Peanut Butter and Jelly Time

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

Time after time I get the question of  “Why can’t you just tel me what I want to know” when discussions come up in esoteric circles. Then I get the attitude and people call me names or completely dismiss me when I explain that the journey needs to be a personal one for it to make sense or even matter to them. To me, it is more of the “instant gratification” generation that this pertains to.  “Give me the answer, I don’t care how I get there”. To me, that is like flying from your house to the hotel for vacation and never leaving the room.  The experience, the education, is in the journey.  You will ever truly appreciate the totality of the experience if you don’t get out and do, meet or interact with different things and people.

Track this with me...

I look at education, be it; masonic, esoteric, or math, the same way...

Nobody likes exactly the same thing as the person next to them.  Take a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Yes, this came to me as I made my lunch... Most people like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  But there are a multitude of ways to make one.  Yes, at the root they are "the same", bread, peanut butter and jelly.  The paths are similar to making them, but the end result is different.  

No matter what you have to start with bread.  There is White, french, Italian, wheat, 100% wheat and so on.  Some people like to toast their bread.

Then comes the peanut butter.  Creamy or crunchy and many makes, each with their own flavor.

Then you have to put the "jelly" on.  This too comes in many different types and styles.

Now multiply all of those choices by organic and the different combinations are endless.

When people ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or in this case the answers to Masonic Esoterics, they just want the answers or "the sandwich".  And that is fine, you want a sandwich, I will make one for you. But it won't be to your liking, it would be to mine and it would not have the same texture or flavor you are looking for.  I would lightly toast the whole wheat bread, spread a little butter on it, use skippy creamy or chunky depending on my mood and then use store brand jelly, again grape or strawberry depending on my mood.  But I always cut it on the diagonal.  Some people would take that as I make it, eat it and not think anything of it.  Some would eat it and be indifferent and yet others would discount my master piece and not even touch it because it is so far off base from what they have been fed by their parents forever.

Then there are the people that have never had a PB&J because they are allergic.  It doesn't matter how tasty I tell them it is or how many people they see eating them.  If they don't want to eat it, they won't and no amount of convincing them will matter until they make their own mental decision to taste it.

The journey into Esoteric study is similar.  You will only get the texture and flavor to feel fulfillment if you yourself, put the time in, get your hands dirty and make a PB&J for yourself.  The only way to truly gain an understanding for yourself is to be brave and stray from what your parents fed you and try new combinations.

You can be given the basics of where to start, but you have to find your own taste, your own path.  But most of all, you have to experience your own journey.  By me taking someone and putting them where I am or where I think they should be, would not allow them to journey, wherein you find the inner meanings and are able to relate them to yourself.  It all speaks to each person differently.  In fact, it would be the greatest disservice to the both of us.

Oh, and every once in a while, I toss on some honey just to mix it up a little.

So nobody is giving excuses, being dismissive or secretive.  As well, no one person has all the answers either.  We just know how important and personal the journey has to be for it to be fulfilling.  There are many ways in any subject to gain the same goal, you have to find and use what works for you.  That is the only way it is going to make any sense and have the full meaning.  Sort of like removing the 3rd degree and the process of being “Raised” all together and just saying, "Okay, you are now a Master Mason, here is an apron, see you at the meeting".  You would not have that experience or understand the majority of the meaning of the Craft.
Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Most recently, Brian became a Companion of the York Rite, joining Waukegan Chapter #41 R.A.M. Brian is a father of two children. You can follow his blog "It is. In God. I do." where he publishes even more excellent content. "Start Square, Finish Level"

The Dreaded Announcements

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

It was a wonderful degree, with the work being near perfect. The candidate was very impressed and was processing mentally the experience he had just came through. The Master of the lodge thanks the brethren for coming and assisting to bring the brother to light. Then it happens….

The Master now says, “its’ time for the dreaded announcements.” For the next ten to fifteen minutes, brethren stand up and announce dates for the next degree, pancake breakfasts, blood drives, about a door that is squeaking, etc.

After a recent degree, I wondered what impression this left on the newly raised brother. After all, this night was supposed to be about him. Is this his first indication of things to come in Freemasonry; reading of the minutes and paying of the bills?

Let me be transparent and admit, I freely chime in and announce when the next High Twelve meeting is or when the Scouts are having a fish fry.

But maybe it is time to put our focus back on why we assembled to begin with; the newly initiated, passed, or raised brother.

But how are people supposed to know what is going if you don’t have the announcements? Here are some suggestions:

  •  Printed list - this might seem like an old fashioned way of conducting business, but having a list of upcoming events that could be handed out at the degree would be very useful.
  • Develop an email list - this is a quick way to distribute information to brethren who wish to receive it. But keep it simple, don’t use an attachment such as .pdf file for a flyer. Just put the message in the email itself. Most people are reading email on their smart phones and viewing an attachment on a phone is a hassle.
  • Facebook – many lodges have FB pages now as do some masonic districts, Grand Lodges, etc.
  •  Area calendar – I have developed a Google calendar that shares when lodges in my area are having stated meetings, degrees, events, etc.
  •  Call-em-all – the Grand Lodge of Illinois has set up a means whereby lodges can use this very efficient system to send messages to their members either via phone or text.
  •  Come to the monthly stated meetings – what better way to know what is going on, than to actually come and participate at a lodge meeting.

Let’s return our focus at degree work on why we assembled to begin with, our new brother.

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters.

Inner Temple

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michale H. Shirley

I’m a Certified Lodge Instructor, and I aspire to become a Grand Lecturer, so it’s fairly safe to say that Masonic ritual appeals to me a little bit. I love to give lectures, I love to learn new ones, and I love to teach it. But I try very hard to remember that knowing ritual is not what Masonry is about.

Most Worshipful Brother Terry L. Seward once said to me, “everything there is to know about Masonry is contained in our ritual.” He was, of course, right, and I’ve never known a man who loved our ritual more than MWB Seward. But it’s not his mastery of ritual that makes him a man whom I aspire to emulate. It’s the joy with which he embraces life, a joy that radiates out from him in every direction, that I admire.  It’s the light that shines in his inner temple. He would likely argue that knowing ritual has enabled him to make the choices that keep that light shining, and he’d be right.

In 1882, Illinois Grand Master William H. Scott, in his address to the Grand Lodge, had this to say about ritual:

Brethren, perfection in the work and lectures is a consummation earnestly to be hoped for. Yet if this is to be attained at the sacrifice of the great moral principles which Masonry teaches, they are purchased at too great a cost. We should never lose sight of these important lessons, nor forget that our ritual, beautiful as it is, and as desirable as it may be to have a correct knowledge of it, is only the scaffolding by the aid of which we are " to erect the inner temple of our lives."

Masonry is not all ''forms and ceremonies.'' A man may be an excellent ritualist, what some call "bright Mason," and at the same time a very bad Mason. It is well to be able to work well in the lodge, but it is far better to practice the Masonic virtues at all times, in the home, at our places of business, and before the world.

Ritual as scaffolding that helps us erect the inner temple of our lives is a metaphor that needs more attention. It’s easy to focus too much on ritual when you’re trying to put on a degree, and the temptation to start correcting people when they don’t know their parts is always there. But ritual is not Masonry.  It’s the path to Masonry.

Memorizing ritual enables me to carry it with me wherever I go, to meditate on its meaning, and to try to practice what it teaches. I don’t have to look it up. The more ritual I know, the more often I’ll be reminded of it by the events of my daily life and the choices they present to me. The more ritual I know, the more I’ll be able to apply it purposefully. It is knowing ritual, which means not just memorizing it but contemplating it, that gives me the chance to gain further light, and pushes me to choose to practice our true Masonic virtues. I find that when I neglect the ritual I slide back toward careless behavior in dealing with my fellow creatures. Neglecting the ritual makes it easier for me to act un-Masonically.

So I continue to work, however haltingly, to memorizing all the Work. Yes, I want the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning. Yes, I want to be able to assist in degrees. Yes, I want to earn the title of “Grand Lecturer.” But more than all of that, I want to be a Mason. As far as I’m concerned, there is no greater goal to which I can aspire.


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:

Lost Little Lambs

by Midnight Freemason
Bro. Brian Schimian

Once again social media provides me a topic to rant about. As always, though I will be using direct quotes, copied from their original posting, I will remove all names so as to not allow for the Lost Little Lambs to feel that they are being attacked…

If you have read my previous pieces that I have written about the Shriners, (A.A.N.O.M.S. & Nobles of the Mystic Shrine) you know how what high regard I hold for the Order and the men that call themselves Noble.  I will start by letting you read his own statements as he wrote them…

“I am one stone in a temple of many stones. I want to help other stones smooth out too. Shrine activity distorts the shape and decreases the usefulness of some of our stones. For the sake of the whole temple we need square work. The Shrine keeps brother stones as rough ashlars and prevents them from realizing what they need to smooth out. For the sake of the work of the Temple, we need to get rid of this monstrous polluter. One drop of their poison affects the communal waters of Masonry. Why should I stand by as the well that I draw water from is poisoned by drunkards?”

“The Shrine has the power to turn the nice wise old men in the Lodge into dirty old men. I have seen it completely change the character of people and get them more in that "drunk dirty old man" mindset.”

“Would you want the Shrine to host a debaucherous party in your sacred space? They are invoking energies that are harming us all and polluting our egregore.”

“The Shrine is notorious for dirty old men. I remember hearing about how someone would know that there is a big Shriner convention in town that weekend when you'd see a bunch more dirty old men making crass remarks everywhere at beautiful women. The Shrine is probably one of the greatest tools for turning a smoothing ashlar into a dirty old man.”

“What is the intent of the order? Drunkenness.”

“I have a great new order to bring refreshment to the craft. It's called the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot order. Let's inflict harm on ourselves in order to relax and enjoy life.”

“That's what the Shrine does, it encourages behavior that basically gets Masons to defile themselves. We are One, we are a Fraternity, and the Shrine does nothing good for us. Even the facade of the hospitals doesn't hold up and the world equates "Shriner" with "dirty nasty old rude lying men." 

“THAT is the image that the world has of Shriners. THAT is the behavior that has been broadcast to the world. THAT ruins the rest of the reputation of Masonry. THAT is working against the progression of the craft. Shriner behavior also prevents the craft from progressing and perfecting the stones. The Shrine is killing us from the outside (the infamous reputation) and from the inside (the invoked energies from debauchery that taint our egregore.). We are all part of one big pool of energy and I do NOT want you guys pissing in the waters I drink from. Shriners are universally known as being dirty drunk men. Everywhere. That's how many shows portray the red fez.”

Then this Lost Little Lamb went on to say that:

“The hospitals are a cover. They do it to make themselves feel good and to make their wives feel better about them getting trashed.”

He went on and used terms to describe the Shrine an “insidious organization” and the Nobles are actually “Jesters”.

Wow, how far off base...The Shrine is one of the best philanthropies in the world and it owes itself to Freemasonry. The best men I have ever known were Shriners. The selfies and timeless dedication to others, to sick kids, to each other... Truly a misled individual... How sad and vile are those that stand outside and cast judgment within.

He continued:

“It goes against the spirit of Masonry. Masonry teaches self control and subduing the passions. The Shrine teaches alcohol and more alcohol. Masonry preaches to walk after your soul instead of your flesh. The Shrine teaches to live in the flesh and to stay in the flesh. Getting drunk and dirty is not a healthy environment for spiritual growth. Getting drunk and dirty chains you to the flesh and makes you do things that defile your body and your mouth (tell us about how much love the drunk Shriners speak towards their wives when she isn't there.)”

“The cardinal tenets of this organization are drunkenness and debauchery. That is not Masonic.”

I 100% disagree with the last statement. It is completely incorrect.  Luckily I was not the only person sharing my views and others commented:

“Not every aspect of masonry has to be philosophical or mystical. Sometimes we can become so enthralled in our quest for spiritual knowledge we lose our common sense.”

"Harming us all". No, that's quite inaccurate. I'm doing just fine without a fez, thank you.”

“…time, experience, and the application of virtue has made it the great charitable organization it is today.”

Then the Lost Little Lamb made this statement: “Sorry if I offended but, but you must not be a terribly connected or active Shriner if you don't know about the rampant overindulgence.”  Sounds like every other conspiracy minded nut-job that attacks Freemasonry. Oh, you must not be a “high enough” level Mason to know what's “really” is going on.  Let me tell you this, I may have not been able to wear a Fez for many years, but I was a Shriner from the time I was 8 years old.  I grew up in the Medinah Temple, helping with parades and picnics and fundraising.  I was selling onions and sauce decades before crossing the Hot Sands.  What bothers me the most about these completely ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims is that it does more harm than anything.  Especially when people have to ask things like this: “I'm not a Shriner, is it really THAT bad???”

It is true that the Charity aspect was not primary in the formation. It was a social endeavor.  But that doesn't detract from their purpose now or the fact that they are one of the best philanthropies today and would not exist without Freemasonry.  If you ask me, the Shrine is one of the best things to come out of the Craft.  It exemplifies the tenants of Freemasonry better than anything else.  All anyone needs to do is spend a few hours in a Shriner's Hospital and they will see what I mean.  Everyone has their own path, that much is for sure, but if you want to toss the bushel because of one or two bad apples, that is your loss.  One of the best days of my life was when my father put that Fez on me.  No person and nothing will ever take that away from me.  If there is any doubt about the lengths I will go to in defense of Freemasonry, read these two pieces that I have written and you will see how deep my debt to the Craft goes: Everything Good In My Life, I Owe To Freemasonry and How Far Would You Go?.  I am just simply disgusted by what was written.  So much for virtues of tolerance and acceptance being followed by this person.  Truly a Lost Little Lamb that needs some true guidance. 

How closed minded can you be and still call yourself esoteric?  


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Most recently, Brian became a Companion of the York Rite, joining Waukegan Chapter #41 R.A.M. Brian is a father of two children. You can follow his blog "It is. In God. I do." where he publishes even more excellent content. "Start Square, Finish Level"

Memento Mori – Remember (That You Have) To Die.

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Joshua Huckabee

Last week, a great man and Mason was laid to rest. I perform Masonic burial services in my area, as there are few of us who know the service these days in my neck of the woods. It is a great honor to do so, but funerals are never easy, and I always find myself solemnly reflecting upon Death. As Masons, we are confronted with symbols reminding us of the universal dominion of Death, and in the funeral service that I preform we are encouraged to “anticipate our approaching fate and be more strongly cemented in the ties of union and friendship; that, during the short space allotted to our present existence, we may wisely and usefully employ our time, and in the reciprocal intercourse of kind and friendly acts, mutually promote the welfare and happiness of each other.”

Death can be a great teacher in this sense. Masonry, particularly the Master Mason’s degree, is riddled with reminders of mortality. It is the great equalizer, and we must seize Life before Death seizes us, lest our lives be lived in vain. This is further impressed by the reading of Ecclesiastes 12 which begins with “Remember thy creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not when thou shalt say ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” The take home message is obvious – Carpe diem; seize the day; live each day as your last – whatever your phase of preference is, but please, spare me the YOLO (You Only Live Once).

Many fear what happens to us after we pass through the final veil of darkness; however, I do not feel there is much to fear in Death itself. Many of the world’s major religions have some promise of an afterlife, and this provides comfort and hope for many people. I had a conversation recently, however, with someone who is secular and expressively afraid of what happens after death. Without a belief in an afterlife, one may feel fear of the unknown, or perhaps nihilistic. For those who do not believe in an afterlife, I have this to say: regardless of if you do not subscribe to the belief in an afterlife, we never truly die. We are all made of matter, and that matter existed long before we did. You may have heard “we are all made of stardust,” and this is true. Every natural element was once part of a star that exploded and sent that cosmic dust into the universe. For eons those particles have been recombining and transforming. Everything you eat and drink was once something else, and you, also, will one day provide life for another organism. In this sense, we never die – we only change forms. To me, this is a universal truth that transcends spirituality and secularism, and it is a beautiful cycle if you look at through the right set of eyes. Therefore, there is no reason to fear Death, but instead, be motivated to make the most of life. Like our ancient Grand Master, we may meet an untimely fate, but in the meantime, we can use our time here wisely, to help others.

I will leave you with a few quotes that merit reflection:

"Watch the stars in their courses as though you were accompanying them on their way, and reflect perpetually on how the elements are constantly changing from one to another; for the thought of these things purifies us from the defilement of our earthly existence."

~Marcus Aurelius Meditations

Faith, Hope and Charity. The greatest of these is CHARITY: for our faith may be lost in sight; hope ends in fruition; but charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of eternity.

Bro. Joshua Huckabee was raised in 2009 at Knob Creek #401 Temple, TX. He is currently JW of Knob Creek #401, SW of King Solomon #1427 (both Temple, TX). He is active in his Chapter, Council and Commandery. He is also a member of the Waco Scottish Rite Bodies.


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

Jurisdictions may vary in the way they do this, but when a man petitions a lodge for degrees, that lodge is required to investigate him, in order to determine whether he is fit to be made a Mason. Some lodges conduct their investigations with due diligence. Others, to put it kindly, do not. I sometimes hear my Brethren lamenting this state of affairs, and harking back to the days when “they used to do it better.”

In 1910, Brother Albert W. Ashley, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois, was moved to include a section on investigations in his report to the Grand Lodge. Entitled “Greater Care Needed,” it read as follows:

Information has come to me from various sources that in many lodges there is great carelessness in investigating the character of petitioners for the degrees. In the inordinate desire for a large membership unfit men are received. In localities where there is a shifting population this is particularly true.

In the oil region complaint is made that candidates have been accepted and the degrees conferred upon those who were mere transients and whose residence is in another state. Others were accepted and the degrees conferred upon who [sic] were morally unfit to he made Masons, and whose occupations violated the law of the state. Such violations of law must inevitably lead to disaster and discipline.
Attention is here called to this evil that Masters and others may take due notice and govern themselves accordingly.

Lax investigations, it seems, are not a new problem, which isn’t surprising. If history teaches us anything, it’s that human beings weren’t nobler in the past, or smarter, or harder working. They were subject to the same failures of character as we are. They just wore different clothes.


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:

The Millennial Generation and Freemasonry: Part 1

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I've heard it over and over again about the Millennial Generation (the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s).  There is a prevailing idea that young people just aren't interested in Freemasonry.  Some believe the Millennials just don't share the kinds of values that Freemasons do.  Some believe they just aren't joiners.  Some believe that in the age of social media, the interests of the Millennial Generation is more introverted--they are more interested in posting selfies and living a fake life in the virtual world than they are about improving themselves and the real world.  But you can't argue with the fact that they aren't exactly beating a path to our door.

But I ran across some interesting facts about the Millennial Generation that might just surprise a few people:

81% donate money, goods and services.
They are givers.  They want to help those in need.  They want to make the world a better place.  They'll volunteer their time for the causes they believe it whether it's feeding the homeless, or helping out at a local animal shelter.  They recycle.  They donate their old clothes.  They'll run in a 5K race to support cancer research. They know that words won't change the world--it's action. 

75% see themselves as authentic and are not willing to compromise their personal values.
They know who they are.  They know what they believe in.  They know what is important to them, and they know what they want in life.  And they remain steadfastly true to themselves and those personal values. 

On track to becoming the most educated generation in American history.
Having grown up in the information age, they are smart.  They have always had easy access to information, and have a desire for knowledge.  Having easy access to information, they are curious to learn about things they don't know, and are likely to look up and learn about things they don't understand.  They have a great desire to improve themselves and know that the key is education and study.  
61% of millennials are worried about the world we live in and feel personally responsible to make a difference.
It's one thing to worry about the world we live in, and it's another to do something about it.  The Millennial Generation isn't willing to leave it to somebody else to fix.  They are willing to roll up their sleeves and participate.  They want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  They get involved.  They work to correct the things they see as wrong in the world today. They mean to leave this place a better place than the one they found.

More tolerant of race, religion, and other minority groups than older generations.  
Millennial grew up with a strong sense of fairness and equality.  They are more likely than any generation that came before them not to even notice differences in race, religion, age, sexuality, etc.  They believe we're all created equal, and the way they interact with their fellow man demonstrates that belief.  With Millennials, it's not about being politically correct, it's who they are. 

So What Does That Mean For Freemasonry?
To be honest with you, after reading these facts, do you know how I'd describe the Millennial Generation?  I'd describe them as future Freemasons!  Has there ever been a generation that has so much in common with the things that Freemasonry stands for?  This generation was made to order for the Fraternity! 

They desire knowledge!  They want to make the world a better place and are willing to roll up their sleeves and take an active part in doing it!  They believe in character and integrity!  They believe in equality and toleration!  They have a strong desire to improve themselves . . . they're Freemasons and don't even know it yet!

In fact, look at the faces of some of the Midnight Freemasons you enjoy reading so much . . . a surprising number of our writers group here are *gasp* Millennials!  It's true!

So the real question is . . . with so much in common, why haven't more men from this Millennial Generation found their way to our doorstep?  We better figure that out because our future, without a doubt, rests with them.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is also the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog, where he posts on a regular schedule on topics relating to Freemasonry.  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, and is 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:

The Meeting

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

**Editors Note* This was run in The Working Tools Magazine in May of 2015**

The bar was a magnificent stream of mahogany extending the width of the room. Behind it, a gold-embossed mirror reflected a piano player. He thrashed around the keys, pumping out a new ragtime tune — not so loud as to drown out the constant din and not so well as to make it recognizable.  To his right, six men played poker at a table beneath a picture of a reclining, half naked, painted woman imagined to be of dubious moral character.  Other women, more fully clothed, no less painted and of moral character unknown, circulated through the room encouraging men to order another drink.

There were a few Freemasons in the crowd, even in this obscure saloon in western Missouri... or maybe it was eastern Kansas.  Most in the crowded room hadn't given that much thought and most weren't sober enough to care.  Drunk or sober, however, the Masons, along with everyone else in the crowd, were certainly aware of the presence of a very famous Brother that evening.

In the back of the room, Samuel Clemens — better known as Mark Twain — held court surrounded by several amused patrons.  It was long before the 18th Amendment ushered in prohibition in the U.S., but even at the turn of the century, the battle lines were drawn and the debate was heated.  Given the setting, Twain had selected that as his topic for the evening.  

"I don't think prohibition is practical," he began. "The Germans, you see, prevent it. Look at them. I am sorry to learn that they have just invented a method of making brandy out of Sawdust. Now, what chance will prohibition have when a man can take a rip saw and go out and get drunk with a fence rail? What is the good of prohibition if a man is able to make brandy smashed out of the shingles of his roof, or if he can get delirium tremens by drinking the legs off his kitchen table?" 

As the crowd roared, Twain stoked the fire, "Temperate temperance is best. Intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance, while temperate temperance helps it in its fight against intemperate intemperance. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky.  What marriage is to morality, a properly conducted licensed liquor traffic is to sobriety. In fact, the more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.  It is the prohibition that makes anything precious..."

The mirror behind the bar suddenly shattered as if someone had thrown a bomb at it.  The piano playing stopped and the hushed crowd watched in horror as an angry woman smashed bottles, tables and chairs with a small menacing ax.  Ranting about the evils of demon rum, she turned the mahogany bar into splinters.

Furious, Twain stomped to the bar.   The two glared at each other, nearly breathing fire.  For a few seconds each said nothing; they just stood, meeting for the first and only time in their lives, face to face —  Mark Twain and Carrie Nation.

"Madam," hissed Twain, "This is insanity."

She shot back, "Drinking is insanity."

"Women like you drive men to drink as the only way to be sane," he sneered.

"I married a fine man... a doctor," she wailed, "He was a pillar of the community, until he started drinking. It ruined him and led him to an early grave."

Twain asked, "A doctor married you?"

"Yes," she replied.

"He must have been looking for a cadaver."

Their meeting was short, but auspicious.  As usually happened during Carrie Nation's escapades, the authorities came and took her away, screaming about the alcohol-flooded road to ruination.

"And exhibiting," thought Twain, "exactly the same ugly behavior you might expect from some poor sot who was falling down drunk."

Disclaimer: Accounts of Brother Twain's encounter with famed teetotaler Carrie Nation are, at best, sketchy.  All reports of the incident appear to have the same source, making corroboration difficult.  It is likely a meeting of this nature took place.  While Twain's words about prohibition are his own, the remaining details above are... enhanced... under the authority of liberal use of the doctrine of  licentia poetica.

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, is available on