Guarding the West Gate

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Guarding the West Gate, the practice of being diligent in who we as Freemasons, let into our craft. Much has been written about the practice of investigating candidates. Some Grand Lodges perform background checks, others do not. Some bar a man from entry based on the self-admonition of having a felony, in other cases Grand Lodges make the call based on his background check. And still others, Illinois included, leave the decision solely up to the brothers, even if he has had a felony.

This is all well and good. Barring potential criminals and the like from the entrance of such an auspicious organization as our own, but what about barring someone who just doesn't cut the mustard? What do I mean by that? At the risk of having brothers claim that I am espousing elitist practices, I would like to ask the craft at large, "What is the bare minimum required to join a lodge?" There is no real prerequisite for joining a Masonic lodge today. We are (almost without exception) born free. We are recommended already, otherwise we wouldn't be at the door. Having a "good report" usually goes along with the recommendation and the result of the investigation committee who has already reported, otherwise you wouldn't be at the door. You are a man. It's more about who you know than qualifications, so it would seem.

But before we get to this, a recent conversation I had seemed to set my mind aloft with thoughts about the realistic chance of someone not being "Masonic material". As we stand today there is, realistically speaking, no chance of anyone ever really not being able to join. Yes, an atheist, a woman etc. etc. But the regular guy next to you? What's stopping him? Nothing, save for the brothers' acceptance.

Do we not want brothers to be of service to the lodge? Do we want them to understand that we are a philosophical society first and that charity, necessarily, is a byproduct of the teachings of Masonry? Are we certain they know that Freemasonry is not just a social club, and further that joining for purely social endeavors should be frowned upon? Do we want them to know and realize that we make good men better, not just from hanging out with men of good character but through internal work?

What can we do then to ensure that the men who knock on our doors not only meet the requirements but also exceed them? What can we do to make sure that they will indeed learn a lecture, and understand it as they perform it? What can we do to establish a mindset of perpetual heightened self governance and betterment? Lodges around the world have continued the process of honestly vetting their potential members. Some lodges, taking up to six years to become a Master Mason. Why though? I'd be willing to bet that those men who make the grade of Master Mason probably remain active. They rarely miss a meeting--they've got too much time invested not to go.

Perhaps the key is to establish not just a system of knowing a man, but to have candidates for Masonry have some skin in the game, not just money, but perhaps a six month requirement of attendance, learning and writing projects. Perhaps then we may flush out those who might not make the cut, but also, amongst the others who continue, establish a solid foundation of Masonic knowledge. We also may find that candidates who at the beginning, may not have been "Masonic material", at the end, are enlightened to our concepts.

Being a Freemason is serious business. A blog post from Braden Lodge No. 166 was published in April of 2014 and is titled, "Why You Shouldn't Become a Freemason" and you can read it HERE. In it, Bro. Gallagher outlines a series of misconceptions about the craft, what you're looking for and what you should join instead of Freemasonry. Business contacts -- The Rotary. Pancake Breakfasts -- The Lions. Social clubs -- The Elks or Moose.

The point is, we need to understand that just because a man passes the criteria of generally being an okay guy, that doesn't qualify him for membership. Whilst our brothers continue to let in men based solely on good character alone, we struggle to maintain our identity as a philosophical school, teaching men those age old truths to which the higher minded are necessarily beckoned towards. We are flooding the market with warm bodies instead of active minds. We are lowering our status quo as the preeminent organization to which uncounted men have promoted and encouraged its interests based on the moral and intellectual attainments of the members.

Brothers, guarding the West Gate is more than a background check or knowing the moral fiber of a man as being exemplary. It is owning to the fact that we should not be satisfied with letting the drone of nature, the useless member of society admission through the porch of our hive. We are the best and should expect nothing less. The truth of our existence and our mission to leave this world better than we found it is at stake.

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson 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.




Proficiency

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


Last night, I sat my annual re-certification for individual proficiency. In Nebraska, we have multiple levels of proficiency; there is the proficiency you have to prove before moving to the next degree, the proficiency that each lodge much perform annually to show that they are performing the degrees correctly, and the “blue standard” of proficiency, the individual proficiency.

In Nebraska, to obtain your individual proficiency, you have to perform roughly 80% of the ritual work from memory (the remaining 20% is “monitorial”, or able to be read from a book). You are allowed to make up to three mistakes during the recitation. If performed in a single session (which is generally not done these days), you will speak for approximately 5 ½ hours, start to finish. Very few people actually undertake the ordeal, and of those who do, most people take a year or longer to finish all three degrees and all of the lectures.

For those few who do, the work is far from over; to keep the proficiency, you’re required to perform all of the degree work and lecture work on an annual basis, in a “round table” format. The round table format is pretty much exactly how it sounds; a group of men sit around a table, each taking turns going through the lines, one after another. Instead of focusing on one role (as you normally would for degree work), you’re constantly shifting from one officer to the next, and never really know what you’ll end up doing the next time around the table.

I personally find the round table format more challenging even than the solo recitation that was required to originally obtain proficiency; with the solo recitation, you can get into a rhythm, and as long as you don’t lose your place you will be ok. In the round table, you never really find a rhythm, and you’re relying on others to perform their role correctly as well. Of course, the balance is that you’ll repeat less lines overall, and depending on the number of brothers there it may be significantly less.

Now, if your state follows a similar proficiency path (or whatever you may call it), that was probably unnecessary background. I’m sad to admit that I don’t know much about proficiency outside of Nebraska.

What I noticed this evening, however, were experiences that I bet are universal to Freemasons. I saw brothers helping each other out when they got stuck; never in a condescending manner, but solely for the joy of helping a brother in need. We would each offer a clue to the missing word or words, and if it was obvious that he was really stuck, there was someone who would step in and take over for him by silent agreement.

It wasn’t the grand gesture that we think about when we think of helping a brother in need, it was the more everyday aid and assistance that we pride ourselves on without ever bragging about.

I’m not really certain that there is a “moral” to this story, as much as a reminder of the little things that separate us from the rest of the world. We have many great moments of “big” charity work, times when many people are affected by our actions, and it’s easy to forget about how much larger of an impact these tiny moments can have.

If you haven’t ever obtained your individual proficiency, it is definitely worth pursuing. Even if it takes you a long time to get through all of your proficiency exams (hey, it took me a year and a half), you should still work toward it, as you’ll gain a deeper understanding of our rituals and their meanings. In fact, the whole reason I worked on mine was so that it would be easier for me to research other Masonic topics without having to constantly pull out my ritual book. As a nice bonus, you’ll get to see a quiet moment of Masonic charity up close and personal.

~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!

From the East to the West

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM



It was a beautiful autumn morning in Central California in 1936. The rays of the sun began to cast a beautiful light on the fruit trees, which were beginning to bear their bounty.

Robert Hayes went out to his mailbox to fetch the morning paper. Robert loved the mornings, even though his love of the morning rarely showed through his usual grumpiness. This was his time of the day to read and catch up with the events of the world while his wife fixed his breakfast. Robert slowly sat down on his rocking chair stationed on the front porch of his modest home. The quiet morning was disrupted by the sound of a truck making its way down his driveway.

The Model-A pickup came to a stop near the front porch where Hayes was sitting. Over the top of his paper, he could see the truck was loaded down with furniture. Hayes could see several sets of eyes peering at him from behind the furniture stacked on every available inch of this old Ford.

“Good morning! I'm sorry to bother you sir. I wonder if you could spare some water. My radiator has run dry.” The man sitting on his front porch looked up from his newspaper and he looked the man up and down. “The well is right over there, help yourself.” he said with a grumble.

“Thank ya sir., My name is Chester, my friends call me Chet.” Chet took his bucket to the well and pumped it full of water. “I do appreciate your kindness.” The man on the porch replied with a surly grunt. Chet tried to strike up a friendly conversation. “Beautiful place you have here sir, everything is so green. It's been a long time since we seen such lush ground and those beautiful fruit trees.” Hayes grunted his agreement.

Chester swallowed hard “I hate to ask you sir but are you hiring fruit pickers? My family and I are good workers and we could sure use the money. We ain't asking for a handout. We work for everything we get.”

Hayes not bothering to look up from the paper said “Nope! We got everyone we need. Ain't hiring.” Chester’s heart began to beat faster. After clearing his throat the nervousness in his voice made it crack as he began to say “Are you sure Brother? My family and I are awfully hungry and we are nearly out of money. We could sure use the work.”

The redness in Hayes’s face began to show as he, in one motion threw his paper to the floor of the porch and he rose from his chair. “You damn Okies!” Hayes said in an angry tone of voice “You damn Okies ruin your ground, taking every single time of it growing wheat, not caring for the land you own and when the winds come and blows your soil to kingdom come you high tail it out of there!” Hayes tirade continued “I don't know if you are aware of this mister but the rest of the country is in a depression too. The local folk here are barely making it too and they need jobs too! You give me one good reason why I should turn away one of my neighbors and give their jobs to you and your brood? Then, to add insult to injury you have the unmitigated Gaul to call me your Brother! Mister I've never laid eyes on your my whole life and you think you can come in here and claim to be my family? The nerve you got!”

Chester lowered his head. There was silence for a second as Chester looked Hayes in the eyes, which were red with anger. “I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean to insult you.” As Chester’s shaking hands began to make a sign. “I seen the ring you are wearing” Chester said in a quiet, nervous voice. “I'm not sure how things are done here in California but back in Oklahoma this here is the way we signal distress. Theres some words that go with it too.”

Hayes face showed his surprise. “Are you telling me you are a Freemason?” Chester slowly nodded his head. “Yes sir, I am a Past Master and now former Treasurer of Guymon lodge 335 in Guymon, Oklahoma.“

Chet continued “Before the devil winds started I was an accountant. I had practiced for many years. I kept the books and did the taxes for most of the farmers and the businesses in Texas County. Ten years ago business was booming and all of us were doing pretty well when the wheat prices were high. We had a strong lodge and luckily we built up a large charity fund."

“When the stock market crashed and the winds came, our world was turned upside down. We tried to take care of each other and we did pretty well for several years. We made sure everyone had food and folks could keep their houses. We had hoped God would take pity on us and stop the winds but sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Banks began to foreclose on all the farmers and I lost my house. Eventually everyone's money ran out. We tried to hold out but we became nearly destitute. I traded our family sedan for this pickup and we took what little money we had left to join everyone else here in California.”

Chester lowered his head “I know eventually things will work out. Myself and my family have faith in the Grand Architect of the Universe. He will deliver us to the promised land. Thank you for the water sir. As soon as I get this water into the radiator we will be on our way” Chester turned around and began to walk back to his truck.

Hayes stood in his place. The redness of his face in anger began to be replaced with the redness of embarrassment. “Hang on. Stop right there brother.” Hayes lowered his head and began to talk in a hushed tone. “I need to apologize to you. Since the economy crashed we have had all kinds of hobos, sharpies and other sorts pull in that driveway. Everyone of them begged for a handout or money. I keep hearing on the radio all about you Okies coming in here trying to take jobs away from local folks. “ Hayes continued while gazing at his boots “Being a Mason I should understand about charity more than others. There was one point I found myself in a penniless, destitute situation."

The old man looked at Chester, a tear began to form in the corners of his eyes. “Tell you what. Pull your truck over by the barn and if you like set up camp. If you were just a typical okie with no skills other than farming I probably could help you but I just happen to know the local accountant in town, he is a member of my lodge. He is elderly and has been considering retirement but has been reluctant because there isn't anyone to take his place. If you can prove to him you know what you are talking about he might take you on as a partner and maybe eventually you could own the place. I'll also take you to lodge if you can work your way in. You get that truck settled and bring the youngins and your wife in the house. I'm sure the misses will be happy to fry y'all up some bacon and eggs. She might even have some biscuits. Come to think of it she has been wanting a housekeeper and a cook. Do you think your wife would want the job.”

Chester who was standing in the driveway in shock said with a newly created smile on his face “I'm sure she would but I've been married long enough to know better than to say yes without her permission.”

Hayes actually smiled and began to laugh “A man of good judgment! I think you are going to do fine here! Get that truck pulled over and come on inside!”

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Don't Shoot, We're Republicans! - Revisiting a Classic

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steve L. Harrison, 33˚, FMLR


Editors Note: This piece originally published quite some time ago by Bro. Harrison always struck me as absolutely unbelievable. It's worth reposting and your attention as it will assuredly make you chuckle and put you in a state of disbelief. ~RHJ

Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt, Holland Lodge 8 of New York City, crossed the Atlantic in November 1943, to attend a World War II summit. While the President was en route traveling on the USS Iowa battleship, the navy arranged a demonstration of firepower for its commander-in-chief. At the start of the trip the battleship William D. Porter joined the Iowa to show off its capabilities for FDR. While weighing anchor the Porter ripped the lifeboat mountings off of a sister destroyer, rendering the damaged ship un-seaworthy. The following day, a depth charge fell from the Porter and exploded, requiring all area ships, including the Iowa, to take evasive maneuvers. Two days later, during the demonstration, crew members inadvertently fired a live torpedo at the President's ship. Learning this, Brother Roosevelt asked to be taken deck-side so he could watch! Again forced to take evasive action, the Iowa barely avoided the live "fish."

After the incident with the torpedo, the Porter was quarantined and the entire crew arrested. Later, the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Wilfred A. Walter, and several of his officers were sentenced to shore duty. Lawton Dawson, who was responsible for releasing a live torpedo, was sentenced to 14 years at hard labor. Fortunately for Dawson, a compassionate Roosevelt gave him a presidential pardon.

The "Willie Dee," as it came to be known, and the remainder of its crew were "exiled" to Alaska, where most assumed it couldn't get into trouble. This held true until a drunken crew member accidentally fired a live round of ammunition into the base commander's house while amusing himself on one of The Porter’s big guns. The unfortunate incident was compounded by the fact that the commander was hosting a party and several surprised dignitaries were at his home when the shell hit.

By this time, the ship's reputation was so bad, whenever it pulled into port sailors from other ships would greet it by begging, "Don't shoot, we're Republicans!" The catcall implied the Porter’s crew shot at FDR because he was a Democrat.

The war in the Pacific required every piece of firepower the US could muster. Reluctantly, the Navy called the Porter into service at Okinawa where, not unexpectedly, it shelled another American battleship. After that incident, the Navy moved the Willie Dee farther out to sea where it could do no harm, but where it was also a sitting duck. A Kamikaze pilot spotted the isolated ship and set it as his target. Fortunately, the pilot missed the Porter badly and dove into the sea. Unfortunately, his plane exploded and the concussion capsized the battleship. In the end and true to form, a hapless Kamikaze pilot had sunk the hapless Willie Dee. Miraculously, however, every single crew member survived the incident when another Navy ship came to the rescue.

Somewhat ironically, the battleship was named for US Navy Commodore William D. Porter, who had a distinguished career. He commanded the Essex during the Civil War and was instrumental in several Union victories. Brother Porter was a member of St. John Lodge 11, Washington, DC.

Although the saga of the Willie Dee has its humorous side, historians agree Brother Roosevelt was in legitimate danger when the torpedo nearly struck the Iowa. Had the episode ended tragically, the war and history may have taken a different turn with Brother Henry Wallace in command.

~SH

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.

Boots Across America

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Bro. Aaron R. Gardner, 32˚


Over the past couple years, I attempted to raise awareness to the number of veterans who were losing their personal wars after returning home in an effort known as “Brothers in Aprons for Brothers in Uniform”. The concept was easy, donate money to help other organizations that assisted in finding military personnel that were living homeless in our country and forward them a hoping chance at survival and becoming effective citizens in the United States again. For so much money raised, I would run a mile. However, the attempt didn’t go as according to planned.

The initial mission was to have as many lodges across the country raise money in their lodge and that money would go toward the efforts by individuals that would scour the homeless populations, searching for veterans. Understandably, many lack the confidence in what their money is actually going towards. However, over the time that this awareness mission was in effect the number of people liking the facebook page, “Brothers in Aprons for Brothers in Arms”, has multiplied. Forcing me to believe that all wasn’t lost; people still do care and want to help where they can, even if it isn’t in helping raise funds.

Therefore, I am attempting another mission that will still provide that sense of duty from our Masonic Brothers toward the brothers and sisters who have written a blank check to the defense of this great nation. This is titled “Boots Across America”. Yet, again the mission is simple. Raise money to help various organizations that make veterans, military members, police officers and other public service members, the main focus.

To help alleviate the issues that arise when raising money, the goal is to establish a location in every lodge across the country that members can give in their own ability to an organization that has been agreed upon by the lodge at the time the lodge has agreed to donate the money. This will help keep the rest of brothers who are unsure of what they are paying for. Below this article I have included a list of various charities that make an effort to help our military, police, firefighters and EMTs.

If the national level of charitable organizations is something your lodge is not interested in providing for, it is completely understandable. There are local organizations that are in dire need of your assistance. My local lodge has recently decided to take an old boot of mine and use it to collect any monies that brethren are willing to donate, and attribute it toward local fund raising money for monuments for the Gold Star Mothers and Blue Star Mothers in Genesee County, which I will be publishing an article on my “Off Topic” blog, as well as different newspapers in the local area.

If your lodge would like to help contribute to any fund that offers assistance toward our military, police, firefighters and emts; I would highly suggest you place a boot in your lodge that allows for loose change to be donated. Perhaps, you can use the boot at your monthly pancake breakfast or whatever else you use to help raise money for the lodge and your lodge’s endeavors. If you would like access to a boot, access to a public presentation of this event, or anything else, you may contact me via telephone or email (located at the bottom of this article, just before the chartiable organizations). I would be honored to provide an old combat boot of mine, or to come to your lodge to provide a presentation about what “Boots Across America” is all about.

~ARG

Aaron R. Gardner (aarongardner@aaronrgardner.com) (810) 423-3932

List of Charities
Military oriented: 

Police Oriented:
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.com/
Correctional Peace Officers Foundation: http://cpof.org/

Fire Fighter Oriented:
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: https://www.firehero.org/

EMT Oriented
NAEMT Foundation: http://www.naemt.org/foundation.aspx



What Is Masonic Education: Part 2

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Apron design by
Ari Roussimoff. You can see his works HERE.
There's a difference between education and instruction.

As I fully expected, the first installment of this series received a large number of cheers and a quite a few jeers as well.  Most of the readers of the last installment understood what I was saying.  Ritual is an important part of our Masonic tradition, and without question, there are aspects of ritual that are very critical to our education as Freemasons.  I don't think anybody expressed it better than my good friend and Brother Brian L. Pettice who said, "Learning ritual introduces us to the lessons that, if internalize, will help us to be the better men we want to be.  Learning ritual and floor work teaches us to be intentional in our thoughts, words, and actions."  He went on to say, "The problem is when learning the ritual becomes the end.  It is not the end."  Brian was making the same point I was.  Ritual is important, but it is only the beginning of what should be our ongoing and lifelong education and growth as Freemasons.

That being said, there is a lot in the ritual that IS education IF we teach it.  I've seen several presentations that take the ritual and explain it in detail.  They explained the history of the degrees and where they came from.  They explored the deeper meaning of the words by putting those words into the context of the time in which they were written--instead of being merely memorized words, those words took on a different meaning for me once the context was explained.  They explained why things are done in a certain precise way.  They went back into history to explain what each chair in the Lodge actually represents.  Likewise, I've seen (and given) many great presentations that go in much deeper detail on the ritual lectures, and explore the meaning of the symbols introduced in the ritual.  I give a pretty good twenty minute presentation on just one of the symbols we are introduced to in the 1st Degree, and believe me, I could easily go an hour.

So there is a lot there within our ritual that is education.  And as Bro. Pettice pointed out, there is great value in the patience and effort it takes to learn the precise movements and memorize word for word the ritual as written in an arcane English.  But the ritual is just the beginning of that journey  Masonic education is what comes next.

So what is Masonic education?

Well, there isn't just one answer.  One definition is that it involves teaching each other how to apply the principles of Masonry into our everyday lives.  It's about our history as a Fraternity.  It's about character development.  It's about leadership development.  I think today, that role in character and leadership development is more crucial than ever.  We aren't teaching values to our children as well as we once did.  They often don't learn them in the home.  Fewer and fewer Americans are going to church.  Our schools are far too busy teaching kids specific subjects so they can pass tests--there is no time to teach kids values that would be useful in helping develop their character.  I see Freemasonry filling that critical role.  Teaching young men positive character traits, ethics, and morals that they can apply to their everyday lives.

That's one area that our new Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter, is exploring.  We have a particular focus on education, and twice now, we've had some very in depth discussions with our members.  The first discussion was on the topic of civility.  We talked about what we thought that meant.  We talked about how we could improve ourselves in that area.  And we talked about how we could apply it to our everyday lives.  We followed that discussion up recently with another moderated discussion on honor.  That discussion was even better than the first discussion.  We talked about honor, respect, and tradition in that discussion.  Our members enjoy those discussions, and they take something away with them when we have them.  One of our members told me that he's thought differently about civility ever since that discussion several months ago--he's made changes to a couple areas of his life, particularly in his social media discussions, and in the way he reacts to opposing points of view.  That is Masonic education in the form of character development.

A few months ago, my Lodge hosted a Leadership Development Seminar put on by the Grand Chapter of Illinois.  It was open to all Masons, and we had a good turnout.  We had a couple excellent presentations, followed by some good questions, and meaningful discussion.  We all left that event thinking about where we're strong in leadership, and where we needed to improve.  I thought particularly about one comment made during that presentation about delegation--I tend to do too many things myself that others could help me with.  I've made a few changes there since.  Again, that's Masonic education in the form of Leadership Development.

I'm a student of history, and have been all of my adult life.  I've written books, I've written magazine articles, and blog posts, and give presentations and speeches--almost always involving in some way history and Freemasonry.  I'm fascinated with how Masonic values have influenced history.  I'm fascinated by how famous Freemasons have changed our world.  I'm fascinated by the ritual, by the symbolism, by the questions about where our Fraternity came from and how it evolved over time.  I'm interested in the esoteric side of the Craft.  And I love to share the things I learn.  I'm not an expert.  Not even close.  I know more than some, but not nearly as much as others.  I continue to learn, and I continue to share what I learn with others.  What I do is Masonic education in the form of historical perspective.

These aren't the only forms of Masonic education. There are many more.  Masonic education is a tool we share with our Brother than he can use in chipping away on that rough ashlar of his.  And as we all learn together, we also all grow together.  You'll find as I have, that Lodges and Masonic bodies that provide meaningful Masonic education to their members attract new members more readily than those that don't.  I drew a lot of criticism in the first installment when I said providing training and education to our members is the solution to most of the problems we have as a Fraternity today.  I stand by that.  It is.  Masonic Lodges are repositories of light.  They are places of learning.  If we're not going to teach those values we hold in such high regard then we're just a social club with a few ritual traditions.

So how do you get meaningful education started in your lodge?

Well, that's not always easy to do.  In the last installment, I'm going to tell you what we've done in my part of the world, and how we've done it.  And I'm going to give you some ideas I hope you'll be able to use in developing your own Lodge education program. 

~TEC


Todd E. Creason, 33° 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.  He is a Past 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



Blue Lodge First

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball

*Editors Note* This piece was first featured on the "Whence Came You?" Podcast and was read by the writer, WB:. Scott S. Dueball. Listen here


When it comes to the appendant bodies, I often hear the phrase "Blue Lodge comes first." In fact, before I can develop a well thought-out response to a new Mason inquiring about the appendant bodies, this line comes careening across the room. Every. Time. I am not going to argue with that point as it holds some degree of truth. However, when I hear this phrase, it is used to mean something different. What may sound like "Blue Lodge should always come first", progressively transitions into "Blue Lodge should be the most important thing to you" and completes its evolution as "You shouldn't do anything else if you aren't going to Blue Lodge". That's right, the Scottish Rite steals members. The York Rite steals members. The Shrine steals members. I take exception to this position. The problem is that this thought allows the individual Blue Lodge (or those espousing the aforementioned belief) to expect you to participate without providing you something in return. This belief is propagated in order to require you to come to stated meetings, participate in degrees, and perhaps to learn lengthy lectures. All of which, I admit, are laudable. You are admonished that your duty is to fill whatever needs your Lodge may have. These duties may include sacrificing church to volunteer at pancake breakfasts, sacrificing tucking your children in to perform the "charge" for the evenings degree, or sacrificing most of your Saturday off for additional ritual instruction.

Where this becomes unhealthy is that we, as individual members, lack the same expectation of our Lodges. We do not believe that our Lodges owe us anything in return. We do not expect that the Lodge should be providing us with some fulfillment as well. By saying that the three degrees (and a few pancakes) should provide you with everything you need, we assume that the only thing you could ever need is to watch the same ritual performed in the same way that it has been for over 200 years. That is not fair. You can make the claim that you learn something every time you see the degrees and I would agree with you but remain firm when I ask "That's it?"

It is unfair to Masonry to pit the Blue Lodge against those Brothers who enjoy the appendant bodies. We don't lose active Brothers to the appendant bodies because those Brothers have their priorities wrong. It's quite the opposite, we (the Lodge) have our priorities wrong. The appendant bodies provide opportunities to their members that Blue Lodge do not. The Blue Lodge teaches one set of philosophies and almost never expands on them. You don't become a 33rd, KCCH, KYCH, by exclusively attending Blue Lodge. The appendant bodies also offer occasions to interact outside of your our Lodge. These are likely flaws with the existing model of many Blue Lodges.

I am sure you have all heard this sentiment before but I assure you that it is not a part of every Lodge. Blue lodges with thriving membership don't hold this belief (they certainly do not verbalize it). Thriving lodges provide their membership with reasons to show up and be active. They do not need to guilt their members by suggesting that their first responsibility is to be present. These lodges treat Masonic Philosophy as living, progressing, and ever evolving such that it requires constant discussion within the tyled space. These lodges have a genuine expression of appreciation for those dedicated to the Craft and its teaching. These lodges are never short of diverse interactions among Brothers.

The appendant bodies know that they must provide you with something to justify your participation. Your time and your priorities belong to you. How you choose to spend time away from home and family is completely your decision. Sacrificing time away from your non-Masonic life should be worthwhile. If you are giving up time with your spouse and kids, you have every right to expect to get something out of it. I admit that I am a member of my Lodge because I wanted to be Worshipful Master. There is truly no more or less to it than that. This period has been extremely fulfilling. A time where I will no longer receive the fulfillment of being Master is on the horizon and I will be in search for new fulfillment. I constantly wonder if I will I find it in my lodge or someplace else.

To suggest that our lack of participation is anyone else's fault but our own is myopic. It appeals to our own insecurities but it is far from true. Craft lodges and appendant bodies should both seek to prioritize the fulfillment of their members. When we use guilt to force members to stay active rather than giving them what they are seeking, we do the Gentle Craft a disservice. My wife and I are expecting a baby girl in August; is the chance to deliver a lecture I have heard a hundred times worth time away from her? Will running a Facebook/Eventbrite/Wordpress campaign be worth diverting focus and energy away from her and my wife? There are Masonic organizations that make these trade-offs worthwhile. It's a matter of who can deliver them and, quite honestly, no amount of reminding me that 'Blue Lodge comes first' will factor into that decision process.

~SSD

WB Scott Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois on the Leadership Development Committee and as the 2nd Northeast District Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies, E.M. Lambert Council A.M.D. and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R. - N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at scott@wheelingfreemasons.org ​

The Masonic Tax

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus
Bro. Aaron Gardner R. Gardner 32˚


Some of you probably clicked on this article because a notion of  “Masonic Tax”  and perhaps the idea is deplorable, to say the least. What would it mean to have a Masonic tax? Is it something that the government is imposing on people who join the fraternity, in some poor attempt to stifle membership rolls from increasing and the first step to banning the fraternity? Is it extra dues paid to the Grand Lodge of a State. Or is it the most probable, just a bunch of made up mumbo jumbo used to arouse the feelings of the reader, (mainly you)?

As interesting as it may be to fantasize about Orwellian ideas of government becoming a tyrant seeking to complete the elimination of Freemasonry, as Nazi Germany failed to; this is not what I am referring to with “The Masonic Tax”. It also isn’t a different form of dues to the Grand Lodge. No, that is expected to be paid and is paid by your lodge with the money you pay to your lodge. Actually, “The Masonic Tax” is both something I made up to arouse your feelings, and something a little more than that. I can see your face now; screaming at your computer, tablet, or cell phone (whatever form of media you use to read this website), “Just tell me already!”

Fine, I will. It's something we pay on a regular basis. A lot of the time we don’t even think about what we're doing when we pay it. It's an open event to anybody who wants to attend, Freemason or not. I'm talking of course about Masonic dinners. Originally, it's was a form of fundraising to help support the lodge and its functions. However, it doesn’t do that. Instead it takes the money out of hardworking Freemasons who are dedicated to the craft and won’t even flinch when asked to help a cause. These Freemasons are what help make the lodges successful in their endeavors and this article is not intended to humiliate or discourage Freemasons from attending events such as these. My lodge has one every month known as the Swiss Steak Dinner. Most lodges have different things they do, I actually just heard of a local lodge that sells Pasties (a delicious meat pie), which I intend to go buy a dozen of at once. If your lodge does one of these fundraisers, I would like you yo look and see what you see.

The first thing I would like you to notice is how much it costs to put on one of these events. If your lodge is anything like my lodge, there is a lot of time and effort put forth by some of the lodge brethren. In today’s society time is equal to money. So how much does it cost for a brother to take time out of his day to come, prepare food, serve food, and clean up afterwards? I understand there are a lot of brethren who are retired and they have time to do things like this, which is awesome. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with every brother in the lodge. Some of us have jobs, families and other obligations that take precedence over our labors in lodge. When we first entered the fraternity we were paid a promise by the Worshipful Master and the lodge brethren that our labors and endeavors in Freemasonry will never get in the way of our God (whichever religion you practice), our nation, our families, or our occupations. We should take this promise seriously when making it to incoming brethren.

Secondly, I would like you to take note of how much money is spent on the event and take into account the money being made by the event. If the money being made is less than how much is spent, it is a failed project and should be considered for revising. It is a fundraiser after all, and a fundraiser that is losing money isn’t what your or my lodge needs. Sure, the events can be fun to attend and work, however, if it doesn’t bring in the mullah, it isn’t worth the time or money spent.

Next, who attends these functions? From my experience, it isn’t non-masons. Just last month I attended my lodge’s Swiss Steak Dinner and it was packed. I have never seen that many cars in the parking lot at once, even on installation night. However, as I looked around the crowd, I could pinpoint every person and knew they were affiliated with Freemasonry in some form. Either they were Masons themselves, or they were wives of Masons. Each paying a portion of their monthly income to dine with each other, at a fairly reasonable price. This is fine, as it is expected for a brother to help support another lodge’s functions, but we must consider what Freemasonry is. It’s a business. We are a business, in the business of making Freemasons. The event is a supposed to be a fundraiser to raise money for the lodge’s charity events. Who really needs to be there? The members of the community who are not affiliated with Freemasonry, that's who.

By establishing events that the community supports, you will have people there that aren't Freemasons. You will be taking donations and money from people that are not affiliated with the Craft and support your endeavors within the community. The lodge’s functions should be community oriented because it is the community that supports you. Without the community, there is no lodge. There will be an article about “Community Freemasonry” at a different time, so I won't go into the details here. If only Freemasons attend these events, what are we doing them for? We are taking money from fellow Freemasons to help support our lodge, we have only Freemasons to talk to at the event; and even though the event is well attended, it is a failed success. We successfully raised money to support our lodge, but we took it from brothers who already support our lodge through their dues, their time, and their commitment. Is that the success we want? If it is, why not just raise dues and save the money, time and effort cooking a meal?

As I mentioned previously, we are in the business of making Freemasons. By only having Freemasons around at our lodge functions, we aren’t doing ourselves any good. Not only are taking a brother’s money, we aren’t talking to people outside the craft about Freemasonry, showing them what we do and showing how much we care. If you intend to have events like this, advertise them. Not just on a billboard sign in front of the lodge, spend money to advertise. Put the events in the local newspapers or the town’s calendar. Put the event all over the Internet. A lot of the reason our craft is losing great members to death and not having great members to replace them, is because we don’t advertise any of these events to the younger generation. Perhaps that is because of a generational gap between current members and non-members. It is true that some younger Freemasons join the Craft and feel dissatisfied with it because of this gap. But we need to get on the level of the younger generations to interest them. Take a look at where they get their information—"Mybooktwitgram", or whatever they call it these days. If we take videos of events going on, things we do, we need to put it all over social media. Take pictures, and show them what we are doing and how they can join us on any of these events. Whether it's just having dinner with us or cleaning up the river view park.

Millennials just want to feel like they are a part of something, like they can make a difference in the world. Let’s show them how we do make a difference, invite them to these dinners or events which our lodges are having, then perform the community outreach. If we just talk about enlightenment, they won’t show; if we light the torch, they will come. Show them how they can make a difference. That is what we are here for—not to tax our fellow brethren, but to raise Master Masons… To inspire… To put our mark on the world… To make a difference.

~AG

Aaron Gardner - Emeritus Contributor 

Don Rickles: Freemason Or Not?

by Midnight Freemason Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°
 

"Who picks your clothes--Stevie Wonder?"

~Don Rickles

Known as "Mr. Warmth" for his bombastic insults and abrasive humor, Don Rickles enjoyed a career that spanned more than seventy years.  He rose to fame in the 1950s when he spotted Frank Sinatra in the audience during his standup routine in a Miami Beach nightclub--and proceeded to insult his most recent film.  Frank enjoyed his show so much he invited his friends to go and see him and be insulted themselves by the young comedian he called "bullet-head."  Don Rickles was soon headlining in Las Vegas--thanks to the help of the friends he never grew tired of insulting and who never seemed to get tired of being insulted by him. 

He had a long career as a headline comedian, he appeared in many Hollywood movies, and made guest appearances on more television shows than just about any other comedian in history--everything from F-Troop to The Andy Griffith Show to Murphy Brown to most recently in 2011 on Hot in Cleveland where he played a boyfriend of Betty White's.  But without question, he is best known for his more than 100 appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show and his obnoxious performances during Dean Martin Roasts. 

His film career included such classics as 1958's "Run Silent, Run Deep" starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster and 1970's "Kelly's Heroes" which featured an all-star cast that included Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Carroll O'Connor.  Younger audiences most likely know his voice well as the voice of Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies. 

Don Rickles was a character that people tended to have a strong reaction to--you either loved him or hated him.  You either enjoyed his caustic style or you didn't.  But without question, there will never be another comedian quite as unique as Don Rickles.  He was one of a kind. 

But to get back to the original question.  Was Don Rickles a Freemason?

As a matter of fact, he was!  He was raised a Master Mason at Service City Geba Lodge No. 1009 in Astoria, New York on June 6, 1953. 

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° 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.  He is a Past 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 Masonic Education Paradox

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



The Grand Lodge of Missouri has on occasion conducted surveys asking the Brothers, among other things, what they want from Masonry. It probably won't shock you to discover the number one thing on the list is "Masonic education."

So, hats off to the Grand Lodge of Missouri — it listened to the Brothers, went to work and came up with a Masonic education program. It works this way: On a regular basis the Grand Lodge sends an information packet to each Lodge Secretary. Included within that packet is a document containing a piece on Freemasonry. Then, at a stated meeting, the Secretary, Lodge Education Officer or any Brother can read the piece and perhaps conduct a discussion afterward. Note that the program also has the added advantage that Lodges across the state are all working on the same subject simultaneously.

There you go… Masonic education handed to you on a silver platter.

What more could you ask for?

I'll tell you exactly what: you could ask for the Lodges to make use of it. I attend my share of Lodge meetings. While "reliable sources" tell me there are some Lodges that do, I have never sat in a Lodge that uses the material.

So let's recap. The number one thing Brothers want is Masonic education; the Grand Lodge provides it; and (generalizing) the Brothers don't use it. It's a bit of a paradox, isn't it? Maybe the next survey should ask, "What do you really want?"

So, I have a suggestion. If you want Masonic education more than anything, appoint yourself your own personal education officer. Read, research, write, learn everything you can; but don't stop there. Make a commitment to take it to Lodge. It doesn't take much. Maybe start by reading an article from the Midnight Freemasons Blog, or maybe an excerpt from MNF founder Todd Creason's Famous American Freemasons book. (Modesty… ahem… prevents me from mentioning you could read something from one of my books). Likely as not, just a few minutes on a subject will spark a discussion. If my experience is any indication, your Brothers will thank you for doing it. Try it: just a few minutes of Masonic education can turn a mundane meeting into a memorable meeting.

If that works, take it a step further. Ask your Brothers to do the same. Maybe think about "upping your game" and turning it into a presentation. Take it to other lodges. Ask those Brothers to do the same.

In the words of that great litterbug Arlo Guthrie, "Let's start a movement." Before you know it, we might be swimming in Masonic education.

~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.

Masonic Wisdom: The Moral Constitution of Freemasonry - Humanitarian Acts

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Luciano M. Azevedo



The field of ideas should be the field where we can safely talk about all topics without fear of judgment and without fear that other brothers will condemn us for the various thoughts that we all have. It is the diversity of thoughts and opinions that brings beauty to humanity.

The secret is to seek and look at the diverse with a legitimate intention of opening our minds; understand what our neighbor wants to say, or at least give the chance to our brother show us why he thinks differently than you.

I always like to say: "Please I beg you to convince me!" Yes, because every wise Mason cries out for wisdom. He who thirsts to learn does not ignore the advice of the wise and does not run away from hearing different opinions.

Opinions are not to be tolerated, rather, they are to be listened to. So that in the innermost parts of your soul, you may confront with yourself and prove if in fact your convictions are still convictions.

On the contrary, those who refute other opinions without hearing them out or without understanding from where these opinions came from, Solomon, our first Grand Master, and considered the wisest men on earth, said that all these mans are FOOLS.

I realize that when I present reflections on themes of any intrinsic nature or related to our constitution as Masons, our own DNA, some react in a very aggressive way. It is like looking in the mirror and seeing their own faults but instead of wanting to change, they rather prefer to break the mirror.

The constitution of our order mandates that we obey certain moral principles that ground all of our ritualistic logic and our order as a whole. We Masons in the past, were and always have been loyal to every constituted government but on the other hand we also fought against authoritarian governments, usurpers of rights and governments that violated our moral code or our Masonic Ethics.

Freemasons are Universalists. We believe that all human beings are made by the image and likeness of The G.A.O.T.U. We believe in the equal society of rights, duties and freedoms as a greater good. We believe in the moral compassion of offering humanitarian aid to the afflicted and we have done that for centuries.

See how interesting this is: the operative Masons embraced the philosophers, artists and other professionals who took refuge in our order during persecutions. If the Masons didn't accept the Templars, the brothers who escaped from Portugal, Italy and France to the operative lodges there would not be speculative Freemasonry. I found out that the right of a Mason to "Travel" to foreign countries is from our very original nature. We were thus originated by being "accepted" into to the operative Freemasonry.

So dear Brother I'm trying to encourage you to raise your soul to where it should be. Let not selfishness and our self-centric nature vanquish our reason or blind our hearts.

There are millions dying of hunger that we cannot ignore. Stand up against injustice. Be loyal to your government and love your homeland, but do not forget the supreme values of our universal society that are the moral landmarks of our institution.

Do not forget that children are dying of starvation, victims of poverty and inequality. Let us not close the doors of our hearts. I now intercede with the Great Architect of the Universe to enlighten us more and may we have clarity to see the human pain.

Being a Freemason is also to confront reality and not to conform with injustice.

May our hearts, oh Lord, be filled with forgiveness and compassion. Teach us to love the one who differs from our thinking. May we truly love our neighbor. Give us Freemasons love and compassion for all.

~LMA

WB Luciano M. Azevedo holds an MBA and Bachelor in Business Administration. He has published several scientific and philosophical essays and articles in the secular world. As a sommelier he wrote his own column for a major wine magazine for many years. In Freemasonry Brother “Lou” has contributed with many articles from a philosophical basic approach to an ethical decision-making in regards to masonic conduct. He is the current Worshipful Master of Zurich Lodge 1089 of A.F&A.M of the State of Illinois. W. Bro Luciano is also a member or the Grand Lodge Leadership Committee of the State of Illinois, a 32 Degree active member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and a Shrine Noble of the Medinah Shriners.

This Old Ring

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus
Bro Aaron R. Gardner 32˚



As of December, I haven’t been wearing my ring. I have felt naked without it. Why is it that a ring can weigh so much, not only on one’s finger, but on their heart as well? Does the ring possess a certain power over who I am as a man or as a Mason? Not likely. Instead, the ring has different meanings to different individuals who choose to wear it. Some opt to not wear one, which is perfectly ok, and others choose to wear one. I am one of the latter up until recently.

As I said, I have felt naked without my ring since December. I took it off because my fiancé wanted to exchange it for a bracelet which she bought for me for Christmas. It was a great gesture and I appreciate what she did. I love the bracelet and I love how it feels on my wrist. It is one of the greatest gifts she could have gotten me. It is from Masonic Man. She understands that I am a freemason and that I love being a freemason--I love the conversation that my ring brings about freemasonry, which she was hoping would happen with the bracelet. Secretly, I was hoping it would to.

The truth is, the ring is old. It is missing diamonds, the color is fading, and the band is bent. Any logical person would surely retire such jewelry as it is not worth much of anything other than costume jewelry. The ring even turns my finger green after some time of wearing it. So why is it so hard to part with?

Katie may never truly understand, but when I asked her for it back, I tried to explain to her the significance of the ring. I failed miserably, as I am better at writing out my thoughts than I am at speaking them—especially on the fly. The ring doesn’t hold any special power, other than the power that I assign or attribute to it. It’s just an old ring that my great grandmother gave me to replace the other ring I broke.

Yes, that’s right… I broke my previous ring. I have a tendency to break rings and they don’t rest well on my fingers. I attribute that to hard work and working with my hands. Since my time as a freemason, this is my third ring that has become bent over time; the previous two rings broke clean off my hand. The first one while I was stationed in Oklahoma, and the second one while I was on deployment in the United Arab Emirates. These rings have seen their fair share of toil and work. Katie, doesn’t understand why I feel the need to wear a ring other than a wedding band once she and I get married. She feels that wearing another ring is kind of gaudy.

Since it doesn’t hold any kind of power, I should easily be able to retire the ring and be accepting of the bracelet. It is essentially the same thing, right? Wrong. Fact is, the bracelet is hardly ever seen. Is jewelry meant for me or is it meant for someone else? Well, that depends on the person and the purpose of why they are wearing it. To me, I wear the ring to show not only to myself, but to others that I am a freemason. It holds a special power that I attributed to it of being connected in a world that many have no clue about. It opens doors to talk about the things I love. With the bracelet being hidden under long sleeves or a sports jacket, it is difficult to open that conversation with a simple hand shake.

It’s the key to opening the door for a lot of people. Our fraternity is looking to find more ways to discuss freemasonry with others and to get young men interested. The ring is the key. When a young man shakes the hand of a Mason who is wearing a ring, it brings up questions of where the Mason got the ring, what Freemasonry is, and the best question that is usually asked… How can one become a freemason?

Sure, the ring is old and beaten up, but it just shows how much work has gone into being a Freemason. It is a constant reminder that I am a rough ashlar working to become perfect. If I had a ring that was untarnished and didn’t see the dirt of the world, am I really doing the Craft a favor? Am I doing myself a favor? I want it to be a constant reminder that I am always working on myself, helping others, and Freemasonry to be better for the world around us. So until the day that I am perfect, or even better the day that I can actually afford a nicer ring that shines more than the light that shines in my heart for freemasonry, I will keep my ring and wear it proudly. If the day comes that the ring shines more than the light inside, then it is time to retire the ring altogether and walk away from the fraternity that I love and hold so dear to my heart.

So, for those who are worried about if their ring isn’t as nice as some others, do not fret. The light is within… the ring is only a symbolic light that gives you the permission to shine brightly, and shine brightly you will. For a Mason who cares more about his ring, is morally  destitute and should reconsider what that ring really represents.

~ARG

Bro. Aaron Gardner - Emeritus Contributor

What Is Masonic Education? Part 1

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°


What is Masonic education? 

It's a good question, and I can tell you exactly what it is.  It's the answer to almost every problem Lodges are having today.  Masonic education is why most of our new members joined in the first place, and one of the last things they'll find in a many of our Lodges today. 

Men petition our Lodges because they are seeking something.  They want to belong to an organization that shares their values.  They want to be more active in their community.  They want to learn to be a better man by improving their character.  They want to take part in the time honored traditions and ancient teachings of the Freemasons.  They want to live their life to a higher and more noble standard.  And the expectation when they join is that they are going to receive instruction on these things from the Freemasons.

That's certainly why I joined.  I even went through the traditional way, and spent months memorizing the catechisms and the obligations--I don't learn quickly, and it was a huge challenge.  I saw beautiful degree work, heard wonderful lectures, and when I was finally raised a Master Mason I considered it one of the most important accomplishments in my life--right up there with baptism, marrying my wife, and the birth of my children.  And then I attended my first regularly stated meeting.  There were no deep discussions of Masonic principles at that meeting.  Nor at the second, or third, or fourth meeting.  I finally asked, and I was told there were meetings I could attend if I wanted to learn more about Masonry.  I did, so I found out where and when those meetings took place, and I went. 

I learned how to carry a rod, and how to turn a corner, and what hand I should use when I open a door during a degree.  I learned the proper way to open the Bible.  I even learned in what order to turn on the lights beside the altar.  It wasn't Masonic education, it was ritual instruction.  Other than what was contained within the lectures of those three Masonic degrees, there was no additional Masonic education offered in my part of the world when I became a Mason 11 years ago.  And that's exactly the way it is in many places.  And that's why I've worked so hard to bring that education component back into the Lodges. 

I said earlier that providing Masonic education was the answer to almost every problem Lodges are having.  I can tell you without hesitation that's true.  We need membership.  The fact of the matter is there is no better recruiting tool than members who are enjoying themselves and learning new things.  They talk about it.  They get their friends to join.  I've seen it over and over again. 

Case in point is a brand new Chapter of the Royal Arch in Illinois I'm a member of--Admiration Chapter.  This is a chapter that focuses on Masonic education.  Every meeting we have a very short business meeting, and then an education component--a speaker, a discussion on a topic of interest that is announced in advance, a table lodge, a presentation, etc.  You know what Admiration Chapter doesn't have problems with?  Attendance and membership.  We have great turnouts, and we continue to add members--and we're not recruiting new members.  We don't need to recruit, because they are coming to us.  That's pretty impressive considering Admiration Chapter hasn't even received a charter yet--we're still operating "under dispensation" of the Most Excellent Grand High Priest of Illinois.  We've completed the necessary requirements at this point, and we'll get that charter in the next few months.

Do you want to talk about member retention?  Members just stop showing up, right?  Or you get a new Master Mason in your Lodge, and he comes for awhile, and you don't see him again.  Just drops out of sight, and your members wonder why.  Sound familiar?  I can tell you the most common reason why.  Your meetings are boring.  It's not what the new Mason thought it was going to be, probably because he thought he'd continue to be learning things instead of talking about how the Eastern Star ladies are using our coffee and not replacing it, and if we're going to resurface the parking lot or just fill in the potholes.  That's not why those men became Masons, is it?

Money is an issue, too.  There's two reasons for that--most Lodges dues are too cheap.  That's a separate, but related issue--before you can jack up your dues you're going to have to offer more than getting to sit in a room once or twice a month and listen to somebody read the mail.  But if we could fix some of these obvious problems and we filled our buildings with Masons, we'd have more money, wouldn't we?  And the more members we have in our Blue Lodges, the more Scottish Rite Masons we have, and the more York Rite Masons we have, and the more Shriners, etc! 

I've been beating this drum for a long time.  New members want education.  The success of the Midnight Freemasons in itself is evidence of that.  The success of Lodges and bodies that are beginning to focus on education again is evidence of that.  If we continue to do the same things, we can continue to expect the same results.

The ritual is an important part of who we are as Freemasons--it's one of the things that make us unique.  Learning ritual is not Masonic education any more than learning to drive a stick shift qualifies you as an auto mechanic.  We talk a lot in Admiration Chapter about enhancing the member experience.  What we mean by that is offering our members what they wanted to begin with--a place where we could learn from each other, talk about values, learn more about what Freemasonry has to teach us about how to become better men, better husbands, better fathers, better citizens.

So if you're where I was eleven years ago, seeking further light where none exists, what do you do?

Well, that's what we're going to talk about in this series.


~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° 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.  He is a Past 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

Masonic Wisdom: Mathematics of Love

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Luciano M. Azevedo

The most beautiful mathematics is that of love. Love does not weigh and the more we have the lighter we get. Love when donated is renewed in the people and when it's divided, multiplies throughout the world! Love thy neighbor; love your brother. Forgive, try to find how to best agree. Don't hurry to disagree and focus on how you can see and comprehend your brother's perspective. Remember that changing your mind or being open to listen are not signs of weakness, rather, signs of strength and maturity.

~LMA

WB Luciano M. Azevedo holds an MBA and Bachelor in Business Administration. He has published several scientific and philosophical essays and articles in the secular world. As a sommelier he wrote his own column for a major wine magazine for many years. In Freemasonry Brother “Lou” has contributed with many articles from a philosophical basic approach to an ethical decision-making in regards to masonic conduct. He is the current Worshipful Master of Zurich Lodge 1089 of A.F&A.M of the State of Illinois. W. Bro Luciano is also a member or the Grand Lodge Leadership Committee of the State of Illinois, a 32 Degree active member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and a Shrine Noble of the Medinah Shriners.

I Have Met the Enemy and It’s Me

by Midnight Freemason contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


In 1971 cartoonist Walt Kelley used the quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” in his daily comic strip “Pogo”. According to the website Humor in America, “ We have met the enemy and he is us” derives from Braggadocio during the War of 1812 in which commodore Oliver Hazard Perry reported, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

Through most of my Masonic life I have thought of myself as a progressive Freemason. I was above the “We never did it that way before.” mentality. I have championed such radical ideas as opening meetings on the first degree, table lodges, ending the prohibition of alcohol within a Masonic temple, higher Dues…etc Anything that might make an old Past Masters teeth itch and blood pressure rise, I tried it.

Sunday morning I woke up to several text messages from an unknown number on my cell phone. As I read the texts I discovered the sender was the Chaplain from my lodge in Texas. He was asking me in my position as the chairman of the lodge technology committee, if I allow other administrator rights to our lodges smartphone app. In my morning grumpiness I replied “When directed by the Master” and started my day thinking my reply would finish the conversation.

Last night I received more texts from the same Brother. This time he wanted me to allow him to have administrative rights to the app because “He thought the lodge wasn't utilizing the app to “its fullest potential.” And proceeded to tell me what, I perceived, I was doing wrong. The ideas the Brother had for the smartphone app were all great ideas and very innovative but as a Masonic webmaster of nearly two decades I knew these changes wouldn’t be utilized by the membership because I've tried doing them before in the past and no one had even tried them. 

Needless to say I got angry and threatened to resign my position on the committee. “If this kid thinks he can do this job better he should have the job!” I told the Secretary and the Master. Both men tried to smooth my ego telling me what a valuable asset I was to the lodge and he could never replace me. After a few minutes of praise my ego was adequately stroked and my temper was soothed and I begrudgingly gave the Brother the access he requested. In my mind I thought “I'll have to fix it all later after he screws it up.”
This morning as I rose, my mind wandered to my actions last night and I will admit I am a little ashamed of myself. I have become what I made fun of my whole Masonic life: A grumpy Past Master with a massive ego.

Instead of embracing innovation I slipped into “we have done it that way before and it didn’t work” mentality. I allowed my ego to hoodwink me instead of following the old emulation, “He who can best work or best agree.” I have met the enemy and he is me.

Brethren, this is more of a confession than it is a story. I have no high moral or knowledge in which to impart with this piece. Thanks to this Brother I realized I have a hidden imperfection on my rough ashlar in which I need to work on.

I'm sure each of you reading these words, whether you realize it or not, have an imperfection hidden deep within your ashlar. I truly believe it behooves each of us to look inward for imperfection before we continue our journey to that undiscovered country.

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Masonic Wisdom: Winning

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Luciano M. Azevedo


For a moment, clear your mind and think. Think that in order for a winner to exist there is an intrinsic need of one or many losers to exist. The old expression "win win situation" is naïve or pure rhetoric.

One of the “greatest” "human sins" is envy. Is the need we all have for comparison. In order for us to feel good or special we need someone to be in a lower position or be "defeated". The comparison is so necessary that when our neighbor has some good that we do not have or that is bigger, better, or more desired, our tendency is to envy him. We hurry to run to overcome the other, to have what the other doesn't.

When we tirelessly feed this pernicious logic we become more and more self-centered, selfish, and dehumanized. The Masonic paradox of subduing our instincts comes precisely from another logic: "to become more humane we need to love more and envy less".

Competing is not bad, it's actually very good when we do it with a collective perspective of advancing together, towards prosperity and a better world.

Let Masonic logic be more and more present in our souls.

~LMA

WB Luciano M. Azevedo holds an MBA and Bachelor in Business Administration. He has published several scientific and philosophical essays and articles in the secular world. As a sommelier he wrote his own column for a major wine magazine for many years. In Freemasonry Brother “Lou” has contributed with many articles from a philosophical basic approach to an ethical decision-making in regards to masonic conduct. He is the current Worshipful Master of Zurich Lodge 1089 of A.F&A.M of the State of Illinois. W. Bro Luciano is also a member or the Grand Lodge Leadership Committee of the State of Illinois, a 32 Degree active member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and a Shrine Noble of the Medinah Shriners.