The Secrets of Harry Houdini!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Many people know that Harry Houdini (Erich Weiss) was a Freemason (Read more here). Among the several things Harry is known for e.g. exposing the fraudulent practices of fortune tellers, warring with fellow Brother Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and of course magic and escaping from death traps, one is little known. 

It's reported that he was a member of the SRICF and, he was an avid reader of occult texts. In fact upon his death, he bequeathed his entire collection of occult books to the Library of Congress. His collection is located on the 2nd floor in the Rare Books Room in the Jefferson Building. Next time you're there, check it out. 

~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.

300 Years - Pt. 1 - On the Road

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


I think we're all keenly aware of the 300 years of Freemasonry were all about to witness. But, in case you aren't...the TLDR is, the United Grand Lodge of England was formed on June 24th, 1717 and Masons around the world are  about to celebrate the 300th anniversary this Saturday, June 24th, 2017. Note* I am aware of the 1721 date as well, so you don't need to email me over it ;)

Two years ago Myself along with the other members of the Masonic Roundtable decided to put on a party for this event. So we planed and are holding the biggest 300 celebration anywhere. We rented out the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. We sold tickets, invited speakers and its sure to be a blast.

Before the festivities, I had a busy week. Stated meetings on both Monday and Tuesday and then a flight to Columbus, OH on Wednesday morning. What's in Columbus? York Lodge 563, thats what! I had the honor of being their keynote speaker over their festive board last night which by the way, was a great time. The fellowship and hospitality were amazing. Thanks to Brothers David Rice, David Gizzo and brethren for having me out.

Also meeting me in Columbus however, was Bro. Michael Hambrecht, our "intern" and awesome webmaster for TMR. He and I would share a hotel room and be driving to Alexandria the next day (today...like in 20 minutes!) So he and I have about a 7 hour drive coming up, which is sure to be enjoyable as we talk about all things Masonic, not the Facebook group, just the generalizing of Masonic topics ;)

It's time to grab a bite from that delicious continental hotel breakfast and hit the road. See you in Virginia, brothers!

~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.

A Problem with the Dues

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


Each year as Secretary, I have the duty of sending out dues notices in November. They are due by January first. About April, I compile a list of those members who have yet to pay as well as those who are eligible for suspension for nonpayment (2 years or more in arrears.) So it’s a bit of work but I manage to send everything out.

The men being notified for suspension get a certified letter explaining what they owe and have a date about 40 days into the future as the dead line they need to pay by before the lodge votes to suspend them. Last year we had 27. This year, only 7. Of course we make all the contact we can, asking if it’s a financial burden or if they’re in a bad spot. Largely it just isn’t the case. It’s almost always “I have no interest.”

How do I know? Along with those notices I also send out a nice sheet that was made by our District Communications Officer. It’s a little survey. “Do you consider yourself to be an active Mason?”, “Why, Why not?”, “What could the lodge do more of to gain your involvement?”

The questions are easy. Along with the questions there is a little section to update their information e.g. address, phone, email. Last week I received the first response back after sending these out. This brother owed over $400 in past dues and we’d not seen him, well, since he was raised, about 30 years ago.

In the envelope was the survey form and the dues notice. His form came back to me with some very interesting points, things I had suspected for a long time but hadn’t actually seen confirmation of. In the note the brother said, “No, I am not an active Mason. In fact this is the first time in 30 years since being made a Master Mason that I’ve ever been contacted. I took the degrees at the request and pressure of my father, he died about 20 years ago. I have no intention of paying the dues. Please suspend me and take me off of your list.”

I read it and thought, “Well, that’s that.” I had suspected this happens more often than not—a brother brings his sons or vice versa into the lodge and the only reason they become Masons is because it’s a favor or they were pushed into it, all the while having no interest at all. Obviously it goes without saying that this isn’t good for the craft.

In the next month or so, I’m sure I’ll get one or two more responses whilst the rest simply won’t respond and I will appeal to the Grand Master to suspend these members, thus eliminating the dead weight and shedding the financial responsibility of paying per capita on them. A Secretaries job isn’t always fun, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…Keep calm, and pay your dues.

~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.

Good and Evil

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Worshipful Brother Carlos Zapata

Forward by
Bro Jack Nathan Aquilina

This article was sent to me by WBro Carlos Zapata after many discussions that we had about his passion for Masonic research and philosophy, in particular his love for writing. I was surprised to hear from WBro Carlos that despite his incredible skills and knowledge that he had never actually had any of his work published. In his usual humble manner he said to me that he would be honoured to see his name attached to a published Masonic article that he authored and to have it displayed on a large Masonic forum.

Knowing that WBro Carlos was a big fan and reader of the Midnight Freemasons Blog, I suggested to him he submit one of his pieces for publication. Not only was WBro Carlos excited about this idea, he sent me a number of editions of the “Evolutionist” (a private newsletter he authored monthly for Lodge Evolution in Victoria) that had a large volume of his writings. He asked if there was anything in those newsletters, which he authored, that could be edited for publishing on this blog.

In memory of WBro Carlos therefore this article has been submitted for publishing in dedication to his incredible talent, passion and skill in Masonic and philosophical research. For many, WBro Carlos was seen to be a kind, dependable and knowledgeable brother who touched and changed the lives of so many of his brothers through his generous sharing of knowledge and further light in Masonry.

I hope that by publishing this article my commitment to WBro Carlos to see his incredible and inspirational work being published will be fulfilled and that his incredible gift for education will now continue to perpetually touch the lives of many of whom will now be able to read and learn from his work.

We will be forever indebted to him for his kindness and friendship and it was an honour and privilege to have known him, even if we have lost him too soon.

May he rest peacefully in the Grand Lodge above.

Note: I am very grateful to RWBro Robert Johnson for agreeing to publish this article at short notice and I am greatly indebted to him for his compassion and support for this article in light of the circumstances.


Good and Evil 
By Worshipful Brother Carlos Zapata 
Lodge of Evolution No 931, United Grand Lodge of Victoria. 


For this article in particular, with such a controversial subject, I have compiled and prepared a brief of the theme, Good and Evil, from different contexts, interpretations and definitions, in light to have a clear picture of it, and of course is not intended to take a side, but to understand and comprehend their real meanings in our daily life, for the good of oneself, our society and mankind.

It's a dangerous over-simplification to believe that some people are innately ‘good’ while others are innately ‘evil’ or ‘bad.’ This misleading concept underpins the justice system of many countries, ‘bad’ people commit crimes, and since they are intrinsically ‘bad’, they should be locked away so that they can’t harm us with their ‘evil’ behaviour. This concept has also fuelled many wars and conflicts in history, and even in the present day. It makes groups believe that they are fighting a just cause against an ‘evil’ enemy and that once the ‘evil’ people have been killed, peace and goodness will reign supreme.

Human nature is infinitely more complex than this, of course. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are relative. One person’s ‘good’ is another person’s ‘evil’. They are also flexible, people can be a combination of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities and some people who behave cruelly and brutally can be rehabilitated and eventually display ‘good’ qualities such as empathy and kindness. And rather than being intrinsic, most cruel or brutal behaviour is due to environmental factors, such as an abusive childhood, or ‘social learning’ from a family or peers.

The Meaning of Good and Evil

What do we really mean when we use these simplistic terms, ‘good’ and ‘evil’? ‘Good’ means a lack of self-centeredness. It means the ability to empathize with other people, to feel compassion for them, and to put their needs before your own. It means, if necessary, sacrificing your own well-being for the sake of others. It means benevolence, altruism and selflessness, and self-sacrifice towards a greater cause, all qualities which stem from a sense of empathy. It means being able to see beyond the superficial difference of race, gender, social context or nationality and relate to a common human essence beneath them. Concepts which perfectly fit into the tenets of Freemasonry, “Good Man”, remember?

‘Evil’ people are those who are unable to empathise with others. As a result, their own needs and desires are of paramount importance. They are selfish, self-absorbed and narcissistic. In fact, other people only have value for them to the extent that they can help them satisfy their own desires, or to which they can exploit them. I would argue that their primary characteristic is an inability to empathise with others. They can’t sense other people’s emotions or their suffering can’t see the world from other people’s perspective, have no sense of their rights. Other human beings are just objects to them, which is what makes their brutality and cruelty possible.

Good and Evil as Flexible

Most of us lie somewhere between the extremes of Good and evil on the spectrum of human behaviour. Sometimes we may behave badly, when egocentric impulses cause us to put our needs before the welfare of others. Sometimes we behave in a saintly fashion, when empathy and compassion impel us to put the needs of others before our own, resulting in altruism and kindness.

The real difference between this idea of ‘good and evil’ and the traditional concept is that empathy or a lack of empathy isn’t fixed. Although people with a psychopathic personality appear to be unable to develop empathy, for most of us, empathy, or goodness, is a quality that can be cultivated. This is recognised by Buddhism, and most other spiritual traditions. As we practise meditation or mindfulness, and as we become less attached to materialism and status- seeking, we become more open and more connected, and so more selfless and altruistic.

This is an optimistic view of nature, but I would go even further. Because the goodness in human beings, emerges when we are connected, when we spread out into empathy with one another. It is believed that goodness expresses something fundamental about human nature, even if it might be sometimes difficult to see. ‘Evil’ is an aberration, a form of pathology, as the psychopathic personality shows, which only emerges when we are broken off into disconnected fragments.

How are we to understand and resolve the historic battle of so called ‘good vs. evil’ in the world? Basically, how are we to make sense of human behaviour, specifically the dark side of human nature? In fact, are we ever going to be able to explain the HUMAN CONDITION? And, more particularly, can we humans ever become truly moral beings?

Most wonderfully, the answer to these last two core questions about human beings is the symbol of Ying and Yang, a certain representation of Good and Evil in human personality, emphasizing that in the Good field could exist little Evil and likewise in the Evil side could exist little Good. The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung was forever saying that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’, because he recognised that only finding understanding of our dark side could end the underlying insecurity in us humans about our fundamental goodness and worth, and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’.

Yes, the agonising, underlying, core, real question in all of human life has been the issue of our seemingly-imperfect; ‘good vs. evil’ conflicted, even ‘fallen’ or corrupted, so called HUMAN CONDITION. Are humans good or are we possibly the terrible mistake that all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate we might be? While it’s undeniable that humans are capable of great love, we also have an unspeakable history of brutality, rape, torture, murder and war. Despite all our marvellous accomplishments, we humans have been the most ferocious and destructive force that has ever lived on Earth. And it’s this conflicted situation that we needed to find understanding of how are we to understand and by so doing resolve the battle of ‘good vs. evil’ in the human make-up?

How are we to reconcile our ‘Yin and Yang’? Yes, what is the biological explanation for ‘sin’, as our far from ideal behaviour has historically been termed? What is ‘the origin of sin’, and, more particularly, how can it be ameliorated? Even in our everyday behaviour, why have we humans been so competitive, selfish and aggressive when clearly the ideals of life are to be the complete opposite, namely cooperative, selfless and loving? In fact, why are we so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet.

Unable, until now, to truthfully answer this deepest and darkest of all questions about the origin and meaning of our ‘good vs. evil’, human condition afflicted existence, we learnt to avoid the whole depressing subject, so much so, in fact, that the human condition has been described as ‘the personal unspeakable’, and as ‘the black box inside of humans they can’t go near’. Indeed, Carl Jung was referring to the terrifying subject of our ‘good vs. evil’ embattled human condition when he wrote that ‘When it (our shadow) appears...it is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil.'

Ying Yang, on the religious context

Taoism (also known as Daoism) is an early Chinese religion which emphasizes a balance between humans and nature. One must be flexible and go with the flow. Taoism is represented by the Ying Yang symbol.

The black (Ying) and white (Yang) represent polar opposites, such as, but not specifically, good and evil. The symbol also represents the balance between each. There will always be good and always be evil. One cannot exist without the other. Chi is believed to be a vital energy in all things. It’s important to allow this energy to properly flow in the body and in the world. Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that promotes the balance of Chi in the body. Feng Shui is the art of allowing Chi to flow properly in one’s environment.

Taoism is the practice of peacefully living in a world of opposing forces such as good and evil. It’s a faith that when good and evil are out of balance, the balance will return.

Go with the flow. In Taoism, it’s important to be flexible.

Taoism addresses good and evil and provides a method for living with them. There is a balance that exists between all extremes. Let us use the example of the pendulum to represent balance in the world. When the pendulum is centred, there is balance. The object is perfectly aligned with it's true value. When the pendulum is to the right the object is overvalued. There will be a correction in which the value lessens. When the pendulum is to the left the object is undervalued. There will be a correction in which the value increases, which is expressed in the Principle of Rhythm in The Kybalion.

When the pendulum is out of balance the best solution is a controlled adjustment. This takes a proactive future looking approach. Unfortunately, many leaders are short sighted and only concerned with the near future. They then have to react to unforeseen required adjustments without planning, with disastrous results as a consequence.

Order marches with weighty and measured strides. Disorder is always in a hurry.” 
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). 

War and peace do not last forever. When there is war have faith that there will be peace. When there is peace one must be vigilant of conflict and war. There are some things that are out of our control. We must do what we can to fight evil with good. We must also have faith that when things are bad, they will get better.

Sometimes we are stabbed in the back; sometimes people do us wrong. There are many people throughout my life who have done me wrong. There are exponentially far more people throughout my life that have done me right. You will not always have an opportunity to confront people who were intentionally harmful due to many circumstances including timing, location and politics. Likewise, you will not always have an opportunity to thank people who have been kind and generous. When situations like this occur, we need to have faith that there will be a balance. What goes around comes around, again the principle of rhythm. One way or another, justice will be served. For the people who have done us wrong, either we let it be, or hold onto the anger and injustice. Often we do hold on to anger, but it subsides over time. I’m not a believer that time heals all wounds; however, it can take the edge off of the pain.

Do good and evil, really exist in the animal world? I would argue that they absolutely do. The varieties in animal life on Earth are miraculous. Animals exist that can produce light, see with sonar, spin webs, morph into butterflies and can change colour to camouflage with their surroundings. We have predators and we have prey. There are plant eaters that do not harm other animals, and there are meat eaters that take lives. We have alligators, sharks, piranhas and mosquitoes. We have swans, dolphins, deer and fireflies. There are animals that represent all the good and bad qualities of mankind, from unconditional protective love to thoughtless destruction.

Good & Evil in Kabbalistic Notion

What is "a Good Person"? Kabbalah reveals the structure of the entire universe to a person and that person discovers that our world is surrounded by one immense benevolent force called the Creator. And this is the immense benevolent force that conducts the still, vegetative and animate nature very rigidly, by forcing that nature to follow its laws with absolute precision.

Human beings meanwhile processes freedom to choose how to behave in relation to oneself and the environment, nature and society. It turns out that people are misusing the freedom that nature has allowed for them. They don’t respond with the same kind of love, filling this void with the attribute of love. In principle, a human being is the only thing in nature that needs correction. There are neither evil nor good forces. There’s only one force that guides us to the end of correction by showing us the way, sometimes causing all that suffering in us. This suffering is a consequence in a difference of attributes, between me and the Creator, there’s no other choice. If I make my attributes like the Creator’s, if I bring myself closer to them, I will then enter states that are called spiritual worlds, sensations of the Creator. To the same measure that I entered these states, I will be sensing goodness and delight. That’s why there are no forces other than good forces, and all the evil forces are indeed our own, and these are what we have to correct, our own heart.

The idea that in the divine worlds, no evil exists is a fundamental Kabbalistic tenet, and is stated repeatedly in Kabbalistic texts. The Biblical verse (Psalms 5:4) is often quoted as proof, "Evil will not dwell with you." This is taken to mean that in the worlds where the divine light shines unaltered, no evil can exist. After all, the divine light is God's will, and God wants only good.

However, the divine is the root for all that exists. There is no evil in the divine realm, but it must, in some way, serve as a distant root that allowed evil eventually to emerge. Kabbalists say that the distant root of evil is the strict law represented by the divine attribute known as Gevura. Law and rules are in themselves good, but unbending strictness can eventually result in evil.

Being God's will is to do only good, evil could not develop in the worlds where he is the only determining force. It could only develop in the lower, separated worlds, where other wills are given freedom to operate. There is some debate as to where evil first emerged.

Free Will

The term "free will" has been used extensively in philosophic and theological works. It is usually assumed that the meaning of the term is clear, but, in truth, the term is often used in different ways, depending on the user and the context. Therefore, it should be helpful to clarify what is meant by "free will" in our discussion here.

Firstly, free will implies that there is no external constraint on what is willed. Secondly, it also means that there is no internal compulsion. Nevertheless, even if the prior two conditions are met, there still remains an impediment to total free will.

A person does not create himself, nor does he create his environment. The person that supposedly has total free will is not truly responsible for what he is at the moment that he exercises his free will. What he is, is not his doing alone, but results from the actions of God, who provided both his body and his environment.

The difficulty of assigning ultimate responsibility to humans for their deeds is a major problem for theology and will not be solved here. People are never truly independent of their maker, who is the root of all things. However, the fact that God is the root of man, perhaps is what provided the impression that remained after the light was evacuated from the centre of the Ein-Sof. Ultimately, even after the creation of the empty global area, God remains in charge.

Evil is thus an illusionary phenomenon, just like man's total free will. Both are limited, and ultimately God's beneficence lies hidden behind both.

Christianity Beliefs on Good & Evil

Humans have wrestled with questions of good and evil since time immemorial without reaching any universally satisfactory conclusion. For Christians, all goodness flows from God's inherent character, and evil is refusing to submit to His authority and love and serve Him. The problem of evil's existence is a stickier issue, causing much debate among Christian scholars, theologians and philosophers. But Christian beliefs define the source of determining what is good and what is evil, describe human nature and provide Christians with tools for combating evil with good.

Then, What is Evil?

Evil is generally divided into categories of natural evil, such as natural disasters, diseases or birth defects; and moral evil or human action that results in pain and suffering for others, such as genocide, war, cruelty, exploitation and abuse. Many Christians hold that moral evil stems from rebellion against God, which results in injustice, vanity, pride, dishonesty, aggression, violence, greed and more. The belief in Adam and Eve's original sin offers a widespread Christian explanation for how suffering and death were introduced to the world through their disobedience to God.

Human Nature

Because of Adam and Eve's fall into sin, Christian tradition holds the belief touted by St. Augustine that humans are born in a state of sinfulness, unrelated to anything they have yet done, already contaminated with the long- lasting and far-reaching consequences of the original sin. Because of this sin, human beings are separated from God and in need of a saviour to bridge the gap and provide a way for salvation. Humans' sinful nature wars with their desire for God and according to BBC.

Religions, explains the "...tendency for human beings to 'give in' when tempted by the prevailing evils of the society around them, rather than standing up for good." As the Apostle Paul laments: "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."

The Problem of Evil

Many scholars and theologians over the course of history have tried to explain or justify the existence of evil and suffering in light of God's goodness. Christian explanations for evil usually include discussion on the role of free will and human choice, God's corrective discipline and call to repentance, and God's ability to see the big picture better than humans and turn even apparent evil into that which accomplishes His good purposes. Dr. Davies-Stofka elucidates: "'Free' will is not free if we can only choose the good, so God does not prevent us from choosing evil. Suffering is the price we pay for this freedom to choose." Another Christian viewpoint is that although God cannot cause evil and suffering, He may allow it to happen to bring a person to a state of recognition of her need for His salvation and drive her to repentance; or to test her faith in order to make it grow stronger.

Good and Evil in Buddhism

Because karma is directly concerned with good and evil, any discussion of karma must also include a discussion of good and evil. Standards for defining good and evil are, however, not without their problems. What is "good," and how is it so? What is it that we call "evil," and how is that so? These problems are in fact a matter of language. In the Buddha's teaching, which is based on the Pali language, the meaning becomes much clearer, as will presently be demonstrated.

The English words "good" and "evil" have very broad meanings, particularly the word "good," which is much more widely used than "evil." A virtuous and moral person is said to be good; delicious food might be called "good" food; a block of wood which happens to be useful might be called a "good" block of wood. Moreover, something which is good to one person might not be good to many others. Looked at from one angle, a certain thing may be good, but not from another. Behaviour which is considered good in one area, district or society might be considered bad in another.

It seems from these examples that there is some disparity. It might be necessary to consider the word "good" from different viewpoints, such as good in a hedonistic sense, good in an artistic sense, good in an economic sense, and so on. The reason for this disparity is a matter of values. The words "good" and "evil" can be used in many different value systems in English, which makes their meanings very broad.

The Eternal Struggle of Good and Evil, a Gnostic point of view

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.”
 
Anne Frank (1929-1945) 

In the original Star Trek television series there was an episode where a higher intelligence wanted to know what was stronger, good or evil. This higher intelligence did what any higher intelligent being would do to solve the equation. Put a few good people and a few evil people on a barren planet and have them beat each other up. There was a lesson at the end of the episode. It’s not about which is stronger in fighting, it’s about what they are fighting for.

There have been many long discussions over many generations in regard to good and evil. These discussions must continue, and continue often. How do we know who we are without scrutinizing what is good, and what is evil? What is the agnostic standpoint? The agnostic approach is difficult as this discussion is subjective.

We follow the wisdom of Socrates that knowledge is good and ignorance is bad. Good is directly related to truth. Knowledge promotes ethical conduct while ignorance promotes corruption. The purpose of an agnostic is to obtain and promote truth, which is to obtain and promote what is good. What is good often differs from what is popular. So where do good and evil come from?

Good and evil exists in the animal and human world. There are insects and animals that have both good and evil traits and instincts. As the most advanced species on Earth, humans are able to magnify the good and evil that exists in animals. So what is good and what is evil? Are the definitions constant or do they change based on ruling party, society or religious views and customs? We, and many philosophers past and present, maintain that there are concrete definitions of good and evil. We don’t subscribe to the “might makes right” school of thought. We believe in right makes might. There are actions that are wrong regardless of anything. Acceptance of evil does not make evil good. The definition and impact of evil does not change due to ignorance.

Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us; to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) 

Good is to create and do good by oneself, one’s family and society. Evil is to destroy and do evil by oneself, one’s family and society. There is some evil in good and some good in evil. A new tree in a crowded forest can only live and grow if another tree dies to let in needed sunlight. Sometimes creation requires destruction. Plant eaters need predators to keep their population steady or the plant eaters over populate and destroy all the vegetation. There is a balance of creation and destruction in nature. Often a society becomes closer and stronger when faced with an evil threat or action. Often a good society can become complacent and lazy when unthreatened allowing evil to grow from within unnoticed and unchallenged until it is deeply rooted.

~CZ


 

Freemason Wisdom: Joseph Fort Newtown

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33° 
"But the real Home of the Soul cannot be built of brick and stone; it is a house not made with hands.  Slowly it rises, fashioned of the thoughts, hopes, prayers, dreams, and righteous acts of devout and free men; built of their hunger for truth, their love of God, and their loyalty to one another."  

~Joseph Fort Newton (1880 -1950)

There are few Masonic writers whose work has stood the test of time as well as R. W. Brother the Reverend Doctor Joseph Fort Newton, 33°.  His best known volume "The Builders" is still considered required reading for any Mason interested in learning more about Freemasonry.  It was amongst the first books I read on the subject.  I recently acquired a 1951 reprint of that book, and there was an interesting story about one of Newton's early childhood memories and one of his first contacts with the Brethren of a Masonic Lodge.

He was at his father's funeral as a boy, and he remembered the Masons were there to do the last rites.  The Master in his tall hat, and the Brethren standing in a square around the grave, each wearing white aprons.  Each of them dropped a sprig of evergreen into the open grave as they walked past.  He learned that his father had served as Master of that Lodge of Masons.  

And there was another interesting story he learned about his father.  His father had served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  His life had been saved by a Union Officer, a Freemason, who recognized him to be a Freemason as well.  Both of those impressions stuck with young Joseph, and years later in 1902, he was raised in Friendship Lodge No. 7 in Dixon, Illinois.

We've all heard stories like that before.  It reminds us that what we do each day doesn't always have an immediate impact.  When we attend a Masonic Funeral Rite, that impression of what we do may very well stick with some member of that Mason's family and may one day lead him to a Masonic Lodge.  That Union Officer was just doing the right thing, and he had no idea that the son of the Mason he saved would one day be prompted to join a Lodge, possibly, in part because of that story of his kindness in a time of war, and would become an influential and respected voice in Freemasonry.

It's often not the big things we do in life that have the greatest impact.  Sometimes, it's those small incidental things that we don't even give great consideration to that hold the power to change the course of a life . . . and as a result, add a little more light to the world.  

~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

Misinformation - The Presentation Apron

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


"It's for when you die, Brother. They put it in or over your coffin, so make sure your family knows where it is." This is one of the biggest misconceptions affecting our blue lodge members nation wide. Every time I am attending a Master Mason Degree, (and occasionally an EA degree) when the candidate is given or presented his apron, he is told after the meeting that he should keep it safe and not wear it because its for his death.

This just isn't true! In Illinois anyway, if the entire lecture is given when presented, we tell that candidate, that it is " ...yours to wear throughout an honorable life." That means, you should wear it! I've mentioned this on more than one occasion and sometimes I get this retort, "But RJ, We're told to keep it unspotted from the world." Well, I'm sorry, that's not what that means. What that means, is to make sure to keep your life morally correct in the eyes of those who know you're a Freemason, less you tarnish the brand.

Bottom line Brothers, is that the apron you are given in lodge is definitely okay for you to wear, to any meeting you want, anytime. Of course if you consciously want to keep that apron saved, that's your decision, but let's start to correct this misconception now. Take pride and wear that awesome white leather apron at your next meeting.

I'm sure this may stir up some contention, not unlike the undying "Points In or Points Out", but unlike that debate, this one is not up for debate, it's right there in ritual (Illinois Preston Webb).

See you all in lodge, Brothers!

~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.

I'm a Curmudgeon ... and proud of it - Revisit


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


*Editors Note* When this piece first came out back in July of 2013, I hadn't been a visitor in many lodges. What I had seen as far as decorum was almost all, pretty good. Fast forward to today, and I've almost seen it all and this piece makes more sense to me today than it did back when it came out. What should the decorum of a lodge be? Is there a dress code or at least a standard by which we should hold ourselves? I believe the answer is a resounding, "Yes!" In this piece Bro. Harrison nails it and I hope you enjoy...
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There is a picture that hangs in my home Lodge. It is a portrait of George Washington looking stately in his finest Masonic attire. It's a reproduction of a painting you've probably seen. In it Brother Washington stands erect with a trowel in his right hand, wearing his Master Mason's apron, and the Worshipful Master's jewel around his neck.

I sometimes look at that picture and wonder what it would have been like to sit in Lodge with him. I imagine the other Brothers similarly dressed in the fine attire of the day, conducting business and fluent in ritual.

So I attended a Lodge meeting last night. I went to a Lodge which had the same picture hanging on its wall. There stood George, attired in a manner which reflected a seriousness of purpose and respect for his Brothers and the fraternity. I imagined sitting there as he called the Lodge to order; and then suddenly, almost ruthlessly, I popped back to reality as the Master of the Lodge I was attending did the same.

"BRETHREN," he boomed, "you will say the pledge of... uh, no... you will join in the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance to... is that right?" Making up for the fact that he couldn't even stumble through the first line in the opening ritual was the uninspiring fact that he was dressed in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt. Adding a pork-pie hat to his ensemble, along with his slight frame, he had me convinced I was staring at Pee Wee Herman in his skivvies.

Now, don't get me wrong. It was 95° outside and that Lodge's air conditioning was struggling. I'm not advocating we should all be standing there in tuxedos suffering starch-induced prickly heat; but I couldn't help wondering what George would think. For the record, I was wearing a golf-shirt and dress slacks. That's a far cry from formal attire, but at least, given present day fashions, I don't think it was insulting to the Brethren or the fraternity. (When I wear a golf shirt, the only thing it really insults is the game of golf itself).

I know all Lodges aren't like the one I was attending; but at the expense of sounding like the curmudgeon I proudly am, couldn't we at least upgrade to business-casual? Maybe a new pair of jeans instead of the ones you inherited from you grandfather?

In case you're still with me and still in agreement, I think there was something even more unsettling about last night. That first line of the ritual was one of the WM's better efforts. The Brother stood in the East and butchered almost every line as others in the Masonic Peanut Gallery, asked or not, called out the proper wording — or close to it — to help him plod along. The opening and closing went excruciatingly slow, extending what should have been an efficient meeting well into the evening.

And we wonder why Lodge attendance is down.

I guess, Brothers, if we can't dress in somewhat appropriate attire for meetings, maybe it's just a sign of the times and we shouldn't worry too much about it. But, for God's sake, and for the sake of accelerating meetings beyond a snail's pace, learn the ritual. Were he with us today, I'm sure WB George would recommend it.

~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 Matter Of Degrees


by Midnight Freemasons Senior Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott
 
Gregory J. Knott and family at University of Illinois graduation May 2017

This past May, on a Sunday morning I sat in Smith Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois.  I was wearing my academic regalia and listening to the speakers talk about the bright future all the soon to be graduates had as they leave the University and enter the “real world”.  I was one of those soon to be graduates.  

A couple of days earlier I had submitted my final research papers and completed all the classwork.  My last semester had been especially long because the two classes that I took were extremely rigorous, but I enjoyed them both very much.  One class was Storytelling and the other was Genealogy and Library Service.  My Master’s degree in Library and Information Science was now finished.

I was glad to be finished with my academic work, but at the same time I quickly found myself missing the challenge of learning new things, having the opportunity to discuss ideas with classmates and working on the various projects.

The same opportunities that I enjoyed in class are also available in Freemasonry.  As my good friend and fellow Midnight Freemason Founder Todd E. Creason outlined in his recent series on Masonic education, our membership is looking and expecting more from our meetings than just paying the bills and reading minutes.

I have some further goals and one of those is sharing some of the library research skills that I have acquired, with our Midnight Freemason readers.  There are an amazing amount of resources simply waiting for you to utilize them in your Masonic education and research efforts.  Stay tuned soon as the articles start to come together.

Additionally, I would like to review with you what opportunities there are for research waiting to be discovered in your local Masonic Lodge.   I recently gave a presentation on this topic at the Illinois Lodge of Research entitled “Discovering Your Past”. You can watch this presentation on You Tube at https://youtu.be/Y1KcoEcTDf8 .

Enjoy your summer.

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He is a Senior Contributor and Founding Member of the Midnight Freemasons blog.

The Value of Old Books

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


With the NMJ (Northern Masonic Jurisdiction) Scottish Rite releasing their new 700+ page edition of the Francken Manuscript, it's time to talk about the value of these kinds of books. First of all, if you would like to read about this full color facsimile rendition, with essays etc., please visit HERE. It's a bit pricey, but I am sure it's worth the money. My only gripe is that not everyone involved in its production is a Mason. I don't think it detracts from the quality, just my opinion.

The main point I would like to cover in this short piece is the value of reprints, facsimile or otherwise. I personally own several facsimile reprints. Of course some do not like them because the quality can sometimes be not as great, but when it comes to being able to access rare prints etc. these are perfect. A great company is Kessinger's  Books. They offer a multitude of amazing books which are insanely hard to find for a reasonable cost.

Case in point, a copy of "The Masters Word - A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light and the Self" can run the gamut in price like this one which is over $1000.00 for an original in "good" condition. This is a lot to spend on a book that is about 116 pages. Forgotten Books Series from Kessinger's on Amazon gives you a wonderful reprint of this text for $11.00. Also, in the back of many of these facsimile reprints, the company will put a page at the end of the book, listing other books like the one you're reading which you can purchase through them at similar cost.

Hope this aids you all in your search for more light! Keep reading.

~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.

What To Expect When You're Expecting: Worshipful Master's Edition

by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

One of the first purchases for any expectant parent is the book, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.   It is a guide to help you as a mother or father to understand what happens during pregnancy.  Unfortunately, a newly elected Worshipful Master does not have a similar guide to help him prepare for his year in the East.  Trust me, I’ve looked. Serving my lodge as Worshipful Master should be one of the high points of my Masonic career.  Since my election as Worshipful Master last month, I’ve been full of trepidation.  I’ve been asking myself the below questions: Why am I so nervous?  What if they (my brethren) don’t respect me?    Should I step aside so someone more competent can do the job?  I hope to answer these questions and more below.  I really need to get my emotions subdued if I’m going to have a successful year in the East.  Since there is no guide, I need to come up with one.

Why am I so nervous?  There are plenty of reasons for me to be nervous. We have a CLI (Certified Lodge Instructor) in our lodge, so I want to make sure that all the ritual is by the book.    I’m going to be Master of a lodge that has a good mix of newer younger masons and older veteran masons.  As you might imagine, sometimes there is a difference of opinions between these sets of Masons.  I want to make sure there is harmony among the brethren.  I’ve been a member of this lodge since November 2011.   I know all of these brothers and they know me.  I know the ritual.  Sure I might swap a word here or there, but I’m pretty confident with it.   There is no reason I should be nervous.  Yes, I’m going to make some mistakes.   It’s my first journey to the East.    By the time I feel comfortable in the East, my time will be at an end.    I just need to accept this and breathe.  I need to relax and have fun!

What if they don’t respect me? I need to realize that there is a mutual respect between all the brethren in my lodge.   Several of them have mentored me throughout my masonic career thus far.   I don’t want to let them down, but ultimately I might disappoint them.  They might not like the goals that I’m setting for the lodge for the coming year.    It’s okay if they don’t.   They might have different ideas, goals, and aspirations than I.  Some of their ideas might be better than my own.  Our differences make us stronger as a fraternity.  I realize that my time in the East is just a continuation of the masonic journey I’ve been on thus far.   I have exchanged ideas and communicated with them just fine up until now, there should be no difference due to me being in the East.  As long as I keep the lines of communication open, I will be fine.       

Should I step aside so someone more competent can do the job? No! My brothers elected me.   They have the utmost confidence that I can do the job.   I need to have the same confidence.   I’ve already reached the realization that I’m not going to be perfect.    I’ve realized that I might not be able to please all of them as Master, but that I should have an open dialogue with them.  They have elected me because they believe that I’m ready.   So if they believe in me, then I need to also believe in myself.   I’m ready to serve this lodge as Worshipful Master.   It would be more of a disservice to them if I stepped aside.   

So what am I missing?  Oh yes, a mission statement.  I need to summarize my goals that I’ve set out for my year as Master.  This will make it easier to communicate my plan to the brethren without going over each goal individually.   Let’s face it, we all have a short attention span.  I don’t think all of the brethren will want to know all of my goals, and if a few of them do, they will ask me.  Therefore, I present my mission statement.  

I want to make Saint Joseph Lodge a better place. A place for brothers and their families to spend time, and a better asset to the community.  A place that men in my community want to join.  I want to educate the brethren not only using traditional education, but also teach some of the esoteric meanings of the ritual as well.   Lastly, I want to raise some funds by having fun.  

However, it still feels like I’ve forgotten something.  Is it not taught that we as Masons should never commence any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of Deity?  The trust of a Mason is in God.  We open and close our Lodges with Prayer.  Prayer serves an important role during the initiation of our candidates.   Is it not right and proper that I should pray to the Great Architect to bless my labors as Worshipful Master?  Of course it is.  That great lesson applies here, and I should have done this to begin with.   My emotions would have been minimized had I followed that lesson.  I’m going to need God’s help as much as my fellow brethren’s help to have a successful year in the East.  

So, it looks like I’ve written my own “What to expect when you’re expected to become Worshipful Master” guide.  Five easy steps:   
1.       Relax and have fun!  You’re not going to be perfect, but you’ll be okay.
2.       Communicate and be open to listening.  Exchange ideas with your lodge.  
3.       Believe in yourself!  Your brothers believe in you.  
4.       Have a plan.   A mission statement is a good way to set out your goals in a few sentences.
5.       Most importantly, invoke the blessing of Deity always before undertaking any task as Worshipful Master.
Your journey to the East might have been different, or maybe you’re still travelling East.   Hopefully, you can use this guide to help you.  I think it works for any step in your masonic journey.  It’s too bad that it took me until I was going to be Worshipful Master to come up with one.   I’m sure Greg Knott or Todd Creason will have a joke or two ready about that.

~DAL


WB Darin 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.