"UPROXX" Style Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Robert H. Johnson


In the tradition of social media articles that appear in our news feeds, those sensational pieces with tag lines like “10 things you didn't know George Lucas said about Harrison Ford”, send our fingers racing to tap the story and read something mind blowing. I thought it was time to give the Midnight Freemasons one of these articles. Below you'll find three things that will blow your mind about Freemasonry and the legends attached to the craft. And for you scholars out there, I’ll even give you references ;) Get ready…



1. According to the Talmud and the sources listed below, upon the completion of the temple, King Solomon ordered all the craftsman killed so they would not be able to build another temple to any false God or build anything else in their lives with more splendor than what they had just completed. Hiram was not in fact killed, but called to Heaven, like Enoch. 
Reference : Jewish Encyclopedia - Art  - Freemasonry; New Age Magazine Vol 22-23 : Supreme Council, 33; Ancient and Accepted Scottish rite of Freemasonry, Southern jurisdiction, U.S. A., 1915



2. The North in the lodge is a place of darkness, but not because of the light being unable to reach it. During the early inspection of the temple, Hiram is inspecting the North Gate construction, he is in a state of carelessness due to some personal matters. In his folly, he dislodges a stone and the stone falls. The stone strikes a worker named Cavelum who is kin to King Solomon. Cavelum is killed. Hiram, fraught with grief orders the North Gate sealed up and to be a place of mourning and grief. Now ask yourself these two questions; 1. Is a place of grief and sadness also a place of "darkness"? And 2, If Hiram had not walled up the North Gate, would he have survived his encounter? Does this mean that in a round about way, Hiram was his own assassin due to his carelessness?

References : Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Albert G. Mackey,
 Rev. Hawkins and Hughan



3. The Queen of Sheba and Hiram Abiff's forbidden love. According to some lore, Hiram Abiff is killed not by ruffians, but by hired assassins hired by none other than King Solomon. In this story and there a few different versions. When The Queen of Sheba comes to visit Solomon for whatever reason, take your pick, she demands to meet the architect of the temple. When she finally meets Hiram Abiff, they fall in love at sight and King Solomon can see this is very apparent. In order to “fix the situation", King Solomon hires three Fellowcrafts to "take care" of Hiram Abiff. One night while Hiram and the Queen are trying to steal away, he is attacked. He throws his jewel into a pit and tries to escape but not before meeting his untimely end.


References : Solomon and Sheba. Faye Levine. Richard Marek Publishers, New York, 1980; Colliers Encyclopedia; Encyclopedia Americana; Great People of the Bible and How They Lived. Reader’s Digest Assoc., Inc. Pleasantville, NY, 1979; Deceptions and Myths of the Bible; International standard Bible Encyclopedia; The Geography of the Bible. Denis Ably. Harper and Rowe, New York 1974; King Solomon. Fredric Thinne. East and West Library, New York, 1947; The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries. Charles William Heckthorn; The First Book of Kings. J. Robinson. Cambridge at the University Press 1972 ; Holy Bible, Authorized (King James) Version; The story of the Queen of Sheba is recorded in the Old Testament in I Kings 10:1-13; a similar version also appears in II Chronicles 9:1-12. Other references to the Queen of Sheba are: Psalms lxxii, 15, and in the New Testament, Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31; The Queen of Sheba and Her Only Son Menyelek: the Kebra Nagast. Budge, Sir Ernest A. Wallis, translator. Oxford University Press, London, 1932; Solomon and Solomonic Literature. Conway, Moncure Daniel. Haskell House, NY, 1973, pp.59-65 ; All of the Women of the Bible. Dean, Edith. Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1955; The Lore of the Old Testament. Gaer, Joseph. Little-Brown, Boston, 1951, pp. 242-44; Legends of the Bible. Ginzberg, Louis. Simon and Schuster, NY, 1956, pp. 560-64

All info is pulled from the source Old Legends of Hiram Abiff - A short Talk Bulletin and is compiled here for the reader. 

~RHJ

Bro. Robert Johnson, 32° is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Master of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council, Knights Templar, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a cohost of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

Don’t Look Behind the Curtain and The Generational Divide

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Robert Patrick Lewis 32°

*Note* The parts of a speech by the Grand Master of California are paraphrased and are not exact.

Waking up this morning I was pleasantly amused to read an article by Brothers Robert Johnson and Brian Schimian that I’ve been hearing about and eagerly waiting for.

I’ve been lucky enough to share some fellowship with Brother Brian during his “California dreaming” time here with us in La La Land, and over a few conversations I’ve had with him leading up to that article and reading it myself this morning, I felt inspired to pen this article based on some feelings and events in my own Masonic career of late.

Brothers Robert and Brian didn’t go so far as to name the specific event that lead to the creation of that great article, and it seems as if it wasn’t necessary. From conversations and communications I’ve had with other Brethren around the country of my generation, and from events that I’ve personally witnessed it seems as if the onus for their article isn’t needed, because the same story is being repeated in Lodges, Valleys and Bodies around the country.

The problem became apparent to me at a reception dinner my Valley hosted for the Grand Master of California last month (January). It was a pleasant event and dinner, my first function as the general secretary of my Valley (we’ll get to that later). After dinner and some entertainment the Grand Master and several other members of my Valley took the time to speak a few words.

What resonated most in my mind was one very small part of the Grand Masters speech that left me, well, speechless. About halfway into his speech about the various charities he’s associated with and things he’s seen in his career, he took a moment to mention the generational divide occurring in Masonry, citing a statistic that the largest numbers of new Masons by far are coming from my generation (I believe the age range he gave was something like 20-35 year olds).

As my education is primarily in marketing I love statistics and metrics, as they can tell us so much about trends and what we are doing right or wrong, so when he followed it with something like “we don’t know why they’ve come, what they’re looking for, or how to keep them” I was floored.

It’s not so much that technology and popular culture have allowed Masonic discussion to be found anywhere that an iPod, phone or laptop can reach, with such outlets as The Midnight Freemasons Blog, From Whence Came You podcast, The Masonic Roundtable, etc, which are primarily hosted by Masons of the very generation he seems to have no understanding of.

It’s not even so much that those of my generation have started countless discussions in our Lodges about why we came to Masonry and what we were searching for.

Don't let the above be the case.
Moreover, it amazes me that with all of the minutiae Grand Lodges around the country have the time and resources to dedicate to things which seem utterly pointless to men of my generation, it doesn’t seem they’ve taken the time to do the most elementary function an organization can undertake when trying to discern information from a particular demographic: to ask us.

I spent the first month of this year in the general secretary seat for my Valley, and after my time in that seat I can safely say that I’ve seen more than I ever wanted to concerning one of the largest generational disconnects I’ve ever encountered; specifically for me in the Scottish Rite, but after talking with Brothers who’ve held positions in Grand Lodges before, it’s one that seems to be a common theme: politics.

There are several recurring themes I’ve encountered in conversations with other Masons of my generation and during my short stint in the secretary’s seat for my Valley that I’d like to address here, concerning and attempting to explain this generational gap and what it is that my generation came to Masonry in search of.

I know that a large part of the very generations who don’t understand younger Mason’s don’t really understand this media and means of communication, so hopefully someone reading this can use it as a way to begin the conversation within their Lodge, if you are in agreement with the points I’d like to address.

  • We don’t care about the politics. This “look behind the curtain” dealt a nearly deadly blow to my view of the Scottish Rite, in seeing Brethren treating each other extremely un-Masonically, concerning themselves more with alliances and future positions than what was going on in their Lodge/Valley. The men of my generation are absolutely sick of politicians that have done their best to ruin our country, and fully appreciate why Brother Pike spent so much of his writings in Morals and Dogma talking of the repugnancy and pestilence that are self-serving politicians. Politics should have no place in Masonry, and when a Brother of my generation sees someone playing politics in the Lodge, all respect is immediately lost. 

  • We don’t care about titles. That’s great that you have an “Illustrious” or “Honorable” or “Sir” in front of your name. While it does show that you’ve logged some serious hours in a Lodge room or Valley Temple, that’s not what we came here searching for. Many of my generation have spent time across the ocean on battlefields, and much like those who returned from WWII or Vietnam to find solace in the Lodge, we believe that respect is something earned, not given as easily as a large donation or time spent in a certain chair. For those of us who truly came seeking “further Light in Masonry,” no matter what title comes before your name, you are still a man. Just as the skull is used to remind us of our own mortality, it should also remind you that no matter what your title, we are all meant to meet on the Level when in Lodge. 

  • We don’t care about the minutes. Seriously. Both my Blue Lodge and Valley have the same group of people who regularly attend stated and special meetings. We were present when it opened last month and heard what happened. No need to repeat it. That valuable oxygen and energy could be used doing what the men of my generation came to Masonry for: spreading further Light through Masonic education. 

  • We value our time. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not sure why or how this occurred, but I’ve noticed (even within my own family, friends and friends families) that the men of my generation just seem to value time at home with the family differently than those who came before us. Maybe it’s because we were raised by fathers who spent long hours toiling away at work or taking part in other social activities, but my close friends and I value our time with family above all else. Please go back and read #3 again. 

  • We work smarter, not harder. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to explain just how efficient, easy and profitable the use of technology can be these days to our Personal Representative (I created a Facebook, Twitter and Google Drive for our Valley to try and get us into the technology age). I get it, we’ve sent out brochures, flyers and put trestle boards out in the Lodge for time immemorial, and that’s what you’re comfortable with. The men of my generation fully embrace technology, and have an understanding that there are a finite amount of trees on our planet, and not everyone can be at every stated meeting (please re-read 3&4). Websites, Email, Facebook and Twitter are just plain smarter, faster, easier and more widespread than their paper predecessors, and give us access from wherever we are, whenever we want to figure out what’s going on in our Lodges/Valleys. Please put some effort into understanding this, as it is at the core of my generation’s culture. 

  • We don’t care about the pomp and circumstance. At the beginning of this article I spoke of a reception for the Grand Master that my Valley hosted. This was another “look behind the curtain” for me, and watching the dizzy fervor that this event whipped our PR into made me take a step back and wonder why in the world we were even doing it. Yes, it’s fun to dress up in tuxedos and wear our regalia every once in awhile. But please go back and read 1,2,3&4 before you schedule one of these events for your Lodge or Valley. From the conversations I’ve had with Brethren of my generation, all would be much better served to bring a Masonic scholar like Arturo de Hoyos or Rex Hutchens to shed some further Light to your younger Brethren. 

  • We want to learn from you. We didn’t come to Masonry for the institution; we came for the education, the Light, and the community. For us a meeting could be in a Lodge room just as well as a chat room or a dimly lit tavern, as were our forefathers. We know that there are numerous lessons and experiences to be taught, but the resounding narrative I hear echoed from the Brethren of my generation is that those experiences just aren’t being passed on from “mouth to ear” between generations. Sure, we have degrees a few times a month. How about taking some time to impart your thoughts on those degrees. Yes, we can read any number of works to explain the esoteric to us in black and white text. But as we’ve been taught through our developing careers, the best lessons in Masonry aren’t written down. We yearn for our elders to show us the Light, teach us the ways and impart us with knowledge, not just have dinner, read the minutes and go home. 

If any of the above has been taken as argumentative, disrespectful or out of place, I truly apologize. It is not meant to be so, but I have to admit I feel flabbergasted to hear an officer of my Grand Lodge state that he doesn’t know what the men of my generation are looking for, when we’ve tried so hard to express that very knowledge.

We feel that society has done us wrong and taught us lessons that were untrue; we can’t believe our media, our politicians, most of our textbooks from school, or most of what we hear or read in the news.

We came to the Order seeking others who, like us, know that there is more to life than what we’ve been told and taught, and were directed that the path to the answers we sought began by walking up the steps into our local Lodge.

We love you, we respect you, and we need you, as Brethren, elders, and educators. When we came seeking knowledge and further Light in Masonry, we came to Masonry seeking you.

Please don’t let another new Master Mason’s first experience after his raising be a reading of the minutes, because if that is all we have to offer, there won’t be too many more raisings to be had.

~RPL

Bro. Robert Patrick Lewis 32° is a member of Los Angeles Lodge #42, and  the Los Angeles Valley of the Scottish Rite, SJ. He is an author of two books; "Love Me When I'm Gone" a memoir about his time serving our country as a member of Special Forces and his newest "The Pact", a fictional tale of what happens when the US is taken over. 


Humility

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


“I believe that the first test of a great man is his humility. I don't mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.” –John Ruskin

Humility has a bad time of it in our society, in large measure because it’s a quality misunderstood by most people. People think of it as a willful disregard of one’s own ability, an abnegation of self that ignores talent and achievement. It’s not. Humility is the act of taking oneself out of the center of the universe, and recognizing that others are as deserving of God’s love as we are, which is to say, not at all. It is the ability to make requests, but not demands, for a demand is a way of saying “I am more important than you are.” A Mason can’t make that claim, because we are all Brothers, living on the level, with no man more important than another.

It’s easy, in this hierarchical fraternity, to miss that point. The Master who presides in the East is essentially a benevolent dictator, with great power in his lodge. But the power inheres in his office, not in him, and he forgets it at his peril. Once his term of office is expired, the now Past Master has only such influence as inheres in him personally. As Chris Hodapp puts it in his wonderful book, Freemasons for Dummies, the Worshipful Master goes from having all the power in the lodge to having precisely none.” The Brother who rises to the Master’s chair is supposed to have the wisdom to render his office effectively for the benefit of his lodge, but his lodge is his Brethren, individually and collectively, and he is no better in the sight of the Grand Architect of the Universe than they are. The respect for his office is just that: respect for his office. He is not called “Worshipful” because of any quality he possesses, but because of the chair in which he sits. The Master is called to serve his lodge, not the other way around.

One of the great privileges of my life has been hearing Most Worshipful Brother Noel C. Dicks, Past Grand Master of Masons in Illinois, give a speech to the Brethren assembled and to the new Master Mason after a Third Degree (he lives about fifteen miles away from me, so I’ve heard it a lot). Every time, he says something to the effect of, “you can join the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, the Shrine, rise high in those appendant bodies, rise high in the Blue Lodge, and maybe get one of these fancy aprons. But remember, we’re all Brothers. There is nothing higher than the Third Degree. There is no greater title than, ‘Brother.’”

Another great Past Grand Master, Most Worshipful Brother Harry S. Truman, said something similar in his last month as President of the United States: “It is fortunate that I’ve never taken an attitude that the kudos and kow-tows are made to me as an individual. I knew always that the greatest office in the history of the world was getting them, and Harry S. Truman as an individual was not. I hope I’m still the country man from Missouri.” Like Brother Dicks, Brother Truman understood humility, and lived it. So may we all.

~MHS

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: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

An Atrocious Crime

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

Years ago, working on a company's proprietary computer system, I discovered something troubling.  I found unencrypted data containing information used to control the way the system worked.  I realized users could alter this unsecured data and do some real damage.  System developers could also alter it, but I knew that might be useful for testing purposes.


In reality, the likelihood of a system user altering the data was negligible and I had other pressing issues with the system.  So rather than undertake the time consuming task of a complete fix, I made sure the data was in a secure location.  Then, just to make sure, I changed the system so it could tell if someone had tampered with it.  If so, the system would spit out the most ominous error message I ever wrote:


For the record, it says: 

"This message will appear only to system developers. If you are a system user viewing this message, you are guilty of an atrocious crime: that of tinkering around with the system's internal settings.  Woe be unto you. Do not even think of calling technical support for assistance in getting rid of this message."

If I don't miss my guess, readers of this blog will recognize much of that language.

To my knowledge, no user ever got that warning; however, a system developer who later worked there did get it.  He found it confusing.

So mote it be.

~SLH

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 amazon.com.

In Thy Name

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Juan de la Cruz

In order for an organization to thrive, its core mission must be clearly stated and understood by all of its members. This mission should be compelling enough that all who labor towards its fruition are invested and willing to give of themselves beyond the minimum standards expected of their employment.

Freemasonry finds itself in the peculiar conundrum that those who labor for it are under a vaguely understood contract, compounded by the fact that the compensation for these labors is rarely monetary and that the appreciation for the value of Masonic wages requires an intrinsic recognition, the rights and privileges of those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Thankfully, and by the Grace of the Great Architect, these faculties can be cultivated.

The application of the tools we are given is all that is needed to earn Masonic wages! There is a problem however; the explanation of the tools we are given is explicit with regards to what the tools are used for, yet is only implicit in the manner in which the tools are to be applied. This has long provided me a source of contemplation, and has also been the genesis for an entirely new vision of what the craft represents to me. That being said, I offer the following in the spirit that what I believe (at present) to be the truth (from my perspective, mind you) and my intention herein is to elicit discourse and the development of better understanding of the answer to the greater question: why do we do what we do?

Allow me to posit the following: the answer to the above question regarding what is in essence the “mission” of the craft of freemasonry is revealed in the Chaplain’s opening prayer: we gather in the name of the Great Architect of the Universe that we may reflect the order and beauty which rule forever before the throne of the Almighty.

Verily, since this is the only stated purpose given for our assembly, I believe it is also the very strength and support of Freemasonry, the “mission”, as it were. Let us entertain the preceding assumption is correct and that indeed the reason we gather in the name of the Almighty is to do His bidding. What then are the ramifications of this realization? The list is long, and worthy of great conversation and fellowship. Indeed, this is a dialogue that has proven worthy of the efforts of numerous scholars and has been the consuming passion of many a brother in our long chain of union. Surely the benefits to such a philosophy extend beyond the present limits of my appreciation, but of the myriad benefits I can identify I find there emerge general categories which I will attempt to encompass in this limited forum and my even more restricted attention span... I like shiny things… I digress…

The first and perhaps greatest benefit is that we approach our lodge as a temple, erected to Him and dedicated to the Saints John (we’ll explore an explanation of these in a future article). A temple built by and consisting of the very ashlars and ornaments we each represent, and bound by the cement of our brotherly love for each other, the relief we offer one another, and the truth we share. This approach at once demands the utmost reverence and offers the greatest impetus for jubilation. The lodge is not an object outside of its members but is a body comprised OF them. The lodge then, like the self, is an extension of our being, a tangible metaphor for our place in the Grand Design the Master has drawn upon the trestle board.

The natural extension of this first benefit I described is a sense of direction. Let us examine the metaphor of a seagoing vessel. A ship without the benefit of a destination is a useless contraption, afloat and adrift or at best circling the ocean without the safe harborage of port. Though by simply having the faith to set sail into the unknown one is assured an adventure, full of discovery and ripe with the possibility of new insight, it is also replete with peril, and amongst the few with the resolve to undertake expeditions into spiritual climes unknown, fewer still have survived the abyss to benefit from the undertaking. The safe passages have been mapped, the destinations delineated, and the tools of navigation have been handed to us.

So, how then do we sail? What will we need in order to increase the chances of our success? How will we measure our success?


We sail with the understanding that the Great Architect is at once the destination and the guide of our journey, and that the Master of the Lodge is the captain of the vessel, he trains his sextant on the North Star if you will, what the G suspended in the East represents. He tests his observations against the charts in the Volume of Sacred Law, he conveys the necessary corrections of navigation to the crew, and verifies that the commands have been duly executed. The first officers coordinate the efforts of the crew, and the sailors – collectively – serve the captain and the ship they sail on (their very lifeline) with freedom, fervency and zeal. Our success is measured by the progress we make and the riches of the ports we stop at, testament and acknowledgement of a proper course. As a result of our labor, we nourish our bodies with the fruits of foreign lands and repose in the memories of the most exotic, bizarre and wondrous of vistas.

The captain and his crew are offered no guarantee of safety, and similarly neither is the Worshipful Master or the lodge he serves. The journey is dangerous; there will be unforeseen obstacles and inclement weather. Some lodges will have lost sight of the North Star which guides them and will veer so far from course they will find themselves adrift in the doldrums, doomed to stagnate and ultimately sink in obscurity. The success of our voyage will depend on the diligence of its crew and an understanding of our responsibility. We don’t expect of the Master some wizardry or artificial bravado, what we expect is careful and studious observation of the Guiding Principles and the unerring landmarks. We don’t expect perfection of ourselves but similarly we are entrusted with diligent attention to the details and nuances of sailing.

Our lodge, by whatever metaphor you employ – and admittedly I’ve employed many herein – is an organization composed of individuals with the common goal of serving One Master and which assembles in His name to obtain the necessary instructions to pursue our labors and earn our wages. As long as we remain vigilant of our course and steadfast in our navigation, we will succeed and reach the goal we set out to achieve. I humbly request that you contemplate what assembling in the name of, and serving the Great Architect, looks and feels like, and really look forward to sharing the insights you glean… the wages of a mason!
 


~JdlC



Bro. de la Cruz is the Junior Warden of Sotoyome Curtis 123, Healdsburg, CA. He is also a 32nd degree Scottish Rite member as well as a Royal Arch Mason. He is a father of two, husband and resident of Windsor, CA.

We Must Find Time in Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Rob Walk Jr. 

I should sit down while inspiration strikes hot.

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from the Newly Made Master Mason.  I have moved back to my hometown in Central Pennsylvania, with my wife and two cats.  I settled back down into my Grandfather’s old home, two bedrooms, and an open loft.  Beautiful place out in the country.

When we moved back, I went back to my old dialysis clinic in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and applied for employment as a dialysis technician.  By this time, I had already been in this particular career for four years.  All of the poking people with giant pencil needles you could ever desire.  It wore me out, and very quickly at that.   I came home from my 16 hour days, plopped on my recliner, said a few words to my wife, and fell asleep without a wink.

Needless to say, this became very old, very quickly.  So, I decided to search around for a new career.  I had thought about going back to school for nursing, journalism, entrepreneurialism, hotel management, all of the usual stuff people go to college for.  I even took a single class in computer programming, which kicked my butt to the curb, and I fell hard on my rear end.

Then I came across an idea, proposed by W:.B:. Lance Kates.  He said, “why not go to barber college?”  For whatever reason, the idea hit me just right at the time.  I took a week and visited a few barbershops, got my hair cut, and a couple of face shaves.  Did it ever ring my bell.  This was it.  I absolutely had to do this.  I googled barber schools around the mid-state, and came upon Barber Styling Institute, which is in the very same town my dialysis clinic is located.  Perfect timing, perfect location, perfect sign.

I decided to call.  My anticipation strong, and my heart sure, Matt Schwalm, the owner, picked up the phone, and I asked him about the program.  “Why don’t you come on in, and check out the school?”  It was literally one half hour after I googled the school that I was there, anxiously looking around at all of the students cutting like professionals already.  “Hi, I’m looking for Matt.”

“Oh, I’m Matt!”  I looked the man up and down.  He’s surely not what you’d expect out of an instructor of any sort.  Urban style boots, barber jacket, and a crazy hairdo like I had never seen in my life.  You could describe it as sort of…globe shaped.  “Here, let me show you around.”  We walked past a few of the students, I looked left and right, and up and down, absolutely scared to death that I was being judged deeply by these people.  “Everybody, this is Rob.”

“Hey, Rob!”  These people seemed so kind and accepting, but my animal instincts were kicking in and I was feeling rather shy.  To make a very long story short, I walked out of his office with a start date of two days later.  I would be cutting hair…you guessed it…due to this very Brotherhood.

Now, the real point of this story is about time.  Aren’t we taught about this in the very first degree?  We must, as Masons, learn to divide our time equally.  Please think about this with me for a moment.  If you were to work 16 hours a day, three days a week, what does that bring you to?  48 hours.  On top of this time, I must also be at the clinic on my off days at 03:00 to disinfect the water loop.  This generally takes 3.5 hours.  So we’re really adding on 7 hours on top of that…that’s 2 days per week.  Total, I find myself 55 hours a week at dialysis.

So, I started at the barber school, and eventually worked out a regular schedule.  I would come in on my off days, stay all day, and go to work the very next day.  25 hours a week at school is really not very much.  To complete the program in one year, that’s what I would have to accomplish.

Needless to say, this Mason has some real trouble dividing his time equally.  Even on Sundays I cut hair, at my home, for free while I’m a student.  My solution to this problem was not a simple one, but something that we should all indeed keep in mind.  Freemasonry is one thing.  Masonry is another entirely.  Are we not charged with bringing Masonry into every aspect of our lives?  I will tell you that every morning I step into that barbershop my gut drops, my shoulders lower, and my deep-seated headache will all fall away.  This is my place of relief, of rest and relaxation.

Bro. Rob Walk doing the good work!
Just as well, this is my time to work for Deity.  Performing the great work that has already been laid bare before us to assume, live and be creative.  This is my new church.  Making gentlemen, and a few ladies, look good enough to go out into the world and feel good about themselves.  Positive outlooks create positive lives.

And work?  Soon, this will be my work.  It is a Great Work.  Please do not think that I mean THE Great Work here.  That is something to be discovered by the individual Mason, and not something that can simply be imparted by the ritual we perform in the Lodge Hall.  There is no doubt in my mind that I will be cutting hair until I’m laid to rest, and return to the Celestial Lodge above.  This is my life, my passion and my contribution to this world.

To have found the resolve to continue with my study in barbering and Masonry was no little task.  I’m never home, with my wife, my family.  However, within everything in life there is Masonry for the dutiful Speculative Mason.

Stay strong, work hard, and make time for that which is needed, my Brothers.  I will see you all back in Lodge in exactly 6 months and 5 days.  At that time, I will strive to be able to “take the chair,” and make proud my Brethren who have had my back through these tough months.


~RW
 
Bro. Rob Walk Jr.  is a member of Jephthah Lodge No. 222, A.F.&A.M. in Essex, Maryland.  Currently living in Central Pennsylvania, he is seeking membership with a lodge there.  He spends his time listening to music, sampling craft beer, climbing and drumming.  Barbering being his main work, he currently cuts at his home, and will soon be cutting under the managership of Drew Matos at Southpaw Barbershop in Lemoyne, PA.

Friday the 13th

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Adam Thayer

One bad leader killed our fraternal brothers. One pompous, self-righteous, egotistical bastard was singlehandedly responsible for the destruction of a holy Order that had existed for nearly two hundred years, and for the death of two men who, like our own Grand Master Hiram, became martyrs to their fidelity.
Before we even begin to discuss the end of the Templars, it’s important to understand who they were, what they stood for, and why they were a perceived threat.
The Templars sprang from somewhat humble beginnings: Hugues de Payens, along with eight relatives who had been knighted, formed the Order to protect travelers and pilgrims who were visiting Jerusalem and other sites in the Holy Lands. While there is some disagreement as to which French king first sanctioned the group, it was probably around 1118 or 1119. The rules of the Order were simple: renounce all of your titles and worldly possessions, pursue a life of purity, and take up arms to defend against Sarcean attacks.
While in Jerusalem, the Order took to living at the Al Aqsa Mosque, which was believed to be built on top of Solomon’s Temple. It didn’t take long for the knights of the Order to become associated with the Temple in the public’s mind, and soon they took the name “Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici”, or The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and The Temple Of Solomon. This, in time, was shortened to Knights Templar.
In 1129, the Templars were officially sanctioned by the Vatican. This move garnered significant criticism, as the public could not accept monks carrying weapons and committing acts of violence. The Church, for their part, supported the Templars, by explaining that the knights were charged to protect the innocent from violence, not to commit acts of war.
Through the coming years, the Templars gained significant power, through the Church and governments granting it, and through controlling the supply of money with an elaborate banking and lending system. Although the knights themselves had taken vows of poverty, the Order was exceedingly wealthy.
A thorough examination of the Templars activities is beyond the scope and intention of this paper. Those who are interested may, with minimal effort, discover a wealth of information available that discusses their actions during their active years.
By the 1300s, the Order was well established throughout the known world, was a respected and vital part of the Church, and had amassed a significant amount of money, but was not the powerhouse it had been in its heyday. In many ways, the Order reflects our own gentle Craft; it started from small beginnings, had a rapid rise to dominance, enjoyed a position of power for many years, then began a slow decline into a less powerful, but no less important, organization. Left alone, this system could have continued indefinitely, enjoying brief periods of growth, followed by another gradual decline.
Enter the bad leader.
Philip the 4th became King of France at a young age. While he was not mature enough at age seventeen to lead the country, his older brother died before taking the throne, so Philip was forced to ascend.
His youth and inexperience showed; he habitually ignored his advisors, insulted those who attempted to help him, issued poor orders, and was stubbornly inflexible. This led him into a number of unnecessary battles, forcing him to borrow more and more money from the Templars to fund his stupidity. During one war against England, he devalued the currency of France by two-thirds, causing his own people to riot against him.
Philip also chose, quite unwisely, to battle with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, which was the dominant power at the time. He expelled clergy from their positions of legal administration, and began taxing them at a high rate.
These actions caused Pope Boniface the 8th to issue a papal bull excommunicating King Philip and any leader who would attempt to collect taxes from the clergy. Philip, being too stubborn to back down, retaliated by prohibiting the export of goods and moneys from France to Rome, effectively cutting off one of the larger income sources of the Catholic Church. Pope Boniface, holding power over an ever weakening Church, rescinded his papal bull, and restored trade from France to Rome.
King Philip, however, could not accept victory so graciously. He launched into a large scale “anti-papal” campaign against Pope Boniface. He began arresting and trying clergy members on various charge, likely invented by Philip himself. Even worse, he accused Pope Boniface of committing sodomy, a rumor which haunted him even after his death, when he was posthumously tried and the charges subsequently dropped. It’s interesting to note that the charge of sodomy was a favorite of King Philips, used against many of his political enemies, as we shall soon see.
In response to these outrages, Pope Boniface again asserted that the Church was superior to the ruling class, and that the Pope held the power over Kings. Hostilities again escalated, the Pope again excommunicated Philip, and Philip responded by having Pope Boniface arrested. He died less than one month later.
The Church, and by extension the Templars, now found themselves without leadership, but not for long. Within a year, Bishop Bertrand, a French Bishop from Bordeaux, was elected Pope Clement the 5th. At the time, there were significant rumors that the new Pope had obtained power due to the political maneuverings of King Philip, and all of the subsequent actions of Pope Clement point this to be true, as he withdrew and changed the papal bulls that Boniface had released, restored King Philip to grace, moved the papacy to France, and granted the French King power over the leadership of the Catholic Church.
King Philip was in debt. His various wars, political maneuvers, and extravagant lifestyle had caused him to become deeply indebted to the Knights Templar, and unable to satisfy his debt. Worse, he saw that the Knights had significant income but did not pay taxes, significant assets that they kept to themselves, and were all well trained in the art of fighting.
What’s a King to do? The Templars were still under the control of the Catholic Church, not answerable to any king, and to lay attack on them would be seen poorly by the public, who held sympathy for the Church.
King Philip, showing unusual intelligence, determined to destroy the Templars quickly and efficiently; he would accuse the entire Order of heresy, extract confessions under brutal torture before the Church could get involved, and claim their property and wealth as French. Sealed orders were sent across all of France, to be opened on the appointed day, and the Templars fate was sealed.
Friday, October 13th, 1307. King Philip’s orders were simultaneously opened across his realm. They included a letter detailing the numerous heretical crimes of the Templars, along with the order to arrest all Templars, and a list of the highest ranking Templar officers.
Reports vary, but most agree that six hundred and twenty five Templars were arrested that day. They were tortured until they confessed to any charge that was leveled against them, and those confessions were used as proof that King Philip had acted in the best interests of the Catholic Church in apprehending the knights. Pope Clement had no choice but to issue papal arrest warrants for the remaining knights worldwide.
When the knights began recanting their confessions and imploring the Church for aid, King Philip ordered fifty four of them, including their Grand Master Jacques de Molay, burned at the stake, and forced Pope Clement to disband the Order completely.
In a final act of defiance and bravado, de Molay pronounced that King Philip and Pope Clement would both soon stand with him before God to answer for their crimes. Within a year, they were both dead.
The remaining Templars scattered. Some joined with the Knights Hospitallers, who became known as the Order of Saint John. Others fled to Scotland, where Masonic tradition tells us they joined with Robert the Bruce and formed the Knights of Saint Andrew. The rest simply disappeared, lost in the annals of history.
What lessons can we take from the ordeal of the Templars? First, we can see the danger of mixing religion and politics, which is a lesson taught repeatedly in Scottish Rite Masonry. Had the Papacy not been controlled by the French King, it would have been able to fight back, and protect the Templars from his greed.
We can also see the risks a private society such as ours takes when we attract public attention by getting too large or too powerful. No doubt is had that the Templars flaunted their wealth and power, which attracted the attention of the king to begin with, and which led to their eventual destruction.
Perhaps most importantly, we see the importance of choosing good leadership. It only took one man to completely destroy that which had lasted nearly two hundred years. We must be constantly wary not to put the vain, the egotistical, or the dictatorial into positions of leadership within our lodges, as one bad Master can destroy a Lodge. The Templars did not have a choice in who led their lodge or country, but we do. We can choose to elect someone into leadership because he is a warm body to fill the chair, or we can choose to only move our best and brightest into them. At the risk of sounding political, we should be carrying that same attitude with us when we vote for our public leaders as well.

Finally, a warning to any who would abuse their position of power: never forget that although King Philip was successful in destroying the Templars, his victory was short lived. Within eight months of the martyrdom of Jacques de Molay, King Philip suffered a stroke and died. Within a few years, his bloodline had all died out, and the subsequent battles for control of France became known as The Hundred Years’ War, but that’s a story for a different time. The only lasting memory most people now have of King Philip the 4th is the incorrect belief that his actions led to the fear of Friday the 13th, even though this connection was not discovered until 1989. It would be equally ludicrous to say that we are superstitious about Friday the 13th because of a man in a hockey mask with a machete, and I hope that a few hundred years from now there will be another Freemason, writing an education piece debunking that legend instead!

~AT
WB. 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 adam.thayer@gmail.com