Defenders Of Freedom

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus
Bro. Brian J. Schimian

Monday November 21, 2016 was just another day. Nothing spectacular or special.  A few days earlier on Friday, I received a text from Bro. Johnson asking if I was able to be at the Stated Communication for Waukegan #78. Of course I would do my best to attend.  Lodge isn't close to home, but I missed my adoptive Lodge Brethren. When asked why, the only response was that he "had something for me". Well, that was good enough for me, I made sure to put the meeting on my calendar and planned to attend, it gave me a reason to get out of the house and it gave my fiancé a night to have quality time wth her son.

I got ready, grabbed my apron case and headed out for my journey. I was certainly excited to see my Brethren, they had just had an installation and seeing the Brothers in their new chairs was gong to be fun. I made my way around the hall shaking hands and saying hello to everyone. I also got a chance to do my thing... I grabbed the WM's hat and snapped a selfie in front of the dais. What can I say, old habits die hard. When I was in DeMolay, all the Chapters had this thing where we would abscond wth something from another Chapter. Usually a mascot or something with their name on it. I will admit, every once in a while when traveling, I come across a Lodge that houses a DeMolay Chapter and I still think about it.

I know to most on the outside of Masonry it is silly and to many inside, it is just another pin and piece of paper to collect and joke about... but I am blessed to live in a rather forward thinking GL jurisdiction that would go out of their way to recognize public service personnel. I am even more blessed by the Brothers I have sat in Lodge with across this Country. I am blessed that Bro RJ is a part of my life and thought to include me for this recognition.  I was completely caught off guard and humbly surprised when I was called to the East to receive the “Defenders of Freedom” certificate and pin from the WM Duran & RWB Johnson.



One Brother made the statement "...hold in high regard, the pins & certificates that we achieve because of the passion the man has put forth to get them...". I never thought of it that way. Throughout my entire career, I made it well known that if I got wind of any special recognition, awards or certificates coming my way, I wouldn't be there to accept it. That's not why I did the things I did. I did them because it was my job, and I knew it was a job that most couldn't do. I was blessed with the ability to do certain things and do them very well. I don't regret my decision to be that way, it made my command chain understand that I was truly doing my job because I believed in the mission and making life better for those around me. That mindset made me very effective for many years.

This is certainly the most important certificate & lapel pin I could ever receive. It calls me back to my career, it reminds me that I have Brethren that care and think about me and most of all, it reminds me of all that Freemasonry has given to me.  A debt that I certainly could never repay in a thousand lifetimes. To all the Brethren in IL that are receiving this recognition, I thank you for your serine and sacrifice. Being including amongst your ranks is truly humbling to say the least.

It really is the little things in life that make it all worth it.

“Start Level, Finish Square.”

~BJS


True Or False? The Legend Of Harry Truman's Silver 33rd Degree Ring


by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason

There has always been a rule that 33rd degree rings are to be made ONLY of gold.  It caused quite a stir when Frank S. Land, the founder of Demolay, had a ring crafted of silver.  And he wore it! There's no question about it--that's absolutely true.


But years later, a rumor started that Harry S. Truman, after he received his 33rd degree, was seen also wearing a silver 33rd ring.  As a Past Grand Master of Missouri, and a former President of the United States, the idea he would have worn a 33rd degree ring made of anything other than gold caused quite a controversy amongst Scottish Rite Masons.  Some said it simply wasn't true--that Truman never owned or wore anything other than a gold ring.  Others claimed the ring he was seen wearing was actually Frank Land's ring--they were friends.  But Harry's silver ring never turned up, so as time went on most people believed it was probably just a rumor--a myth.  

When I received my 33rd degree in 2011, I asked one of the active members of the Supreme Council about the rumor that Harry S. Truman wore a silver 33rd ring.  I was told very curtly that it never existed.  I was also reminded that in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 33rd Degree Masons were to ONLY wear the ring they were given.  I wasn't to even think about buying one of those flashy 33rd rings with the lacquer and diamonds.  There were rules about such things after all.  And there was absolutely no evidence what-so-ever that Truman ever owned, wore, or had a ring like that made.  

Case closed.  It's false, right?

Well guess what turned up last December?  That's right.  A silver 33rd degree ring.  Harry S. Truman's silver 33rd degree ring no less!  And we even know now where it came from.  In hindsight, it makes perfect sense.  It was inscribed inside to  Harry S. Truman . . . a gift from Frank S. Land.

The Missouri Lodge of Research's 2016 Truman Lecture will mark the first time that both of those silver rings will be exhibited together.

But what's really odd is just about the time that ring surfaced, something else vanished!  That article I wrote some years ago claiming that ring was most likely a myth because there was no evidence it ever existed.  Odd, huh?

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning 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 the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org 

Black Friday - A Chance to Exercise the Art

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Amidst the debates on whether or not stores and businesses should close for the Thanksgiving holiday, there are those underlying thoughts about the day after Thanksgiving -- Black Friday. Black Friday is a day for retailers nation wide, to throw open their doors and deliver savings so big, so amazing, so insane, that the public will be motivated to get up and go to those retailers at 12:01 am.

The days following Black Friday seemed to echo the sombre and sickening pathos normally attributed to that shroud, that color we typify with the color Black. We watch news clips on television, YouTube and cell phone videos of human beings, reverting to ferocious animal states as they battle one another over monetary savings.

Kids trampled to death, men and women alike suffocating in the thick of herds of what can now only be some distant cousin, some untamed, ungoverned, rapacious beast. But alas, it is us. It is human, although unrecognizable.

This year, stores did close and then decided to stave of some of the anarchy by opening later in the evening on Thanksgiving. I decided that for the first time since the last and only other time I had gone Black Friday Shopping, to go out to see what I could see.


What I saw did not disappoint. I don't mean that in any way to suggest I was looking for disorder, rather, I was hoping to see people being people. People caring and being courteous. Amid the sea of winter coats and red Starbucks cups, were the voices of happy people, saying "Excuse me", and complementing each other and of course, complaining about the long lines.

The moral fabric of humanity is a weave of altruistic principals, something we practice as Freemasons. It is something we are charged to do. To be courteous, kind, friendly, humble, to be the example. In the coming weeks we will be tried, Brethren. We will be taken to the edge and back again. Our patience, our affability will be put in the spot light. Use the stresses of the season to exercise our art of Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love.

I know it can be hard, but the stakes are as high as they've ever been, and the world is watching. Be Freemasons.

~RHJ

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He also serves as the District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Supporting Widows and Orphans

By Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Illinois recently announced they were closing the Illinois Masonic Children’s Homes in 2017.

In the email release sent to all 469 Illinois lodges, the Grand lodge indicated that the Board of Directors of the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home voted to close the homes and transition away from residential care. Citing liability concerns and significant increases in the cost of liability insurance, exposure to lawsuits, and the costs of spending $2.4 million per year on the 40 residents of the home, were given as primary reasons the decision had been made.

On social media there were a number of brethren who both agreed with the decision and others who expressed concern over the closure.

Masonic Children’s Homes, like Masonic Nursing Homes have largely closed across the country. Most of the institutions were started more than 100 years ago before the social safety net that exists as we know it today was created.

So how in the 21st century can the masonic fraternity still support worthy distressed Master Masons, their widows and orphans? How do we define charity in 2016? Do we still as a fraternity have an obligation to the distressed Masters Masons, their widows and orphans?

The answer to these questions can be complicated. Burdensome government regulations, a litigious society and drastic changes in health care have all contributed to the changing models of charitable care.

In Illinois after the sale of the Masonic nursing home, the Grand Lodge established the Illinois Masonic Outreach Services (IMOS). This program provides assistance to Master Masons in a number of ways such as helping with home care, buying hearing aids or providing short term financial assistance. This program reaches far more members than running the nursing home facility did.

While the forms of charity may change over time, Freemasonry continues to meets our obligations by helping others.

~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. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com

Donald J. Trump: Freemason Or Not?

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason 


"You have to think anyway, so why not think big?"

~Donald Trump
45th President of the United States

Never in American history has the result of a Presidential election come to such a shocking conclusion than did the election of 2016, when Donald Trump, to the stunned surprise of millions, defeated Hillary Clinton.  Perhaps the reason it was so surprising, was that Hillary Clinton had been favored to win the election from the beginning, and all the polling had supported the foregone conclusion that Clinton would easily win.  Everybody was wrong.  The unorthodox Trump campaign delivered a populist message that resonated with an electorate that was sick of "business as usual" politics by electing a complete outsider to the nation's highest office.

The outspoken real estate billionaire has been in the public eye for more than thirty years, most recently for owning the Miss America Pageant, and for his popular television show The Apprentice.  After announcing his candidacy for President, Donald Trump went on to defeat 17 Republican challengers, including some of the party's best and brightest, to win the Republican nomination.

There will most likely never be a campaign as ugly as the Presidential Campaign of 2016--lets hope not.  It was a free-for-all of both Republicans and Democrats against Donald Trump, and yet in the end, Trump prevailed.  They will be studying this election for years to come, but in the end, Donald Trump did a better job connecting with those who mattered--the American people.

There have been a number of reports that Donald Trump is a Freemason, and suggestions have been made since the election that the Freemasons were behind the shocking election results.  In fact, a number of nude statues of Donald Trump by Las Vegas based sculpture, Ginger (aka Joshua Monroe) appeared in a few major cities during the primary campaign.  One of the most interesting things about those distasteful statues was the fact that Donald Trump was clearly wearing a Masonic ring.

However the truth of the matter is, Donald Trump is not a Freemason.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning 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 the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The New Ghostbusters

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Chris Streeper


I know what you’re thinking… I’m reading a blog about Freemasonry, what does the new Ghostbusters movie have to do with that? Much like anything esoteric, to the uninitiated it means absolutely nothing; however an enlightened mind or a trained observer can find within the film series some striking parallels. And although the new Ghostbusters movie has gender swapped the roles of the main characters, I can promise you that there will be no mention of allowing females to become Freemasons. With this assurance, you can safely proceed.

First I must admit, I’m a Ghostbusters purist. Although I was a young child when I first saw the original Ghostbusters movie I was enamored with it. I loved everything about it; the epic mythology Egon and Ray would share from Tobin’s Spirt Guide, the fellowship the team had while sharing mediocre Chinese takeout within the hallowed halls, the symbolism of a temple hidden within a refrigerator, and of course high tech gadgets, Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My point is, I really liked my Ghostbusters the way it was back in 1984.

Five years later Ghostbusters II was released. The nuts and bolts of the movie weren’t vastly different from the first film and it did pretty well at the box office. What viewers found at the beginning of the movie however was that five years into Ghostbusting the team had fallen on hard times. They really weren’t into Ghostbusting as much as they had been when they first formed the team and took up residence in an old firehouse. Ray and Winston were performing at children’s birthday parties. Peter, the illustrious leader of the group, appeared to have split away from the group completely and was hosting his own cable TV show. Egon was the only Ghostbuster still actually dabbling in the science of the paranormal. To defeat the villain, the team had to reassemble and examine not only themselves, but the inner workings and infrastructure of New York City. I’m not going to lie, watching the Statue of Liberty cross the Hudson to “Higher and Higher” was awesome! Sure, it was pretty good flick but it wasn’t the original Ghostbusters.

Today we find ourselves with 32 years having passed since the 1984 release of the original film and there is a new team of Ghostbusters which hit the theatre, and came out on video last month. Although there is a new director at the helm and team is now entirely female, the cast of characters is still the same; Erin (Peter) is a kooky scientist who hides her true passion because she wants to recognized as cooler than she appears, Abbie (Ray) is all in and not concerned with anything else but Ghostbusting and studies everything she can get her hands on about the subject, Jillian (Egon) is the foundational support of the group without whom nothing could be accomplished, and then there’s Patty (Winston) the new initiate who doesn’t really fit in and wouldn’t understand the symbolism behind a Twinkie. The ladies don’t operate out of a firehouse, the live atop a Chinese restaurant. They don’t drive a 1959 Cadillac ambulance, it’s now a beat up old station wagon… but it’s still a Cadillac. Although things seem to have downgraded a bit, the new team of Ghostbusters has a host of new tools at their disposal; an ectoplasmic power-glove, a paranormal wood chipper, and the internet… Seriously, what would the 2016 Ghostbusters be without YouTube?

Some of you may be thinking that I just wrote the worst movie reviews in history; some of you might be seeing the bigger picture. If it hasn’t become clear yet, let me break it down frame by frame… I didn’t want to see the new Ghostbusters movie at all… In fact, I was adamantly opposed to going to the theatre only to sink my money into what I knew would turn out to be nothing more than an abomination of a film I loved 32 years ago. My kids however caught a glimpse of the preview and were dying to see it, so I did what any dad would do… I took my kids to the movies. It was there with a giant bowl of popcorn in my lap, sitting next to my sons who are just about as old as I was when I saw Ghostbusters for the first time, that I had a startling revelation… This movie was pretty good. Sure, there were some parts I didn’t like, such as the updated Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid) theme song performed by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott, but those things were few and far between. Overall I found the movie to be an exciting, humorous and faithful rendition to the original film. As a matter of fact, after watching it I’d probably be willing to go see the sequel. Who would have thought?

We are members of a legendary fraternity which has a notable cast of characters, however the modern Craft seems to be mere a shadow of its former self. The Masonic Services Association (MSA) has conducted research, as have a host of other organizations and individuals, which show the Craft to have been in a steady decline over the past thirty plus years. Oddly enough, there has been a recent uptick in the amount of men interested about the Fraternity. Sadly, while the research points to a surge in interest it also shows a decline in membership. This decline often occurs not from the death of senior members but from the newly initiated dropping out and seeking fulfillment elsewhere; often within the first five years of joining. I won’t go into the list of reasons cited by men who leave the Craft, but trust me when I say it most often has to do with stagnation and complacency within our fraternity.

Innovation is a good thing, except it seems when you are a Freemason, which is silly because we are an organization which portrays itself as a progressive science. Needless to say, innovation is quite often debated within lodge rooms ending with members to scared to try out a new idea because it “wasn’t the way we did it my year.” What those same members don’t realize is that while the fraternity has been in decline it was not them, but the advent of the internet which helped anyone interested about our fraternity to find out more; especially via the blogosphere on sites like Christopher Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies and on YouTube where public discussions about the Craft are held regularly by groups such as the Masonic Round Table and the Prince Hall Think Tank. The internet has almost become the new door to our fraternity.

Like it or not, Ghostbusters (2016) will always be compared to Ghostbusters (1984) and that’s a mighty big shadow to get from under – no matter how talented the cast, the writers, or the director involved with it. One thing I found interesting about the new edition was that ALL of the original stars got behind the film. They helped promote it, they helped produce it, and they even had cameo appearances in the film. They didn’t grumble about how the new Ghostbusters wasn’t done the way they did it in 1984, they worked with the new team to produce a pretty amazing product. Sure, every single update to the franchise doesn’t land successfully, but they do pay homage to the original film and the various elements contained within each are 100% Ghostbuster.

The point I’m making is this… much like the traditions of Freemasonry, the original Ghostbusters will always be something special to me. It was great just the way it was, but my memory has attributed it with this legendary status which causes me to remember it better than it actually was. I believe the same can be said of the fraternity, and although the fundamental tenants of Freemasonry have remained the same, each time we alter even a minor aspect of the Craft it becomes steeped in controversy. I believe that the same is true with the new Ghostbusters. Yes, the original was and still is something very special; the good news is that there’s a whole new generation that’s about to feel the same way about this version.

With all that being said, the new Ghostbusters was pretty good. No, it wasn’t the original, but it still felt familiar. I still enjoyed it… a lot actually, I even felt like I got what I paid for. I did however walk out of the theatre with this understanding; the modern version of the film would not have been nearly as successful without the involvement and support of the original cast members. It was not only their guidance, but the faith they put in their successors, which made the film as good as it is. It is honoring the past while embracing the future which makes the new Ghostbusters movie great, and that same concept can help Freemasonry the same way.

You can take this for what it’s worth, but I leave each generation of Masons with the following taglines; To the Past Masters and older generation of members, “We’re ready to believe you.” To the newer members, including myself, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.” So I guess in our case, crossing the streams would be very, very good.


~CS



Bro. Chris Streeper is a York Rite Mason and a member of Dickinson Lodge #1324 AF &AM in Dickinson, TX. He is an alumnus of Sigma Nu Fraternity, a veteran of the United States Coast Guard and a professional educator.

Before I Forget

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer & Guest WB David Bloomquist


Not too long ago, while listening to the radio, a song made me start contemplating the three stages of man. The three stages that we recognize are very ancient, going back at least as far as the Riddle of the Sphinx. As Freemasons, we are taught that the three stages allude to the three degrees of Freemasonry.

Like most Freemasons, I have a lot of Slipknot songs in my iTunes account. ;) The song that prompted this discussion was “Before I Forget”, and the chorus specifically says:

“I am a world before I am a man

I was a creature before I could stand

I will remember before I forget.”

While the three stages may be slightly out of chronological order for musical necessity (music being one of the seven liberal arts), I was still struck by the allusion presented.

First (chronologically), he states “I was a creature before I could stand.” This is the beginning of the first stage of man, the age of the profane. This is the newborn who has not yet learned to reason. He is dependent on others for every basic need, not yet a man, just a creature living by instinct.

The next line states “I am a world before I am a man.” Anyone who has raised a child can probably see where I am going with this; at this stage, just moving into manhood, the boy believes that not only does the world revolve around him, but that he IS the whole world. While this stage is amazingly annoying to others, it is still necessary as part of the learning process. As Pike often reminds us, we must learn ourselves before we can hope to know God.

The final line reminds us “I will remember before I forget” and represents man in age. Anyone who lives long enough will experience the curse of memory loss, but before this happens it is a blessing to remember what you have learned, and to pass it on.

This reminds me of how surgeons are taught a new procedure: watch one, do one , teach one. Freemasonry has a similar allusion: see it, do it, pass it on. This not only applies to ritual, but to the values and teachings of the order; as important as it is to learn our values, it is equally important to pass them on to the next generation.

The divisions of the three levels are not distinct; I can say that sometimes I feel like I am in different stages in the same day. We progress and regress through them all the time.As Master Masons, we must often go back to the lessons we were supposed to have learned in the Entered Apprentice degree. A Fellowcraft still has much to teach.

Apprentices are given an overview of the tools they will use, Fellowcrafts are taught how to use the tools, and the Master is taught how to make his own tools. However, just because the Master knows how to use and make the tools, his education isn’t truly complete until he has passed his knowledge on to an Apprentice. A pianist may practice his entire life, becoming proficient at playing all of the classic compositions, however if he never shares it, never contributes anything new, can he truly be said to be a master of the instrument? No. He has achieved old age, believing himself to be a master, but he never truly learned all of the lessons of an apprentice.

One final line from the song that strikes me as an apropos lesson for the Master Mason: “All I ever do is delay. My every attempt to evade the end of the road is my end.” As Master Masons were are taught to face death bravely, not cower before it. The end of our road approaches, and there is nothing we can do to delay the inevitable; take this time, then, to practice these lessons and pass your own knowledge on.

~AT & DB

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!

WB. David is a member of Lancaster Lodge #54 in Lincoln, Nebraska where he served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and has since served as Tyler. He is also a member of the York Rite and Scottish Rite where he is one of the founding members of the valley's Knights of St. Andrew. He is one of 13 living people who enjoy reading Albert Pike.

Behind Door Number One...

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Nicholas Wennerström


I’ve lived in Lake County, Illinois since 1992 and a proud resident of Libertyville since 2007. The community has much to offer and plenty of historical landmarks. One such landmark is the Libertyville Masonic Lodge #492. An ornate and beautiful building made of stone, having tall doors and water marks which adorn the side. The building almost has mystical power over the viewer and it's of the like of a building that you will never see built again. It’s a stunning piece of architecture. It's appearance alone causes just about anyone to wonder what goes on inside and the community spins yarns about anything you can imagine; of course, none of those people have been inside. After all, what goes on inside is a secret.

I decided to become a so-called "knocker". Freemasonry requires a prospective member to seek membership on their own; never to be recruited. You meet with the lodge's Worshipful Master and you’re encouraged to come back; yet very little is discussed if anything about what Freemasonry is or what happens in the lodge. I was only told there is no hazing. Darn. You’re also invited to meet other bretheran and ask questions, but you get few answers. I returned in a few weeks for dinner. This, in my opinion, is part of the initiation. Are you willing to return and seek out something you know little about? That the people you meet are unwilling to tell you about? 
 
I sat and ate and met some amazing men including my future intender Dan Lutter. I asked questions about what I was getting myself in to. What is this? Is this promise keepers? What will I learn? What do we do? Sure, I watched some YouTube videos and learned Masons killed David Bowie and who wouldn’t be inspired by Nicholas Cage’s high school award nominated National Treasure but that’s the media talking; no one in Libertyville however was. 
 
Esoteric is a word I have never heard or used until I became a Mason. It refers to a small group of people who have unique knowledge. Indeed, there are plenty of good Masons who talk about the esoterics of Masonry. It’s just that; talk. Nowhere in Freemasonry will you find a definitive book or single point of truth like a Torah or Quran. We have no Pope or Imam. We simply have each other. Imagine, 5 million Masons worldwide meet, eat and talk each month yet we have no leader in North America or a solemn and holy book to refer to. We are a collective fraternity of individuals. 
 
While the Internet is loaded with falsehoods and speculations about our fraternity; we are indeed a society with secrets. The secrets aren’t about a New World Order or anything sinister. In fact, if you ask a Mason he will tell you there are no secrets and may struggle after 30 years to explain what Masonry is. He isn’t being cheeky or sly; perhaps the secret runs deeper.

The reason my brothers in Libertyville couldn’t tell me about Masonry or why every Mason has a different explanation of what Masonry isn’t so much the sacred oath as much as it is that the secret lies within him, the individual Mason. Men pursue membership in our fraternity for a variety of reasons; some seek the mystery; others just want the membership card. For many though, it’s a journey of personal enlightenment and personal improvement. To be a better man, husband and father. To talk with others about the history of Masonry, yet if you listen to the conversation, no one person agrees with the other or ever quotes a source. The essence of Masonry is about self-reflection, inner peace and spiritual grace; all for the betterment not just of his brothers but all of humanity. It's personal and only we, the individual Mason, can interpret the code.

I’ve learned that the secret isn’t a secret at all. We’re still searching for it.

~NW

Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32 is a Master Mason out of the 1st NE District of Illinois and member of Libertyville lodge #492. He is also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago. He is a father of two boys and devoted husband and currently suffers from Benjamin Buttons disease. 

Happy National Forget-Me-Not Day

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

Are you ready for the holidays?

Oh, I'm not talking about those holidays… you know, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year… the ones that march us out of the old year with all its "vices and superfluities" and into the hope of the new year. No, I'm talking about the less common holidays that give us an opportunity to celebrate the forgotten, the mundane, the obscure.

This is 21st century America. We are an equal opportunity nation and must give these quirky days their moment in the sun — not to mention their own individual marketing event.

Let's hear it for the revenue generating enthusiasm of National Ice Cream Day (December 13), Popcorn Day (January 19), National Doughnut Day (first Friday in June), Sun Screen Day (May 27) or even National Underwear Day (August 5).

And don't forget to celebrate the days that are just plain absurd like If Pets Had Thumbs Day (March 3), Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day (August 8), Hoodie-Hoo Day (Feburary 20), Have a Bad Day Day (November 19) and, my personal favorite, No Diet Day (May 6).

Well, there's a little wheat among all that chaff. Did you know tomorrow, November 10, is nothing less than National Forget-Me-Not Day?

To those we might refer to as "the profane," National Forget-Me-Not Day is an opportunity to remember friends, family and loved ones.

But we, as Free and Accepted Masons, know it to have another meaning. I know what it means; and you know what it means. It's not really a Masonic secret but, as for the rest of them, let's keep them guessing.

Happy Forget-Me-Not Day.



~SLH
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

In Search Of The Perfect Album

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


Lately, I’ve taken to going on early morning walks, in an effort to shed some of the pounds that being an active Mason has put on my waist. To keep at a good pace, and keep myself from falling asleep while walking (did I mention that it is EARLY in the morning?), I’ve taken to listening to music, and it has gotten me thinking about perfect albums.

Of course, the first thing I attempted to do is define what MAKES a perfect album. I know you’ll have your own definitions, but here are my criteria:

1) The album has to tell a story. This knocks out many of my favorite albums, but for it to be a PERFECT album, it needs to have a complete theme that is supported by both the lyrics and the melody. While there are many fantastic albums that are just collections of songs, they don’t meet the qualifications.

2) Every song has to stand on its own, even though it also contributes to the story. That was a very tough rule, because it knocks out most Pink Floyd albums (does anybody really just listen to “Bring The Boys Back Home” on its own?), but for the album to be PERFECT, each song has to be individual.

3) The album has to make me feel something. It can be happy, or sad, or anger, but it has to be moving. If your art isn’t moving, is it really art?

So, with those three rules in mind, I was only able to come up with a few perfect albums, which I’ll list later on for those of you who are interested. However, since this is obviously a Masonic blog, you must have realized that there is a Masonic connection here.

One of my Masonic mentors was discussing the issues he was having with memorizing ritual, when he made the comment “I know the lyrics to every single Beatles song ever released, why can’t I remember a few sentences?” The point he made is incredibly valid: why do we all have such an issue remembering our lines of ritual when we have no issue remembering trivial things such as song lyrics?

The answer, of course, is a combination of simple repetition and an emotional connection. Our favorite songs are those that we have listened to thousands of times, mumbling along to the words until we’ve heard them so many times that we know them by heart. In this way, we have literally rewritten part of our long term memory to contain the lyrics, so that they can be instantly recalled when needed. Strengthening this memory bond even further, those songs that move us the most form an emotional bond, where the song evokes further memories of friends we heard the song with, where we were, and what we were doing.

What if we were to apply this same mentality to our ritual work? What if we were to listen to the ritual being performed so many times that we had no choice BUT to learn it? Even more, what if we were to form emotional connections to the ritual work? What if we were to know it as intimately as we know our favorite songs, and every time we heard it we couldn’t help but sing along, and be flooded with the emotions of when we first heard it?

Our ancient brethren understood this. The most effective form of memorization is through something called a memory palace, where you place your memories in a visual place, and then cement them in place by using sounds, smells, and emotions to keep them firmly in our memory. Once memorized in this way, they knew that it could be instantly recalled, repeated, and analyzed for further understanding.

How well do memory palaces work? I have no idea. Honestly, I’m just now learning how they work, and it will probably be years before I have a good enough understanding to make use of them in ritual. Hopefully you will begin this journey too, and together we can search for perfection in our ritual work.

Further, ritual work (when done well) would fit my definition of a perfect album: each degree tells a story (and all three, combined, also tell a story), each lecture stands on its own, and most importantly, the ritual itself is incredibly moving.

As promised, here is my list of “perfect albums”. Bear in mind that your taste in music almost assuredly differs from mine, so please feel free to add any perfect albums in the comments. They’re listed in release order so that it doesn’t appear that I’m ranking them…


The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Uriah Heep, The Magician’s Birthday

David Bowie, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

Alice Cooper, The Last Temptation

The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Everclear, Songs From An American Movie Volume 1 and 2 (I know, this is cheating because it’s two albums, but it was clearly meant to be one)

My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade

~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 Chamber of Reflection and Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Dan Gentry



In our craft, we have a very esoteric feature that is no longer widely used, which would cause one to have deep reflections before and after the degrees. It is under utilized and mostly non-existent in Blue Lodges, and this is of course, the Chamber of Reflection. It is an esoteric symbol that had been a requirement to move forward in the degrees before many states and jurisdictions decided to have it moved to an appendant body of Freemasonry, and away from the Blue Lodge. You see, in our beginnings we would require a candidate to meditate in the Chamber of Reflection before entering into the First Degree. "..who has long been in darkness...", does that ring a bell? My Brothers, just think how this would impact any candidate in the degrees today. I understand this is not a popular notion in this day and age, when we are trying to streamline the process and putting on one day classes, but hear me out. 
 
It is my belief that in Freemasonry, it is not what we perceive to be the end of the journey that matters, but it is the journey itself. Yes, the impact of the journey is the most important part of any Masonic endeavor. So lets take a journey, let's look at the Chamber of Reflection, from an Esoteric point of view.

It is no secret that a Chamber of Reflection has certain items within, and though they may vary, there are some things that, for the most part, stay the same. Either an image of a skull, sometimes with crossbones, or a physical representation of such. Those seeing this symbol would usually relate it to death, or mortality and this is not incorrect. It does though, have a deeper meaning to one who can study it along with the other items. There is an hourglass, which again on the surface represents time itself and the lack of abundance. There is either actual bread and water or a representation of such, and at a glance, this could represent nourishment or the need for such things. 

There is a representation of a rooster (hopefully not a real one running around, but hey, to each their own). Again, at a glance this would represent the beginning of things, as the rooster brings in the day. Also a lantern or candle representing the small amount of light that is shown into the world. A sickle or scythe which at first look would represent the reaping of the harvest or the things that will benefit us yet to come. There are usually the letters V.I.T.R.I.O.L or Visita Interiora Terrae, Rectifcandoque, Invenies Occultum Lapidem. Which means (or is sometimes written) "Visit the interior of the earth, and purifying it, you will find the hidden stone", which most of us would relate to the changes and acceptance of the changes that are to come. The final common item is either the room itself which is a representation of a cave, or in some cases, there is a physical piece of Earth, which at first look, may represent the very place in which we exist. 

Now what if we dive into esoterics here? To help you along, I will help by simply assigning alchemical symbols and esoteric values at their simpliest form to show you what may really be involved. First off, an esoteric mind will take the skull and crossbones, the dirt or the cave representation, and the hourglass together. In doing so, we see not only brevity, but the old saying Carpe Diam, or seize the day. Learn to live the life of a Mason and apply it to every second in every day, in every facet of our being, to gain the most experience. Now, top that with the sickle, and we learn to reap quickly what we harvest, or be good intenders or mentors to those that we are given into our care. We look at the cave and realize it can be assigned the Alchemical symbol of Earth, and we add that with the rooster or cockerel, which represents sulfur, and then VITRIOL comes in with a common meaning of learning to purify the earth, or in this case ourselves, so that the best possible harvest may come to bloom and we need to do this through hope and charity (Agape).

The main event in all this, is that once you study the Temple of King Solomon in what I believe to be it’s proper assignment in being built, and that is that of a representation of the human body as it is shown as the temple, or more specifically ourselves or the individual Mason. After you take your third degree, research this, and once you grasp the idea, even at it’s most basic level, take it into the Chamber of Reflection and meditate upon it, then the whole idea of Freemasonry, at least for me it did, will come to light.

~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