The All Seeing Eye: Revisited

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus contributor
James E. Frey 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~JEF


The Lodge Is Not A Male Safe Space

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~DAL  

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

A Master’s Work.

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Robert Jackson


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

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

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

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


~REJ

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

Was Jesus an Operative Mason?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

~SLH



Take Off Your Hat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, take off your hat! 

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

With Each Upright, Level Step

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~BH

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

Past Master Advisory

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ARG

Is It Time?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~DAL 

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

A Lutheran Approach to Ritual Part 4: Scripture in Light of Scripture

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3

Up to this point, I have introduced and expanded on two different ways to vary your approach to ritual and text. The next approach deals with the “big picture.” The Lutheran concept of ‘Scripture in Light of Scripture’ encourages the reader to examine the text as a whole to identify its entire value. In the Masonic context this means that the reader recognize that Craft Masonry is not a single homogeneous work but rather a series of lectures and allegories written and edited by multiple pens. As such, there may be tensions that exist between different parts of Masonic Philosophy.

This approach discourages us from being too myopic in our reading of the ritual. In doing this, we select the pieces of the philosophy that best fit our own comforts. This discredits the larger message of who we are meant to be as Masons. The ritual is meant to change us and make us better not comfort us. You have likely seen the focus on details over themes manifest as knowing the symbols and lectures of our degrees but distancing oneself from the more general message and application of the ritual.

There are a number of examples of this mistake. Our commitment to charity is one such example.When charity is challenged the first response is “...but Faith, Hope and Charity.” One single line of ritual governs nearly all of the Masonic activity in some of today’s lodges and organizations. If you study the larger themes and contexts of the ritual you will find that Charity is really Love. With this in mind, the act of passing an Almoners jar, buying a spaghetti dinner ticket, or participating in a raffle to win something is absolutely passive. It may be laudable but it falls well short of fulfilling our duty to “charity” inculcated by the ritual. In this example, we have zoomed in too closely resulting in ignorance toward the greater lessons in our teaching. We ought to be more apt, as William Preston put it, “[to] soothe calamity, alleviate misfortune, compassionated misery, and restore peace to the troubled mind.”

A few, infinitely more relevant examples are the exclusion of Brethren based on their sexuality, the prohibition of liquor in our lodge buildings (in Illinois at least), and promulgation of the progressive line. Here are applications of personal morals which have clouded our ability to see the larger messages of Brotherly Love, Equality, and Liberty which have been the pinnacle teachings of our order in all times.
The application of ‘Scripture in Light of Scripture’ is to observe the ritual both on a micro and macro level. We cannot get so dialed in to a point that we ignore the major themes. Further, if an idea is in conflict with a major theme, we should be able to consider whether the major theme should take precedence. But we will discuss that in more detail in the final installment of this 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

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32

One of my favorite television shows of all time with one of the finest actors of all time; Wayne Brady (pending further review). The audience shouts out phrases and words and the contestants engage in a timeless form of comedy to finish: short-form improvisation.

Freemasonry has a similar tenant as improvisation does. The history, impetus, and origin are often speculative; even university professors cannot quite pinpoint fully, all that is Freemasonry. With no head of the modern Fraternity in America or around the world, much of Freemasonry is indeed speculative.

A word I never heard until I joined the Fraternity is esoteric. It’s a word that simply means exclusive or only known to one or a select few. While we have a written catechism and ritual to follow and by-laws to conduct Lodge and Grand Lodge business, the remaining parts are esoteric. No authority truly holds any of the so-called ‘mystics’ of the Fraternity true, so it’s left to individuals to write about our history, heritage and lore based on their own interpretation of it. Sure, we have facts such as which US Presidents and other notables were Masons and it is a matter of fact as to who founded Shriners and Scottish Rite and where the first formal Lodge was built in England. However, the meaning of the rituals and more are subjective. I wrote several months ago that the secrets of Freemasonry truly lie within the individual. I submit the same is true for the essence of Masonry.

There is often talk amongst Brothers as to who does what and how much. What does it mean to be a Mason and at times, are you ‘Masonic’ enough? We have a progression line to Worshipful Master but there is an almost life meter in some circles as to the who, how, how much and why as to the motivation of some Brothers. Service and civility are a hallmark of the Fraternity yet the work itself unfortunately can come second to who did it and how much.

I am a lifelong member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We believe our relationship with God is one on one and only faith not works can lead to salvation. The same I believe applies to Masonry. Your belief in a God is enough for us, whether it’s Allah, God or Yahweh, your relationship is singular. Only when humankind gets involved do things get awry. Masonry is no different.

My membership to the Lodge and the Fraternity is mine alone. I can read, write and study Masonry but what I put in to it is the Lodge is up to me. No one else. I can choose to be pragmatic like a good Treasurer should be or deep in Masonic Education. No matter my cause, initiative or sustained membership, I determine my path. No one else. In fact, we are encouraged to wander with no specific path. Anyone who tells you otherwise or questions your motives should check the original petition.

There are many reminders contained in our modern lexicon that come from Masonry: ‘getting the 3rd degree’, ‘squared away’, ‘level set’. The one we can do away with is ‘have you paid your dues?’


Bro. Nicholas Wennerström, 32 is a Master Mason out of the 1st NE District of Illinois and Treasurer of Libertyville lodge #492. He is also a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago and York Rite Chapter 41 in Waukegan. He is a father of two boys and devoted husband and currently suffers from Benjamin Buttons disease.

Absolute Power

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



Power corrupts. Absolute power, they say, corrupts absolutely. We in Freemasonry, however, elect men to whom we then hand absolute… well, nearly absolute power. Apparently, that's the way we like it.

Not long ago I had dinner with a Brother who was indignant at the fact a Grand Master had expelled an officer out of the Grand Line, "He can't do that!"

What do you mean he can't do that? He's the Grand Master. I'm not a bylaws expert but I believe he was well within his rights to do it. The expelled member, in fact, was appointed, not elected. I then gave the Brother a couple examples I've seen where a Grand Master and a Master of the Lodge of Research each had expelled elected line officers. We actually had one Grand Master who said no Lodge could have its own website and ordered all of them taken down. Can't do that? Of course they can. And do.

Absolute power — it's practically an aphrodisiac. You've been Master of your Lodge? You've had it, felt it, embraced it. Some use it wisely; some abuse it. Still, face the facts, we as Freemasons elect a benevolent (we hope) dictator.

When I was Master of my Lodge I tried to be reasonable as I swam in the seductive waters of absolute power. Oh, I made an "executive decision" now and then but all-in-all I think I controlled myself. Well, I controlled myself until…

...Monday, September 20, 2004. It was a week before Grand Lodge and three weeks before my final meeting as Master. I had practically the entire year behind me. I had wielded absolute power with a gentle hand but its siren song now called louder and louder. I was Clark Kent wanting to jump into a phone booth and become Superman. I was Thor unable to resist the pent-up urge to hurl thunderbolts. I was me, crazed, wide-eyed and drooling, ready to unleash my venom on the innocent, unsuspecting world of my Brothers.

"I'm going to do it," I told myself, resigned to the criticism that would surely follow. Who cares… I'm the Master, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, the Hulk, all rolled into one. I can do what I want. Damn the torpedoes, full-speed-ahead.

The unremarkable meeting neared its end. Business over, the Brothers sat on the sidelines ready for the standard closing. My next line, "Brother Senior Warden," which would set things in motion, never came.

Instead, I stood and rapped my gavel on the podium three times. The Brothers rose from their seats. I turned to my left, "Brother Chaplain, you will lead us in prayer."

The Chaplain was a little rattled. "What prayer," he whispered.

"The closing prayer."

"Supreme Architect of the Universe," he began and then ended with his usual flourish.

Then, awash in the intoxicating flood of absolute power, completely within my rights to do so, I skipped all other closing ceremonies, "Brethren, by the power vested in me as its Worshipful Master, I declare Liberty Lodge number 31 duly closed!" By God, I'm the Master. I have the authority. I can do it that way, and I did it. Live with it.

I gave a single rap of the gavel and waited for the onslaught of criticism that was about to come. I was ready. Give me your best shot.
Sometimes, in the ebb and flow of events, things don't happen exactly as we expect. Some call this "the law of unintended consequences." The thing is we usually think of that law implying a negative outcome where a positive outcome is expected.

Well, something unexpected happened here, but it was the opposite. I truly had expected a negative outcome. Instead, the entire Lodge erupted in cheers. Although the Brothers were already standing, I think it counted as a standing ovation.

Who knew giving in to the allure of absolute power could make a guy so popular? Or maybe they were just happy they could get to that second helping of dessert a little sooner. So mote it be.

~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.

Here I Go Again On My Own...Just Kidding

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



About this time last year, I was about ready to hop in my friend and Brother’s car to ride down to Grand Lodge Sessions. In fact, I wrote about it and you can read it here. This time around, we’re heading down via the train. A time-honored tradition. This year there are several Masons from the 1st Northeastern district taking the train. We’re taking the Metra to the historic Chicago Union Station, where we’ll meet up in the executive lounge and then take the train down via business class. If all goes well, business class will be full of Freemasons.

I’m really looking forward to the trip this year. Last year I traveled down as my final year of being a District Education Officer and would be installed as a District Deputy Grand Master. This year, I’m going down as, and remaining, a DDGM. I’m looking forward to the fellowship and taking lots of pictures. In fact, I’ll hopefully be documenting the entire experience with my instamatic camera. I hope to capture some great moments. 

Recently, I’ve been remembering some of the hobbies I left behind when I became extraordinarily active within the craft. I’ve been sitting down and playing guitar again, but also, and even more so, I’ve been getting back into photography. I was a photographer and lab technician for almost eight years, and that was ten years ago! Being inspired by Greg Knott’s photos, seeing some of the great shots from our TMR-Con and the photos from the latest MRF symposium, lead me to get back in the saddle. 

Recently, when Scott Dueball decided it was time to buy a new lens for his Canon, I made a recommendation for a fixed 50mm. Seeing him get into it and taking pictures of his new baby made me remember the thrill and fun of taking pictures. So, here I go again...but not alone by any means. See you all down at Grand Lodge.

~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 Mason’s Pay

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Anonymous


Editors Note - The Midnight Freemasons has always been about telling the story of Freemasonry. Sometimes that's through historical pieces, sometimes through the exploration of esoteric concepts but mostly, it's been told through our individual experiences. Recently a close friend and Brother came to me with a piece which I found to be wonderful. It's emotional, thought provoking and real. He asked me to publish it anonymously. It is not my policy to publish anonymous works. With this piece, we take exception. I hope you enjoy, and more importantly, I hope you feel it.

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

We learn from our traditions that the wages of our ancient Brethren were corn, wine, and oil.  As I look at the dwindling attendance at our meetings, fundraisers, and social gatherings, I wonder if, like many other historical and spiritual texts, this lesson is being interpreted too literally.  Food and drink are increasingly becoming the centerpiece to our gatherings.  Don’t get me wrong, there can be great benefit to breaking bread with our Brothers.  The discussions, not the food, should be the centerpiece.  Now I’m hearing that the best way to attract members is to offer free meals to the Brothers.  Is that the only reason a Brother will attend?  How long will it be before we are paying our members to show up?  What is truly, a Mason’s pay?  Have we become, as Masons, only willing to help out the Lodge or Community as long as we get something material immediately back in return?  I refuse to be that way.

Truth be told, I do get far more from the Lodge than I put in, but not in any tangible form like a paycheck or certificate. My payment is different. It’s a deep friendship with the men whom I call Brothers. It’s personal growth in learning to be a leader in all walks of life. It’s the impromptu late-night discussions of philosophy with the Brothers that can’t pull themselves away. Its cheering on a Brother's daughter in the local Special Olympics. Its learning that vegans can't eat donuts. It’s opening my mind to new spiritual events like an Autumn Equinox Observance. Its watching our Shriner clown Brother finally get that one shy toddler at the local town fair to laugh. It’s seeing a candidate taking his first Obligation, and remembering when I was reciting those same words. It’s seeing Brethren enjoy a meal that I helped to prepare. It’s meeting the community at the CHiPs events. It’s seeing the smile on a child's face in the hospital on Christmas Eve. And yes, it is of course getting compliments from the nurses during that same Christmas Eve visit.  The list goes on…

The emotional and spiritual payment I receive from Masonry is far more than corn, wine, and oil.  I know I’m not alone, but I see fewer and fewer men seeking light on their own. If a man doesn’t step forward and knock, what makes us think he will step forward for charity or self-improvement?  Do we better serve the world as small philosophical clubs, or should we expand and pull in more men in hopes that they find their own non-material wages?  Just as an addict can’t recover unless they admit they have a problem, we will never be able to seek the light, unless we first recognize the darkness within.

~Anonymous