No Mason Left Behind Pt. One

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. "Doc" Gentry



Ok everyone repeat after me, "No man takes a step in Freemasonry alone." Say it again. Come on louder! Like you mean it! LET ME SEE YOUR WAR FACE! Sorry, I got carried away. Now, what does that mean? The saying, not being carried away. It's simple, oh so simple. From the point where a man says,"I need to talk to a Mason about this Mason thing.", he is not left alone in his steps. He is guided, step by step, and only by taking our time and doing it right, do we see the wisdom in this action.

A man comes to your lodge and says, "I want to be a mason." I encourage you NOT to throw a petition in his face. Take the time necessary to get to know him and his life. In fact, two or three brothers should take somewhere between 6 months to 2 years (whatever your Grand Lodge says to do on the petition ironically) to get to know your potential candidate. "But Brother Doc, he might leave if  we don't push him through." Well then brothers, who's to say that he would actually come to lodge then? Besides, we are Masons, our word is our bond, so don't start the potential brother off on the wrong foot by lying on his petition. Please don't get him started off wrong by pushing it through either. I know, I know, Grand Lodges are freaking out about numbers and attendance and this reason alone should be the basis of you vetting potential brethren more thoroughly. Besides that, how will this potential brother get work and receive instruction if you don't know where his passions are to give him work? Ok step one, get to know the potential brother, check. Step two, get to know his family as well. Don't leave that poor man to try and explain Freemasonry to his family all by himself, he has no idea what Freemasonry is....in fact, I still don't know all of what Freemasonry is, so don't send me in alone either! Invite the family to functions and events. If you don't know what you can and can't tell families, and there are things you can tell them I assure you, go back and read my Mentoring piece. In fact, Brother Johnson, can you link that piece right HERE ?

*Editors Note* I can and I did! ;) ~RHJ

Once the allotted time has passed and he still wants to join you crazy kids, oh and you all still want him to become a brother, then have him fill out the petition. Once he has filled it out and way before you initiate him, assign him a mentor. Do not wait, you will miss valuable opportunities for him to grow, even before he is voted on. What's the worst thing that happens? He doesn't join but is a better person for the expierence?

No Mason Left Behind is not just some cute catch phrase that Brother Robert Johnson branded me with, it is a creed all Brethren should live by. No matter what you do, no one takes a step in Freemasonry alone!



~Doc

Brother Daniel "Doc" Gentry is a Brother Master Mason under the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Mason's of the State of Illinois, in the 1st Northeast district. His sign is Leo, and has been known to enjoy long walks in blizzards. He is stubborn and has no plans of joining the York or Scottish Rite anytime soon. Also in his spare time, he is a great DM for D&D games. Sacred Geometery! You can reach him by email at doc@midnightfreemasons.org

St. John the Evangelist

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
W.B. James E. Frey


My Brethren, December 27th marks the hallowed feast day of St. John the Evangelist. St. John is an important and distinguished figure within the symbolism of the Craft. St. John was one of the main apostles of Jesus Christ and is renowned with receiving from the Christ, a secret mystical doctrine which would define the Johnannite tradition. The word evangelist means writer of the gospel and St. John is accredited with writing the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John, and the book of Revelation. Bro Mackey states that St. John is venerated in Masonry because “His constant admonition, in his Epistles, to the cultivation of brotherly love, and the mystical nature of his Apocalyptic visions, have been perhaps, the principle reasons for the veneration paid to him by the Craft. “ (Mackey, Masonic Encyclopedia)

St. John supposedly lived in Galilee and was the brother of St. James. They were considered “hired men” which most likely means they were craftsmen doing a variety of work and odd jobs. The brothers were said to have lived in poverty and renounced material possessions. This is in part due to the fact that both brothers were followers of John the Baptist when he preached in the wilderness of Jordan. Both were baptized and initiated into the Baptist’s religious order which was most likely connected to the sect known as the Essenes. John and James were both on the banks of the river Jordan and witnessed the baptism and initiation of Christ. Which means they beheld the descending of the Holy Shekinah, or Holy Spirit in the form of a dove when the Baptist exclaimed with prophetic perception, "Behold the Lamb of God!"

It is said of all those in attendance, that it was only John and James that stayed after the ceremony to talk with Jesus of his experience. John then invited his new Master to his home in Galilee. He traveled with Christ to attend marriage feast of Cana. At the feast, John witnessed the miracle of water being turned to wine. This miracle solidified John’s dedication as a disciple and follower of Christ through out his travels. It is said that he was within Christ’s innermost circle and was one of the first disciples to be invested with the power to heal the sick. John suffered with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and sat at his right hand during the last supper.

He is referred to as, "disciple whom Jesus loved.” John was the one whom Mary Magdalene went to with news of the Resurrection. And when John and Peter were on the Sea of Galilee they witnessed the Vision of the Resurrected Christ. He appeared as an astral figure on the shore in the first light of morning. Peter could not recognize him but John could. Possibly signifying that John had a greater understanding of the spiritual perception over the physical senses, or material world. St. John witnessed the Ascension and received the spiritual fire of the Holy Spirit at the Pentacost. This indicated that St. John was baptized both by fire and water.
Irenaeus states that after the death of Peter and Paul, St. John settled in Ephesus. From there, Saint Jerome says that John supervised and governed all the Churches of Asia. Around 97 A.D. John was exiled to the Aegean island of Pathmos where he received apocalyptic visions, which he recorded in the Book of Revelation. The date of his death cannot be determined but John was the only Apostle of the original twelve that did not die by martyrdom.

St. John’s connection to the craft is vague and shrouded in mystery. St. John the Baptist was the patron saint of the builders’ guilds and St. John the Evangelist was not adopted into the craft until after the sixteenth century. This would place the adoption of the Evangelist around the time of the shift from operative Masonry into the speculative craft. According to Masonic historian Kenneth Mckenzie “although it has been urged that the dedication to these saints did not arise out of the circumstances to the doctrine of Christianity… that the custom of dedicating lodges to these saints arose from astrological reasons.” (Mckennzie, Royal Masonic Cyclopedia).

These astrological reasons are to correlate the symbolism of the St. Johns for the summer and Winter Solstice. The Sun enters Cancer about the 21st day of June, which is correlated to the 24th and dedicated as a feast day to St. John the Baptist. In the winter, the Sun reaches Capricorn on the 23rd of December, which is correlated to the 27th of December and dedicated to St. John the Evangelist as a feast day. This placed the two feast days of the St. John’s when the sun is lowest and highest peaks of its yearly cycle showing both the astrological meridian height of the sun in the south and the lowest point of darkness in the north, the shortest and longest days of the year.

Within the speculative craft the Saints John are called the parallels of Masonry and between them we see the point within a circle. From the oldest times, the point within a circle was a symbol of the sun and has been adopted in various cultures as such. Mackey states “The two days are the limits of its circle, therefore the circle is shone set between the lines. The Point Within the Circle represents the year, a year of work, a year out of a man's life; at least it does if the history of its use is a true guide to its symbolic meaning.” (Mackey, Masonic Encyclopedia)

It we look at the St. John the Evangelist symbolically within the context of the Masonic journey, John is every individual initiate. John is initiated by John the Baptist into the mysteries and purified, similarly how the entered apprentice is given a white apron to represent a new sense of purity. John travels with his Master and it indoctrinated in the parables of truth, similar to the Fellowcraft traveling the different compartments of the Temple being indoctrinated with the spiral staircase leading to truth, Similar to the Master Mason John is witness to the death and resurrection of his master.

Fitting in the mythos of the Masonic lost word John makes reference to Christ as “the Word.” With the death and resurrection of the Christ the true word of the gnosis is lost. But the word is found again within his own soul through the mystery of the spiritual fire of the Pentecost. The lost word is the individual soul of the initiate and the connection to the redemptive energy of the Christos. Elementally the Johns are the parallels that the Baptist represents the mystery of water and the natural or material world, the Evangelist representing the mystery of fire and the supernatural or spiritual world. With this interpretation the Master Mason dwells in the center balanced between his physical and spiritual, aware of his inner Christos in the spirit but bound to his obligation to his fellow man in the physical.

It is also important to note that the book of Revelation shows the revelation of a new name of God identified as Alpha Omega. I only mention this because there are old rituals, and some modern cryptic rites, that see the restored lost word being Iota Alpha Omega, IAO. Which correlates to the famous verse from Revelation 22 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes. They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life.” (St. James Bible) In certain neo-Rosicrucian groups IAO is considered to represent the process of life, death, and resurrection.

This is often also attributed an Egyptian symbolism. I is for Isis, giver of life, A is for Apophis the destroyer, and Osiris risen which is also given solar meaning. From a psychological perspective this formula is important because our sense of identity is ever changing as we experience new things and grow as a person. Those who are afraid of destroying who they are in order to grow often become stagnate in psychological growth and develop neuroses around this painful transition.

Over all the dedication of lodges to the St. Johns dedicates the lodge itself as a solar temple representing the yearly course of the Sun. It places this subconscious symbolism on each initiate as they travel from the shortest to longest day on a search for both external light of the intellect and internal light of the spirit, or Word. On an exoteric level you have a representation of the Evangelist being a reminder of steadfast duty to one’s faith. Esoterically the Evangelist is the Initiate who becomes the master, and through astrological correlation is symbolic for the Masonic journey.

~JEF

James E Frey 32° classifies himself as a gentleman of the old world, which means he is known to stand in the great forests reciting poetry to fair-haired damsels while wrestling bears for sport. He is a District Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a Past Sovereign Prince of the of Danville AASR, member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, Royal Order of Scotland, Quram Council Allied Masonic Degrees and initiate of the Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He is also a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in Masonry for the R.E.B.I.S Research Society.

Ritual is a Work of Art

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

"The Angelus” by Jean-Fran├žois Millet 
Brother Robert Johnson’s post on the Parrot Mason, and my response to it, have in common a belief that Masonic ritual, while meaningful in itself, requires that its exposition be meaningful in order to make its full impact. Words spoken dryly and without emotion, no matter what their potential impact, have about as much effect as the recitation of the telephone book. 

We are hardly the first to make that observation. Brother John M. Pearson, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in Illinois, said it well in his address to the Brethren assembled for the Annual Communication in 1890:

A ritual is a work of art, and like all works of art is valuable not merely for what it represents, but mainly for what it suggests to the mind. This is true, whether the work be a poem, a painting, a piece of music, or statuary. The material representation may be good, and the technique beyond criticism, but if no thought or feeling is suggested, but little value attaches, and we soon tire of them; but a little picture of two poor peasants in a rough field, pausing in their work, with bowed heads, at the call of the bell in the little church beyond, tells the whole story of a life of toil, hardship and devotion. Men do not tire of such pictures and the grand lessons taught by them.

So of our ritual. It suggests to our minds great thoughts, in simple, homely words. To the humblest mind there is a lesson that it can understand, and to the noblest of men, grander truths yet to be learned, are clearly taught. Do not change it by a word. No matter if some of our phrases are quaint, and perhaps passing out of current use, hold to them, fix them in the memory. Let our Entered Apprentices and Craftsmen hear them again and again, until they find them fixed indelibly in the mind, and so ever after to influence their daily life and conduct. Allow no novelties to intrude themselves in any part of the ritual. They may seem at first harmless and even attractive, but, in the end, they tend to lessen the force of the more important truths we wish to teach.


Our ritual is not mere words, but the truths those words represent. Fix them in the mind, meditate upon them, and speak them with meaning in a way that communicates to the neophyte the essence of Masonry. Above all, live them. Otherwise, they are meaningless. It is the purpose of Freemasonry to put our ritual into practice in our everyday lives, to live outside of lodge according to the ideals we seek to exemplify within it. Our ritual teaches us how to do that, but only if, as Most Worshipful Brother Pearson suggested, we treat it as the art it truly is: without pretense, full of meaning, and simply spoken. Like peasants praying in a field to the echo of a higher call, my Brethren, let us exemplify our ritual with simplicity and grace, in humble gratitude for the gift of Freemasonry in our lives. 

~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 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: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

A Letter from the Editor



Greetings all!

Dan Gentry
     Over the last year or so, The Midnight Freemasons has grown into one of the most popular Masonic blogs around. This is due to the diversity of writers, opinions and viewpoints we are able to publish from week to week. In the beginning, there was Bro. Todd E. Creason, our founder. After some time, he invited a few to help out and now, we have a veritable staff of writers.

 
It's my job to schedule, compile, edit and write, but it's also my job to find talent. We have a few new writers who I would like to introduce. The first is Brother Daniel Gentry who comes to us from my very own district here in the 1st NE area of Illinois. The second is Brother Robert P. Lewis. Brother Lewis comes to us from the Great state of Texas.

 
Robert P. Lewis
Please welcome our new "official" contributors. I hope you enjoy their writings and their unique points of view. Our team is ever expanding, pulling in amazing talent. I'd ike to thank or writers for all their hard work over this last year. I'd also like to thank all the readers out there who read, share and comment on our articles.


Have a great week everyone. Stay on the level.

At your service,
Robert Johnson, PM
Editor

Phoenix Lodge No. 663

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley


One of the things I’ve learned in my short time in Masonry is how dependent lodges are on the actions and attitudes of their members. A single new Mason can revitalize a moribund lodge; likewise, a Brother’s poor choices can spread, and result in a once prosperous lodge falling apart. In both cases, it’s hard to predict the results. The case of Phoenix Lodge No. 663, of Mapleton, Illinois, is instructive.

Phoenix Lodge was chartered on October 3, 1871, in Kingston Mines, Illinois, a small village in Peoria County. It moved to Mapleton, a smaller village some four miles away, in 1885. The Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master for the Fourteenth District reported the next year of his visit to install Phoenix Lodge’s officers on New Year’s Eve, 1885: 

This lodge had but recently been moved from Kingston Mines. The installation was public, and though the brethren had not got fairly settled in their new quarters, everything passed off in a pleasant manner. There was a large number of ladies present; a good representation from Lancaster Lodge, No. 106, at Glasford, accompanied by the Glasford band, which discoursed music for us during the evening; a sumptuous repast was spread, and a very enjoyable time was had. I predict a bright future for Phoenix Lodge.

The following year he reported that,

In March I visited Phoenix Lodge, No. 663, at Mapleton, on invitation of the Worshipful Master, and conferred the third degree. There was present a large delegation from Lancaster Lodge, No. 106, at Glasford. Phoenix Lodge is in a prosperous condition. Their room is neatly and comfortably furnished; supplied with an organ, and with several good players and singers among their number, the brethren of Phoenix Lodge make their meetings one of pleasure as well as profit.

There’s no record of what happened at Phoenix Lodge over the next several years, but apparently they did not live up to their projected bright future. Indeed, they did not survive two months past the turn of the new century. The Grand Master’s report in 1901 went on at some length about Phoenix Lodge: 

Early in the year, I was apprised of some irregularities on the part of some of the members of Phoenix Lodge No. 663 at Mapleton, Illinois. It was reported to me that on evenings of lodge meetings, buckets of beer were taken to the lodge room. Further, that for more than a year, it had been known to members of the lodge, that one of their members was implicated in a very serious and unmasonic offense. I wrote to the Worshipful Master, stating the nature of the reports and requested an explanation. 

In response, the Worshipful Master called on me. He denied the beer story, but admitted the truth of the report concerning the member. On further investigation, I found that not only one but two and possibly three, were implicated. The condition of morals was at so low an ebb in that lodge, that it was a stain and blot upon the whole Masonic fraternity. 

I instructed R.W. Bro. G. O. Friedrich to visit Phoenix Lodge and make an investigation and unless the charges were cleared to arrest the charter.  R.W. Bro. Friedrich instructed the Master to notify his lodge that he would visit them officially February 12, which he did. After opening the lodge, R.W. Bro. Friedrich stated his reasons for being present and requested the members to make their explanations. No explanation wa, made or attempted. He then, agreeable to my instructions, arrested the charter, records and seal, closed the lodge, placed the furniture in the custody of the Master and delivered the charter and records to me. 

They are now in the custody of the Grand Secretary. I, without hesitation, recommend that the name and number of Phoenix Lodge No. 663 be erased from the roll of constituent lodges.

And so it was. Phoenix Lodge No. 663 ceased to exist, barely thirty years from the date of its charter. 

The District Deputy Grand Master, who had predicted such a bright future for the lodge, was doubtless chagrined at the necessity of the Grand Master’s action, and perhaps rued his own certainty. That did not stop him from acting in the best interests of the Craft. Charles F. Hitchcock, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Illinois, who ordered Phoenix Lodge’s charter to be arrested, had been District Deputy of the Fourteenth District when he had waxed rhapsodic about the lodge’s future. 

We can learn a lesson from Phoenix Lodge’s fate and from Most Worshipful Brother Hitchcock’s actions. Just as it only takes a few good men to make a lodge thrive by their leadership, so can the misdeeds of a few men, when they are ignored by their Brethren, kill a lodge. We must, if we would be Masons, take the right actions in all circumstances, even when it’s painful to do so, for the action we ignore is the standard we accept. MW Brother Hitchcock knew that, and acted accordingly. 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 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: m.h.shirley@gmail.com


Reflections on a Long Year

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Adam Thayer

Brethren, as the year is drawing to a close, I, like many of you, find myself reflecting upon the challenges and achievements of the past year and turning an eager eye forward to see what the new year will bring. While my year has been full of many joys, there have been many trials that I did not believe I was prepared to handle and obstacles that seemed impossible to overcome. I feel relatively safe in saying that when you take the final tally of your year’s events, you will find a similar sentiment.

While I could write pages and pages detailing all of the events of the year, it would only be a useful study for me and you wouldn’t find most of it to be interesting. I had successes and I have had failures; I lost a job and found a better one; I had a child, and haven’t slept since. What I would like to talk to you about instead is the importance of reflecting.

When it comes to education (and what is Freemasonry if not a system of education, albeit a peculiar one), reflection is the one step which has the most powerful lessons, and one that many people overlook. The scientific method places it as a step of high importance: analyze your data, then reflect on what you’ve learned from it. John Dewey stated “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience” and Jack Mezirow called reflection one of the defining conditions of being human.

For many years, the Masonic initiate spent time in a Chamber of Reflection, to analyze himself before being brought into our gentle order. While this practice has died away in most modern lodges, I would like to see a resurgence in the function, but with one change: let the chamber be open to all brothers to reflect upon their lives, and how Masonry has changed them. This period of meditation could be supremely useful for many of us, and should be at least available for those who are interested. (For more information on the controversy, be sure to read the excellent article by Bs. Brian Schimian and Robert Johnson located at here.

I have made many (many, many) stupid mistakes in my life, and the only saving grace I can claim is that I have always endeavored to learn from them and sought to make new stupid mistakes. Every regret and sorrow has molded me into someone that I hope is a better person than I was when I started this journey.

Many sports teams use reflection to improve their scores; they will look at footage from previous games to identify those things that they did well, and look for areas they can improve. In sales, we were taught to spend time each day analyzing what went right and wrong in each meeting, and identify those things that led to us making sales.

True reflection occurs best by letting the mind wander; you can guide it to a point, but you need to allow yourself to relax enough to find functional connections that you may have missed. This can be very easy for some of us (my mind has wandered off multiple times just while writing this), and very difficult for others. The important thing is to try to make connections between your actions and the outcomes, the cause and the effects. It is very easy to make false connections here, so wanderer beware! The fact that you seem to see a yellow car every time it rains does not, in fact, mean that yellow cars cause rain!

Even if you don’t make reflection part of your daily routine, I do hope you will use it during your “year-end inventory”, in the hopes that next year will be more successful for you than this past year.

For those of you who, like myself, have had a very painful year, I hope you can find comfort in the words of Ovid: Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim. (Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.) It is often difficult to identify the positive growth that can come from negative situations, however I have found (at least, in my life) that I’ve grown more during painful periods than during periods of ease. In fact, I see my life as a tree; left to grow wild, it will form a mess, technically functional but far from ideal. When pruned through discomfort and hardships, it is able to be shaped by the master gardener into a shape that is both functional AND aesthetically pleasing. It is my belief, therefore, that I will leave behind an incredibly beautiful life.

As this is my last chance to speak to you this year (and if you’re reading this next year, shame on you!), please let me take this opportunity to thank you for lending me your eyes, your brains, and your hearts over the past year. I love each and every one of you, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!

~AT

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 adam.thayer@gmail.com

Response to The Parrot Mason

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

Our esteemed editor, Brother Robert Johnson, wrote a post on “The Parrot Mason,” Albert Mackey’s term for a Brother who can recite ritual chapter and verse, but without understanding what it is they are saying. As Mackey put it, 

One who commits to memory the questions and answers of the catechetical lectures, and the formulas of the ritual, but pays no attention to the history and philosophy of the Institution, is commonly called a Parrot Mason, because he is supposed to repeat what he has learned without any conception of its true meaning.

I’m fairly certain that we all know Brethren like this. They are often distinguished by a recitation without affect, for affect in recitation requires a connection to meaning, and Parrot Masons don’t have that connection. That said, Brother Johnson said something that requires clarification: “There is no understanding in rote memorization. Understanding the lessons of the degrees and what happened in them is what matters.” He is, of course, correct, but learning ritual, I would argue, is essential to understanding the meaning of that ritual (I’m pretty sure Brother Johnson agrees with me). As cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham has demonstrated, we need to know things in order to learn new things. The more ritual I memorize, the easier the nuances of ritual become for me. The more ritual I know, the more I am able to think about its meaning; the more meaning I understand, the more meaningful my degree work is.

To put it simply, rote memorization of ritual is essential. It is not, however, the final goal. It’s the base on which we build understanding of our ritualistic work. The more I know, the more I am able to understand, and memorization of ritual is key to that understanding. After all, I can’t think if I have nothing to think about.

~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 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: m.h.shirley@gmail.com


The New Year Is Coming, Harpocrates!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson, PM

The new year is around the corner and with that comes renewal. Renewal of things both old and maybe not so old. Another beginning. As humans, we see the world and time in an odd way, we see things linearly. That is, we need a beginning, a middle and an end. From the death, springs new life. Life is after all an amazing cycle.

Although you may think at this point in this piece I am going to tell you to renew your Masonic something rather for the new year, rest easy. I'm not going to do that. But I will regale you with the tale of Harpocrates or as he may have been known to ancient Egyptians, Har-Pi-Krati. He was a god-like child figure, often depicted in the nude and sitting on a lotus flower.

He is considered in the Egyptian culture as most likely representing a renewal and new year because of a yearly consecration of peach blossoms which were given to his busts and carvings. Also, because he was the representation of Horus as a god-child, Horus representing the newborn sun at each new dawn. Masonically, there is a "cooler" connection, which is that of secrecy.

Typically in his depictions Harpocrates was shown with his finger pressed to his lips as if somehow telling us to keep a secret. So, when the Romans conquered Egypt and adopted this god, they gave him the name we have today, Harpocrates or Heru-pa-khered which meant "Horus the Child". At some point they lose the idea of renewal and focus on the outward appearance and subsequently associated him with representing secrecy, something all Freemasons value.

So, remember to keep the secrets brothers!






Planning Your Year As Worshipful Master

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB. Adam Thayer

It has been my experience that the difference between a successful year as Worshipful Master and an unsuccessful one is due in large part to advanced planning. As one of my managers taught me early in life, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!

In many states (my own included), we are preparing for installation for the ensuing Masonic year, and as such many of us are setting their sights on putting their plan into place. I myself am moving from Jr. Warden to Sr.Warden in one of my lodges, and have already begun the process of planning to be Worshipful Master in 2017. If you’re in a similar boat, here are some “on the ground” tips I’ve found that have helped me significantly.

First and foremost, decide what you want to do in your year. What do you want it to be remembered for? Pretend you’re in a lodge where you will never be Worshipful Master again (that’s easy for me, as my lodge has not repeated a WM since the late 1890’s); if you only have the one chance to impact your lodge as WM (Worshipful Master), how do you want to do it? Make a list of everything that comes to mind, no matter how outlandish, because at this point of planning there are no limits. The theme for my year is bringing Masons back to the lodge. I’ve found that roughly 10% of our members are active, and I’d like to find ways to bring some of the 90% back.

Now look at the list and add in any traditional or required events from your jurisdiction. My lodge, for instance, traditionally holds a very nice dinner in memory of our Past Masters, perform a full lodge proficiency exam for the degrees early in the year  and a more recent tradition involves the lodge attending a baseball game. I’m sure your lodge has events like this as well; check with your secretary to see if you’ve forgotten some, and add all of those to the list.

Next, ask some of the members who have been there a long time if there are
any events that used to be very successful but have been forgotten in recent years. One that I’ve been told multiple times is a card tournament; our lodge used to hold an annual cribbage tournament, with the winner receiving a nice plaque and a portion of the entry fees. Many of the older members have fond memories of the event, so I added it to the list too.

If you’re like me, at this point you have a few pages of events written out. Don’t let that bother you yet; you’re going to be removing quite a few of them!

The next step I took was to contact our secretary and our treasurer to get a lot of details; I’m a detail person. From our secretary, I got the full membership list, sorted by location. Using this, I can target those members who are close enough to attend lodge, and young enough to be physically able.

From the treasurer, I obtained the total income and expenditures for the past five years. With this, I can set a pretty clear budget, which will tell me how much I can spend without hurting the lodge. This is one of the most valuable pieces of information you can have access to and I highly recommend you make it the largest tool in your planning arsenal!

So, you’re finally ready to start planning! Go back to your list, and start to eliminate events that are too expensive, will require more work than your lodge is able to perform, or will not have any positive impact toward your goals. To aid me in this, I worked out a budget for each event, including mailing costs, food costs, and every other foreseeable expense related to that event. This was perhaps the most difficult part for me, as I had fallen in love with some of the ideas and had a difficult time admitting that the cost to perform them was too high for the benefit we would see in return.

Hopefully, you now have a list which is significantly more manageable. At this point, you should grab a calendar for the year you will be WM and start seeing how your events will fit together.
If you’re really lucky, your lodge owns your building and you are the only tenant, so you may schedule your events whenever you choose. Our lodge shares the building with a number of other lodges, an Eastern Star, and some youth groups. Because of this, we are restricted to one night a week (Friday in our case) without requesting special permission. So, I have 52 nights available to plan events on. You may have more, or less, depending on your situation.

Out of the 52 nights available, 12 of those are claimed by business meetings, and one by our Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication, bringing me to 39 nights left. Our availability for events is quickly dwindling!

In my lodge, and I suspect in yours as well, it is nearly impossible to hold any event after Thanksgiving, as most men are too busy with family events to come to lodge. This removes an additional five nights, and now I’m down to 34! Again, your calendar almost certainly will vary, but the process is very similar.

My next step was to add into the calendar those “unwritten rule” type of events. For my lodge, this used up another 8 nights, bringing me down to only 26 nights left out of an original 52! In those 26 nights, I need to accomplish as much as I possibly can, and let’s not forget that we need to leave some room for degrees and for practices!

So, I narrowed my list further, and chose the five “big” events that I felt will most impact my goal (which, again, is bringing inactive members back to the lodge). You may choose more or less, but whatever you choose you need to be fully committed to them!

Because you don’t want to overload your lodge, it’s important to spread the events out across the year. Looking at the nights you have available to your lodge, you will want to pick dates that are far enough apart that your members won’t feel that you’re putting an undue burden on their time, but still close enough together to keep them excited about what is next!

In addition, remember that your event is almost certainly going to take more than just showing up; you may have performers or lecturers to work with, caterers to line up, and mailings to send out in advance to drive excitement. Now is a great time to start planning these details with your line officers, and getting their feedback on your plans. Not only will they help you see things you may have missed, but it is important to get buy-in from the people who will be supporting your vision when the rubber hits the road.

One big caveat should be mentioned here: let your officers do their jobs, without micromanaging them. Trust your stewards to plan the dinners without asking them what type of napkins they’re using; I promise, they will surprise you at how hard they will want to work to make everything a success, but only if you treat them with respect for their office. My instructions to my stewards was simple; I have one meal that I know specifically what I would like served; everything else is up to their imagination and our budget.

Of course, all of the planning in the world doesn’t mean your year will go perfectly; you will need to make adjustments as you go, all year long. Some unexpected situations will arise, and when these happen, you and your advancing line will need to deal with the situation at that time. With good planning, however, it will be much easier to deal with these situations when they occur, and it won’t leave you in the bad position of constantly playing catch-up!

Hopefully this has helped you to get a handle on the planning of your year, but please don’t let your education on the topic stop here. Your Grand Lodge almost certainly has reference material at your disposal, as will your secretary. Even more important, don’t forget to consult with your Past Masters on this; not only does it make them feel valuable, but they almost certainly can give fantastic advice based on their own experiences. Learn from the mistakes they made, and capitalize on their successes, and everyone will think you’re the genius for it!

Now, how good are you at the ritual work? Maybe you should start practicing…

~AT

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 adam.thayer@gmail.com

The Owl and Freemasony

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson, PM

So I love owls. I always have and I have owl knickknacks all around the house. It doesn't take brothers long to ask about them when they visit. Fraternally, owls have been associated with countless groups; the Minerval Owl in the Bavarian Illuminati, Sophia, Columbia, a representation of general knowledge and even used in place of the Great Lights as a symbol in different countries. There are innumerable other references and meanings We won't get into those right now, there just isn't the time. 

When brothers ask about my fascination, they always beat around the bush a few minutes before they ask me if I have some tie to a secret Masonic organization, which is both interesting and funny. One thing that you all may find interesting is that there actually once was a Masonic order called the Independent International Order of Owls. 

It was founded in St. Louis Missouri in 1890 for the purpose of recreation and sociability among Master Masons. Its lodges were called "Nests", it's national body was called "The Supreme Nest of the World" and believe it or not, the Worshipful Master was styled a "Sapient Screecher". 

The ritual of the IIOO is published on the web (1st˚) and is an interesting read. "In its native haunts the Owl is noted as being ever the enemy of the vermin and rodents that prey on the fruits of the soil. In emulation of the Owl we would have you ever be a foe of those evils which may prey on the character and fortunes of our members."

Want a petition? Sure you do. Go ahead and fill it out, although, I have no idea where you'd have to mail it. 




The IIOO had no relation to the OOO (Order of Owls), which was a benefit society that used some Masonic Symbolism. 

~RHJ

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM 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 Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, 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 Theatrewhich 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 co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical 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.

The Second Crucifixion

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Brother Wayne D. J. Greenley

Whilst rummaging through some dusty old book in the library of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland I came across a piece of Masonic text that I never thought would have existed. It wasn’t the subject matter that I found intriguing but rather the medium it was written. I found a Masonic play named ‘The Second Crucifixion’ by Archibald Huntington Allen (unknown if he is a Brother but most likely). Of course I know of Masonic Operas, but not plays. I was so fascinated by this, and another play he wrote and I’ve written this synopsis and critique from both an Actors perspective and a Masonic perspective. This small 45 minute play may be something to do in lodge if you have no degree work. Enjoy. 

Dramatis Personae 
Masons
Christopher East (A believer in Justice) 
Nickolas North (His betrayer) 
Peter Westley (A follower of East) 
John Southman (A follower of East)
Matthew Dakin (A follower of East)
Robert Dakin (A follower of East)
Thomas Stewart (A follower of East)
William Stewart (A follower of East)
James Tyler (A follower of East)

Government Official
Pontlan (The People’s judge) 
Malchusky (Lieutenant in the People’s Police 
Borin (Member of the People’s Police) 
Several Other members of the People’s Police

Synopsis – Spoiler alert

Background

In the year 2000 (this was written in the 1950’s) the world is currently ruled under a socialist dictatorship. This world is slightly reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 where citizens are under threat of the Peoples Secret Police and food rationing is under governmental control which brings some citizens to physical and mental collapse.
Religion, philosophy and Freemasonry have been made a crime and punishable by death or forced labour. The year of 1987 saw the great purge resulting in the deaths of 4 million Masons. This play begins in Xalta, Socialist Zone 3, previously known as Washington D.C.

 Act One – A Secret Lodge Room

The Lodge opens in the third degree, though the formal meeting is dispensed with by Chris as they are in imminent danger. The lodge comes to the realization that it may be the last lodge in existence. Nick leaves the lodge unnoticed. As the concern grows further for the Great Lights, Chris attempts to raise everyone’s spirits by reading out a quote, “A sense of justice belongs to human nature…” from Albert Pike’s ‘Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry’ .James knocks at the door and passes a note from a young boy informing them the police are on their way. Before they are about to leave shots are heard behind the door and members of the Peoples Police walk in. Chris rushes to James just as he dies. All the men are arrested for plotting against the State. As Chris is separated from the Brethren he tells them not to worry about the Great Lights as they will always shine. 

Act Two – Malchusky’s Office

24 hours after the arrest, the day is dark and it is not caused by a solar eclipse. Malchusky (Mal) is annoyed that everyone, except for Chris, escaped the Secret Police and blames Borin. Borin is sentenced to 30 years in a Labour Camp. Pontlan enters and Mal informs him of the situation at hand and the capture of Chris. Pontlan appears to have sympathies for the Freemasons which Mal finds troubling. In the distance, whipping sounds can be heard which we are informed is Chris being interrogated. He has been silent until he screams out “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’. As Chris is brought into the office Pontlan queries why it is he that has to trail Chris and not Mal himself. Though Mal was empowered to, he didn’t believe he had the authority to carry out punishment on Chris. 
Pontlan asks Chris a series of questions until it is announced another member of the lodge has been captured. It is revealed to be Peter and he has been lurking outside the Hall of Justice in a poor disguise. When Peter doesn’t deny knowledge of Chris, both men are sentenced to death via firing squad. Pontlan is displeased with the judgment he was forced to pass and tells Mal to do his own dirty work in the future. As the lights dim two shots are heard in the distance followed by a crack of thunder and a deep voice that booms “Beware the Judgement of God!”

Act Three – Interior of an Old Cave

Another 24 hours later—The Interior of an old cave has been furnished as a new lodge room. John kneels down at the altar and recites the Lords Prayer. In a short monologue he questions the Lord, if this is truly the Lords will on Earth. The rest of the brethren turn up and inform John that as they escaped from the guards (one of them possibly giving them a sign) they we’re able to hide in a brothel. Thomas informs everybody that he has heard that that is where Chis and Peter have been. As they contemplate the end of Freemasonry, Chris enters. Everyone is shocked and he informs them the people have revolted against the Government. As the Brethren begin to realize who Chris really is they kneel before him. 

Artistic Critique

From an artistic perspective, this isn’t a good play for a myriad reasons:
  • The target audience for this play is small and unless you are a Freemason, you really wouldn’t understand most of what was happening. 
  • It is obvious from reading just the names of the antagonists and name of setting alone, this author had negative attitude towards Russia. However at that time it was the Russian Soviet Union and during the Cold War. This makes this an interesting piece of Masonic work influenced by political propaganda. 
  • The play is too short. Each Act is written in 6 pages or less and is to be performed in 45 minutes. This story has potential to be something bigger than what it is now. A play in which to expand, a book or even a movie (are you up to the challenge Brother Joseph James?)
  • They say there are no small parts only small actors, but Nickolas having only one line and leaving in the first 30 seconds, seems a bit of a waste. As Nickolas North is supposed to be a representation of Judas Iscariot, more story could have been written for him. 
  •   An introduction to set the stage would have been more helpful when reading this. The audience isn’t aware of the veracity of the situation at the beginning of the scene.

  • In general the play doesn’t flow very well and some situations are unlikely. For example:
    • If told the authority were on the way, a reasonable person would flee. Chris however is reluctant to do so. 
    • The character of Malchusky is the personification of ignorance and evil (and quite possibly a representation of the High Priest Caiaphas). Every artist knows, if you want to create a monster the audience can connect to, it needs a human quality (a reason for doing what they’re doing). Malchusky has no quality and it’s hard to make the audience love to hate him. 
    • The downfall of the Government announced by Chris in Act 3 was just a bit too easy and convenient. It is a poor plot ending.
From an actors perspective (not being a Freemason) I would question the need for this play. What overall message was the author trying to get across? I am not surprised that this play isn’t well known and almost zero of it is mentioned anywhere on the internet. 

Masonic Critique

From a Masonic perspective this little play is filled with Masonic allegory. A few brothers would have a good chuckle because of the blatant obviousness of the characters and the offices they hold in a lodge, just by looking at their last names. East, Westley, Southman, Dakin, Stewart and Tyler. I like the symbolism of Nickolas being called and placed in the North, as it is the darkest area in the lodge room. 
This play in some way is genius as it reflects the growing lack of interest in religion in society today and the continuously decreasing numbers of Freemasonry. If you think a bit more in depth, you’ll start to question, what would it be like if Freemasonry was outlawed?
Interesting to note that I thought Act 2 had a hint of a DeMolay ritual. Chris East being brutally interrogated is not unlike the second DeMolay ritual with Jacques de Molay being interrogated behind the scene. 
The Christian aspects of the play were interesting to read and the character of Pontlan (Pontius Pilot) added well to this effect. As a Freemason though, I think it would have been more thought provoking if the true identity of Chris East was left dubious. Other different religious aspects would work well in doing this, e.g. quotes and hints of other religions such as Judaism, Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neopaganism, Taoism and Sikhism. Not to in anyway bring down the Christian aspects of the play, but just to make it reflect the beliefs of Freemasonry. We are a multi-diverse group of men from different faiths, not a Christian Society.  

In conclusion, I say that though this isn’t a good play, I believe it certainly has its place within any Grand Lodge Library.


If you’re interested in trying to find a copy, the copyright was in 1952 by Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company. 

~W. DJ G


Bro. Wayne DJ Greenley is a Fellowcraaft (Soon to be Master Mason) hailing from Queensland Australia. He is a student at University and loves classical music as well as the theatrical arts. He is anxiously awaiting his next steps in the fraternity.