Why Memorial Day Matters

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Memorial Day for many is the beginning of summer and time to spend outside with family and friends.   I have done so many times myself, but in recent years I have begun reflecting on what Memorial Day really should mean for all of us.
Sgt. Arthur J. Knott 1917-1944
In World War II my Great-Uncle Arthur J. Knott was serving in the 8th Infantry Division, 45th Artillery Battalion of the U.S. Army and was participating in the Battle of the Bulge near the Hurtgen Forest in Germany.
The 8th Division was driving hard through what was described as “the dense and forbidding forests…During this day and night artillery hell in the mud and snow of the Hurtgen Forest…”  The 45th Artillery was having on average one soldier per day wounded during the battle.  On December 24, 1944 Sgt. Knott stepped on a landmine and died two days later from wounds he received because of the explosion.
I have some letters that Art was writing home to his sisters.  The first few are from July 1944 when he was in England and things were going well.  In an October 13, 1944 letter, while he was in Belgium Art wrote, “I haven’t been feeling so well for the past few weeks.  My back has been hurting right smart, but the doctor don’t do it any good.  You know I am not a young chicken anymore and I can’t take it like I used to.  Have you heard any more about Junior (his brother/my Grandfather Hiram Knott Jr. who had been injured in Europe)?  How about Dad and all the rest (of his siblings)?”
Things were tough for Art and were going to get tougher in the weeks ahead, as the Battle of Bulge began in full force.  Yet from his letters, I could tell he was mainly concerned with his family.  How were his brothers and sisters doing?  He had two other brothers in the service, Hiram Knott, Jr. and Dillard Knott.  In many of the letters he was asking about his father Hiram Knott, Sr., but seemingly had not heard from him in many months.
Art’s letter give insight into what I believe most soldiers are feeling, that is they are serving their country to help and protect their loved ones at home.  They are ensuring our freedoms and liberties to help our democracy survive and prosper.
I never knew my Uncle personally, but learned his story him from his brothers and sisters all whom have passed on now.  
To the Gold Star families who have lost loved ones in the service to our country, I extend to you my heartfelt thanks for helping defend freedom.



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

The Divisions of Empires - The Scottish Rite Northern Masonic and Southern Jurisdictions

A story of jurisdictions within the Scottish Rite body of Freemasonry.

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



*Updated May, 2015 from the original which was published in The Working Tools Magazine

In light of the recent events of Celebrate the Craft 2016, the annual fundraiser for the Southern Jurisdiction House of the Temple, the upcoming November 12th celebration of Scottish Rite Day, and the absolute awkwardness that was the Scottish Rite NMJ survey, I found myself fielding tons of questions as of late regarding the Scottish Rite, it's jurisdictions, schisms, differences and similitudes. So below is a slightly revised version of an article I wrote for the Working Tools Magazine quite a while back. Enjoy...

When I joined the AASR (Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite) in 2012, no one told me that there were two jurisdictions within the order (in North America, let alone the different versions which exist globally). All I knew, was that when I took the tour of our new cathedral (The Valley of Chicago) it felt like both a country club and a great fraternal organization to be a part of. 

Let’s explain for the brothers who might not know about the two jurisdictions or empires as I jokingly referred to them. We begin in the fog of antiquity. There are some documents and writings which suggest that the Scottish Rite was active in the 1730s in England, but I am not here to debate the origins. I will talk about what we know. 

We know that the Scottish Rite was basically a bunch of Scottish Masons who left Scotland to go to France. Some say they (the Scotsmen) were defectors, but this is not official. After a stay in France these Scottish Masons were tired of their Masonry being diluted with French culture (again, additional speculation), so they left and took with them the system of degrees.

There were many spinoffs of the Scottish Rite system, Memphis-Mizraim for instance with its 96 or 99 degrees depending on which source you use, but again, I wont be touching that one. When the system reached America the Scottish Rite system was almost a product, in that it was being sold by the multitudes like traveling salesmen selling vacuum’s or steaks to an unsuspecting sucker err brother.… There was no quality control, no authority on the degrees and there were versions galore. So, the Mother Council of the World was created in Charleston North South Carolina in 1801. They added a few degrees to the existing 25 and now had the well known 32 degrees plus 1 honorary degree, the 33rd (some say the 33rd was actually taken from the competing “Cerneau” degrees, a system which later caused the biggest schism the fraternity had then known.)

They adopted a new motto, a latin phrase, “Ordo Ab Chao” meaning Order Out of [from] Chaos. Most would agree this phrase was adopted because it refers to the chaotic status of the Rite during the preceding years, in plain language, it was a mess, but no longer. Well, ….kinda.

There were still a few rogue groups of Scottish Rite enthusiasts way up in the North and North East (“Cerneauism”) They were ordered to get their stuff together, and they did. In 1806 the Supreme Council of The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was formed, holding precedence over fifteen states, the remaining thirty-five plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico being under the Southern Jurisdiction.

Coming back now to the year 2012, there I was sitting in the theater of the VOC (Valley of Chicago) receiving my degrees over an amazing three days. I remember at the time I was working a 1st shift job, I woke up at 4:30 am, worked 9 hours then got dressed and went to the reunion at night. I was super tired. Nevertheless, I had a great time. I was introduced to the awesome system of Scottish Rite Degrees. 

During that reunion, the Valley of New Orleans had come up to share in the fellowship and put on a “Red” third degree. That degree was amazing, but is a story for another time. Over dinner I sat with the Brothers from New Orleans and that is when I first learned of a difference between our two jurisdictions.  I was thoroughly confused. The Brothers from New Orleans advised me to check out the Master Craftsman Program, which is a correspondence course set up by the Southern Jurisdiction to help us understand the degrees and gain better insight. 

So needless to say, I did it. I started the MCP (Master Craftsman Program), and that's when I realized that these degrees were different. Not just a little, a lot. The names were different, the degrees were different, the messages were different, not one thing was the same, not even the “Royal Secret”. When I looked to the all powerful Internet for further information, there were no official statements or even articles which explained the differences of these two organizations. There was nowhere to turn other than forums like Reddit. So I really hope this article helps anyone who was in my situation. Well, it wasn't long before I decided I needed to see this “Southern Jurisdiction” first hand.

Lucky for us, this was easy. Both jurisdictions recognize each other, although if you see a degree in either jurisdiction it doesn't count if you are a member of the opposite. And now I knew why. The answer? Because they are completely different. You would think that the AASR is the AASR no matter where you go, but it isn’t. I talked to my good friend, mentor and SR brother, Frank about visiting the Valley of St. Louis. Then I called the Valley of St. Louis and inquired what I needed in order to attend their Spring Reunion. 

The secretary advised me to bring my current dues card and my cap. ( I thought, I guess I have to buy a cap?). I asked if there was a fee for us to pay, and there wasn’t. I asked about hotels in the area, and they gave me a bed in the dorm for free. Apparently this trip was going to cost me a tank of gas, and that’s it. I was excited. My next step was to ask my Scottish Rite Mentor, Frank about these caps. Frank loaned me one to wear on my stay. At this point, all I knew was that the hospitality at the Valley of Chicago wore the typical black cap. Turned out, in the SJ, everyone wears a cap. I later bought one while at the Valley of St. Louis.

So, I got down there, had a great tour, stayed in the dorm, was fed meals and given drink. It was definitely Brotherly love in action. I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I saw the degrees of the SJ. I had a little grasp since I had done the MCP, but again I thought, “How different could it be?”. The answer again was COMPLETELY. I’d like to outline a few things and differences between the NMJ and the SJ, between these seemingly amicable empires who strive so hard to spread light among brothers. 

The first thing which strikes a difference between the NMJ and SJ is the degrees themselves. In fact this is probably the biggest difference. The easiest way to describe it, is that where the SJ maintains the look and feel of a traditional degree, complete with an alter, VSL (Volume of Sacred Law) and various implements associated with the degree, the NMJ uses only a scripted play, no altar, no aprons just a skit which should impart the lessons contained. The SJ tends to style each degree as most blue lodge and York Rite members are accustomed. There is an explanation of the degree, a password (in some degrees), specific aprons and esoteric fundamentals explained. Most of all, each degree in the SJ is set up where it feels like a lodge being opened and closed with a small drama in-between and a typical explanation on the meaning and secrets of the degree after. 

The NMJ, usually starts with a preface, and then explodes into what I can only describe as “Broadway”. There isn't an explanation into the mysteries per say, but rather a specific “take away” that the degree team hopes you have seen and realized. Further the NMJ uses “passports” which you have stamped after each degree in order to keep track of what you have seen and also each page which has the title of the degree also has the “take away” or moral lesson printed therein. No passwords, no grips, no aprons. Just a performance with a message, which is pretty modern. 

In short, the NMJ was a modern adaptation of a play, where the SJ was a ritual that you watched, like a play. I hope that makes some sense. 

Further differences between the two seem to be that, as I stated before, in the NMJ, the black hats worn by members are typically worn only by the hospitality (Although this varies by state and sometimes particular valley.) whereas in the SJ, they are given to each member as a part of their initiation into the Rite (again this varies from valley to valley). On the whole, all members regardless of how they got their hat, are encouraged to wear their black hats at all SR events in the SJ. The basic membership or 32nd degree members in the NMJ typically do not wear caps.

Another interesting difference is the emphasis on the 14th degree and it’s ring. In the NMJ little is mentioned about this ring whereas again, in the SJ there is an explanation of it and sometimes one is given to each candidate. This practice has been suspended in many valleys due to the cost of buying a ring for each candidate, nevertheless, candidates who have received the 14th degree in the SJ are encouraged to acquire and wear this ring and to wear it always until which time IF they are chosen to receive the honorary 33rd degree. The NMJ really focuses on the Fraternity aspect or even social qualities and really emphasizes the 32nd degree.

There are a great many more differences as well, for instance in some valleys in the SJ, the members perform a public play for the profane (uninitiated), this play is actually the 20th degree of the NMJ. It deals with George Washington and Benedict Arnold. What is a private degree for the NMJ is a public event in the SJ. The 4th degree of the NMJ in many cases is given as a video presentation and is kind of a “general preview” of what to expect in the degrees of the AASR NMJ. According to some sources, the 4th degree video was originally intended to be a promo for the AASR NMJ for Masons and their families, and possibly to give them an idea what the SR was all about and somewhere along the line, it just became the 4th degree. The 4th degree in the SJ is again, more of a lodge ceremony similar to the blue lodge and York Rite degrees. 

The degree structure in both is a bit different as well, in the NMJ and SJ the 4th through 14th degrees are under what is called “The Lodge of Perfection”. However, after this there are some differences. The NMJ then confers the 15th and 16th degrees under what is called “The Princes of Jerusalem” while the SJ confers the 15th through18th as the “Chapter of Rose Croix”. The NMJ confers the degrees in the “Chapter of Rose Croix” in just two degrees, the 17th and 18th. From there the NMJ confers the 19th through the 32nd under the “Consistory”, while the SJ confers the 19th through the 30th under the “Council of Kadosh” and finally, the 31st and 32nd as the consistory. 

After seeing degrees in both jurisdictions it was apparent to me that both merit applause. Hard working Brothers, putting on the best degrees they can for the betterment of the AASR. I will continue to receive degrees in both jurisdictions because they are complementary in certain ways. 

Still after all this had a question, “Why the difference?”. Why was the SJ just rocking these revised Albert Pike rituals and why did the NMJ decide to revise and in many cases continually revise degrees? While there seems to be no “official” language, there is speculation on the reasons for the contrast.

One reason often cited, was that Albert Pike being a confederate officer, the status of which, was “held against him” and so the North refused the degrees he rewrote, siding instead with the Charles T. McClenachan version, which was a re-write of Pike’s re-write. Although there is often stated that there is no contention between these jurisdictions today, writings often refer to these jurisdictions as “rivals” in the early days. 

Also, it should be noted that the Charles T. McClenachan version of ritual was from what I have researched, not a re-write of any published work of Pike’s, but a re-write or updating of Pike’s unofficial ritual, Magnus Opus and that Charles T. McClenachan used parts of the never published “Secret Directory” which was a hand written explanation of degrees in a five volume set that the NMJ had acquired. 

Another often cited reason for the differences is yet another objective opinion which harkens to the idea of the “Northerner’s need for progressive and liberal changes.”. In this notion it is supposed that the “old degrees” hold no truth for today’s Freemason, and that the degrees need to be updated continually to be properly understood. This was accomplished by updating the degrees and rewriting them to showcase more familiar and relatable concepts while trying to maintain the original “take-away” or lesson of the degree. Essentially a modernization in an extreme form. What I find interesting is that if this is indeed true—that the degrees need updating to be understood by today’s Mason, why then have the blue lodge craft degrees not done this? I would say personally, that no degree needs updating, but that is my humble opinion. 

To revisit the idea posed earlier, that there is no contention and that today both jurisdictions work in unity together, is an accurate statement as it relates to visitation, recognition and cordiality, but is what I would describe as a partial facade when it comes to the attitudes of individual members and their beliefs about the “other guys”. In my travels, I have found that members believe in the superiority of their system, although they respect and recognize each other. Of course there are jokes about the respective “camps” on both sides. In fact while in the Valley of St. Louis, I was told,  “We don’t have any fancy submarine degrees.”, as he chuckled, and then made a jab about the NMJ having video degrees but it was all in jest. Yes, I did say that degrees are on video. This still comes as a surprise to Masons residing within the NMJ and SJ members as well. It's not something many of us are happy about. But this paper is not for critiquing, rather to advise and educate. As for the SJ, I have heard in my own valley, some rather interesting comments made about the “clinging to old ways” and monologues that “droll on and on…”, referring again to the SJ rituals. There definitely seems to be some underlying animosity. 

In the end, the AASR, whether you're  talking about NMJ or SJ, have excellent systems of moral instruction and degrees. Which ever you join, whether you like it or not, is recognized by the other which means you can visit either one you like. There is of course the problem of degrees themselves being recognized, which they are not. So just keep track of the degrees you see and take notes. I think there is an interesting conclusion to be made, which is that perhaps the AASR is not 32 degrees, but rather 64 degrees with honorary 33rd degrees in both, which again, are different from each other. 

I hope this aids in your search for light my Brothers. Here is to all 64 errr 66 degrees of the AASR!

Below is a video which just came out. It is made by the NMJ I believe in prep for the Scottish Rite Day on November 12th. It has some good history and is only 3 minutes long. Enjoy. 




RHJ


References: Scottish Rite Ritual and Monitor, Committed to the Flames, Bridge to Light, Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia.


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 past 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 First Step in Masonry

An examination of the role of the Senior Warden
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer



Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to sit as Senior Warden for a number of Entered Apprentice degrees. Of course, as often happens, my mind starts to wander during the “downtime” of the station, and I found myself considering the truly magnificent role the Senior Warden plays, that we usually take for granted.

At a relatively early point in the degree, the Senior Warden teaches the candidate, who is not yet a Mason, the proper way to approach Masonry. This lesson is often glossed over, as immediately after the man takes the first obligation and becomes a brother, however there are infinite depths that can be explored from this very short, simple teaching.

The Senior Warden is responsible for helping the candidate take his first step in Masonry. What a powerful moment, when we are reminded of how Masonry should be taught: an experienced, established brother guiding an inexperienced one, by example and by allegory.

The candidate is taught (and we are reminded) of the importance of walking and standing uprightly. This lesson is repeated over and over throughout the three degrees, however this is the first time the candidate is exposed to the idea.

The candidate is also taught to take growth slowly, and to only take one step at a time. It is very easy, in our excitement for the teachings of the fraternity, to get ahead of ourselves and try to learn everything at once. Freemasonry, however, is a progressive science, and it is pointless to try to learn the wisdom that we aren’t prepared for. So, for now, just take the one step in front of you.

Finally, we remind the candidate of the importance of acting on the square. Again, this is reemphasized at many different points in the degrees, however as it is one of the most valuable teachings of our institution it cannot be discussed enough.

All of this is taught in just a few sentences, which is a constant reminder to me of the depth of teaching that our ancient ritual writers were able to understand, and that we hope, by a constant application of study, to rediscover.
~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

How Good it is for Brethren to Dwell Together in Unity

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

On a recent trip to Washington DC, I had the honor of visiting Potomac Lodge No. 5.   Potomac Lodge is located in the heart of the Georgetown area of DC.  It was a fantastic night for a visit as the Entered Apprentice degree was being conducted that night.  In addition Corinthian Lodge No. 18 of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia was visiting.


The lodge room of Potomac Lodge No. 5 in Washington DC
One of the first things you notice in any visit to a DC lodge is diverse array of brethren that are in attendance.  These brethren are from all walks of life, many of whom are career military, work in government or are civilian contractors.  
Though I didn’t personally know any of the brethren, I was welcomed like a long lost friend.  We had dinner before the meeting, where the conversation was both interesting and enlightening.  
As with every lodge, Potomac Lodge has many historical artifacts in their possession.  But no other lodge in the world has the gavel that George Washington used at the laying of the cornerstone of the United States Capitol building.    The actual gavel is stored in a bank vault across the street from the lodge.
The brethren of Potomac Lodge did a fantastic job with the ritual and floor work.  Four new brethren were initiated as Entered Apprentice’s that night.  You could feel a true sense of excitement in the room as these new brothers began their Masonic journey.
It was a great pleasure to also meet the brethren of Corinthian Lodge who are some of the finest Masons I have ever met.  There seriousness in regards to the craft was obvious.


Brethren of Corinthian Lodge No. 18 MWGLPHDC who were visiting Potomac Lodge.

I encourage you to visit a lodge in DC if you ever have the opportunity.  You will find the brethren friendly and ready to welcome you.   I have found the visits so gratifying myself that I became a plural member of Naval Lodge No. 4 in 2014.  It is truly an opportunity to “Dwell together in Unity.”

~GJK

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

A Poem

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Brett Thomas



Untitled

The Master stands, chisel in hand
His canvas is a living stone, his canvas is a man.
Shaving here, honing there, the Master perfects the stone
As time continues onward, the perfect ashlar is shown.

Intemperance, pride, greed and the like
The Master quells with every strike.
The living stones, imperfections all
Fall as dust with the hammer's fall.

The rough stone, chisel, and circumstance are furnished by the Master
My choices are the hammer's strikes, making the perfect ashlar. 






Bro. Brett Thomas is a Florida professional firefighter and a newly passed FC. He is a member of Cabul Lodge, No 116 in Green Cove Springs, Florida.

Lighten Up Francis

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer



With apologies to our ever-patient editor, Robert.

I recently enjoyed a discussion with some of the other Midnight Freemasons, regarding page views (which is the only solid metric we have to measure our success) and how we had noticed a correlation between the depth of the topic discussed and the amount of viewers that we reached. Of course, if you’ve ever been involved in any organized Masonic education, you’ve had this discussion too; in fact, the Nebraska Grand Lodge Education Committee has it ever year when we’re planning our topics!

As educators, we all want to dig deep into the guts of Freemasonry and teach how it ticks, but unfortunately this turns off many of the people we are trying to reach, who would much prefer something lighter and more easily digestible. Those few scholars who do brave the depths of our more advanced topics are rewarded with a wealth of knowledge, but the more average Mason wouldn’t get past the headline “A Judeo-Christian Examination of the Middle Chamber Lecture”. (That was not a random example, it’s a paper I’ve been dying to write)

As entertainers (and let’s be honest, that is a part of our job as well), we are under the constraint of giving the public what they want, even at the cost of sacrificing some of our deeper esoterica. If we do our jobs perfectly, you will be entertained, and you will learn something in the process. If done poorly, we either write something fun with absolutely no substance, like we’re the pop musicians of Freemasonry, or we write something so dense that nobody can understand it, like modern day Albert Pikes.

The issue becomes this: what level do we write at, to pull in new viewers, to keep our current readers coming back, and to bring back viewers we may have lost. Does that sound familiar? What if we substituted “viewers” for “brothers”? Isn’t that the same issue that most of our lodges are having right now? In my Scottish Rite valley, it is referred to as “The Three R’s”: recruitment, retention, and reinstatement.

In education, if you’re very lucky, you have someone with a big-picture view to balance out the needs of the viewers with the needs of the writers, and we’re blessed to have an editor who keeps us in line but still gives us the freedom to write what we want, and for that I am infinitely thankful.

So, now I’m going to turn the question around to you: what do YOU want to see here? We have this great feedback section at the bottom of every post, we would love for you to use it!!! Let us know if there’s something you want to read about. If you read one of our papers and want more like it, tell us. If you think we’re completely wrong about something (it happens more than you think), tell us. Page hits is only a useful metric to track how many eyeballs we reached, but what we really want to know is how many minds did we reach!

~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

Bringing Back The Light Part 5: The Return Of The Rite

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Illinois, Sean McBride holding old Homer Royal Arch sign
Part 5 of the Bringing Back the Light Series

The Royal Arch had an important role in Freemasonry in Homer, Illinois from the beginning of Freemasonry's story in that community.  In fact, it was Royal Arch Chapter funds that built the Homer Temple in 1896.

But the Homer Royal Arch Chapter's light went out just a few years ago--its long history ended with little more than a note in the Lodge minutes and the surrender of the charter to the Illinois Grand Chapter.  We took the metal Royal Arch sign down from beside our entry door outside, and tossed it in the junk room.  There was little that could be done to save it at the time--the Lodge struggled each month to just get a quorum to open the Lodge.  The Lodge knew when the Chapter went under that if something didn't change soon, they'd be next.

MEGHP Sean McBride and Greg Knott prior to Admiration Chapter opening for the first time
A lot has been done in the last three years, but the Lodge has a long way to go.  The last thing you'd expect us to be thinking would be about bringing back the Royal Arch.  But that's exactly what a few of us were thinking.  And we began talking about it in earnest with the Grand Chapter of Illinois.  We had some different ideas about what a chapter might look like in Homer.  We didn't seek to reform the original chapter--we thought we had a far better idea.  We wanted a new chapter--a more regional chapter.  We wanted a chapter with a particular focus on Masonic education and member development.  We wanted a chapter that wouldn't only thrive, but could serve as an Education resource to other York Rite Chapters and Blue Lodges in the area.  And the Grand Chapter liked that idea very much.

And that's how the idea for Admiration Chapter was born.  In fact, it is still going through the process of being chartered, but in Illinois, there are few Chapters doing work that is getting more talk and attention than Admiration Chapter in Homer, Illinois.  Even before we've got a charter, we're growing rapidly.  We have great meetings, short on business and long on excellent educational programs.  During our last meeting we had a moderated discussion on civility that was probably one of the best meetings I've ever attended.  A few weeks ago, we had Chapter degrees at Homer Lodge--nine candidates went through those degrees (including the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199).  There were probably more Masons in the Homer Temple that evening than had been congregated in that building in many decades.

Admiration Chapter members with nine new Royal Arch candidates at Homer Temple in April 2016
We understood that Chapter would play a key role in bringing back Homer Lodge--in fact, we believe that Admiration Chapter will help a lot of Lodges because our focus is on education.  That's what our new members want, and that's what we so often fail to provide.  Boring meetings are much of the reason we can't get our members coming to our meetings, or retaining the interest of our new members.  It's going so well with Admiration Chapter that even the Grand Chapter is looking at some of the things we're trying to do and how they might apply some of those same principles at the State level--providing our members with good education, and resources so that they can continue to explore and come to understand and apply all that Freemasonry has to teach to their own lives.

As I said in my first book, Famous American Freemasons, our Fraternity has always attracted industrious men.  It still does. 

~TEC 

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Depression In The Craft

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


Recently, I made a post on Facebook about how depression and comedy go hand in hand. The feedback I got was surprising; a lot of Masons wrote me in private, saying they too were depressed, and it made me think: am I depressed? Is Freemasonry filled with depressed people?

Depression seems to be more prevalent among certain mind sets: the artists, the aesthetes, those who are creative and appreciate beauty. Those who, in a search for truth and beauty, may find themselves naturally drawn to a society that teaches the importance of both.
I’ve often joked in the past that after finishing a big art project (like writing five papers in a month), I experience the artistic version of postpartum depression; I feel drained and empty, overwhelmed at the thought of ever writing another word, and completely disconnected from the world around me. Of course, it is nothing like real postpartum (which involves hormones and other complicated things), but it’s a pretty appropriate metaphor for my experience.

Science has long shown a solid link between creativity and mental disorder, and I know that personally when I’m at my most creative I’m also a complete wreck. As Lord Byron once said, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched.”

Freemasonry is the perfect home for the artist, who can create and share with his brothers in a place where criticism is, generally, positive and useful. The written word is especially powerful, as we value the exchange of knowledge so highly, however our craft has also enjoyed the talents of many successful painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, and those skilled in stagecraft, all of whom find that they may continue to refine their work within our metaphorical walls, and in return hide allegorical messages in their product for us to discover and enjoy.

As for me, I’m just trying to recover from the mad rush of papers in March and April, and force my fingers back onto the keyboard. I’m sorry I haven’t been as active in writing as I had been in the past, and I hope that I’m on the uphill climb of this roller coaster again!

~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

The Secrets are All Out There, Jack

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Mike Kennelly


I recently had a co-worker ask me about joining the Freemasons. He noticed the emblem on my car and of course my Masonic ring. I was excited. Our small lodge does not receive many petitions. 

I asked why he was interested in joining the fraternity and the answer he gave stopped the petition process cold. “I have been having a lot of medical issues, Jack” This guy is a huge Duck Dynasty fan and my children informed me that some character on the show calls everybody "Jack", so now this guy follows everything he says with "Jack". 

He continued, “I have heard that if you’re a Mason you can get help with your medical bills”.  I replied “My name is Mike, and that is not a good reason to join. Yes there are some innate advantages to being a Mason, which comes with the work and time you put in, but Masons join to help others, not to help themselves."

He was not happy about it but I told him I could not sign his petition to the lodge at that time, and that maybe he should learn more about the organization before deciding if Masonry was right for him. It turns out, Masonry was not right for him. 

Shortly after this he began to somewhat harass me about Freemasonry. He apparently did some “research” online and found out as much as he could about the secret rituals, handshakes, and other secrets of the fraternity. 

One afternoon he cornered me and said, “You Masons are nothing special, Jack. All of your “secret” rituals are on line, HAHA!” He caught me off guard but I stayed cool and said sarcastically “Yeah, that stuff is probably all true, I mean, it is on the internet.” and then I walked away.  He did make me think though, "Is that true? Is all of our ritual really posted online?"

I did my own research and was really surprised as to what I found. He was right, all of our secret rituals, handshakes, and passwords are out there and very easy to find.  I did find a lot of fluff as well--goats, skulls, etc. 

Another day he cornered me again. “You Masons are liars, Jack. You guys say that you do not show favoritism to other Masons but from what I read that's not true. I read about a guy who got out of a traffic ticket because he and the police officer were both Masons.”

Again I didn’t react or take the bait. I just smiled and said, “Doesn’t work for me, it seems that there must not be any Masons of the Department of Public Safety because I get a couple of tickets every year." But, out of his negative darkness I did find light. I had an afternoon free and used that time to contemplate his questions and remarks. 

First off, let me tell you how I feel about the fact that our “secrets” are easily found online. At first I was saddened and upset that some brothers, for whatever reason, decided to publish our rituals online. I thought of motivation. "Was this a brother that had been kicked out? Was it for financial gain? Why would someone go through the effort of passing through the degrees just to give it away?"

But then, in a flash, I realized the truth, and was no longer sad or upset. The truth is that is does not matter. Sure it would be great if all of stuff we kept behind the tyled door remained there, but the actual physical acts of ritual are to me,  not the important part of Masonry. What is important is the promise of being a Mason.

When men become Masons they make a promise not to give the secrets of Masonry to anyone. Yes, the secrets are out there, given away by men who are far from Masonic, but the key is that no one will ever hear the secrets from me. 

It's similar to money. Physical money is worthless. It’s just a piece of fancy green paper. It has no value and is not backed by any physical commodity such as a shiny rock. The value of money is in the amount of a product someone is willing trade you for it. The rituals we do are the same.  Yes they are intellectually valuable to Masons but without understanding them in the proper context they are worthless. To non-masons just knowing the ritual is akin to trying to pay your dues with pesos. No value, wrong context. 

But then why would any man want to become a Mason if everything Masons do can be found out for free and without going through the work of passing through the degrees?

This is where the real value of being a Mason comes in. The real value is in the man that can keep a secret, not in what the secret actually is. A man that can keep his word about something that many find unimportant and even silly, tells me something. It says that my trust in him can extend much farther that the lodge room. If you cannot be trusted to keep even the most trivial secrets to yourself when asked to do so, especially after promising to do so, how can you be trusted with anything? 

I certainly would not go into business with or let that person borrow money. I would never tell them anything personal for fear that they would turn around and tell it to the man standing at his other shoulder. I cannot trade the secret of ritual for anything, it can be found for free, so holds no "intrinsic" value, but the trust earned by proving that you can keep a secret can be traded for the rest of your life, that does.

That brings me to the statement about Masons looking out for Masons. Yes Jack, you are 100% correct. Masons do look out for other Masons. We do this because Masons come with the value of trust. No matter where they have travelled from, a true Mason has done the work to learn the secrets but more importantly the Mason has done the work to keep his secrets. This Masonic trust does sometime have advantages. Sometimes it can help you land a job, the trust can lead to business contacts and more business opportunities, and this trust can lead to lifelong relationships that always pay you back and I do not mean monetarily. And according to “Jack”, being a Mason can save you  traffic ticket money and points on your licensee, but I have never had such luck.  

Membership has its privileges and that is a natural part of life. Just as gangs attract like-minded thugs and criminals to fill their ranks, Masons attract like-minded men to help fill their ranks as well, both in and out of the lodge. 

So I will continue to not take the bait from the profane when it comes to Masonic Privilege. Not only do I value my ability to keep the secrets I also value my time. And that is my two cents, Jack! 

~MK

Bro. Michael Kennelly is a new Master Mason being raised in Williams - Grand Canyon Lodge #38. He is also the father of three ages; 16, 14, and 10, he is a busy brother. He is a utilities director for a private golf course in Flagstaff AZ. Bro. Kennelly lives by the motto "CDC" (consistency + discipline = CONFIDENCE).

Bringing Back The Light Part 4: The Museum

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

The Homer Masonic Temple Museum (IL)
Part 4 of the Bringing Back the Light Series

So thanks to our previous efforts at Homer Lodge No. 199, the former junk room had been cleaned out.  New carpet had been put down, but we didn't really have a plan yet for that spare room.  About the only thing in that room was three glass display cases (leftovers most likely from past business tenants on the first floor).  And we're looking at this huge pile of historic records and artifacts and trying to figure out what to do with all of it--specifically how to tell the story contained in those records and those objects we found up in the attic.  It was a no-brainer.  We could display the best pieces on the walls and in the display cases in our spare room.

And so we went about deciding what we'd put in that room.  We found an old projector, along with two sets of old hand-tinted glass degree slides.  We found several old Master's hats (including a collapsible silk top hat).  There were old collars and jewels from the Lodge, from the York Rite that had a long history of the building, and the Eastern Star.  In fact, once curtains were hung in that room, the curtain tiebacks are actually Eastern Star jewels.  One of my favorite things was something that Greg Knott found rolled up in a tube.  The original 1896 blueprints for the Lodge printed on cloth.  Greg scanned them and we framed one of the best reproductions to display.  Without even trying we filled those cases and the walls with the story of Freemasonry in Homer, Illinois. 

Todd E. Creason examining some old degree slides found in the attic.
But something interesting began to happen as we went along--we began receiving donations.  One of the first items we got was the altar that belonged to a Broadlands Lodge, which had merged with Ogden Lodge some years earlier.  The members of Ogden Lodge wanted to see it put to better use than collecting dust in their back room.  One of Ogden's members died and his daughter donated some of his personal items to the museum, including his Shriners fez.  We have received a few photographs of past members taken during WWII and Korea that we'll be hanging.  Ogden Lodge also donated some beautiful old tracing boards that we have prominently displayed.

The museum is quickly outgrowing our little room.  We have plans to take over the hallway walls and dining room as we get further along.  We also have plans to beginning documenting our present day work as well by hanging some new photos on the walls of our restoration efforts, and our resurgence in the community.  We may be an old Lodge, but we're an active Lodge--the history continues, and we believe the story is a long way from being over.

We've had a few open houses since where we've opened the museum.  We have plans to do that on a more regular basis.  Each time we've opened the Lodge the public, we've collected stories.  Almost always as people look at the photos on our walls and the pictures of our Past Masters, they'll point at something or someone in particular and tell a story about something the Lodge was once involved in, or a story about one of the men or women involved with the bodies that met in our building over the last 160 years.  And I'm sure as we go along, we'll collect many more.

We should all remember that Lodges are often historic places, and we should take the effort to preserve that history, and find ways to share that history with the communities we're in.  If you don't have room like we do in our Lodge, perhaps find out if your local historical society or county museum would be interested in sharing some of your history.  It's been pretty remarkable what the response has been to our little museum, and the reactions we've gotten to it.  

~TEC 

Todd E. Creason, 33°, is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org