My Visit with Brother Harry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Several months ago we had to visit Saint Louis for a business trip. We had a great time seeing the sites, visiting museums (and eating barbecue). On the way home I was asked where I would like to visit.

It was a hard decision. There are so many places we could have visited. I finally decided on a destination. I want to visit Brother Harry Truman in his hometown of Independence, Missouri.

The drive to Independence was fun. Missouri got to “show me” much of their state on that day. I regretted my health wasn’t better during that trip so we could have stopped in Fulton, Missouri and seen a museum dedicated to another one of my boyhood heroes, Brother Winston Churchill.

In 1946 Churchill visited the tiny little Westminster college in Fulton after being invited to speak there by the college’s president and Harry Truman. It was in this speech Churchill first used the term “Iron curtain” when referring to the Soviet Union and the other countries which made up the Eastern block. The college has a small museum dedicated to Churchill and that historic day. I would have also liked to have visited the graves of Ray and William Denslow.

After checking into our hotel (and eating more barbecue) the next morning we traveled west to the Harry S Truman Presidential library.

This was my second visit to the library. When I was in high school we visited the library on the way to Kansas City to attend the National FFA convention in 1982. At that time I was young and although I was a lover of history when I was 16, the trip, while interesting, didn’t have the impact on me at the time that it’s memory had on me as I learned about the man throughout my life, reading such books as "Truman" by David McCullough and "Brother Truman" by Allen Roberts.

The library has lots of wonderful exhibits. From his birth through his life and presidency all the way through his later years. We really enjoyed the many multimedia exhibits that I’m sure wasn’t there during the early eighties.

I was very excited to see they had an exhibition containing Brother Truman’s Masonic history and included such possessions as his Masonic apron (I know. I wondered why the apron wasn’t with Harry too. The exhibit didn’t say.) His Shrine fez and lots of photographs of the mans Masonic career were on display.

Once done touring his artifacts we went into the garden and paid our respects to the Past Grand Master of Missouri and the 33rd president of the United States and his wife, Bess. I was surprised that Truman’s daughter Margaret, is also now buried there along with her husband, Clifton Daniel.

After our visit (and even more barbecue), we decided to drive by Harry and Bess' home which is near the library. I wanted to tour the house but, much like in Fulton, my health wouldn’t allow it then. We were surprised how “normal” the house was. Just a common home for a common man who just happened to become president of the United States.

It’s interesting to note Harry was never the actual owner of the house. The white Victorian home was owned by his wife Bess' family, (Bess' father,  David W. Wallace was once Grand Commander of Knights Templar in Missouri).

Politically Harry and I couldn’t be more different. But I can admire a man who came from nothing and kept working until he became the most powerful man in the world. All the while, speaking his mind and standing by the principals he believed in. And doing so leaving us many powerful (and some very funny) stories to remember him by.

Now that I have read my friend and Brother (and most importantly fellow Hoosier) Steve Harrison’s book “Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi”, I have realized there is so much more for the “Show me state” to show me!

Luckily Brother Harrison has just released a new book entitled Masonic Memoranda of Frederick L. Billon. Billon was a pioneer in Missouri in the 1800’s and kept a Masonic journal about what happened within the Craft in a time where much of the Fraternity’s history has been lost or destroyed. This should be an interesting read.

From Brother Mark Twain, Harry Truman to Frank Land and many other famous Masons, some world famous and others who are famous only to Masons that called Missouri home (including the first grand master of my mother Grand lodge, Alexander Buckner), I plan on visiting the state again! I hope you will consider visiting it too!

~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.

The Highest Level of Valor

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor that our country bestows upon those serving in the armed forces for action against an enemy force.

I recently had the absolute privilege of having a Congressional Medal of Honor in my office at the University of Illinois Library. This medal was awarded to Major Kenneth M. Bailey of Danville, Illinois who was killed in action during the battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands on September 1942.

Bailey was a 1935 graduate of the University of Illinois and is the only Illinois alumni to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. After graduation from Illinois, Bailey joined the United States Marine Corps and was commissioned a second lieutenant on July 1, 1935.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor Hawaii and our participation in WW II had begun. The 1st Marine Raider Battalion, of which Bailey was a member, were ordered from San Diego to Tutuila, American Samoa, arriving there April 30, 1942

By the summer of 1942, the Allies had made plans for a major offensive in the Solomon Islands, which were held by the Japanese. These Islands were vital for supply lines which the allies needed to resupply and support their troops.

On August 7, 1942, 8 months to the day after Pearl Harbor, the allied forces invaded at several locations in the Solomons under an offensive designated Operation Watchtower. Part of Operation Watchtower included taking a very small island known as Tulagi. Company C, 1st Marine Raider Battalion under the leadership of Bailey was given this task. The allies had surprised the Japanese and fierce fighting ensued. Bailey was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his heroism at Tulagi.

As Bailey and company C were fighting in Tulagi, other Marine units had invaded Guadalcanal and could take the airfield which was later named Henderson Field. Guadalcanal was a small but strategic location within the Solomon Islands. The Japanese forces had been building an airfield and base that was intended to cut off vital Allied supply lines.

But the Japanese were determined to retake Henderson Field and attacked the Americans’ relentlessly. Company C having left Tulagi was sent to Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal to help the allies hold and defend Henderson Field.

September 12-14 saw fierce fighting with the Japanese who had penetrated some of the American lines on Bloody ridge near Henderson field. Bailey led his men in repulsing a Japanese attack on their position. Two Japanese bullets pierced his helmet. Exhausting hand to hand combat continued for 10 hours. The Marines had repulsed the Japanese attack and held Henderson field.

On September 27, 1942, Major Bailey was killed by a Japanese sniper as Company C was fighting along the Matanikau River. For his actions in the battle at Bloody Ridge he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Holding Major Bailey’s medal was a humbling experience. I couldn’t help but think about his tremendous story of service and sacrifice to ensure that our country and freedoms would endure for future generations.

Thank you, Major Bailey, for your dedication, service and personal sacrifice to ensure the United States of America remains a free nation and beacon of light for the world.

~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.

Nobody Wants Your Parents Masonic Stuff

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


Authors note: the original idea for this piece came from this article posted earlier this year. I encourage the reader to take a look at that as well.

If you are responsible for your lodge in any capacity, you have likely received requests to take “donations” from the families of deceased Brethren. Often these requests come years after the passing of the Brother when the wife or children have begun to clean out nightstands and crawlspaces. A request to take back some of these items is likely tied to the giver’s naivetè regarding their value. They are afraid to discard something that may be valuable. Given this uncertainty regarding value, the donation becomes akin to those family heirloom china, crystal, or furniture.

I have received or been promised a few special items which I will cherish dearly. As these things hold sentimental value to me personally and lack any functional value to the rest of the world, I cannot expect them to be appreciated by my children. In the same way, many of the items I have cleaned out of our lodge storage lack sentimental or functional value. In truth, many (not all) of these donations are a transference of the burden from the family to the passed Brother’s Lodge. I don’t mean to insinuate a nefarious act on the part of the donor. It’s mere ignorance of the stuff they have or unwillingness to be the one to pitch something that may be meaningful.

I understand the compassion that strikes us when contacted by a widow. While helping our widows and orphans is laudable, cluttering up storage with items for a future Brother to deal with is not. Our lodges simply don't have the space or the need to house multiple copies of the same printing of Mackey’s Encyclopedia, old fezzes, or 47 years of lapel pins. Things that don’t serve a purpose 
(historical significance, novelty, monetary) are valueless and it should be alright to let them go. But I too struggle with letting go of someone else’s effects.

It is probably best to offer the books to a library or research lodge. Do your best to put them in the position to provide use to future generations. As for the pins, certificates, fezzes, etc, you don’t need to hold on to them. Offering these things to anyone else is only going to add pressure to take them. And I will tell you that, sooner or later, we have to let the meaningless stuff go. 

~SSD

WB Scott S. 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 as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies 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 SEO@ilmason.org

It Is Time To Clean Up Our Act

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°


"Anger is an acid that  can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."

~Mark Twain
Polar Star Lodge No. 79, St. Louis, MO.

We’ve all heard the old axiom “you are what you eat.”  It’s very true.  Our health is very reliant on how we nourish it.  Bad food leads to bad health eventually.  We ignore that fact at our own peril. The same is true with what we consume in other ways.

We live in a very angry world right now.  We’re buffeted on all sides with it—it’s on social media, it’s all over the news, we’re exposed to it from our friends, we’re exposed to it from our co-workers.  Sadly, I’ve seen a few instances where this anger that is consuming our culture is being dragged into our Lodges as well.  I gave an example I witnessed of that in this article.

I’ve had enough.  I get tired of hearing people complain.  I get tired of being attacked as I work to improve the world in my own way because somebody doesn’t agree with my beliefs.  I get tired of losing friends over elections.  I get tired of the incivility of the whole thing--it’s not enough for some people to believe a certain way, but they feel they have to go that one step further and demean and ridicule what other people believe.  

This seething anger that seems to be everywhere is poisoning us all.  

I took action.  I decided a change was in order.  I went through all my social media accounts.  I unfollowed, I unfriended, and I blocked hundreds of individuals that not only post that anger, but can’t seem to be civil when they’re posting comments on other people’s posts.  I don’t see that garbage anymore, and when I do I toss them out.  

I’ve done the same with the media.  There’s no positive story and no negative story that’s going to change the way I believe, the way I live, or the way I’m going to vote.  I can’t think of one thing that could come out in the news between now and the next election that would make me change my mind on a number of issues I think are important.  Most people are that way.  So why am I following it every single day?  I didn’t have a good answer, so I turned off the daily dose of fighting, and name calling, and the nasty back and forth in Washington D.C. that has fascinated me for decades.  Until our political parties are less hostile towards each other, I’m done wasting my time listing to the most recent round of partisan bickering. 

As Masons, we’re supposed to be examples.  Too many of us aren’t being good examples at all.  We contribute to this hostile environment by the things we post, the things we say, and the way in which we treat each others.  And we don’t help by giving negative people on social media (I hesitate to use the word trolls) an audience.  They post outrageous opinions or memes so you’ll be angry about it, and then you fall right into the trap hook, line and sinker.  Next thing you know, you’re part of the problem.  You're helping them draw attention to themselves while they’re leaning back enjoying the show.  Just say no.  Or better yet, stop following those individuals.  

And why in the world aren’t we pulling our Brothers aside after a Lodge meeting and saying to them, “Hey, I saw what you posted on Facebook the other night.  That was really offensive.  Why are you posting that?  As a Mason you represent us all.”  That’s exactly what we should be doing.

And we're just as guilty when we let those fights happen on our own forums without intervening.  We have the ability to delete comments, we have the ability to say that conduct is not going to be permitted on our forums, and we have the ability to block people from our forums that can't be respectful and considerate to others.  I couldn't name the number of times I've been attacked on a friend's Facebook page while they've sat back and said or done nothing to stop it.  That's wrong.

Now I can already hear the Brethren saying they have a right to have an opinion.  They have a right to express their beliefs.  Of course you do.  It’s how you do it that matters.  It’s about being civil, demanding civility in return from others, and being willing to separate yourselves from individuals that demonstrate an inability to do that.  Remember what George Washington said, “It’s better to be alone than in bad company.” 

George Washington was right.  

I’ve noticed a few things since I made these positive changes a couple weeks ago.  I feel better being rid of all that negativity.  My Facebook feed now is full of pictures of dogs, humor, inspirational quotes, and photos of my friends and their families--like it used to be.  I listen to music in my car--and I turn it up really loud, too.  I’ve filled that time I usually spend at home watching the news with reading, or catching up on missed episodes of RWB Johnson’s excellent Whence Came You? podcast.  The time I was wasting on social media I’ve been using to write a new book with fellow Midnight Freemasons contributor Greg Knott—it’s going to be a good one, too.  There are more productive ways to spend our time. 

We’re not going to change the world spouting our opinions on social media—it’s our actions in the real world that make a difference.

~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.  He recently joined the Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The Datum

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


On a cool, October Monday evening a group of Brothers from the Northeastern Area of Illinois filled the Libertyville Lodge for a night of Masonic Education presentations. Due to my inability to review the casual dress instructions I donned my bowtie and gray 3 piece suit. I was giving a talk that I had given previously but never to more than 2 or 3 Entered Apprentices. In this talk, I covered many of the functional aspects of the 1st Degree with the hope of peeling back a layer or two for the new Mason. Feeling as if I had run a bit long I scrolled toward the end of my notes to the last element of the degree. I quickly decided that I would press on to the finish line.

“Is anyone else here a drafter or engineer?” I asked. Those of you in these occupations might be familiar with the concept of a datum. A datum is a point, line or face to which all (or many) of a design’s dimensions relate. This ends being the face or feature that is lined up in a tool or jig to ensure consistent and accurate manufacturing proportions. If that face is not perfectly plane or perfectly loaded into a jig, the machine process will result in an inaccurate part. Even slight inaccuracies can render a part useless to the larger assembly.

The same rules apply in architecture and stonemasonry. Each brick has a specific shape that must be cut. The architect has selected a space for an individual brick which dictates the length, width, and depth. Not only do corners need to be perfectly square but the opposing faces must be parallel. One can envision what might happen when slight inaccuracies are extrapolated across the entire span of a wall. This will result in crooked, wavy, or leaning walls--anything but straight and true.

Equally important is how the bricks are oriented in the assembly of a wall. The bricklayer sets the first stone--traditionally in the northeast corner. That first stone must be cut perfectly and set perfectly square to the plot of the design. However, a perfect brick set imperfectly will yield imperfection. If this stone is set cooked by even a degree, the consequence could be inches or feet at the far end of the wall.

This crookedness has both aesthetic and functional implications. Imagine if a single brick in the Capital build were set imperfectly. The structure would lack symmetry. It would appear shoddy. This would also impact the interior layout and the amount of materials purchased according to the plans. Both can be catastrophic to the overall project.

The same is true about speculative Freemasonry. The youngest Entered Apprentice is set in the northeast corner of the lodge. At that point he is told that his stone is unblemished. There he stands a just and upright Mason no longer bound to the errors and mistakes of his previous life. He is the new datum of the lodge just as every other cornerstone in history. The Worshipful Master “sets” him in the perfect position and the Lodge supports his continued development as the walls are erected from his example. The future edifice of his life and this Lodge will measure back to the original direction and support he was given. The newest Mason represents the future of the lodge and we must make sure to point him in the true direction of the Great Architect’s plan. This includes mentoring and instructing him on the lessons of our degrees. We have seen how the Craft can drift from the teachings when we have reduced the importance of supporting each brick in the wall. If the Entered Apprentice is not given proper support or set in the right position, the span of his life will increasingly err. This error creates deviation from the Great Architect’s plan.

The next time you see this ceremony in the 1st Degree, I encourage you to reflect on what it means for the future of the Craft. Consider the role you play in supporting that man and thus the Lodge. Lastly, consider how this new Mason may be measured to the datum you set not so long ago.

~SSD

WB Scott S. 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 as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies 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 SEO@ilmason.org

10 Years as a Freemason

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


This week I received a card from the Grand Lodge of Illinois congratulating me on the 10th anniversary of being a Freemason. It caused me to think back over these past 10 years, so I thought I would share a few of those thoughts with you.

I was raised in Ogden Lodge No. 754 along with two of my childhood friends. We went through all three degrees together and it was a special experience to share with these lifetime friends. After becoming a Master Mason, I don’t think I fully comprehended what I just went through or what was still to come.

Ogden is a strong lodge that has been in the community since 1877. Shortly after I was raised, Ogden celebrated our 130th celebration with a lodge rededication ceremony conducted by the Grand Lodge officers. It was impressive and was a nice compliment to the degrees I had just been through.

I started attending meetings regularly and we did the usual paying the bills, reading the minutes and other business. At the time, I really didn’t know the difference and just thought this was what we did. I started attending the pancake breakfasts and we did a roadside trash pick-up. We seemed to be an active lodge.

A few months later, I decided to become a plural member with St. Joseph Lodge No. 970, which is in my hometown. St. Joseph Lodge was on the verge of closure. It was having problems making a quorum and the members that did come were worn out and about to throw the towel in. There were conversations about merging with Ogden (which are five miles apart in distance). But another new brother had also joined St. Joseph lodge and together we had a lot of enthusiasm to make some changes. So, we started brainstorming ideas on how we could grow and improve the lodge. The existing members were very supportive and basically gave us the green light to try anything.

We did numerous things, which I have written about before if you search this blog, and we were able to turn the lodge around. In 2011, we were the first lodge in Illinois to receive the Mark Twain Award from the Masonic Service Association. Additionally, we have won the Grand Masters Award of Excellence on several occasions in the past few years. St. Joseph lodge still has new members coming in and is a very strong lodge. I am very proud we strengthened this lodge and saved it from closing.

Just because I needed more to do, I also joined Homer Lodge No. 199. Homer was also having a problem making quorums and about to close the doors and turn the lights out. Several of the brethren from Ogden lodge also became plural members at Homer and we began the work to turn things around there. Again, we have written about Homer lodge many times here on this blog and you can search for the stories, but this lodge has also stabilized and is growing again.

Two significant changes have happened in the last 10 years that I think are influencing masonry in a positive manner, social media and masonic education.

Masonic education had virtually disappeared from meetings over the last 75 years and the purpose of Masonry had essentially become degree work and boring business meetings. But by the beginning of the 21st century, numerous brothers were asking if there wasn’t more to Masonry than what was being practiced. In 2004 the Knights of the North published Laudable Pursuit, which laid out a framework of how Freemasonry could return to its roots. This work and Chris Hodapp’s book Freemasons for Dummies were a strong influence on shaping my knowledge of what Freemasonry is and should be. My research quickly told me that Freemasonry was much more than I was experiencing.

The other change is social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogs all have become part of daily life this past decade. These social networks became a way to keep me connected to not only the brethren I met in blue lodge, but also the Scottish Rite, York Rite and more. Then I met brothers from all over the country who gave me ideas on how to improve the lodge and encouraged me to keep working towards change. One common theme was repeated over and over and that was Masonic education.

I quickly became a convert in that Masonic education was the key to the future of blue lodge success. Reading numerous online website, listening to podcasts, reading books and masonic discussion groups, I expanded my knowledge and developed a much deeper understanding of Freemasonry. The task was to bring this education back to the blue lodges.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who sought to improve the Masonic experience. Two brothers have had a large influence in helping me gain a greater understanding of what is possible with Masonic education, Todd Creason and Robert Johnson.

Todd, I have known for years, even prior to becoming a Freemason. He was on my investigation committee and is a fellow member of Ogden Lodge and Homer Lodge. We began having conversations of how we could improve our meetings and we kept coming back to education. I was his first guest contributor here on the Midnight Freemasons and am proud to be a part of this amazing group of Masonic brothers who write here.

Robert was someone I got to know through social media. He soon also joined the Midnight Freemasons and eventually becoming the editor. I began listening to his podcast, Whence Came You, which I find is one the finest masonic resources available today. Robert’s continued focus on education, developing a deeper understanding of the craft and applying these principals in the blue lodge, I think is spot on for what Freemasonry needs to thrive.

There have been countless other brothers that I have meet along this journey that I now count among my closest friends. To each of them I owe something for helping make me a better person. Thank you.

Freemasonry, like numerous other organizations is going through change right now, but I firmly believe it is being strengthened as we work towards returning to our roots. It’s been a great 10 years and I look forward to the years ahead. I hope to meet you along the way.

~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.

Master Craftsman Continues After Two Years

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


The last time I wrote about the Scottish Rite Master Craftsman Program was a little more than two years ago. It's hard to believe it's been that long. It was right around the time they decided to switch things up a bit. Master Craftsman 1 became part 2, part 2 became part 3 and the new program based on the symbolic lodge (the first three degrees) and using Albert Pike's Esoterika was made into part 1. It made sense, a natural progression of sorts.

----------------------

Program I: The Symbolic Lodge - What I hope to do next

Program II: Scottish Rite Ritual and History - What I did first, because it used to be part 1

Program III: Scottish Rite Philosophy - What I'm on now because it used to be part 2.

--------------------------

So, two years ago I finished Master Craftsman pt. 1 (now part 2) and surely I'v completed the rest right? Well, I have no trouble telling you that upon completion of the then first installment of the program, (based on the AASR SJ degrees) I bought and sent in for Master Craftsman pt 2, (the deeper philosophy of those degrees - more essay question answers etc.). I was really excited to start it. But...I didn't. It sat in my secretary for a while. How long? What if I told you I just mailed in the first quiz for grading? Yep, that's right. I waited two years to start the damn thing.

It's been a long time and it also took a bit longer to get in the swing of writing essays based on questions that were pretty well constructed to make us explore some of those deep meanings. I wrote out my essays in cursive script on nice paper, folded them up along with my quiz sheet and mailed them in yesterday morning. I have to say it feels good to get that thing back in the mail.

Now I have no idea what they will say when they receive it. Undoubtedly, they will likely laugh at the fact it took me two years (a little more actually), to get the quiz back to them. When I get the next installment, I will try to place a deadline on it, one a month so that I can complete MC2 (now MC3) in a reasonable amount of time. Once I finish this one, I will definitely start MC1, based on Esoterika. I just hope it doesn't take me another 2 years to start it.

Check out all the info on the programs by clicking the link HERE

~RHJ


A Lutheran Approach to Ritual Part 5: Assigning Value

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball

Others in the series: Part 1 (intro) - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4



Today I bring you the fifth and final installment in this series. This approach to reading ritual is the most complex and may even be the most controversial. The technique of Assigning Value recognizes that there are some elements of the ritual that have more or less value when compared to others. More simply: each line does not carry the same importance. I expect some to disagree and argue that everything bears equal value. Allow me to pose a few questions for you to reflect on:

  • Are the priorities set by your obligation more important or those set by the lectures? For example, how does Masonic philosophy instruct us to choose between universal benevolence and relief only to Masonic affiliated people?

  • My obligation (Indiana) lacks a section that the jurisdiction in which I currently reside (Illinois) contains; should I follow the obligation that I took while my hands rested on the VOSL or that of my current jurisdiction?

  • We are obligated to uphold the constitutions/bylaws/edicts of the Grand Lodge, what if we find a conflict in the bylaws with the body of Masonic philosophy? In Illinois, we require uniform dues prices within each Lodge but does that conflict with our teachings of equity (different from equality) which might encourage a more nuanced structure?

The world does not exist in binary--black versus white. We respond to situations in ways that are not perfectly right or wrong. Life often presents us with much more nuanced conflicts. There are times when multiple right solutions exist. There are solutions that may positively affect some while negatively affecting others. In those situations, how are we as Masons supposed to proceed? Assigning priority is essentially necessary to assist us with these real-life moral dilemmas.

Assigning value is likely last on this list because it is not something for a novice to attempt. The technique of assigning value requires prerequisite mastery of the other techniques (Context, Analogy and Themes). This means answering questions of, ‘What was the ritual intended to teach at the time it was composed?’, ‘What does that mean for me today?’, ‘What topics are consistently addressed or otherwise clearly emphasized as the most important?’. One must have a complete understanding of the major themes of Masonic philosophy before he can truly assess the individual thematic importance. A lack of understanding in this area opens the door for selectively prioritizing those themes which most closely adhere to one’s personal comforts. Correctly prioritizing themes requires an appropriate application of analogy and contextual understanding of the composition of ritual. Ignoring these elements ignores not only the effort of the many fraternal composers but also fails to evolve the teachings from those challenges unique to the late 18th century. Thus, assigning value cannot exist in a vacuum from the other concepts. It is the culmination of the preceding three techniques.

In this series I have attempted to present you with a systematic approach to evaluating the ritual. It may not be the only method to studying Masonic philosophy but it should provide structure to someone unsure of where to start. If we are intent on transitioning from solely memorization toward deeper understanding, Masons will need to seek to understand what the authors were trying to convey. Masons also need to be able to figure out how centuries-old teachings apply to their modern life. By assembling themes one can begin to prioritize the most important lessons. You will find yourself jumping back to contextual analysis and performing a considerable amount of personal reflection if you are critically thinking through these techniques. After all, that is the purpose of our Gentle Craft. 

~SSD

WB Scott S. 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 as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies 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 SEO@ilmason.org

The All Seeing Eye: Revisited

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus contributor
James E. Frey 

*Editors Note* From time to time I find myself binge-watching shows on Netflix just before bed time. I guess they really aren't shows per se, but rather, documentaries. Ancient Egypt is something I never get tired of, and when they mix in occult imagery...well, I'm hooked. Recently, this happened to me and it made me remember this great piece from Emeritus James E. Frey. Enjoy the further light! ~RHJ

My Brethren, one of the most mysterious symbols within our society is the mythical All Seeing Eye we receive in the third degree of the Ancient Craft. This symbol in ritual is mentioned as “the All seeing eye whom the sun, moon, and stars obey, and under whose watchful care comets preform their stupendous revolutions, beholds the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will reward us according to our works.” In ritual this reminds us of the obligation we owe to God, not in any religious context, but to the universality of God and mankind. As Masons the eye has had many meanings throughout our long rich history. But the true understanding and deeper meaning is a revelation of the meaning of the Master Mason’s degree.

Albert Mackey writes that the All Seeing Eye is “An important symbol of the Supreme Being, borrowed by the Freemasons from the nations of antiquity.” The All Seeing Eye is a symbol representing the watchful gaze of God. It reminds us that every thought and action is to be recorded by the Grand Architect of the Universe, and that we are bound to our obligations in spirit as well as in blood. As Masons we are to act upon the square of virtue and keep our passions in due bounds, that is what we swore to uphold on our honor as a man and a mason. This is the general exoteric explanation for this symbol in modern masonry. This is because the eye was adopted into Masonry in 1797 in Thomas Webb’s Official Freemason’s Monitor. The Masons during the enlightenment era referred to this as the Eye of Providence, which represents God’s gaze over humanity. They saw it as a symbol to represent unity of religious denominations in this new era of enlightenment which ended the dark ages and gave birth to modern democracy.

But the All Seeing Eye is found throughout history in a variety cultures and societies. This I believe is why the Masons adopted it for this reason. For instance Buddha is regularily referred to as the “Eye of the World”. In Hinduism divine providence is associated with the God Shiva, who has an all seeing third eye on his forehead, that notices everything that happens in the world, has an authority over death, rebirth and immortality. The third eye is also associated with the forehead chakra in eastern meditation teachings. In Medieval and Renaissance European iconography, the Eye often with the addition of an enclosing triangle was an explicit image of the Christian Trinity.
But within Masonry the All Seeing Eye borrows its myth from Hebrew theology. The Watchfulness of God is demonstrated in verses throughout the Old Testament, but Mackey points to the Apocryphal Book of Conversation with Moses on Mount Sinai, the eternal gaze of God is beautifully allegorized. “Then Moses said to the Lord, O Lord dost thou sleep or not? The Lord said unto Moses, I never sleep: but take a cup and fill it with water. Then Moses took a cup and filled it with water, as the Lord commanded him. Then the Lord cast into the heart of Moses the breath of slumber; so he slept, and the cup fell from his hand, and the water which was therein spilled then Moses awoke from his sleep. Then said God to Moses, I declare by my power, and by my glory, that if I were to withdraw my providence from the heavens and the earth, for longer a space of time than thou hast slept, they would at once fall to ruin and confusion, like as the cup fell from thy hand.”

This verse is pointed too because I feel it correlates one of the most important meanings to this symbol. The All Seeing Eye is more representative of the will of God, rather than God itself. In a hermetic view the eye dwells in the heavens gazing over the sun, and moon. But yet it can see into the inward receses of the human heart. This reminds us of the important hermetic lesson of ‘as above so below’ this shows that the earth and the heavens are a reflection of each other and connected through the nature of God. New ways of perceiving God and man is what lead humanity out of the dark ages and bring forth the Rosicrucian and enlightenment movements. The Masons of the enlightenment era believed it was God’s will that they give birth to democracy and the end of the feudal system. They believed Masonry was a tool for social change and social justice, to end the darkness of exploitation and the revival of the ancient ideals of the republic. This is why I believe the Speculative Masons incorporated the All Seeing Eye as an emblem, because they believed they were a working tool for the will of God.

As Masonry progressed, its focus on political philosophy faded into the esoteric studies that were believed to be hidden from the ordinary brethren. Illustrious Brother Albert Pike, 33 a masonic scholar and philosopher taught that the adepts of the order concealed of the true meaning of the symbols of the craft. Yet the true meaning of the symbols and teachings may yet be discovered through the study and reflection of the student. Pike writes,

“It is in its antique symbols and their occult meaning that the true secrets of Freemasonry consist. But these have no value if we see nothing in the symbols of the blue lodge beyond the imbecile pretenses of interpretations of them contained in our monitors. People have overlooked the truth that the symbols of antiquity were not used to reveal but to conceal. Each symbol is an enigma to be solved, and not a lesson to be read. How can the intelligent Mason fail to see that the blue degrees are but preparatory, to enlist and band together the rank and file Masonic army for purposes undisclosed to them, that they are the lesser mysteries in which the symbols are used to conceal the truth?

Every man of high intelligence initiated of the lesser mysteries but ignorant of the greater, would still have known that the former were but preparatory, and that there must be some place in which their symbols were explained and their real purposes made known.”

Great thinkers within masonry pondered the teaching and mythology of the craft and began to discover deep esoteric wisdom that stretched back to ancient Egypt. This is why within Masonry the All Seeing Eye is always mentioned to be of Egyptian origins. Some early masonic writers even declare Egypt was the origins of the craft as well. It is believed the first reference in Masonic literature to that of Egypt is from the Cooke Manuscript which reads, “During the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt they learned the craft of Masonry… And from thence this worthy science was brought into France and into many other regions.”

To understand the role of Egypt in Masonry, one must understand the occult revival movement. During this time period the western world was fascinated with the occult mysteries, primarily with Egyptian mythology. Groups like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose three founders; Dr. William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers were Freemasons and members of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A.) Westcott, also a member of the Theosophical Society, which was a mystical Christian group founded by Madam Blavatsky which dedicated itself to the study of man’s relation with divinity, to name a few groups. There is no doubt that during this time Freemasonry became fascinated with the mystical and spiritual teachings of the craft as well as the Egyptian mysteries. Pike believed that Egypt had a monotheistic religion with its source from the original concept of God, Atom-Re which was the God of light which generated himself from the nothingness. Pike’s understanding of the Egyptian mysteries came mostly from the Grecian writers, which state that Egypt utilized the mysteries for initiation into their secrets. Pike writes,

“The candidates went through a ceremony representing this, in all the mysteries everywhere…the mysteries of Osiris, Isis and Horus, seem to have been the model of all other ceremonies of initiation subsequently established among the different peoples of the world”

The Egyptian mysteries were dramatic rituals that were used to provide the candidate to receive understanding of eternal life. These initiation rituals were based primarily off the legend of Osiris and Isis, to which Pike believed was the source of Hiramic legend and the mystery of the master’s word. This legend sates that Osiris, ancient King of Egypt, was the sun and the virgin Isis, his wife and sister, the moon. Typhon, his brother representing darkness and chaos, plots to kill Osiris and take the throne throwing Egypt back to chaos. Typhon traps Osiris in a coffin and throws it into the Nile, where Osiris drowns, descending to the underworld. Isis searches and finds the body, but it is stolen by Typhon who cuts it into 14 pieces and throws them into the Nile. This act is similar to masonic ritual where a body is mutilated if an oath is violated. Isis again searches this time only finding one part which is declared a substitute. By a mystical union through the God of wisdom Thoth, Isis and Osiris have a son, Horus, who defeats Typohn in battle and then assumes his father’s earthly kingdom. 
 
This scene of the raising of Osiris is particularly interesting to Pike. Horus went in solemn procession to the grave of his father Osiris. He opened it, called to his Father saying: "Stand up! Thou shalt not end, thou shalt not perish!" Osiris awakes but is only arisen by the aid of the strong grip of the lion-god he gains control of his body, and is lifted from death to life. Thereafter, by virtue of his victory over death, Osiris becomes Lord of the Land of Death, his scepter an Ank Cross, his throne a Square. This is representative of not only the true grip of a master mason, but also to the perfect ashlar which sits represented as the perfect spiritual self. Looking esoterically at the relationship between the sun, moon and master of the lodge one can see a clear parallel to Osiris, Isis and Thoth, and the relationship this has to that of Alchemy. Osiris now raised is given sovereignty over the underworld.

According to Mackey “On the same principle, the Egyptians represented Osiris their chief deity, by the symbol of an open eye, and placed this hieroglyphic of him in all temples. His symbolic name, on the monuments, was represented by the eye accompanying a throne… which may as correctly be supposed to be a representation of a square. The All seeing Eye may then be considered as a symbol of God manifested in his omnipresence”

This sense of omnipresence is interesting because we now know the All Seeing Eye to re associated with Amun-Ra as oppose to Osiris. Amun-Ra was self-created without mother or father, he is the light birthing in the darkness. All other Gods are seen as an extension of his being. This is how the eye is related in extension to Osiris. The Eye is also a symbol for Ra, a solar deity, which in Helipopolis and other area was merged with the mythology of Horus forming the deity Re-Horakhty which means "Ra, who is Horus of the Two Horizons".

This process of light out of darkness is at the heart of masonic teaching, and process of ritual death and resurrection is the root of achieving enlightenment in the masonic system. In fact it is at the root of all our mythology and teachings. In my view the All Seeing Eye is a reminder of our own inner divinity. We are all connected to each other through God. Through God we understand the deep devolution and dedication we must observe in our daily lives. Always remember that we are the reflection of the universe upon itself. So while in the gaze of the All Seeing Eye we must let our spirit be as pure and spotless as the white leather apron we were presented when we first stood neither barefoot nor clad upon the checkered floor.

~JEF


The Lodge Is Not A Male Safe Space

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
W. B. Darin A. Lahners


I received a lot of comments on my last article. Regardless of your opinion on it, I feel like I made a lot of my brethren think about our future as an organization. One of my main goals when I write is to try to educate my brethren, and to make them think There seemed to be an overwhelming commonality in many of the replies to my previous article. That common thread is the notion that a Masonic Lodge should be a Male Safe Space. I believe that this idea is not only wrong but dangerous.    

You’ve probably been hearing or reading about Safe Spaces. To be honest, it was a foreign concept to me until I started working for a State University roughly two and a half years ago. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, let me define it for you. A Safe Space is a designated area (usually in an educational setting) where a particular person or racial, ethnic, sexual or ideological group can feel safe by banning those outside of their group. In this space, they feel that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.

A Masonic Lodge limits its membership to men, and requires its members to believe in a supreme being. It is also historically, a place where men could discuss the radical ideas of their time without fear of reprisals. Due to these characteristics, I guess a Masonic Lodge could be called a Safe Space.  However, I think you’ll agree that we ultimately are not a Safe Space by definition. We accept men of all backgrounds, races and religions and embrace them as our brothers. This isn’t a negative thing, but in terms of defining the Lodge as a safe space, it goes against the definition laid out above. In fact, I’d argue that we are way more inclusive of an organization due to this.  

In a lot of respects, by claiming we’re a safe space, we are limiting our organization. In a safe space, you surround yourself with people that have similar opinions to your own. There is little or no diversity. There is not room for different ideologies. Is this what you want from your Masonic Lodge? It’s not what I want. I’ve seen firsthand how safe spaces are removing the ability to have a dissenting opinion, and limiting or removing education all together. A major part of education is the ability to dissect an opinion, or idea from all possible angles, and to have a healthy discourse or debate about the pros and cons of said opinion or idea.    

One of our main goals is to recruit good men who want to improve themselves. This is why we must stress Masonic education. We need to be able to learn new ideas regarding Masonry, and to be able to discuss and debate them. If we act as a safe space for men, then we end up stifling this. We would only allow other members who have similarities in their background, and we would all agree on certain ideologies. There would be no need for education. In my opinion, not having Masonic education is what is dangerous about having a Safe Space. A major part of our Masonic Education is informal. It occurs when you meet a brother from a different background, race or religion. While learning about them, you educate yourself about their path to Masonry, and you bond over your commonalities in the craft. Doesn’t eliminating this opportunity due to having a safe space mentality go against our very essence as an organization?

Because of our ability to bond over our common experiences, is it possible that we are a support group? The definition of a support group is: A group of people with common experiences or concerns who provide each other with encouragement, comfort and advice. Within the lodge, we all have the common experience of our degrees and obligations. We hold our self-improvement as paramount to improving the world. It’s our sacred duty to turn the rough ashlar of our inner selves into a perfect one. When we join a lodge, we meet with other men who have the same goal. Once again, these men might have a different background, race or religion. During our meetings, degrees, educational seminars, and community events, we are able to provide each other with encouragement, comfort each other during times of distress, and advise each other. However, there is a major difference between the Masonic Lodge and a support group.

In most support group models, it is imperative that all members share how each person’s life is going. There is then a discussion between the peers in the group regarding each person’s issues and support is given.  In the Masonic Lodge, there is no imperative to do this. If a member has an issue he might approach some other members of the lodge that he’s comfortable with, but on a whole this information is not privy to every member of the lodge. It’s up to each individual to decide to whether or not to share what’s going on with their life. It’s not required. I would then argue, that we are not a support group either.   

So where does that leave the Masonic Lodge? It is not a safe space by definition. It is also not a support group by definition. I think its best summarized by something that I heard repeated by the many brethren who took time out of their schedules to help in my degrees. You might have heard something similar. It’s simply put as this: You get out of Masonry what you put into it. I would add a caveat to this: The Masonic Lodge is what you make it. If you want it to be safe space, then make it a safe space. If you need it to be a support group, then make it a support group. If you want it to be a place of education, then make it a place of education. If you want to make it a place to hone your memorization skills, then make it a place where you can do that by getting involved in learning ritual. Engage with your brothers and turn your lodge into something that you all can agree on. Challenge your brothers to be better, and help make yourself better in the process. Just make it into something!    

~DAL  

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL).   He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music.  You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com

A Master’s Work.

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Robert Jackson


I’ve heard before that our job as Masons is to make more Masons. What does that mean? How do we successfully do that job? In one light, we can think that it's just the degree work. Open the doors, get them through, either through one day classes or in the traditional method. But does simply taking a degree make a man a Mason? If you are reading this, I’m betting your answer is “no.”

So how do we do our job? Much like fatherhood, there is no real instruction manual. What is the best way to make a Mason? I would argue that making a Mason has little to do with kneeling at the altar and taking an obligation. Funneling people through the machine doesn't make Masons. Churning the machine, however, does have an impact on the Fraternity. The importance on the ritual can be diluted, and worse yet, the Masons supportive of the machine, can burn out through a serial repetition of degree work. So, if our job is to make Masons, how else can we achieve this goal?

Throughout our lives, we rarely have a comprehensive view of the full impact of our actions, either good, or bad. Everything we do has an impact on others. Whether it is holding a door open for somebody, hanging with a friend while he’s getting his first tattoo, or cutting somebody off in traffic. Your action ripples, and at least partly determines what kind of day somebody is going to have. Beyond that, their actions from that day could impact their life for years to come (cue Butterfly Effect). Note that none of these scenarios required the recipient to be a Brother.

By being men of strong moral character, applying those working tools each day, we spread a positive opinion of the Fraternity and the Craft. A courteous and helpful hand, who just happens to be wearing a Masonic ring, could do more for our Fraternity than all of the advertising campaigns combined. More importantly, however, we are able to distribute the compassion and care that our world seems to so desperately need. I would humbly submit that the best way to create Masons, is simply by living the lessons of our Craft, spreading the cement of Brotherly Love and Affection.


~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past and presiding Master of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org .

Was Jesus an Operative Mason?

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

Coming to Nazareth during his ministry, Jesus preached just as he had been doing throughout the countryside. In other places he had drawn enthusiastic crowds. In this his hometown, however, people in the crowd became derisive. They recognized him to be one of their own, a "common" tradesman, and therefore not someone who should be taken seriously as a teacher or prophet. "Is not this," they asked, "the carpenter?"

This passage is where we learn Jesus, like his earthly father Joseph, was a carpenter, according to contemporary Bible translations. Both Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 give an account of the incident using the Greek word "tektōn" to refer to Jesus' profession.

"Is not this the carpenter ["ho tektōn"], the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" ~Mark 6:3 (KJV)
"Is not this the carpenter's son ["ho tou tektōnos huios"]? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?" ~Matthew 13:55 (KJV)
The word "tekton," however, does not directly translate as "carpenter." It more accurately means "builder" or "craftsman," a designation which, in fact, leaves Jesus' true profession in doubt.

A carpenter would fit in the category of builder or craftsman, and that may well have been what Jesus did. He would not have built homes in an area where trees were scarce, but would have made furniture, doors and tools, such as plows.

However, the most dominant profession around Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and would have practiced his trade, was stone masonry. The area was rich in stone with several quarries, including one in the heart of Nazareth. Virtually all buildings were made of stone, and the demand for stone masons would have been high.


During the time Jesus would have worked as a craftsman, the Romans expanded the small town of Sepphoris into a city for Jewish aristocrats who supported Rome. True, the venture would have required carpenters, but the greatest demand would have been for masons. Sepphoris (today Zippori) was less than four miles from Jesus' home and, regardless of his craft, it is likely he worked on the project.

We’ll never know for sure since the broad definition of "tekton" could refer to a number of professions. But taken in context and in light of the more likely profession of the tradesmen in Nazareth in that era, it could be that Jesus was not a carpenter, but an operative mason.

~SLH



Take Off Your Hat!

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°
 
The Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine, 33° and Frank Sinatra fight in "From Here To Eternity" (1953)

We've all seen that scene in a movie. Some army sergeant challenges his superior officer by saying "if you weren't wearing that hat, I'd teach you a lesson." Of course, the captain takes off his hat, and the two wind up in a fist fight--just two equal men settling a quarrel between them. 

Symbols of rank and authority are respected because they represent something larger than just the one individual. They represent the values of the military or of the law enforcement agency in which those individuals wearing the symbols belong. Those individuals are still human beings, but while they wear the rank and insignia of their office, they represent everyone involved with that organization. They often have to suppress their personal feelings while they are representing the entire group. 

The same is true of Masonry. When we wear our hats, lapel pins, rings, or have that emblem on our bumper, we are out there in the world representing ourselves as Masons. We are still human beings, but when we make that choice to represent ourselves publicly as a Freemason, we need to act like one. We should work very hard to make sure we are demonstrating the core principles and values of the Fraternity that more than 6 million Freemasons belong to world-wide. 

The same is true on social media. I couldn't tell you the number of times I'm disappointed by the way Freemasons behave on social media. A couple weeks ago, I unfriended and blocked a number of Freemasons because I didn't want to be associated with the things they were posting, saying, and doing on social media. I'm not a prude, but I was embarrassed. I don't want our Fraternity tarnished by the poor judgement of a few of our Brothers that seem to lack the good sense to conduct themselves appropriately in a public setting. 

If you're wearing the red fez in your profile picture, then act like a Shriner--that fez represents us all and you should conduct yourself accordingly. And if you display the square and compass on your homepage, then don't get into ugly debates and call people names and generally act like an idiot--again, you represent us all. Part of being a Freemason is learning to subdue our passions and keep ourselves within due bounds. Likewise, if you see that behavior and say nothing to your Brothers that are involved in it, you're contributing to it yourself. When we see our brothers acting foolishly, we should gently try and correct their behavior because it reflects badly on us all. We are, after all, our Brother's keeper. Right? 

Now people will criticize me for saying this. That's a given. They'll say that just because they're a Mason doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to express an opinion, post what they want or get into a debate on social media if they feel like it. You're right. We live in a free society that values few things more than free speech. I'm just saying that if you're going to do that, and you can't keep the discussions civil, then do so as an individual, not as a member of an organization that holds in high regard values like tolerance, equality, and harmony. An organization of men from many ethnic, religious, political and educational backgrounds. If you can't represent the best values of the Fraternity, then do us all a favor and don't represent yourself as a Mason. 

In other words, take off your hat! 

~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

With Each Upright, Level Step

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If you think about it, your Masonic journey to the East began the same way, from the West
with one upright regular step. When I was advancing through my degrees I couldn’t wait until
I was raised to be a Master Mason. I was so excited to receive my “Masters wages”, which I thought would be the right to wear a Masonic ring and have all that insider information and of course, the secrets and such.

As I was going through the degrees, several learned brethren said to me “Don’t forget the Master Mason degree isn’t the finish line. It’s truly the starting line.“ I smiled like I believed them and drove myself insane in anticipation. When I was raised as a Master Mason, my feet barely hit the floor and I was running! I wanted to memorize every piece of ritual I could. I started out with a piece which impressed me so much during my Master Mason degree called “the Optional Charge". Many know it better by the “On Yonder Book” lecture.

The Brother who performed the piece for me impressed me so much I wanted to learn it, not just of the beauty of the piece but to honor that brother who performed it so beautifully. I continued my run for a long time. I read, I studied, I memorized. I took a lot of offices and I wore some funny hats. My Masonic journey had become a long-distance marathon. One day a lady in my family who had been a rainbow girl started asking me questions. Simple questions in which an Entered Apprentice should have been able to answer. I became embarrassed because I couldn’t answer them. I remember hearing the lecture in which the questions were answered but I couldn’t give her an answer. Luckily the subject was changed and the conversation moved on but the embarrassment was still there. 

I realized instead of taking upright, regular steps I was running and my journey had become tunnel vision. I realized I forgot one of the first things I memorized: “To learn to subdue my passions.” In pursuit of “Trying to improve myself in Masonry.” I was off on a pursuit with no goal, no map and no direction. Instead of advancing to the East I was just like Moses, walking around in the dessert aimlessly. I tried to cram everything in my brain instead of taking a slow journey of upright steps -- reading, thinking and conversing with Brethren who have been on their journey longer, who can help you in your journey. I know now what the guys at my lodge all those years ago were talking about. I used my Master Mason degree like a race horse uses a starting gate. Off on a dead run to cover miles and win the prize, I’m not sure they were referring to an actual Masonic Education. 

I’m sure many of them, in their minds were referring to titles which I might receive and experiences I would have. But in the end, they were right. Brethren, this is just my opinion but after giving the matter some thought, I feel now that the prize I will receive at my journeys end, will be a sprig of acacia and my own white leather apron, because I truly believe the “finish line” is when I take my last level, upright step at the West gate of the Grand lodge above where (I hope) I will hear the Tiler tell me ”Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I am now trying to bring focus to my studying. As I am writing this piece I have just mailed the last lesson in The Scottish Rite’s Master Craftsman program number one: The Symbolic lodge. I can honestly say, now that I have completed the course it was a very challenging and thought-provoking course, and an excellent foundation for my remaining Masonic studies. I hope to start Master Craftsman 2 in the fall. I still read as much as I used to but now I am also trying to think about the words I just read on the printed page. Like if I were attempting a lavish banquet instead of trying to devour every morsel of food there is to offer and make myself sick just pick a few of the tastiest treats and savor them. Eating this way is better for your body and I believe studying this way is healthier for your mind.

I hope this will not only help me retain more information but also, maybe help provide more inspiration for my writing. I guess what I am trying to say Brethren, is like I was told in the North east corner “At your leisure hours, that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will be ready to receive "instruction.” Improve in Masonic knowledge or as I am trying to get through my own dented skull “learn and retain it!”

So Brother, just remember “...We are traveling upon the Level of time to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.” Take those upright, level steps slowly so that you don’t miss anything that life is prepared to give you.

~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.

Past Master Advisory

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



What happens to the newest Past Master? It’s election time again within the Craft—at least it is here in Michigan. Under the Grand Lodge of Michigan, we operate under the progressive line technique.Meaning, this year’s Senior Warden is usually the next person to approach the East. There are unsuspecting events that may occur causing that not to happen, and sometimes Masters serve more than their yearly term because of it. However, in the event that everything goes according to plan, where does the current sitting Master end up?

Some lodges kick him out into the Tyler’s position, because it is the most relaxing job within lodge. However, I fall under a different belief structure. The newest Past Master shouldn’t take an officer’s chair, he still has a job to complete after he abdicates his position to the incoming Worshipful Master.

That job is to assist the incoming Worshipful Master.He should be the right hand man for the incoming Worshipful, next to the Treasure, and Chaplain. He should be sitting in the chairs in the East still. Every time the new Worshipful Master has questions about the job, the newest Past Master should be there in an advisory role. The Secretary provides the law for the Master to abide by, the Treasurer provides the funds, the Chaplain provides the spiritual guidance, and the newest Past Master guides the Worshipful Master in the interpretation of the laws provided to him, both spiritual and Masonic.

Ultimately, it is the Worshipful Master’s interpretation that will be carried out; however, the Past
Master, in his new advisory role, can help ease the stress of such interpretations. We have all
experienced a job where we were tossed to the sharks, with no help. If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. Yet, it is most likely an everyday occurrence when you are placed in a position, given a book of rules to follow and told “good luck”. It doesn’t have to be that way with our Fraternity.

Everybody who has ever sat in a chair, is a leader in that lodge and has the ability to walk beside the Worshipful Master as he sets his goals and expectations for the year to come. The advisory position, should be able to help the Worshipful Master set those goals and expectations based on his experience in the East. His previous successes can be the successes of the new Worshipful Master, and his previous failures do not have to be repeated.

The latest Past Master must show the Worshipful Master there is more to the job than memorizing lines. He must set a clear and concise plan of execution. He should make a general plan for what he wants to accomplish in the year as Master. Then he should break it down, 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. 180 days if he is feeling ambitious. Then, with clear and concise plans to move forward; he must trust his officers to accomplish his mission.

If you have ever served in the Military this is the method of action for commanders. Consider the
Worshipful Master as your Company Commander, the Senior Warden as your First Sergeant, the Junior Warden as the Platoon Sergeant, and the remaining appointed officers as the Non-Commissioned Officers that get the job done. The Past Master is the previous Company Commander that is conducting a Right Seat—Left Seat transition, to make operations move forward with ease and keep the wheels of a well-functioning organization greased.

So with the upcoming elections, I urge you to please, do not kick the newest Past Master into a chair that is outside the lodge, or even into the sidelines. Keep him as close to the Worshipful Master as possible, at least until the transition is completed. That doesn’t mean put him in the Secretary role, which happens more often than not. The Secretary has a job that includes advising the Worshipful Master, but is responsible for many other things as well. No, it is best to keep the Past Master in the East, in a chair next to the current Worshipful Master. There are plenty of chairs up there that don’t get their use unless Grand Lodge Officers are in town, so use them.

~ARG

Is It Time?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

This week the Boy Scouts of America announced that they will allow girls to become Cub Scouts and to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. On the 23rd of October, I am going to receive my initiatory degree in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which became the first fraternity in the United States to allow women when it adopted the “Beautiful Rebekah Degree” on September 20, 1851. It’s time for Freemasonry to do the same. We need to start allowing women into our fraternity.

I know, what I’m saying is blasphemy to many of you. We’re steeped in historical tradition. We’ve been founded on the principles of brotherly love. We’ve already got a branch of Masonry with the Order of the Eastern Star that allows women. Part of the oath we take specifically states that we can’t assist or be present at the initiating, passing or raising of a woman. The root word in fraternity is frater, which is Latin for brother or brotherhood. How dare I even mention this?

Honestly, the answer is pretty simple. Women deserve to have the right to join us if they so desire. Women can enjoy and learn from our mysteries as much as men can. There is nothing in our mysteries that appeals to men only. Our fraternity teaches universal lessons that all of humankind can learn from. If a woman wants to learn our secrets, and meets our qualifications, I say we allow them to do so. If we can belong to an organization that teaches the universality of mankind regardless of his race or religion, then why do we not also teach this about gender? It seems hypocritical to me that we stop there. Can we not form similar bonds with females that we have with our brothers now? I believe we can.

I know the argument is that all fraternal organizations, including those that allow women are seeing a decline. This is true. The numbers are there. They show a decrease across the board. The Masonic fraternity has lost 3.8 million members since the late 1950’s according to one article I read. So why bother with admitting women? Aside from the answer above, we’re excluding one half of the population as potential members. We’re also not seen as very progressive, which is hurting us with our target membership pool, which are Millennials.

We need to attract Millennials if we want our organization to survive. I know, we have many millennial members of our fraternity. As of 2012, it was estimated that there were approximately 80 million millennials in the U.S. However, there is another reason I say this. Millennial women outperform millennial men in the classroom. As of 2015, 57 percent of the undergraduate population were women. They are in general known for being determined, confident, intelligent and curious. They are always seeking new ways to improve. Are our lessons not perfect for them?

Furthermore, Millennials generally as a trait are civic-oriented, ethical, globally – minded, authentic, compassionate, progressive and liberal. Our belief in the universality of brotherhood regardless of race or religion could be easily expanded to add gender. I believe that with including women, we would see our fraternity undergo a renaissance. We would need to market ourselves to them of course, but instead of saying we make good men better, what better phrase to use but: We make good people into extraordinary people.

Think of how many members’ wives, girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, or great granddaughters might be interested in joining as well. For many years they’ve wondered about what goes on behind the closed doors. Here’s that chance to engage them. I know as current master of my lodge, I have a hard time getting my members to show up to events because they have other obligations to their families. But if their wife, or family were also members, I wonder how many might show up? Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I’m willing to bet that it might increase their engagement in our activities. I know several Masons that only have daughters. I’d be willing to bet that some of them might like to be able to see their daughters join Freemasonry, and be able to share the experiences of our gentle craft with them.

There could also be an economic benefit. I just attended the Grand Lodge session in Illinois, where our Grand Lodge made a desperate plea to increase the per capita by $20 dollars a year. (It was amended down to $20 dollars from $25 dollars.) This amendment was voted down by the Illinois Brethren. I also watched as another amendment to allow individual lodges to hold two raffles a year was amended to allow lodges to allow gambling where permissible by local laws, which was also defeated.

My point is: Our beloved fraternity is hurting for money, at both the Grand Lodge level and individual lodge level. Would you rather allow all forms of gambling be part of our organization instead of allowing women? Do you want to see every lodge turned into a video poker parlor or casino? Would we be having these discussions if we had the other half of the population as potential members? If we had women members, they would also be contributing dues at a local level and more per capita to the Grand Lodges.

Of course, I know we’re a long way off from this. We still have many Grand Lodges in the United States that haven’t even recognized Prince Hall in their state as Regular, which is another issue altogether. However, we need to adapt or die. I love Masonry. I love the friendships I have made and the bond between my brothers and I. I don’t want to have future generations lose the chance to make those authentic connections. I fear that if we don’t adapt, that they will.

~DAL 

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL).   He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  When he’s not busy enjoying Masonic fellowship, Darin spends his time as a DM for his children’s D&D campaign, reading, golfing, watching movies and listening to music.  You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.