Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Looks Forward

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Illustrious John Wm. McNaughton 33°, the immediate Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (AASR-NMJ) has written a new book titled Reclaiming the Soul of Freemasonry. It is available online in the Scottish Rite store or on Amazon in the Kindle version.

Brother McNaughton lays out his opinions on the current state of Freemasonry and in the forward writes:

“Today, many Masonic leaders no longer prioritize the same lofty ideals as did our forefathers. Focus has turned from the timeless principles of our craft to the ephemeral practice of arbitrarily enforcing rules and regulations. It is painful to think about what happened to the golden age of Freemasonry, when our members cared more about each other than about edicts and procedures. Today, it seems that some leaders of the fraternity are more concerned about the needs of the institution than the needs of the members. Buildings come first. Ritual comes first. Procedures come first. Everything but our obligation to each other has been given priority.”

In many ways, I believe McNaughton is spot on with this assessment. Think about the meetings of your local lodge or appendant bodies. What percentage of time is spent on topics such as the roof on the building, planning the pancake breakfast or reading the mail? What percentage of your meeting is spent on education? My bet in 99% of the cases is that education is a very small part, if any of your meeting.

AASR-NMJ commissioned a study whose purpose was to examine the issues within the fraternity and solicit input from both members and non-members. The survey itself was not included in the book, but McNaughton makes several references to what was found.

He writes that the survey makes an examination of the Millennial and Boomer generations, finding both generations share similar priorities such as wanting to be part of organization that makes a difference and the desire to be heard and respected. Common shared values included loyalty, authenticity and equality.

The conclusion is drawn that the Boomer generation should be the target market for recruiting new members into Freemasonry. That by doing so will ignite a generational interest that will in time also attract the Millennial generation to also join.

The book then explores what the survey said was the right message to attract new men to Freemasonry. Respondents essentially said they were much more interested in an organization that espoused the values they stood for and not long dead historical Masons.

The internal membership survey asked what current Scottish Rite members expect from the fraternity. Three primary areas were identified: first was that Scottish Rite members want more interaction with their leadership, more engagement with one another, and the ability to dive deeper into the craft (education). Second members stated they wanted to see more modern communication methods to enhance the member experience. Finally, the biggest challenges facing the Scottish Rite are related to interpersonal conflicts. The last point is explored in detail.

Brother McNaughton then explores the topic of ritual memorization and its relationship to leadership within the fraternity. Does the ability to memorize equate to the value a member can bring to the fraternity? Again, he explores this at some length.

The book looks at technology, member education and the Scottish Rite membership’s desire to have more of both and integrated together. Not for supplanting social gatherings or interpersonal relationships, but to further build their individual masonic knowledge.

AASR-NMJ emphasizes brothers caring for one another, which McNaughton argues is a critical step into keeping our obligation and as a key element for attracting new members into our ranks. He concludes that it is this obligation that should be emphasized and that the survey results verify this is where the organization and Freemasonry should go.

I agree with much of what Brother McNaughton has written. However, I do have concerns that the Boomer generation should be the primary target of membership growth. While I agree that many in this age group may have more free time than younger generations who are engaged in careers and/or raising children, I personally have found that these groups are also ripe for membership growth.

It was unclear to me the role member education will play in attracting new members in the new plans, but I am hopeful it will be a center piece, not only for attracting new members, but also for the existing membership. I firmly believe that masonic education is vital to both attract and retain members not only in the Blue Lodge, but also in the local Scottish Rite Valley, where it is virtually non-existent today.

I concur with McNaughton in regard to ritual memorization. Yes, I understand that ritual when done right necessitates having the parts memorized. This has been a timeless means of portraying our degrees to the candidate. But too often the ability to memorize is considered the key attribute to providing leadership within Masonry. While I am impressed with the ability of those who can memorize long passages of ritual, I often wonder if they have any idea what it means.

Overall, I think this is a well written book. I have seen comments questioning the methodology of the membership survey and as stated earlier the detailed survey results are not included in the book. But I will reserve my final opinions until I have an opportunity to see what the AASR-NMJ will be rolling out. Without a doubt, there will be many critics of what comes forth and that is OK, good civil debate is sorely needed within our fraternity, especially about our future.

Regardless I think we owe Brother McNaughton a debt of thanks for getting this process started and sharing his thoughts on how the fraternity, both the Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite should go into the future.

He cares deeply about our fraternity and so do I.

~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.

Unsung Heroes

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


Publishing is hard. Just ask Robert Johnson, the Managing Editor of this blog. Every week you can come here and read three new articles on Freemasonry and then go about your business. Very simple. There is a lot, however, going on behind the scenes to bring those articles to you. He faces some of the same problems publishers have had since Gutenberg's brainstorm gave us movable type. That said, Right Worshipful Brother Robert has a "leg up" on some publishers when it comes to getting those articles to you. Once he has gone through the process of reading, editing, spell-checking and making sure an article is appropriate he heads for his computer and… presto-change-o! He hands it to you on the Internet, that land of science and technology with a bit of magic thrown in.

Given that, consider the life of a Brother… say… a quarter-century ago. The Internet was there but not for him and not for his Lodge. For that Brother to get a Masonic publication at home it was going to come to him through one portal… his mailbox.

This method of delivery presented a few extra steps and challenges for publishers back then. Still, it was kind of an easy process for the Brother receiving the publication. He brought in the mail, grabbed his pipe and slippers, sat back in his easy chair and spent some quiet time reading the latest Masonic magazine or newsletter. When you think about it, given the frenetic lives people live today and the fact they always seem to be staring at some kind of screen, getting publications that way can be a nice change of pace; and some of them still come that way, don't they? Many state magazines, The Royal Arch Mason, Knight Templar magazine, The Scottish Rite Journal — are hard-copy publications. They are also larger-scale operations with budgets, and in some cases a staff, that can get the job done.

It's also likely you receive other publications like newsletters and bulletins from smaller Masonic groups. Consider the work it takes to get those to your mailbox. The people who distribute these smaller publications face the same issues as bigger publishers, but have to rely on volunteer help, a bit of creativity and hard work to get those items to your door.

Judy VanVickle edits one such publication, the High Twelve Highlights, in St. Joseph Missouri. Her sixteen-page monthly newsletter has a circulation of 260 and what she does is typical of the work other small-publication editors have to do.

"I use Microsoft Publisher for most of the work," she says. "Some of the articles come in Microsoft Word format while some are in longhand. I have to type the handwritten articles myself. I have a standard layout and Publisher usually handles the formatting. I get clip-art from lots of places and use that and cartoons to fill any empty spaces."

Once the layout is complete she sends the file to a professional printer who prints and collates the pages. "Then," says Judy, "we have a 'stuffing party.' We fold, staple, crease and stuff the envelopes and get everything ready for bulk mailing." She says she serves donuts at the party, which seems to be as much fun as work. Judy always includes the names of her helpers in the newsletter.

The Highlights newsletter is ad-supported. This helps defray the cost of the printing and mailing but adds more work to the process. Individual members divide up the work of selling the ads then the group's Treasurer, Brother Al Patterson, sends the artwork to Judy, ready to insert in the newsletter.

Judy realizes the newsletter would be less work and expense online, "but," she says, "so many of our readers just don't make use of the Internet."

So the next time you go to your mailbox and find one of these small publications, remember the men and women getting the newsletters and bulletins out are some of the unsung heroes of our craft. Then, with or without pipe and slippers, enjoy the product from these small but important Masonic quarries.

~SLH


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also 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. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

My Visit with Brother Harry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~BH

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

The Highest Level of Valor

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~GJK

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

Nobody Wants Your Parents Masonic Stuff

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


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

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

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

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

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

~SSD

WB Scott S. Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R.-N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at SEO@ilmason.org

It Is Time To Clean Up Our Act

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Washington was right.  

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

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

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He recently joined the Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The Datum

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~SSD

WB Scott S. Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R.-N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at SEO@ilmason.org

10 Years as a Freemason

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~GJK

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

Master Craftsman Continues After Two Years

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~RHJ


A Lutheran Approach to Ritual Part 5: Assigning Value

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Scott S. Dueball

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~SSD

WB Scott S. Dueball is the Worshipful Master of D.C. Cregier Lodge No. 81 in Wheeling, IL and holds a dual membership in Denver Lodge No. 5 in Denver, CO. He currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as the State Education Officer. Scott is also a member of the Palatine York Rite bodies and the Valley of Chicago A.A.S.R.-N.M.J. He is passionate about the development of young masons, strategy and visioning for Lodges. He can be reached at SEO@ilmason.org