So You Want To Be A Masonic Writer

Part I — How to become a Masonic Writer overnight

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



Recently when a Brother asked what advice I might have for budding Masonic writers, the question took me off guard a bit. Even though we were having a conversation about a book I had edited and others I had written, I sort of forgot I was a writer. That doesn't qualify as a "senior moment." I just don't primarily think of myself as a writer. Dan Brown is a writer. David McCullough and J.K. Rowling are writers. I am a Freemason who writes. Go ahead… call me a writer. I won't be offended. Dan Brown, David McCullough and J.K. Rowling might be, though.

So when the Brother asked me about writing, my brain had a small geomagnetic storm. I gave him a bloviated answer that meandered somewhere between the history of the written word and a full quotation of Strunk and White's unabridged Elements of Style. I could have been so much more efficient. What advice do I have for aspiring writers — Masonic or not?

Write.

That's it: write. Write until the letters wear off your keyboard. Write until your body seizes into a ball from writer's cramp. Write until the cows come home. When the cows come home, keep writing. Write until you finish the article, book, trilogy or whatever; and when you're done, write some more.

"Writers write," as they say.

So, you want to be a Masonic writer? Here's your first assignment: write. (You probably guessed that's what it would be, didn't you). Go to your next Masonic function and keep your eyes open. Something interesting will happen — guaranteed. You'll talk to a Brother who has an interesting story. Something unusual will happen in the meeting. A Brother will receive his 50-year jewel. You'll find out how the Lodge helped with a charity or you may discover an unusual buildup of carpet lint. Go home, sit down and write about it. Getting your material published is probably a lot easier than you think. We'll talk about that some other time. Meanwhile…

Congratulations. You are a Masonic writer.

~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.

Measured Expectations - A Review of Michael R. Poll's New Book

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


One of the greatest duties I’ve been called for as a writer is to be a book reviewer. Not only does it afford me the opportunity to count my reading time as “work”, but it exposes me to multiple great works that I might otherwise never have discovered. Such is the case with “Measured Expectations: The Challenges of Today’s Freemasonry” by Michael R. Poll, which I only learned of when I was asked to review it.

I have enjoyed Brother Poll’s other works greatly, and specifically his Masonic edition of “Robert’s Rules of Order” has proven an invaluable reference during my time as Worshipful Master. If you have ever read any of his books on philosophy or esotericism, you should have a rudimentary idea of what to expect here.

This book (as with many of Brother Poll’s other books) isn’t necessarily intended to be read start to finish, although you are definitely welcome to do so. Instead, each chapter serves as a short stand alone education piece, suitable for either private reflection or for a supplement to your lodge’s education program. As such, it becomes very difficult to review this as a “book”, and we must instead look at it as a collection of papers sharing the same basic theme.

With any collection such as this, there will be some works that are stronger than others, and some that are more meaningful to you in your current journey than the rest. If I had my way, every single Mason would read the first paper, titled “A Young Man Joins A Masonic Lodge,” before their annual elections. I believe this one paper to be of such high importance to understanding the current problems in Freemasonry that I think it should be distributed as far as possible, and this paper alone is worth the purchase price of the book.

Another paper that I found fascinating had to do with the symbolism and history of the double headed eagle. I would love to see the ideas in this chapter expanded on, as it could almost be a book to itself. My only frustration is that it was much too short, and Brother Poll had to stop the article before really delving deeply into the ideas he brought up.

The remainder of the papers in the book delve into subjects such as music, the history and role of ritual, understanding the culture of different lodges, and a brief examination of the modern Scottish Rite. Conspicuously absent is any discussion of the York Rite; I’m not certain if Brother Poll does not find it an interesting topic, or if he doesn’t feel qualified to discuss it, however I would have loved to see his take on the modern York Rite in the same manner he discusses the Scottish Rite.

“Measured Expectations” is necessarily repetitive at times; as a collection of papers, some themes are touched on in multiple different papers, and each time it is from the standpoint that you did not read any of the previous papers. This isn’t a bad thing, since the intention is to use each chapter by itself, however it is something to be aware of if you choose to read it start to finish as I did.

The intention of this book is to help brothers who are newer to Masonic education find a foot in the door, and it exceeds expectations for that. The topics presented and writing style are all simple enough for a newer Mason (or one who is just finding an interest in learning more) to gain significant insight from, without boring the more experienced Mason. If this book makes you curious to start doing more in-depth research on your own, Brother Poll should consider himself highly successful.

~AT

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

The Rite of Illumination - Revisit

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. James E. Fry 32°

*Editors Note - In "light" of some of the reading I've been doing (David Chaim Smith), it made me think about this piece in particular by Bro. James E. Frey. Enjoy!


“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Genesis, 1:1-3) 
My Brethren, within the Masonic system the Rite of Illumination is of vital importance in the Ancient Craft Degrees. In each degree the candidate is sent on a search for the light in the darkness circumambulating in the path of the sun. In each journey he over comes trials, in each journey he reaches the apex of his search and finds himself at the altar of masonry. This is the point where the candidate is brought to light and receives the Masonic secrets of that certain degree. This ceremony within the ritual is associated with the moment of creation found in the Old Testament Book of Genesis.

The moment of creation begins with a profound and transcendent statement which in Hebrew translates to “ALEM BRA BRAChIT AT EchIM UAT EARTz” or in English “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” This first line is profound in the fact that it sums up a cosmos process involving billions of years and innumerable amounts of energy. This universal emanation which manifests in the ‘physical’ in many ways is never to be truly understood by man. It is interesting that at this moment the candidate is brought to light his new life as a mason is created, his new sense of the materialized world around him.

The significance of this moment to the Masonic system can only be properly appreciated if you interpret it through the Cabbalistic philosophy. The Cabbala is thought of as a mystical system dedicated to understanding the manifestation of deity. This manifestation is mapped out through a series of steps creating the Tree of Life, which is seen as a path working system which is the foundation for the Scottish Rite. Even in the Ancient Craft there are numerous Cabbalistic influences throughout the ritual veiled behind allegory to hide the secret teachings of the Craft.   This divine manifestation begins in the mitts of nothingness symbolized by the Hebrew word Ain, meaning boundless. Ain is seen as the eternal root of all existence. Ain has the characteristic of being incomprehensible in nature, the absolute equilibrium to all which is manifested as a universal state of suspension. This suspension is in turn a sense of nothingness, but this concept should be viewed as Absolute Being not lacking any form of completeness. Ain is seen as “without form or void” complete but without definition. This is the first manifestation of a Transcendent being which then emanates itself as Ain Soph, meaning boundless life.

Ain Soph is all potential existence as a condition without polarity incapable of experiencing absence of itself. But life by definition is not completely self-sufficient so is perceived as being reabsorbed back into this state of Being. Ain Soph acts as a way for potential energy to be distributed throughout the substance of the boundless. Ain Soph emanates itself in all directions from its own root which creates life in the image of itself as being diverse in nature and ever existing. This state of Being emanates itself into Ain Soph Aur, or boundless light. Ain Soph Aur is the first witness of Being in the “darkness on the face of the deep” thus making light the universal symbol of the concealed mystery. When God claims “Let there be Light” he is announcing the manifestation of all possibility. Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur, form the Triune divinity, the one that is three.

“The three-fold nature of the Eternal Cause is manifested in the three-fold constitution of all created things. Thus mankind has a body crystallized from light, a soul of the substance of life, and a spirit sharing the equilibrium of the eternal profundity.” (Manly P. Hall 33, Old Testament Wisdom, pg. 36)

This Triune manifestation emanates itself into the first of the Sepera Kether, or the Crown. Kether is the primordial point which manifests within itself the manifested Sephiroth or generative existence or orders. This is the face of the Eternal which is manifested from the causeless.  It is manifested as Ehjeh or “I Am” because it is the first cause serving as a channel dissemination of all.

The terms heaven and earth from a Cabalistic perspective represents two states of primordial differences, or separation of causes. Heaven can be seen not as a collection of constellations and Earth as a planet, but Heaven representing spirit and the Earth as matter. “In the Beginning” is also a result of mistranslation as Jewish mystics and scholars held that the correct phrase is ‘from that which was first’.

The word “created” is often thought to mean a creation of something new, but in the Cabalistic sense it is the generation of the physical, because creation from a human perspective is seen as a formation for something through skill made from elements or materials already available. Creation is a form of expression of the self through internal inspiration and the use of interments and tools used by the Creator. Creation in the Cabbalistic sense implies the formation of things from their root or source. So the first verse of Genesis may be interpreted as “From the eternal principles and essences which are the substances of the beginnings of existence, the forces, makers, or fashioners of the world, the androgynous creator-gods, modeled, sculpted, or carved, and thus brought into manifestation, the substances of the superior and inferior creation, or related archetypally the positive and negative aspects of eternal Being.” (Manly P. Hall 33, Old Testament Wisdom, pg. 97).

The word God, or the creator, is not written in Genesis as Jehovah, but appears as Elohim which is a plural word from the Phoenician El. So it is a plural word representing multiple creative energies. Elohim, or the great builders, sat over the face of deep void of Da’at  and their motion in the depths of space brought forth the will-born universe. The Elohim are symbolically represented by the invisible energies of the seven sacred planets which have been perceived by deities by all the ancient cultures. “And the spirit of Elohim moved upon the face of the waters.” This shows that Elohim descended upon the void and impregnated its essence upon universal negation. In the original text the word Tohu is interpreted as form, and Bahu as void. Tohu encompasses the creation which emanates from darkness, and Bahu is an abyss of potentiality. So the Elohim did not fashion the physical universe but manifested a vast metaphorical system of energies and power of which the physical creation is the seventh and lowest part manifested. Within in Hindu doctrine this is referred to as “the churning of space” or the primum mobile, or the first motion of Divine power.

The consciousness of the individual mason is a reflection of the collected consciousness of Elohim. As within the spheres of the Elohim manifestation of the universe occurs, so in the mind of the candidate the vast metaphorical system of the Masonic universe is manifested. This is significant to the development of the individual consciousness of the individual, because the candidate creates within himself his own manifested universe supported by further developing Masonic mythology and teachings.

This is the secret understanding of the Rite of Illumination, to have the spirit of the Deity descend into the dark void of the candidate’s unconsciousness and establish a new world view of the Masonic character. This newly established consciousness is what fuels the mason’s ascension form the darkness of  the quarries to the light with the rough ashlars in hand. Upon this consciousness the builder gains the proper tools to sculpt and shape his stone into a true perfect ashlar, it is this understanding that allows the candidate to be raised and discover the divinity within himself and strive toward further aspirations of light.

~JEF 

James E Frey, 32° is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children.



MSA Issues Hurricane Relief Appeal

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott



This year’s hurricane season has been particularly rough on the gulf coast area. Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas and the Houston area especially. The Grand Lodge of Texas has requested assistance and is working through the Masonic Service Association (MSA) of North America for an appeal for funds.

MSA has a long history of coordinating disaster relief appeals on behalf of the Grand Lodges of North America.

MSA has issued this appeal and donations can be made on the MSA website here: http://www.msana.com/msappeals.asp#texas or you can send a check to:

Please make checks payable to MSA Disaster Relief Fund and send them to:

Masonic Service Association
3905 National Drive, Suite 280
Burtonsville, MD 20866.

When remitting funds to MSA, please mark checks, "Texas Disaster Appeal."

The MSA appeal is the single best way to help other Masons.

As of this writing Hurricane Irma is making its way to Florida. The Tyler’s Place Podcast has put together a special episode on this storm with some great information. This episode can be accessed at: https://www.spreaker.com/user/tylersplace/hurricane-special?autoplay=true

Please keep those that have been affected by this devastation in your thoughts and prayers. As Freemasons, we have a long history of helping others, including our fellow brothers when they face adversity.

On behalf of the Midnight Freemasons, we wish the best for all those whose lives have been affected by this devastation.

~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

Membership Is Not A Secret

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I think I'm being followed by The Midnight Freemasons . . .
Last month in Illinois, Masons were encouraged by Our Grand Lodge, to show their Masonic pride by wearing their Masonic hats, shirts, rings, etc on "Masonic Pride Day."  And many of us did!  Of course, for many of us, everyday is Masonic Pride Day.  I wear my ring every day, I drive a car with Masonic plates on it along with the Past Master brake light stickers.  I have no less than eight Masonic polo shirts in my closet from a variety of Masonic bodies, and I couldn't guess how many t-shirts from Masonic lodges, events, our annual trail run, etc., I have in there.

And I'm not alone.  It's not difficult to pick the Mason out of a crowd.  I run across Masons all the time.

That's why it never ceases to amaze me when I write about Freemasons (which I frequently do) how many emails I get, and how many comments we get on the Midnight Freemasons like the one below.  I'm constantly being accused of "outing" Freemasons.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again--being a Freemason is not a secret!  I've never known a single Freemason that has kept his membership a secret.  It is not a fundamental rule of the Craft that we keep this information to ourselves.  I've written three books about famous Freemasons.  I've interviewed famous Freemasons, and I've had famous Freemasons contact me wanting to be in my next book about famous Freemasons.  I don't know a single Mason that is "in the closet" about their membership. 

It's just not a thing at all.  There's no plot, and we're not following you or trying to infiltrate your book club for nefarious purposes.  We aren't secretly spying on you while you eat your lunch at Subway, and we're not reading over your shoulder at the bookstore.  But the emails and comments on the Midnight Freemasons persist, especially when I add an installment to my long-running series "Freemason Or Not?"

Here's one I just got as a comment on the Midnight Freemasons on one of my "Freemason Or Not?" pieces:

"Hello Todd I am glad to write to you for the first time. You present yourself as a GM right, 33, I am really glad for you and respectful... but how can you as a Freemason reveal a brother? Isn't it one of the first rule to NEVER reveal a brother FM? Or are all your articles misinformation for the profane? We've got a lot of FM in my family of course nobody will tell that they are part of it in front or profanes. So I am wondering how can you GM write down so many articles clearly passing away this fundamental fraternity's rule... please explain me GM."

So rest assured, if you're in the presence of a Freemason, it probably won't be very hard to tell.  And if you ask somebody if they're a Mason, they aren't going to lie to you.

It's not a requirement that Freemasons keep their membership a secret--it's our membership in the Toastmasters that we don't talk about . . .

~TEC

Note: Just for clarification, I am not nor have I ever been a Grand Master.

Another Note:  I've been corrected and I've made some clarifications in this piece.  In some places in the world it may not be wise to announce you're a Freemason because of a political or religious environment that exists, however, my main point is that it is not a fundamental fraternal rule that membership in a Masonic Lodge is something that we keep a secret.  That is what is so often asserted--that we are to keep our membership a secret because it's a fundamental rule of the society.  It is not.

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

Chartering the New Royal Arch Chapter

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Admiration Chapter of Royal Arch Masons was established in 2015 with a dispensation by the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Illinois.

From the beginning, we have sought to be something different in an era when so many other Masonic organizations are struggling for membership, purpose and even their very existence. We have focused on masonic education, and a meaningful experience for our members. Let me share our mission and vision statements.

Our mission; “Admiration Chapter intends to positively impact its members, candidates and visitors and through them their lodges, chapter, families and communities by emphasizing the notion that the highest exaltation of man is to love and serve God and to love and serve his fellow man.”

Our vision; “Admiration Chapter will be a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons that practices, exemplifies and shares our Masonic tenets and values in everything we do thereby improving, not only ourselves, but the culture of Freemasonry and our communities.”

So how are we doing two years later? We now have more than 40 members in our Chapter. Almost half of these are new Companions that were exalted in the past couple of years. We have had some outstanding educational sessions on topics such as civility, honor and masonic poetry. We held a St. John’s dinner in December of 2016, the first that I had ever attended.

We have portrayed all four Royal Arch degrees, with several Companions learning parts that they had not done before. This degree work was done well and spurred other Chapters to bring their candidates to partake in the work.

These first two years will come to a culmination on September 30, 2017 with an official chartering ceremony by the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Illinois. A lot of hard work was put in by numerous Companions to get us this far. The leadership of the Grand Chapter has been unwavering in their encouragement and support along the way.

But the chartering is just a beginning, at our next Stated Convocation on November 30, we will be reviewing our mission, and our vision and goals to see if they still reflect where the membership want to go in the future.

When was the last time your lodge, chapter, council or other body sat down and chartered a course to where you want to go? Your organization doesn’t have to be brand new to begin a new path. You will be surprised how simple the process can really be once you embark on it. The rewards can be immense and the opportunity to experience success is very fulfilling.

I invite you to attend one of our chapter events if you are a member of the Royal Arch. If you are not a member, please consider joining your local chapter.

More information about Admiration Chapter can be found on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AdmirationRoyalArch/ or our webpage https://admirationchapter.blogspot.com/

~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.


The 50 Year Member - Rising Tides, Raising Awareness

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


The sounds of the wake of the water could barely be heard over the roar of the shallow bottom boats coming ashore. Out of the boat, a member of the crew was cradling a small black dog in his arms. The man continued to stroke the scared puppy's head. The poor thing was wet, hungry, cold and tired. Out of his desperation, the canine somehow decided to trust his rescuer. “Maybe he felt he had no choice,” the crew member thought to himself as he took the poor creature inside the building.

As a dozen of people began to unload from the boat the 50 year member began to issue orders “Get these people inside!” The old man said in a voice loud enough for all to hear. “Inside there are blankets and warm soup. You are safe now, come on in.”

The old Masonic temple had not seen so much activity in many years. It had been several decades since their town had such a disaster. The rains began a few days ago. Two days and many inches of rainwater later, the Rivers surrounding the town began to rise. The flood protections the city relied on for so many years began to give way and a wall of water brought a flood of biblical proportions. Within a blink of an eye, many long time residents became homeless or worse yet, were trapped in what used to be their homes.

Luckily the temple was spared the fury of the Grand architect of the Universe's wrath and became a makeshift storm shelter as a temporary headquarters for the town's emergency command center. Diesel Generators were attached to the buildings electrical systems in case of a power loss. Salvation Army and Red Cross began to bring in cots, blankets and much-needed food and water for those who lost everything.

Many lodge members, who themselves lost their homes and possessions, were volunteering to help the needy by cooking or setting up cots or carrying in supplies. They were there to help where needed, not only to help others, but also to keep their minds off all that they had lost.

The 50 year member saw another rescue boat come ashore in what was once the lodges parking lot. Through the driving rain, the old man saw an elderly lady who, by her appearance, was in a rough situation. Her clothes were soaked and clinging to her skin, while her unkempt hair was shading her hollow eyes. It appeared like she was in desperate need of help.

The boat captain told the 50 year member “This lady was trapped on the second floor of her home. Bless her heart” the captain said, “She told us the waters flooded her first floor and she spent all night climbing to the second floor of her home. She hadn’t been up there in years. Poor thing hasn’t had any food or water or her medication in almost a week. If there is a nurse here, she needs attention.“

The 50 year member smiled at the lady and gingerly took her by her shaking hand while slowly helping her out of the boat. “Come on dear, let’s get you inside and into some warm clothes. Some good hot soup will help fix you up!” The old lady smiled and exclaimed “Heavens! What a big beautiful building. Look at those big columns out front. Is this a library?” As they slowly walked to the steps of the building. The 50 year member laughed and said, “No dear, this is a Masonic temple.”

The old lady stopped in her tracks and with her now large eyes, a frightened look came over her face while her voice began to waiver “I…I…cannot go in there. My church has told me since I was a small girl this is where Satan lives. I learned in church, They sacrifice animals too.”

“Ma’am I can assure you Satan is not here, this is not his home. We do no sacrifices here. This is just a place where good men go, who learn the way in which we believe in living. Like, caring for each other, educating ourselves, treating ourselves and others as equals. Living how we wish to be treated, like we are doing right now, helping others in times of trouble.” The 50 year member continued “Even if Satan were to enter these doors he would soon leave because he would find no friends or allies here.“

“Look around you dear. Many of these people you see working here today are not just Freemasons; They are your friends, your neighbors, parents of classmates to your grandchildren. They may coach the local football team or even work at the grocery store where you frequent.”

“There is a good chance your doctor who cares for you or your pharmacist who gets your medication or even the policeman who puts his life on the line to protect you and I are members here. Freemasons and their families work and live in your town and every other small town or big city in this country."

"You can’t tell a Mason by his looks or the color of his skin, or even by his religion or where he worships his God. You may, however, be able to tell these men by the demeanor or behavior. Now let me ask you. If these men who help you live your every day life were so bad or evil enough to follow Satan, would they do all of those tasks to keep you healthy and live your life?”

The old man continued, “When you get to feeling better I’ll give you a tour of the building. I will hold nothing back and answer any questions you may have, but I need you to remember one more thing about these folks working here. Right now, many of these men and their families are in the same situation you are. I know of several of them who have lost their homes and their possessions in this awful flood. One of our Brothers is very upset because he is separated from his family. In all honesty, he doesn’t even know if they survived and instead of crying he is here helping others. Where is the evil in that? Maybe we should also ask ourselves how many of those churches who call me and my Brothers "Satan Worshippers", have used their sanctuaries as shelters. Several I have heard are locked up tight, leaving their members to fend for themselves while the so called clergy, who call us names, are nowhere to be found.”

The little lady, with her eyes now filled with tears, spoke in a shaky voice “I am so sorry I shouldn’t have judged any of you, since you were all so nice to rescue me from my terrible fate. I am a foolish old woman. I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Daisy.”

The old man smiled “Good to know you, Daisy. My name is John. Don’t worry, I take no offense. My main priority is making sure you are okay."As they climbed the buildings front steps Pudge walked down to meet them. The old man smiled. ”Daisy, this young man's name is Pudge. He will get you some warm food and something clean and dry to wear. I am going to ask the nurse to come by and see you in a bit. The old man spoke to Pudge over his shoulder as he returned to his post at the front of the building, "Pudge, when you get Daisy settled, can you help me find a place with some food for that puppy they just got in?”

~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 Free Press

by Midnight Freemason Managing Editor
RWB Robert H. Johnson


Countless times folks come to me and ask whether or not my podcast, Whence Came You? Or this blog, or The Midnight Freemasons is sanctioned by our Grand Lodge, or whether or not we have permission to run them. I often initially scoff at the idea, that somehow I should need some kind of blessing to talk about this thing which I believe belongs to mankind. But in one instance in time I did in fact give the thought a moment of reflection. In a moment, perhaps one of panic, I decided to ask the Grand Master of Illinois at the time. I was a fresh new Master Mason, and I thought, “Maybe I should ask…”

I called the Grand Lodge of Illinois, I left a message, wrote emails and waited. At that time, our Grand Master was MWB:. Terry L Seward. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I listened to the show, I find it to be very fine. While I cannot give you a blanket approval (because you may change the show in the future), I can say what you’ve done is acceptable and we have no issue with it. Carry on.”

After that, I never looked back. But it begs the question, “Why do guys ask this question?”

Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment. It is believed by most to be of the utmost importance, protecting citizens from the government controlling the flow of information or news. When we started way back in the colonial days, inklings of the American experiment tickled the brains of those reading and bent the ear of those gossiping in pubs and street corners, eyes reeling for British officers. The British actually tried to prevent and prohibit the flow of information which was unapproved. We all know what "approved" information consists of...

Adopted on December 15th, 1791, the amendment prevents the interference, constraints, and prosecution from the government when information doesn’t fit an approved agenda. In 1931 this was reinforced in Near V. Minnesota.

A second important issue here is not just the freedom of the press, but also the independence thereof. Regardless of where you get your news, it’s likely a product of the Associated Press, which is largely an independent news source. It is true that there can be bias, liberal, conservative or otherwise. The point being, the news you read likely isn’t brought to you by the White House, unless, you know, you're on Twitter.

Why is Freedom of Press important to journalists? Simply put, it allows them to publish information and often times more importantly, opinions and viewpoints relating to issues which might be of a sensitive nature, without fear of retribution. Journalists have an exclusive duty to print facts, an allegiance to the citizens, their one duty is to give us the TRUTH.

What is true? Why is it important? What is true is simply an examination of the facts. Those things that can be said, reported and written, which are provable through personal experience and observation. Often times in today's media truth is skewed, taken out of context and rewritten to serve an agenda, be it political or otherwise. This is a major problem today, especially in social media. Countless memes portraying images of people, laying on a cherry picked quote and is then presented as the “facts”. Truth is important because it allows the reader, listener or observer to utilize that greatest of assets, their own mind, to determine for ones self what speaks to them.

Today’s Masonic institution maintains control over it’s press, both in freedom and in independence. I’ve read countless Grand Lodge magazines and none of them report anything but their great successes. Everything has to go through a committee, everything must be approved. This is important on one hand, due to image maintenance but on the other hand, it’s hypocritical.

Why is all this important to Freemasonry? As stated above, “Official Masonic” publications aren’t going to be unskewed. They will be truthful in the telling of stories or anecdotes which portray the great things we do and report benign happenings. As an organization as large as ours, it’s important to have independence in reporting on the inner workings of the craft. Only now, in the last few years has the organization had any kind of “free press”. In the past, issues were only talked about at the annual communications of grand jurisdictions, leaving men to decide on the spot, the resolutions to issues whilst not hearing the full story or both sides.

I could cite numerous instances where grand jurisdictions have laid a heavy hand on anyone leaking out information to the public, especially when it involves issues of civil rights, racism and ethical and moral standards. However the good that came from these “leaks” and good that comes from the bloggers, YouTubers and writers who reported the issues has become immeasurable. It all insures accountability. Accountability as it relates to our espoused virtues, notably, Justice. The others; Temperance, Fortitude and Prudence, all playing a close second.

Accountability is one of the most important aspects within any institution. In Freemasonry, the belief in a “Supreme Being” is a method of accountability. As we say, “…It was necessary for you to profess a belief in a higher power, otherwise no oath would have been considered binding upon you.” Of course this is paraphrased, and your jurisdiction may vary slightly. The idea here is that based on the idea that paradise or an afterlife will be withheld as punishment for breaking your oaths holds enough weight with the brethren to allow you to be trusted. In our ancient fraternity, a man’s word is not enough, something has to hold you accountable.

Accountability in a modern and everyday sense is observable every time you clock in at work, every time you send an email with a read receipt, log a task etc. In the way I speak about it here in this piece, it should draw a parallel to the many ideas proposed within our own American Constitution and Bill of Rights. The idea that the governmental body is beholden and held accountable by the people. The same should apply to Freemasonry.

Without this accountability which is only now beginning to develop in our fraternity, you get what we have had since the beginning and that which has in recent years shocked brothers and the public across the world, when by chance, stories that escape the confines of Grand Sessions make it onto popular news sites like NPR.

I believe it’s important to ask here and now, what do we hold our grand jurisdictions accountable for? Answering this question requires us to look at what is acceptable within our current society. To look at the normalities of the present age. Where once our fraternity excelled in this, it has now been shown that society has largely passed us by, utilizing the Masonic tenets to continually progress the world, and again, where are we? We usually ascribe this lack of progress to "tradition".

The ideas promulgated by our institution which were once revolutionary, which the rest of the world saw and readily adopted have improved the world over. We held an influence. When the social structure of the day was ready and when the people held their local, state and federal governments accountable, the right things were done. Freemasonry influenced that behavior and practice. Now, the profane world has lapped us. They had the struggle, they worked through it by using the free press which forced accountability. This is evidenced through the well known struggles of civil rights and equality. We still however have a long way to go. For even though we glorify a document in which it states, “…all men are created equal.”,we have continued to fail at in practice. Accountability in the political stratosphere is then accomplished by political action, protests and elections of local and state leadership who were and are sympathetic to the cause.

Freemasonry is far removed from this. In an institution which has virtually limitless power as it relates to it’s membership, laws, rules, regulations and practices. Accountability is all but present in the areas men should be well concerned with. When visiting Tennessee, I was asked if a certain friend and Brother Charles Harper, was coming with me (they knew from social media that we had hung out and frequently went to the same things and even had travelled together.). When I asked why, it was explained to me that certain members of the lodge wouldn’t sit in lodge with him because he’s black. Recently two grand jurisdictions came with edicts against the membership relating to their sexuality, and I ask you within these two examples, where is the accountability? These are striking examples, no doubt. But make no mistake they are the product of an institution relegated to the back room where no one cares to look, but maybe, they should.

How do we hold our organization to the standards it claims to uphold? Enter the Masonic blogosphere. Shortly after the two jurisdictions came out with these rulings against men who hold a different sexuality, reports were far and wide across the United States and the world, describing the actions taken. Even NPR had a piece on it. While we as Masons understand that this issue affected only two jurisdictions, the NPR article, which countless people read assuredly ascribed these views to the craft at large. In this, the accountability came in the form of members breaking the code of silence. Within two weeks, no less than five grand jurisdictions in the U.S. and one from Europe either pulled recognition or issued a statement of condemnation against any grand jurisdiction which would bar membership to men based on anything but their good works and character. To hold accountability is to hold the feet to the fire no matter who it is or how much we trust them. In our fraternity there is absolute power. As we’ve all heard, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Free press is necessary for accountability to exist. Free Press caused action.

Aside from this blog, The Midnight Freemasons, there are a handful of other Masonic blogs out there that receive millions of views, e.g. Freemasonry for Dummies by Chris Hodapp. On his site, Chris talks about all things Masonic in an independent and free way. It’s fair to say that the things Chris has decided to cover have definitely deflated some stuffed shirts and ruffled some feathers. Hell, we’ve done it a time or two right here….and maybe on my own Facebook feed.

You won't find Grand Lodges endorsing blogs or podcasts anytime soon, and whilst we might secretly want their blessing, let’s be honest. We shouldn’t ever have it. By having it, we all but agree to be beholden to the jurisdiction granting our existence, causing a massive conflict of interest and in my own state of Illinois, my Grand Lodge has no desire to stifle Masonic content as long as we converse on the level, maintain professionalism and civility. I guess we’re pretty understanding here.

Unfortunately one Grand jurisdiction with a positive attitude doesn’t rub off on the others. And because of this, it’s important to understand the independence of Masonic thinkers, reporters, bloggers and other personalities. It guarantees that the stories that should get out, do get out. Whilst harmony is key in our fraternity, a bigger key is TRUTH.

So in closing out this post I propose a toast to all the Masonic web writers, bloggers, YouTubers et al out there who write, report and spread Masonic knowledge and TRUTH. Cheers my brothers! And cheers to the patrons as well!

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.

The Last Chance Halloween: Revisit


by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR

Editors Note: As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came upon a meme which said how many days away Halloween was. I smiled  It's my favorite holiday, you know. It made me also think of this piece written by Ill. Bro. Harrison a few years ago. It plays on Halloween, Magic and Freemasonry. Go ahead and read on...if you dare.


I figured I'd better get upstairs. I didn't want to go to the séance... yes, the séance... and after that the top three floors would be closed — forever. I'd worked in the building three years and never been up there. This was my last chance. With no working elevators, I hoofed it up the stairs and emerged in a dark fourth-floor hallway of the doomed building. My eyes adjusted and I slowly made my way to the rooms in the northwest corner. I opened the door and entered the fabled room. There were no drapes covering the windows and the bright light nearly blinded me. The room was stark and dirty. To my left was a broken wheelchair. A sink jutted out from the far wall. Its basin was stained and dusty. Beneath it was a wastebasket — full. A bed frame with an old mattress was over by the window. All told, the room was disappointing. It just didn't seem... well... as auspicious as it should have, given what had happened there many, many years ago on Halloween.

Halloween and Freemasonry: There are probably many tie-ins what with all the costumes worn in degree work, skulls and other symbols; and that's before the conspiracy theorists weigh in. Occasionally, though, the pairing of the mysterious holiday and Freemasonry brings to mind images of Harry Houdini, a life member of St. Cecile Lodge 568, New York City.

A man of mystery, you could almost say Brother Harry lived Halloween 24/7. Aside from being, arguably, the world's greatest magician and escape artist, Houdini maintained an abiding interest in the paranormal. He did not, however deceitfully promote it as he felt many did. He despised fraudulent seers and mediums and worked tirelessly to expose their chicanery. He felt everything he couldn't expose as being fake must be real.

He made many attempts to communicate with his mother after she died, but found no evidence of
contact. Still, feeling communication with "the other side" was possible, he made a pact with his wife Bessie that the first to die would attempt to contact the other through a coded message. No one knows what the full message was, but part of the pact was that Houdini would open a pair of silver handcuffs they owned. Bessie never received any communication from Houdini after his death, but hundreds of psychics claimed they did. 

On Halloween 1936, the 10th anniversary of his death, she held a final séance in which he failed toappear. After that, Bess declared the search over and said she believed he could not come back, "It is finished." Two years later she created a firestorm in the world of spiritualists when, playing herself in the film Religious Racketeer, she said she did not believe communication with the dead was possible.

During his life the great Houdini did everything he could to separate the fake aspects of spiritualism from what he thought might be real. Shortly before his death he testified before congress against spiritualists and fortune tellers licensed to practice in Washington, DC. So adamant was he that they were charlatans, the hearing broke out in a shouting match and some of the spectators tried to attack Houdini.

On the other hand, still believing there was something to communication with the spiritual world, he worked with Thomas Edison in an attempt to develop a "delicate psychic detecting instrument." The object of the "ghost machine," as it was called, was to be so sensitive it could detect the presence or touch of an ethereal being from another world. There is no evidence the machine was ever built.

On October 26, 1926, Houdini received a painful blow to the stomach in a demonstration at McGill University in Montreal. Contrary to popular opinion, most medical experts believe the blow was unrelated to the appendicitis attack that followed; however, Houdini failed to get treatment thinking the pain in his stomach was due to the punch to his abdomen. After his appearance in Montreal, he traveled to Detroit where he collapsed at the end of a performance. Five days later, on Halloween, Harry Houdini died.

I was standing in a nondescript empty room on the fourth floor of old Grace Hospital in Detroit. The building, once considered progressive and modern, had deteriorated to the point that it would be torn down in a few months. I ran the Information Technology department downstairs and once my group moved out, the wrecking ball would move in. I soaked it all in. Somehow it just didn't seem that special, but shortly several people and the news media — this year including Time Magazine — would gather there as they had done for years on Halloween.

This wasn't just any room. This was the very place where, on October 31, 1926, Brother Harry Houdini died. I took a final look and turned to leave. As I walked away, people filed past me to enter the room for Houdini's last séance.

Houdini, as had been the case on every Halloween in Grace Hospital since he died, did not show up.

~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.

A Lutheran Approach to Ritual Part 2: Contextual Examination of the Ritual

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


Previously, I introduced an approach that my church teaches when reading the Bible and suggested that applying each element of this approach to our ritual studies could provide value to our understanding of the philosophy. In this piece, I will expand on the first element, Contextual Reading. Contextual reading is giving regard to the historical and literary situation during the period of composition. This means we must first understand when the ritual was composed, what it was composed of, who composed it and how it was composed.

Of course, this is a large subject consisting of far more than 30 texts and documents. It would be impossible to give a just explanation here. I recently submitted a piece to the Philalethes where I addressed a question primarily rooted in the contextual examination of the ritual. I was interested in the word "condescending", as it is used in the 3rd Degree Charge of present-day Preston-Webb ritual in the United States. If we hear condescend only in our own, present-day, context then it sounds as if we are charged to be condescending toward our superiors. I understand that to mean that we are to sarcastically patronize our leaders based on my understanding of the modern use of the word. This seems like an odd thing to teach Masons. In first applying the literary contextual reading, I looked at dictionaries and etymological resources to determine if the definition of the word has evolved. Surprise: it has! Condescend did not always mean what it means today. Then the question is, “When did it change?” I applied the historical context to see how other sources used the word during the same period (late 18th early 19th century). Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice is a notorious example of this use of condescend. This gave me a clue to which definition of condescend was employed during the period of interest. This allowed me to better understand that what was meant was for a man of superior station to lower himself and speak on the level with any other as an equal.

You can perform a very similar review because almost all of the documents I used for that project are available online via archive.org or other sources. It will be necessary to begin with the litany of questions I ask above. You need to know about the world the authors grew up and lived in to understand what they were writing about. You need to understand how the fraternity viewed the various documents and what stage the fraternity was in as it was being formed. These things offer clues to help us understand the language that sometimes sounds archaic to our modern ears.

What are we possibly missing from the ritual if we don’t dig into the elements that are unclear to us? Our modern minds forget that the sciences displayed in the Fellowcraft’s lectures composed the sum total of agreed upon science at the time. A recently article in the Rocky Mountain Mason explained that some of these ideas were the very things that Giordano Bruno was executed for. Those facts (globes, senses, architecture, geometry) no longer represent all that we know but at the time were revolutionary. One example of our continued learning in my field is that we now understand that we have at least 6 senses (adding proprioception). That doesn’t invalidate the lecture but one could deduce that there is an additional lesson that we must be interested in understanding the world around us to our fullest ability by constantly remaining open to new scientific theory and research.

These are just a few examples of how contextual examination of the ritual can deepen your understanding of our ritual and philosophy. I will address the use of analogy in ritual in the next edition in the series.

~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

What Is Character?



by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I’m lucky enough to sit in lodge with two Midnight Freemasons, Todd Creason and Greg Knott in both Ogden Lodge #754 and Homer Lodge #199 here in Illinois, where I am a dual member.   I am serving as Todd’s Junior Warden in Homer this year.  I was recently humbled when WM Todd Creason, asked me to give a presentation and facilitate a discussion about character for the next Homer lodge meeting.      Both he and Greg have been amazing mentors to me, and we’ve become great friends as well.  While doing my research for my presentation, I came to learn that the word character comes from the Greek root word: kharakter for “engraved mark”, “symbol or imprint on the soul”, and “instrument for marking”.  This immediately made me think of the marks that operative masons put on their work. 


“In stonemasonry, regulations in Scotland in 1598 by James VI’s Master of Works, William Schaw stated that upon admission to the guild, every mason had to enter his name and his mark in a register. There were 3 types of marks used by stonemasons.
 
1. Banker marks were made on stones before they were sent to be used by the walling masons.  These marks served to identify the banker mason who had prepared the stones to their paymaster.  This system was employed only when the stone was paid for by measure (ie: by the number of stones installed), instead of by time worked.  Banker marks make up the majority of mason’s marks, and is generally what is accepted when the term is used.
 
2. Assembly marks were used to ensure the correct installation of important pieces of stone work. IE: Stones marked with a numeral would identify the order in which they should be installed.
 
3. Quarry stones were marked to identify the source of a stone, or the quality.”
The above should be familiar to any of you who have undergone the degree of Mark Master in the York Rite.  If you haven’t gone through York Rite, I don’t want to give any of the degree away.  Like the Operative Masons, we Speculative Masons should also mark our works in Masonry.  How do we do this? My answer is by our character.   

I remember reading a booklet before joining called “Should I Ask?” by the Supreme Council Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.    In it, they begin with a chapter called, “The Masonic Commitment to Character”.  It begins with a quote by Dr. Albert Schweitzer, “It is not enough merely to exist….. Every man has to seek in his own way to make his own self more noble and to realize his own true worth.”  It goes on to say this quote captures the meaning of Freemasonry.  It explains that man’s most valued possession is his character.  It states that the belief of Freemasons is that the strength of the family, the church, the community and our country rests with men of strong conviction, firm ethical and moral values and a devotion to our democratic system of government.  As Masons, it goes on to read, we help each other identify through our devotion to these values.   It goes on to mention that in this day and age, where very few aspire to rise to become the best in life, that it’s good to know there is a group where a man can work to really improve himself.  Furthermore, in lodge meetings that there is no talk of politics or religion, although every Mason must believe – to his own understanding—in deity and devotion to his country.  It states that Masons are concerned with developing their minds and enlarging their scope of knowledge.  Because every man’s personal desire to build his own character is at the heart of being a Mason, that you must ask to join.  It finishes speaking about how men from every walk of life belong to Masonic Lodges, and they share a belief in brotherhood, country and the Masonic acts of charity and compassion.

We emphasize this in Speculative Masonry with the symbol of the plumb.   The plumb is a symbol of rectitude of conduct, integrity, and upright moral character which makes a good man.  In Operative Masonry, the wall of a structure is tested with the plumb.  If the wall is not exactly perpendicular, then it endangers the strength and stability of the structure as a whole.   Just as we meet on the level, we must each build our character to withstand the test of the plumb, or risk weakening the Fraternity we seek to serve.

How does one define character?   Character is shaped and influenced by our upbringing, i.e.: where we grew up, our parent’s examples and our academic and religious education.  But the test of character is whether one can hold to their morals, no matter how sorely tempted or how painful the outcome of the situation.  Character is usually most tested in times of tragedy or emergency, but it can be tested in every situation in one’s life.  How you react to these situations, is how you leave your mark as a Mason.  This is how your character is ultimately defined.  If you are able to rise above the situation and choose the outcome that is least selfish and most disciplined, then you are well on your way to making that rough ashlar a perfect one.

Why should one develop character?   Choosing to live one’s life with character often means living a disciplined and unselfish life.   It means benefiting the whole community before the individual.   It grants us the ability to master our surroundings, by choosing the correct ways to overcome them. This offers us a sense of freedom, as it allows us to see what is right and empowers us to do it.   Lastly, as we are molded by our companions, we can mold others by being exemplars for them.         

You see, much like the Operative Masons received their wages by the number of stones that bore their mark, we as Speculative Masons will receive our wages by the marks we leave on our fellow man.  We all will eventually stand before that ultimate paymaster who will judge if we are worthy of receiving our wages or not.  For the Speculative Mason, our hope is that we are allowed to travel in the ultimate foreign country, where we can continue to work and receive Master’s wages.  That is a wage well worth working towards.   

~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.