a few of many symbols used by both Fraternities.  Freemasons will readily recognize nearly all of the symbols on the Odd Fellows chart below.  They also have an initiation and degree system much like Masonry, and use aprons as part of their regalia.

Some of the symbols used by the I.O.O.F.
Another cause of confusion is because throughout history, many Freemasons have also been Odd Fellows.  Famous Freemasons like Winston Churchill, William McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt, Red Skelton, and Chief Justice Earl Warren were also members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  In fact, one of the best known Masons, Albert Pike, was an Odd Fellow! It has been so common that you'll find the Freemason Square and Compass, and the Odd Fellows' three links used together often in Fraternal jewelry and elsewhere--I have an example of a joint Freemasonry/Odd Fellows lapel pin in my collection, and have often seen the symbols used together on grave stones of men who were members of both Fraternities as in the example below.

Common engraving of a man who was both a Freemason and an Odd Fellow
Much like Freemasonry, the Odd Fellows claim their roots go back to the trade guilds in the 12th and 13th centuries.  They are a values based organization like Freemasonry with a desire to help men improve themselves, but while Freemasonry's main objective is to "make good men better" the emphasis of the Odd Fellows  is in contributing to charitable works and providing aid and assistance.  The three chain links of their symbol represent Friendship, Love and Truth.

While the similarities between the two fraternities are obvious, they are very different organizations.  The Odd Fellows was the first Fraternity in the United States open to both men and women.  They were also the first to build homes for their senior members and for orphaned children.

There is a common misconception that the Odd Fellows is a copy of Freemasonry.  Many fraternities have borrowed heavily from the rituals and traditions of Freemasonry, and there are a lot of comparisons that could be made between Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows.  Maybe the Odd Fellows borrowed from the Freemasons, or perhaps the two organization evolved their rituals and traditions along similar lines because they share a common history going back to the trade guilds.  Or maybe it is because so many of their members throughout history have belonged to both organizations.

Whatever the truth may be, both Fraternities have done remarkable work in making good men better and the world a better place in which to live.  In fact, there has always existed a mutual respect between the two Fraternities, which is why so many Freemasons have become Odd Fellows, and so many Odd Fellows belong to Masonic Lodges.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary.  He's also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at:

Quick Masonry - Follow Up

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

It's not their problem, it's yours. And it's called resentment.

When Todd Creason and I wrote an article about Quick Masonry, we expected that it would attract some interest, but the amount of discussion it generated on Facebook and elsewhere took us by surprise. The comments mostly fell along the lines we had talked about: Blue Lightnings/One-Day Classes versus traditional degrees (there wasn’t much talk about the short-form catechism). Most of the commenters preferred—strongly—traditional degrees. As it happens, so do Todd and I. However, some of the commenters went so far as to disparage the Brethren who, for whatever reason, took the Quick Masonry route, going so far as to calling them “McMasons.” (McMason defined - here) I realized, on reading those comments, that we had not addressed that point in our original piece, so I decided, with Todd’s encouragement, to write a follow up.

The criticisms of Masons who were products of one-day classes or Blue Lightnings were generally focused either on their experience (“they’re not getting what they should”) or their person (“they’re not real Masons”). The former is reasonable, and is really not a criticism of the Brothers who went the non-traditional route, but of the Craft itself for allowing a “weakening” of the experience of becoming a Master Mason. The latter, however, is not reasonable. It is a criticism of men who, in good faith (as we must presume), became Masons according to the rules promulgated by their Grand Lodges. To say that they are not real Masons is not only to dishonor them: it is to dishonor Masonry itself. It says nothing bad about the criticized, and nothing good about the critic.

Worshipful Brother Robert Johnson, editor of the Midnight Freemasons, tells me he hears “McMason” a lot, and shared with me an excerpt from a fairly typical email he received: "I don't understand how we can just give away Masonry for a check. I had to work for 4 months to become a Master Mason. What have they done? Nothing. It like working and getting paid, and then your boss hands over another paycheck to a guy who shows up and has never worked before." (Matthew 20: 1-16 might be instructive here.) Brethren who talk this way are not just denouncing their new Brother; they are not just vilifying their Grand Lodge for its willingness to bring Masonry to men who might otherwise be unable to receive their degrees; they are setting themselves up as arbiters of what a Mason is, as if they themselves are on some Masonic pedestal to which these “inadequate” Brethren must aspire. I have no doubt that it is well meaning, and comes from a love of Freemasonry, but it does no one any good.

What happened to meeting on the level? The Mason who is raised in a Blue Lightning isn’t buying Masonry, and the traditionally-raised Mason loses nothing by that Blue Lightning.  The moment they’re raised, they have before them the world of the Craft, and it’s up to each of them to embrace it.  
 Brethren, please stop criticizing your Blue Lightning Brethren, and, if you’re able, teach that Brother who you think didn’t get what he should have. Become his mentor. Be an example of what our gentle Craft can be. Be his Brother.  But don’t think you earned Masonry and he didn’t.  Masonry is a gift, and we need to treat it as such.


R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He currently serves the Valley of Danville, AASR, as Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

A Load Too Heavy

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Adam Thayer

No load is too heavy if there are enough brothers to help carry it. This is one of my core beliefs, and I am in hopes that soon you will share this sentiment as well.

When I first started thinking about this topic, I was in the middle of a Master Mason’s degree. Our candidate had just had his fateful meeting with the third ruffian, and was on his emblematical final journey through the lodge. As we were carrying him, I thought to myself “If any of us tried to carry him alone, we would surely injure ourselves, but because there are enough of us to help, it’s not that difficult.”

It’s a phenomenon we don’t really discuss amongst ourselves very often. There we were, at the beginning of his Masonic career, showing our new brother in the most literal way possible that there would always be enough brothers around to carry him through the rough times in his life.
Less than a week later, I found myself carrying another brother into that same lodge room for his true final journey: our brother had passed, and we were requested to hold a Masonic funeral service for him in our lodge building. Again I thought “What a fitting tribute to such a fine man and Mason! This is only possible because there are enough brothers here who loved him so much that they came to help carry the load.”

It was a perfect symbolic mirror; we once carried that brother at the beginning of his Masonic journey, and here we were again, carrying him on his final Masonic journey.
At the beginning and end of our Masonic journeys, there are enough brothers present to carry us, but what about in between? Are there enough brothers there to help carry us through the hazards and vicissitudes of life?

The question could, of course, be easily turned around: we carry our brothers at the beginning and end of THEIR Masonic journeys, but what do we do to help them in between? Isn’t it the time between that gives us the greatest chance for impact in their lives?

As I sat down to my keyboard, finally feeling ready to write out these ideas that had been running through my brain, I thought about our new brother, who has a great Masonic career ahead of him, and I thought about our departed brother, who had a fantastic Masonic life behind him, but most importantly I thought about these two fantastic quotes.

The first was from the great English poets The Hollies. Now, if you aren’t familiar with The Hollies, they were a British band from the 1960’s, and their big claim to fame is that Graham Nash started his music career with them. In their most popular song, they said: “The road is long, with many a winding turns that leads us to who knows where. So on we go. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. His welfare is of my concern. No burden is he to bear. But I’m strong! Strong enough to carry him. He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”
What a beautiful sentiment! Not only does it remind us that we’re responsible to our brothers, but that it should be a joy to help each other out. The promise of Masonry is to make good men better, which means it should make us strong enough to carry our brother during his moments of weakness, and caring enough to want to.

Of course, this shouldn’t be news to anyone who has learned their Master Mason obligation - we promise to help our brothers when they ask us for help, although I can’t help but wonder how many of us, myself included, are too stubborn and proud to ask for help.

Gentlemen, our journeys are difficult, often painful, and there is no guarantee as to where they will lead us, except to that final, inevitable destination. If we attempt to undertake these journeys alone, we will, without a doubt, utterly fail.

As Masons, we are obligated to help our brothers on that journey. Their welfare is of our concern. We’re strong enough to help carry their load, so they don’t have to carry it alone. No load is too heavy, if there are enough brothers to help carry it. This begs the question, then, who is my brother?

I’ve found, and discarded, many theories as to who is considered a brother. Is it only a man who is in good standing in a regularly recognized lodge? If so, that excludes Prince Hall Masons in eight U.S. jurisdictions, as well as a number of early American Masons whose Grand Lodges did not conform to our idea of regular recognition. Even worse, it would exclude as Masons a man who could not, for whatever reason, afford to pay his dues. Does our duty to a brother really cease the moment he goes NPD? Expanding on that definition, then, is it only a man who is in good standing with ANY Masonic lodge? That presents difficulties too; it would include as Masons men who are in jurisdictions that my Grand Lodge doesn’t recognize, but yours might. Can you imagine the nightmare of asking a brother to prove his proper Masonic affiliation while he’s suffering and asking you for help?

In trying to define who exactly my brother is, I’m reminded of the parable of the Samaritan. In the Christian Scripture of Luke, Jesus was teaching about loving one's neighbor, when one man asked who his neighbor was. Now, very little context is given, but I can clearly picture this man looking hard for a loophole.

Jesus, being a fantastic salesman, replied by giving a story with three different examples, and asking which of the three had acted in the most neighborly fashion. The answer, of course, was the one who stopped to help the stranger, regardless of what had happened in their past stations. I cannot begin to assume to tell you who your brother is, but I would encourage you to think like the Samaritan and use the broadest definition available to you, regardless of regularity and recognition. I have no doubt that I just lost some of you at that. “Why should I help a man who is a clandestine Mason? Doesn’t that break my obligation?” Before the Jurisprudence Committee clamps down on me, let me explain.

You, as a human, have an obligation to humanity, as dictated by the Great Architect. In nearly every religion available to us, we are charged with a duty to make the world a better place for each other, to help and love one another, and in our Masonic degrees we are told that our Masonic obligations are never to interfere with those duties. In my home state of Nebraska, we are specifically told that Masonry should never interfere with our duty to God, our country, our neighbors, or ourselves. Extrapolating that, with what we’ve already discussed, I would posit that our duty to a man exists even when he is a clandestine Mason.

Have the lawyers put down their pitchforks? Good, then let’s continue.
I mentioned earlier that I had two inspirations for this, and the second one is from 16th century poet-slash-cleric John Donne. In the grips of a life threatening illness, he wrote a series of meditations, or devotions. On the seventeenth day, while a fever was gripping his entire mind, he wrote: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
No Freemason is an island, which is to say that we are all dependent on others for our well being and growth. We are all a part of the greater whole which is Freemasonry. If one of us is lost, we are all diminished. Our world becomes a little bit colder, a little less filled with joy, when one of our own joins the celestial lodge.

All the more reason, then, to do all we can today to fill our lodges with the joy of fellowship! Who wants to stand at the funeral of one they loved and say “I could have helped him in his struggles, but I didn’t because I was too busy”? Better by far to say “I gave my all for this brother, and he never doubted that he was loved.”

I hope I’ve convinced you. I’m not naive enough to believe that one short paper (ok, short for me at least) will change the world, or even change Masonry. But I am naive enough to believe that making a small change within a small group of people will, given time, snowball, and change the world.
I’ll leave you with this final thought, from the great philosopher Fred Rogers: “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” What are you leaving?


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