Freemasonry on Death

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Adam Thayer

As Freemasons, we are often called upon to meditate on themes which may make us uncomfortable. Throughout our journey of self-improvement and self-empowerment, we are brought face to face with our own inadequacies, faults, and superfluities, and asked to not only face them, but to actively consider them, and work to improve upon them. We call this process “smoothing our ashlars”, and it is through these difficult times that we become better versions of who we once were, and in this is hidden the true secret of Masonry.

Man that is born of woman is but a few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). In every Master degree we attend, we are reminded that our time here is short, and the journey of improvement is difficult. In the words of Alexis Carrel, “Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”

One theme that we are constantly brought to is this: we will all die. Everyone you know, everyone you care about and love, and even you yourself, will one day be nothing more than dust, intermixed with the dust of countless generations that came before you. “We follow our friends to the brink of the grave, and watch them sink into the fathomless abyss; we feel our own feet slipping beneath us, and in a few more suns we too shall be taken into death’s silent reign”. (Nebraska Masonic Funeral Ceremony)

I’m sorry if this is the first time you have been informed of this, I truly am. Being told that your time is short by a nearly anonymous wall of text on the internet must be a very difficult way to learn that painful truth.

Of course, we are all vaguely aware that we will die; it hovers in the back of our minds, a gnat unable to be swatted, but able to be distracted by worldly things such as work, television, alcohol, and sex. We move from one novelty to the next, in pursuit of peace of mind, and cower in terror when forced to confront the speed at which the sand flows through our hourglass.

We are reminded in the Master degree that we are expected to face our fear of death; we don’t stop on the first or second step, but true to the ideals we have sworn to uphold, we look forward to the greater light that death will bring us.

We learn in areas of the craft that our own death is inevitable, and that it may well come before our work has been completed. And further; death is not the end, but simply the passage into the Celestial Lodge, where all of our labors may be ceased, and we will find peace and rest that will carry us through a boundless eternity.

Brethren, our time here is brief, and our work is great. We choose the skull as one of our symbols to be an ever-present reminder that we must not delay in building and beautifying our internal temples, because our time here is shorter than we can ever imagine.

Of course, the temple each of us builds within ourselves is a monument to futility if we do not use it to brighten our world. What good is beauty if it is hidden? To paraphrase the Sermon on the Mount, what use is our light if we hide it under a basket? Instead, we put it on a shelf so that it may bring the whole house to light! In the same way, you are charged to be a light in the world, to brighten those around you, and to leave the world better than it was when you were born.

As for me, I’m building my temple in the world itself. In the words of Pike, “what we do for others and the world remains and is eternal.” My hope is that, in my little way, through my writing and through my actions, the world is a little brighter for my having been here. To quote Hiram, “I may not live to see the temple completed, but if I die, it will be buried there.


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

Honoring Veterans, Discovering Brothers

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Mt. Soledad is the highest point around San Diego, California.  At the top of this mountain, stands a large white cross, dedicated as a memorial to honor the veterans who have served the United States.  During my visit to the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, I was awestruck at such a simple, yet powerful message that was conveyed to visitors. 
The memorial recently began a program of adding plaques, each dedicated to the honor and memory of a soldier who served.  As I was casually reading the plaques, I ran across a familiar name, Audie Murphy.  Murphy who was a Major in World War II, was the most highly decorated soldier of the war and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He later became a famous actor and was killed in a plane crash.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Murphy was a member of Hollywood Lodge No. 542 in California.  
As I read further along the wall, I began to notice that some of them contained a square and compass, a Scottish Rite symbol or emblems from other groups.  In what began for me as an intended quick glance of the wall, consumed two hours of my time, as I read each of the plaques talking about the lives of the men and women who so bravely have served our country. 
Yet, there was something special about masonry that motivated these service members or their family to ensure that the world knew they were a Freemason, Scottish Rite member, Shriner, or a member of the Order of the Eastern Star in a couple of cases for service women, by having that emblem on their plaque.

It was a real pleasure reading the stories of these veterans and especially knowing that I had something in common with so many of them, being a brother and member of this wonderful fraternity.  I have a photo gallery online if you wish to see more pictures.


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. 

That's Not the Way It's Done

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Guidon Sobecki

My career as a Masonic officer began like many others. I was a new member who had been to a few meetings since my third degree, and the Steward’s chair was empty. I was asked if I could sit in so we could have a full slate for opening, and I walked over figuring it could be fun to hold a staff and wear a jewel for the evening. Ten minutes later, I was jolted by someone yelling to “un-socket your rod.” Bewildered, I pulled the staff out of its base next to my chair and held it. As we stood up to give the sign, the ritual was halted as someone told me I was passing the staff to my other hand the wrong way. As we sat down for the business meeting and members brought out their phones and planners, I went to put my rod away, and was instantly told to un-socket it again until the Master gave permission. The Master overheard this and casually said we could put the rods away. But first, I had to uncross my legs and keep them planted firmly on the floor at all times. I looked around the room at the sideliners who were comfortably leaning back in their pews with their legs crossed. “So this was what it feels like to be an officer,” I thought. 

Six months later, we were conferring a degree, and they needed me to take the Steward’s chair that night. A Brother from another lodge walked up behind me, grabbed my arm and forcibly walked me through the Steward’s floor work without a word of introduction of explanation. I didn’t know who he was, and still don’t, but I remember his hand leaving a mark on my arm. As I circled the lodge room behind the blindfolded candidate, voices would randomly sound off from the sidelines that my pace was off, I was ahead or behind, or that someone else was similarly out-of-spec. The candidate, hoodwinked and undergoing a transition into our ancient fraternity, heard every word of their commentary tossed in between the prayers and sacred obligations.  After the last gavel sounded, I was told not to leave until I had been given a refresher on the proper way to turn ninety degrees. 

One year later, I was at a district ritual class. The sidelines were packed with members from several lodges, gathered to review the latest ritual instructions from the experts. I was twenty-two at the time; the next youngest Brother in attendance was in his sixties. As the instructors filled the chairs, someone volunteered me for a position. The usual voices were now amplified and multiplied because there wasn’t a candidate to distract them. After completing my segment, someone in the corner seated in the corner raised his hand to tell the instructor that I should be run through the section one more time for practice. The instructor obliged, and it all happened all over again. At the coffee and donut session afterwards, I sat alone for a while and left without anyone noticing. 

Not long ago, I served as Junior Deacon for a First Degree. Someone whose name I didn’t know, sitting by the door in jeans, crossed his arms and announced that I wasn’t having the candidate knock on the door at the right moment. Later, as the newly initiated Brother was handed off to me for the grand exit, the same Brother near the door yelled from behind us that I had to switch my rod to the other hand.   I ascended the East to give the last lecture of the evening. At various points of my memorized speech, I could hear the casual conversations from the sidelines about the temple board meeting and the restaurant on First Street that just closed. It took me an hour and a half to get home, which was a relief compared to the two hours it took to drive from my office to the lodge. 

The other day, I was enjoying a rare night off. My desk was cluttered with my blue ritual book with the pages wedged open to a lecture another lodge asked for help with, a red York Rite script because I had a feeling someone would cancel and I’d need to change parts, and printed copies of a Scottish Rite degree and the Shriner initiation lectures. As I pushed my dinner plate aside and picked up the blue ritual book with the bent corners, I found myself skimming the degree for what seemed like the thousandth time, double-checking the second half of the sentence in paragraph six just in case I’ve been saying  “therefore” to myself instead of “hence.” It matters. No one has ever told me why, but it apparently does. 

That first night in the chair being told to un-socket my rod, I suspected that it was all a part of the journey. Hidden amongst all these awkward dance classes was a true reflection of something grander than all of us. There would be a time when it wasn’t just casual rehearsal, and perfect ritual would truly make an impact. And on that day, when I turned ninety degrees just right, an old past master would summon me to a candlelit room and tell me the true power behind all this “wax on, wax off” hazing. I would finally be included in understanding these ancient mysteries and could someday pass them on to those who would seek them after me.  As time went on, I realized that this would never happen. If the officers all truly achieved ritual perfection within our year, the sidelines would be silent, and the candidate would only hear the ritual and his own thoughts. That is, there would be silence until an inexperienced Brother would take a chair, and the uninvited chatter and correction would start all over again. 

I have been duly taught that these words and movements, which have been passed down verbatim for generations, must be preserved in their true form at all costs. However, I don’t know who wrote them, what inspired them, or what some of these words even mean. Neither do many of those Brothers on the sidelines watching out for infractions. But I do know when to socket my rod during meetings, even though some jurisdictions have no rod instructions, and some don’t even use rods at all. I can draw out the Steward’s movements with enough detail to put John Madden to shame, but I didn’t know what the word Steward meant until Jon Snow became one on ‘Game of Thrones’ and I looked it up. I’ve asked the ones correcting me what these words mean and how all this started. At best, I’ve been told that they do ritual, not education. At worst, I’ve been told to just read it again. It’s all right there in my dog-eared blue book. 

I first walked into the lodge looking for reflection, tradition, and moral contemplation. I keep going back to that lodge because I know that if I don’t sit in that chair and walk the gauntlet of ritual corrections, there may not be anyone else willing to sit in that chair when it’s time to perform our duties. While I was being taught how to walk and talk, new members came and went like phases of the moon, and the officers and those on the sidelines remained in their chairs. I’ve slowly become a better ritualist and hopefully a better Mason over these last few years, but the lodge room seemed to grow emptier and emptier. 

I don’t know much about this fraternity. I’m often told I know even less about ritual. But I may just have an idea why the new members never came back, and why it so often seems that no one wants to walk up and sit in those chairs. 


Guidon Sobecki is a Master Mason out of DeKalb Lodge #144 in DeKalb, IL. He is also a member of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Chicago, NMJ and is also the current King of Keystone Chapter #281 of the York Rite.

You Must Be The Change

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR

"As these men I have profiled in the book show, Masonry has always attracted capable and industrious people.  Builders, doers, pioneers, and freethinkers tend to migrate towards Masonry."

I was just beginning my journey as a Freemason when I wrote those words in my first book back in about 2006.  I'd been a Mason for maybe a year, but I clearly understood this concept very well--Masons do things. I'd seen it in my Lodge.  I'd seen it in the Scottish Rite.  I'd definitely seen it in the men I had researched and written about in my books.  As Benjamin Franklin said, "Well done is better than well said."  

That certainly doesn't mean that all Freemasons are builders, doers, pioneers, and freethinkers.  They aren't.  Lodges need great leaders--and far too many don't have them.  Some lodges have fallen into decades of the status quo--dying a slow but inevitable death.  They've forgotten what their purpose is.  And all they really need is a leader with a vision-- a leader with a plan.

The fraternity desperately needs leaders who have ideas, who have a vision, and can make a clear argument for change.  Leaders that will bring life back into the meetings, meaning back into the ritual, and make education and self-improvement a priority for its members.  It's not enough to complain about the problems in your Lodge, you have to be the change.  If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.  If you want to bring the light back into your Lodge, you need to be willing to carry the torch.

And I'll tell you something--it isn't easy.  I've been there.  You will be criticized.  You will be second-guessed.  You'll have no shortage of armchair quarterbacks ignoring every success, and pointing out every failure.  But you won't just find critics--you'll also find allies.  Men that will share your vision for the future and join with you.  That's key.  You'll never get there alone, but if you can make a compelling argument and get your Brothers behind you, you will be successful.  Before you know it, there will be more following your lead than listening to your critics.  And that's when you know your Lodge is turning the corner.  That's when your Lodge comes out of it's long slumber and begins to grow again.  That's when even your harshest critics will begin to see your vision--and when you win over your critics, you've achieved a success. 

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but I've seen Lodges come roaring back that were only a few meetings away from fading away forever.  Masonry is important.  It's not just about your Lodge, it's about your community.  The world has never been in greater need of men of the type that Freemasonry has been known to help produce for centuries.  Men who possess a strong moral code.  Men with values.  Gentlemen of strong character.  Once these qualities weren't at all uncommon, but today, they have become much more difficult to find.  There are few places left where men can strive to improve themselves in these areas--a Lodge of Freemasons is one such place.  But these places must continue to exists and thrive, and it's up to us to make sure that they do.

But it will take leadership, and strong leaders to bring that purpose back to the forefront.  Maybe that's what you're supposed to be to your Lodge.  


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:

An Insignificant Coincidence of Personal Significance

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

Years ago my wife Carolyn and I sat in a restaurant having dinner with my father, Robert, when an
energetic man walked up to the table and introduced himself to Dad. It seemed as if the pair were old friends; turns out they had never met before. They were, in fact, both Freemasons and the man, Lester Brown, who came up to our table had seen the Shrine pin my father always wore.

 They shared stories comparing information about their Lodges and other Masonic activities, and then Lester looked at me and asked, "What about this young man, is he a Mason?"

Lester was immediately a friend because he called me "young." Despite that, however, I gave him my standard answer about joining the fraternity — "Someday." It wasn't too long after that when "someday" finally arrived and I became an Entered Apprentice. Lester was at my initiation and so was my dad.

When I became Master of my Lodge, I asked Lester to be my installing Senior Deacon. That evening I asked him about the time we met in that restaurant, "When you asked if I was a Mason, what would you have thought if I'd have said I planned to join and someday you'd help install me as Master of your Lodge?"

"I'd have said you were nuts," he snorted.

A few years later, Dad passed away. I had, by then, taken part in several Masonic services, but never with a speaking part. That day the Master asked if I would like to be the Chaplain in Dad's service. "I don't know the part," I said, "but I would be honored to read it."

This year Lester, at the age of 100, entered that House Not Made with Hands. Standing in line waiting for his Masonic service the Master asked if I would be Chaplain. "I don't know the part," I said, "but I would be honored to read it."

Those are the only two Masonic funerals I have participated in with a speaking part. As we were marching in procession out of Lester's service, I thought back to the dinner when we met. Not yet a Mason, I eventually would take part as the craft said goodbye to two Brothers who were there for me at the beginning of my Masonic experience. It's probably just a coincidence it happened that way; insignificant, really. However, for me personally, it has great significance. They both helped start me on my Masonic journey and it was a humbling honor to give back just a little bit.


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 & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on

All Leadership is Influence

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

All Leadership is influence.” –John C. Maxwell

There is much talk of developing leadership in our Masonic organizations, and, while people keep arguing about what leadership really means, they all agree that it’s a positive thingThey’re wrong. John C. Maxwell, the leadership guru, holds that leadership is nothing more and nothing less than influence. That idea turns the commonly understood vision of leadership as a good on its head. Influence is value neutral, and so leaders can be positive or negative, depending on their values. Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler were both leaders, but only Churchill’s leadership was based in positive values, and thus only Churchill could bring about positive outcomes. If we have a negative person in our lodge, that person is a negative influencer. Likewise, if we have a Brother who is consistently positive in outlook, regularly helpful, and genuinely concerned about others, he is a positive influencer. Our job as leaders is to find and encourage the positive influencers in our lodges, while preventing damage from the negative influencers. By doing so, we increase Freemasonry’s health, and magnify our own positive influence.


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 is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; 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 article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

Civility & Conscience

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

At the most recent Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M., Brother Michael Swaney and I conducted the Wardens’ Leadership Seminar for about 200 Brethren. Given that Grand Master Tony Cracco’s has called for an emphasis on civility in person and (especially!) online, we decided that it would be good to use George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation as a teaching tool. Rules of Civility did not originate with Washington: most of them have been traced to a French etiquette manual written by Jesuits in 1595. Washington merely copied Francis Hawkins' 1640 translation as a handwriting exercise.

There are 110 rules, which is too many for a seminar, so we winnowed it down to those most applicable to Masonry. It’s the last one, number 110, that I want to talk about here: “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” If anything matters to a Mason, it should be his conscience, for Masonry is the very act of putting our consciences to work in the world. We seek to be the best men we can be in all situations, to choose right over wrong whenever presented with the choice. Conscience tells us what’s right and wrong; if we don’t pay attention to it, we’ll stop being able to tell the difference, and that malformation will be visible in our conduct.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it, “Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows his true image.” Concern for correct behavior is not about outward appearances: it is about giving life to inner light. If our consciences are well formed by the principles of Freemasonry, our behavior will reflect those principles. Brother Washington, who lived his life according to his conscience, understood that. So may we all.


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 is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; 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 article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at:

Taking Back the 24-Inch Gauge

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Jason Richards

Freemasonry is a complex organization. Its history is rich, dynamic, and largely unknown. The organization itself has spawned hundreds of others--some open to women and others open to children--almost all of which predicated membership on first having been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Many of these organizations, including the Tall Cedars of Lebanon, the Grotto, DeMolay, Job's Daughters, and Rainbow for Girls, were all formed at the cusp of the twentieth century—a period in which Masonry had once again begun to expand following two distinct periods of major anti-masonic sentiment in the United States (first in the 1830's following the Morgan Affair and second in the 1870's-1880's). In the heyday of the post-WWII Masonic membership boom—and partially due to the societal norms of the day—these appendant and concordant bodies (as they came to be called) expanded and flourished. 
But this is no longer the case today, at least universally. Masons are overburdened, and the entire craft is suffering because of it. Many appendant bodies, at least on the local level, obtain just enough support from overwhelmed Masons to stave off shutting their doors. I would argue that given the decline in Masonic membership, changing socio-cultural norms and the concurrent breakdown of the “Masonic family,” and the proliferation of non-masonic organizations—all of which have occurred over the last century—the myriad appendant bodies, and women’s and youth organizations attached to the Masonic fraternity is no longer sustainable. One of the best things that we as Masons can do is to take struggling chapters and organizations off of life support and let them die. 
One of the very first lessons Entered Apprentices are taught is to manage time through the use of the 24-inch gauge. But today’s Masonic fraternity does not lend itself to proper time management. Masonic membership has been in sharp decline across the world for the past 60 years, yet Masonic obligations have not diminished proportionally. The calendar in my Masonic district is packed, and a lodge officer can be assured that he’ll be away from home a minimum of 2 nights a week just for his home lodge, not counting the events occurring in the district on a weekly basis to which he is “expected” to show up—and this is just for Blue Lodge! It doesn’t take into account the weekly Shrine club meetings, Scottish Rite pancake breakfasts, or the last-minute phone call from the local Royal Arch Chapter looking for one more member to attend their monthly meeting so that they have enough brethren to open. Seeing how overburdened Masons in my own District happen to be, it’s no wonder that Masonic youth groups and other aforementioned organizations fall by the wayside.

But declining Masonic membership is only one reason for this lack of support. Changing sociocultural norms also play a role. In the 1950’s, many women derived their identities from their husbands’ hobbies and lives. If your husband was a Mason, you could spend time with him by taking part in women’s Masonic organizations like Amaranth or the Order of the Eastern Star. If you were the child of a Mason, you could spend time with your father by joining DeMolay or Rainbow for Girls. This way, a Mason could concurrently spend time with his family and tend to Masonic obligations. Today, however, the “Masonic family” arguably no longer exists, especially in today’s younger generation of Masons. I can count on one finger the number of Masonic spouses under 35 who are actively engaged Masonic endeavors with their husbands (Sorry, Cori—you’re quite the outlier at present). Masonic and familial obligations today simply do not overlap. 

A final reason for lack of support is the proliferation of other organizations and ways to spend one’s time. Freemasonry no longer holds the enviable position of being the only game in town for extracurricular socialization and entertainment for men and their families. The success of youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America has dwarfed Masonic youth organizations like DeMolay and Job’s Daughters. 

Now that we’ve diagnosed at least a portion why Masons today are so over-obligated, how do we chart a way ahead? How do we take back the 24-inch gauge? Should we try to squeeze more commitment out of Masons through guilt, Grand Lodge edicts and resolutions, or other requests for aid? I have seen each of these tactics employed time and time again. Yet, youth groups and other appendant bodies in my area retain barely enough support to keep their doors open. Case in point—while at a blue lodge meeting I overheard a brother bragging about a youth group chapter that had become one of the biggest in the state—at 16 members. That’s a lot of effort for little quantifiable reward. Far more concerning to me, however, is the fact that I consistently witness more and more of my fellow brethren fight with their spouses over how much time Masonry is taking away from family.

Something needs to change. Short of building the membership back up to where it was at the turn of the twentieth century, the only way to lessen the burden on today’s Mason is to sacrifice struggling organizations currently on life support. No one wants to see a pet project or a chapter of an organization die, but the fact of the matter is that we can’t do it all anymore. Nor should we. Capture the institutional knowledge of an organization, document its ritual and history, and let it go.

Be bold. Make difficult choices. Take back your 24-inch gauge. We may find a strengthened fraternity as a result.


Bro. Jason Richards is the Junior Warden 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 also Chaplain of Perfect Ashlar Council No. 349, Allied Masonic Degrees. 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.

My Journey Through the Craft Pt. 3

How can I benefit the Fraternity?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Aaron Gardner

Part 1 can be read here
Part 2 can be read here

How can I benefit the Fraternity? With your time. Other than my yearly dues, Freemasonry has never asked anything of me but my time. I have devoted a lot of my time to it because of all the great things the Fraternity does; from community service, studying, writing, speaking to regular business meetings. The Fraternity is exactly what you make of it, and  I intend to make the best out of it because it has polished the best of me. I am constantly seeking new opportunities to better serve the one thing that has served me. If I find that I am not using my time wisely there is always something more I can do as a Freemason, as a Man or as a Human being. Freemasonry has provided me the tools to help form this imperfect being. 

It is true, a lot of the stuff I do with Freemasonry can be done within the church or your choice. But the one thing I have benefited the most from the Fraternity in that regard is the openness and acceptance I received. If I were to write or do community service with a church I would not be actively involved with people of other beliefs, and I would not be able to learn from them. I am grateful to the Fraternity for offering me so many opportunities that other organizations can simply not offer. 

Now that we have discussed my personal journey as it has started to unfold, I would like to reach out to the audience. Please tell me your story and share your journey with me about your quest to seek the light, knowledge and secrets Freemasonry has to offer. 

What kind of things do you enjoy about the Craft? Has it provided you anything special or are you still looking for the secrets of the Craft? Are you new to the Craft and looking for your place in lodge? Are you not a Freemason and wondering about the Fraternity? 


Bro. Aaron Gardner is 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.

The Light of Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Rolf Keil

Masonic Labor Is Purely A Labor Of Love. He who seeks to draw wages in gold or silver will be disappointed. The wages of a mason are earned and paid in their dealings with one another: Sympathy Begets Sympathy… Kindness Begets Kindness… Helpfulness Begets Helpfulness…"
~Bro. Benjamin Franklin

Brothers, I have been a Mason for 28 years. As each of us inside our brotherhood,  I have seen light and I’ve seen shadow and witnessed darkness. Light was always stronger, luckily. Every now and then I have met and encountered brothers that left me enriched, although sometimes just in reflection. One of these encounters happened last autumn, when a few brothers from all parts of the country came together to found an association, with the aim to secure the financial future and the independence of, the largest online masonic encyclopedia in Europe. 
The foundation of our society was followed by an evening gathering, hosted by the Quator Coronati Logde in Frankfurt. My brother and friend, the artist Jens Rusch talked about the Wiki, which he invented and the perspectives it brings for masonic researchers. The support from the brothers was tremendous. This alone made for a successful and fulfilling evening.
But, what touched me most, were the talks afterwards. They touched areas; we usually keep hidden, sometimes even from ourselves. Unexpectedly, there were sentences like: “I grew up in an orphanage”, “My father was an alcoholic”, “I have no positive experiences, concerning family”. Some were even spoken by myself.
When I drove home that night, many similar encounters I have had over the years came to my mind. How many of us have made such similar experiences? We will never know. I suppose there are many.
Q: Why did you want to become a mason?
A: I was in darkness, and I felt a desire for light.
What is the light? It is the absence of darkness. Brother Goethe said in Faust: “ that Memphistoteles  is a part of the darkness, that gave birth to the light.
More than 28 years ago, I first set foot in a lodge in Frankfurt for a public evening. There was an assembly of men in advanced years (more or less, the age I have now☺) there was not one of my generation, the gap between me and the youngest brother was approximately 20 years. What I didn’t know then was on this evening, there were 2 past grand commanders of the supreme council of Germany and several members of the supreme council present. The discussion was at a high level. The tone was sometimes rough, but there was also a certain spirit that bound those men together. Before the closing of the lodge, the brothers formed the chain of unity and parted as true brothers. 
I was astonished, and I re-visited the lodge. After a while I asked to join that lodge and my wish was granted.  
It was years later in my reflections about darkness and light, that I realized that a part of my darkness was caused by the absence of a strong and loving father, in my adolescence. I felt a cold and dark spot inside of me.
And part of the light I desired, were matured men, that were able to give me orientation and advice. Not as a father, but as a brother and friend.  
I have found them in my lodge, I found “Elective Affinities“.  I grew, and I am quite happy with the way things turned out.
When I talk about the light, for me it is not only the cold light of enlightenment, it is not only the light that shines from our great lights, I mean as well, the heartwarming flames of brotherly love.
„The wages of a mason are earned and paid in their dealings with one another.” 
In masonic forums in the virtual world, I often realize a rather aggressive tone, a climate of mistrust and of arrogance, presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Does this have anything to do with masonry? Of course not. But why are we acting the way we do, and why do we allow others to act that way?
Now, this is a start of a problem. If we allow a behavior like that in our masonic communities, we will be giving the younger Brethren the impression that it is normal and okay to misbehave.
But it is not normal, and it is not okay. Not in the Freemasonry I know and I try to live. 
Normal should be, that in times of need, there are brothers to help you and to protect you. Normal should be, that there is always help for the widows son!  I have often had the experience that when I visit a lodge as a perfect stranger, I have found an atmosphere of trust and brotherly love. Again, I have found  “Elective Affinities“. The chain of unity that is created upon those affinities can be as strong as family ties, sometimes even stronger. 
That is Freemasonry! What sometimes happens online – sometimes also in annual general meetings- shows us more as a bunch of purely educated men without any good behavior, but not as members of a society of light seekers.
In the profane world we often hear “Trust has to be earned!” inside our Brotherhood it has to be “Trust is given as a leap of faith!”  In an old German Ritual we find: “I recommend you to the virtue of humility. Be humble with a good feeling of self-esteem. Never let it happen that pride can grow inside your soul, because pride destroys the gentle ties of love and trust, which bind mankind together.
These gentle ties of brotherly love count amongst the most precious jewels of the craft.    
Q: Why did you wanted to become a mason?
A: I was in darkness, and I felt a desire for light.

So mote it be!


You Will Never Be Poor Again

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mark Havener

Sometimes words leap out of my mouth that I only understand the true meaning of later. 

When I was a teenager, I met a carpenter, an old man who told me that he placed a penny in a wall of each house he worked on, so the occupants would never be poor.

As a young man, I realized that there is a difference between being “broke” and “poor.” “Broke” is a temporary situation where your income does not equal or exceed your expenses. “Poor” is a mindset where you defeat yourself before you even begin. I have been broke many times in my life, I have never been poor, or so I thought.

I became a Mason at 49, and joined the officer line that year. When I became Junior Warden the Worshipful Master started a tradition in our lodge where we use a Presidential Dollar coin during the EA degree. Being in Tennessee, we use the coins of Andrew Jackson, James Polk and Andrew Johnson, our three Presidents who were also Masons. We stamp the Square and Compasses on the coin and present it to the newly made brother after the ritual is completed as a memento for him to keep.

When I handed the coin to the first EA during my year as Master, I blurted out, “You will never be poor again.”

It’s taken me a while to fully contemplate what those words mean. We all come to Masonry seeking knowledge and enlightenment. We know there is something just beyond our reach that we need. We don’t know exactly what “it” is, however we know it’s there and it will help us get to where we want to be.

One of the definitions of “poor” is, “deficient in desirable ingredients, qualities, or the like.” I think this is where those words, “You will never be poor again” came from. Because once we are initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry, we now have the foundation to seek out and acquire those desirable qualities.

We have that standard of requiring petitioners to ask to become Masons rather than inviting them for the sole quality of being “inquisitively aggressive.” We require men who are seeking to learn and improve themselves, not to be spoon-fed.

In our FC Charge, we tell the brother, “With a mind enriched with useful knowledge, man is never alone; he has within himself means of enjoyment far preferable to all the pleasures which the haunts of dissipation can afford.”

Brother Benjamin Franklin is also credited with having said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Knowledge, useful knowledge is worth far beyond what we can pay for it in money. 

When you possess useful knowledge, you will never be poor again.


Why Is Masonry Still Important?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer

Why is Masonry still important in modern society? It’s a very personal question, of course, and the answers I’ll provide are not necessarily the same as the ones you would give. Still, I believe we can provide the most common answers, bearing in mind that they are not necessarily the “right” answers for everyone.
First, Masonry provides a structured framework for personal growth. After all, our lectures can be divided into two categories: those that teach history, and those that teach methods of self-improvement. It’s so integral to our society that it is one of the first things a candidate hears during the questions and answers; to paraphrase, we ask “Where did you come from?” immediately followed by “Why are you here?”. For those who spend the time to study the ritual, we are provided with a metaphorical toolbox that we can use to improve every aspect of our lives. All it takes is for us, as the master workman, to apply those tools. They don’t do any good if they’re left sitting in the box!
Second, Masonry brings us fellowship with men from all strata of society, which frequently turns into lifelong friendships. We come together, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, with a common goal, and a common starting point: the initiatic experience that we have each undergone. No matter what experiences we have had outside the lodge, within its walls we all had the same common starting point: blinded, half dressed, and destitute, knocking on the door for admission.
Masonry provides a chance to learn leadership skills. Now, this may not apply to everyone, but it’s been my experience that if you are looking to hone your leadership skills, there is a position available for you. Masonry won’t make a bad leader into a good one, any more than it will turn a bad man into a good man, however for those who have an interest in improving their leadership abilities, the lodge is one of the best places to do so. Where else will you find a large group of other leaders who are willing to share their experience and advice with you?
Masonry gives you an avenue to give back to the world you live in. Masons in the United States donate an estimated $1.4 million daily, or approximately $1 billion every 2 years. That is money that we could have kept in our pockets, or within our lodges, but instead have decided to wisely invest in making our world a better place.
Again, you surely have more reasons than these four, they represent just enough to (hopefully) get you talking more amongst yourselves about what Masonry has done for you. If you cannot answer the question for yourself, how will you ever answer for a potential candidate? As for me, Masonry has made me a better husband, a better father, a better employee, a better friend, a better citizen, and most importantly a better man.

  1. Other than those listed what have you gotten out of Masonry?
  2. It is often said that you get out of Masonry what you put into it. Have you found this to be accurate?

My Journey Through the Craft Pt. 2

How does it benefit me?

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

Part 1 can be read here

Freemasonry is not to be used for business purposes. The main focus of the Fraternity is not to make new contacts to sell your business to. It is true these things do happen and some Freemasons meet some great brothers to work with, however the main focus of the Fraternity is to do exactly what the famous quote says, to “...make good men better”.

There are a number of ways the Fraternity does this and I personally can say it has done it for me in more ways than one.

First, I have met some amazing brothers who I can share anything with. At the ring of a phone call they will do anything to help me and I for them. Whether it be for financial hardship, seeking knowledge about something otherwise unknown to myself or even a business deal; these brothers have been there and helped me through it all.

Freemasonry has opened a new door for every aspect of my life. As a Soldier I had a hard time coping with military life, Freemasonry provided an escape. Reentering the Civilian world, Freemasonry has been a source of stability. It has provided friends that I can trust, not something that is very easy to do for myself. It has provided people that are more than friends, people who are more like family than even my own family at times.

The Fraternity has opened my eyes to new talents, or talents that I didn’t realize I already had. Because of Freemasonry I started writing more, reading more than I used to and feeding a desire of knowledge. Little did I know that by becoming a Freemason I would begin writing. With the writing I started about Freemasonry I found a need to write more. I can not say for sure if I would have started writing a novel, which is currently being edited. I know for sure I would not have been featured in the Working Tools Magazine, Livingstones Magazine, or iRON MiKE Magazine. It is because of Brother Todd Creason & Robert Johnson that I was able to write for the Midnight Freemasons which opened all the doors to the other publications that I have been featured in.

The writing is what inspired and honed my speaking skills. It is because of the Fraternity, that a brother in Ohio read an article I wrote and asked me to speak at his lodge. None of this would have happened if I didn’t join the Fraternity. It may have happened eventually if I were to believe in fate, but fate has a funny way of showing itself earlier than expected. I am one of the youngest Masons in my lodge today, not the youngest because my cousin joined shortly after I did, but I am also the most traveled and the one Mason in the lodge that tries to be the most active. Freemasonry opened all these doors for me and the doors have yet to start closing.

It is because of Freemasonry that I look everywhere seeking knowledge. I look through books, movies, television shows and listen to the radio looking for clues of something new to learn about. I talk to more people about their cultures and beliefs. I have become more accepting of others' opinions and can accept that my truth isn’t always the only truth. I seek the truth in everything. Who knows what the future has to offer after this current quest of knowledge and light? Because of all this I can honestly say I believe Freemasonry has made me a better man than I was before my initiation.


Bro. Aaron Gardner is 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.