Brotherhood - A Matter of Accessibility

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RW Robert H. Johnson


"Text me, call me or email me, 24 hours a day, 365."That's what I tell every brother I know. I have made it a point to make myself accessible at all hours to my brothers. Some say, "Family first!" I agree, brothers are my family. I have found that making sure my brothers know I am willing to help anytime, is a crucial step in them understanding that this isn't a superficial relationship. In fact, there are moments when these men are shocked because of the attention and response they get when they put a call out.

We've all been there, we say, "Call me if you need anything." How many people say this, willy nilly? Openly or secretly hoping the person doesn't call on them. Of course it's human nature to want to be selfish and ignore a phone call, not respond to a text, or just outright ignore the person reaching out. We're human. But also, as a fraternity, we're above this.

How about when you're all sitting around late at night, you've all had a few drinks and everyone starts making plans to do something, and in the morning no one remembers. Conversations in which no one has any intention of doing what is proposed. Except, Freemasonry is different. What we propose, we perform. Especially when we offer assistance.

Recently, I told a brother I didn't need anything while my wife and I spent the night in the hospital with our youngest son. The next day I woke up in the hospital to a text message received at 8am. "They won't let me in, I have some breakfast for you guys." It was 9:15. I walked to the doors which lead out into the waiting area, and the brother was STILL there waiting. We shook hands, and he handed me a bag of breakfast items. We shared a few words before he took off and went about his day. It was Christmas Eve.

Emotional thoughts invaded my mind. In the current turmoil which we had just been through, my brother, who saw through my dismissal of help and reached out anyway, made me feel as if any doubts I had in this fraternity were wrongly placed. That breakfast was great, even if we was in the hospital.

Let this be a warning to those new brothers and to men thinking about joining. If we say we'll be there, we will. If you ask for assistance, we'll be there.

Oh, and one last thing. Thanks, Scott.

~RHJ

George Washington's Oath: So Help Me God



by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason


"So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same."

~Duncan's Ritual

We've all heard that phrase in our Lodges before.  It is with those words we take a solemn oath--and then we kiss the Holy Bible.  It's been a Masonic tradition for a long time.  It has long been held that George Washington took that Masonic tradition with him when he was sworn in as President of the United States.  He added the words "so help me God" to the end of his oath of office, and then kissed the Holy Bible--a Masonic altar Bible that was provided by St. John's Lodge No. 1 in New York no less.  And according to tradition, every United States President has added those four words "so help me God" to the end of their oath of office ever since.  It's a great story.  But there's a couple problems with that story. 

Most of us know that the words "so help me God" are not part of the oath as it's presented in the Constitution.  Those words were added later, and are considered the President-elect's option to use or exclude.  The fact that the tradition started with George Washington is also been questioned.  Those four words were in use as part of the oath in federal courtrooms at that time, so it was common practice when Washington was sworn in.  But, there is no evidence that Washington added those four words to his Presidential oath of office.  Comte de Moustier, the French foreign minister, attended the event, and in a long letter recorded the oath verbatim--he did not include the words "so help me God" in his account.  And for Washington, a man who presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, it would have been out of character for him to have changed those words recorded in the Constitution. 
 
The Washington Bible
So did George Washington kiss the Bible?  We don't know that for sure either, but it is less hotly debated than whether or not he said "so help me God" at the end of the oath.  The source of much of this legend of the Washington inaugural came into existence 60 years after the event, and can be attributed to Washington Irving.  Irving, as we all know, knew how to tell a story as we may remember from his famous stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." 

So did Washington say "so help me God" and kiss the Bible?  We don't really know.  He may have done one, or the other, or neither.  Maybe he did both.  Or perhaps it was a great story shared by a great storyteller, Washington Irving. 

However, I like to think he did.  He was a Freemason, and as we all know those traditions become ingrained in us.  It becomes habit.  How many of us have accidentally said "so mote it be" after a prayer in our church on Sunday morning?  I have.  History very often misses the small details in very important events--especially small details that are familiar or commonplace by those attending.  Until we figure out time travel and go back and watch the event, we'll never know for sure.  Either way, it's either a great story about the great man George Washington, or it's a great story written by a great man Washington Irving.  Take your pick. 

What we do know, is the first real evidence that the phrase "so help me God" was used in the Presidential oath was in September 1881 when Chester Arthur was inaugurated.  There's no question about it--he said it.  Whether anyone did prior to Chester Arthur is anybody's guess.  However, we also know without question, that those optional words "so help me God" have been used by every President* since Chester Arthur, including our most recent President, Donald J. Trump.

And that's the truth as I know it . . . So help me God

~TEC

*There is one possible exception.  Teddy Roosevelt according to one source was reported to have said "and thus I swear" rather than "so help me God."  

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR 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, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the 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

What Freemasonry Teaches: We Don’t Know

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Robert H. Johnson



“What facts, theory or doctrine does the Grand Lodge expect the Committee on Masonic Information to inculcate? The Grand Lodge has not said. Obviously, it is not to teach what is in the ritual, for that is already thoroughly taken care of. What is the Grand Lodge’s authorized and approved version of the history of Freemasonry? It has none, except what is found in ritual. What is the Grand Lodge’s interpretation of the symbolism of Freemasonry? It hasn’t any, except the ritual. What is the Doctrine of the Grand Lodge about the philosophy, religion, or principles of Freemasonry? Obviously nothing, except what is already taught in the ritual. Therefore, if your committee circulates any information at all, it must be in addition to the only authorized doctrine of the Grand Lodge, viz., the ritual. Hence, we have the anomaly of a committee officially and solemnly authorized to disseminate unauthorized materials.”

These words are from the Committee on Masonic Information (Formerly Education), under the Grand Lodge of the state of California, in the proceedings for 1947, Pg 206. What is outlined is something we all know deep down, but have little patience or stomach to digest. This idea that what we have, has no meaning outside the ritual. This is stated by numerous Grand Lodges all around the world, if not in print than certainly by inaction. There is an inherent ideology which prevents a lodge or Grand Lodge in the United States at least, from stating that any one symbol means anything concrete. Sure, we offer new members small pamphlets on our history, who some famous masons were and outline a few rules a Mason should live by and if you’re extremely lucky, there might be an allusion to some deeper concepts.

Hence the mystery of our origins before recorded proceedings. The mystery of our operative ancestors and innumerable tomes of speculation regarding the teachings, what they mean and why we do them are readily available to anyone to read, open for further speculation and writing, even by those without the slightest expertise. We only have printed and documented proof of our existence, which is tainted at times and in some cases anecdotal evidence by second and third source parties.

The documented history of Freemasonry therefore, has had the most credible and accurate writings. But our craft isn’t about teaching its modern history. If it were, our first brethren would be studying what they had literally just accomplished. It is supposed to be a “Peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” Or in other words, a different system of a way of living, taught with stories and depicted through pictures or symbols. But what are these teachings?

Is it simply Love for all mankind, Faith in a God and Hope in an afterlife? Almost no one agrees that it is as simple as this. Authors such as; Manly P. Hall, Arthur Edward Waite, Blavatsky, Doyle, Pirtle, Pottenger, Steinmetz, Krieger and a slew of writers living today argue that there is indeed a deep symbolism of the degrees. Ideas vary from author to author, but suffice it to say that the main take away is that; Freemasonry is truly ancient perhaps antediluvian in nature. It teaches the idea of a perfection of man or apotheosis. It teaches that there is a secret doctrine and that absolute practice of these realized concepts within the mind of the initiate leads to a true spiritual awakening to something commonly referred to as a Cosmic Consciousness.

These concepts are truly mind boggling to some. They are even offensive to others, especially when these ideas clash with the religious theology of the person so reading it. It can create a deep division of the mind if one is a Freemason, who is of the persuasion of a theosophy which is incompatible with these seemingly enlightened ideas and is reading these texts. One tends to shut down in these instances. We call this cognitive dissonance. An inconsistency in thought patterns regarding information put to the reader. It’s too convenient to keep believing the wrong information than it is to subject yourself to the new information that’s been presented, whether factual historical record or perhaps peer reviewed scholarly written esoterica.

But what do we know? There is nothing out there which affirms that these posited ideas of our actual purpose are absolute. We know for certain our craft has innumerable made up concepts to deal with the many areas we cover. Look at a Masonic ring, it might have, as a design, three etches on each side. When the buyer asks if this is because it symbolizes the three degrees, the seller says, “Yes!” But to be sure, it was actually just designed that way, no symbolism intended. Somehow we feel a need to fill in the gaps, it’s the way our minds work.

The Landmarks of Freemasonry are a prime example of creating something that was non existent. They were written based on lose ideas presented in any one of the diverse manuscripts which exist for your intimate perusal. These are as ancient as the 1800s, when Mackey and others laid them out, for the first time. Again, we have a human need to organize, write down, reference and categorize everything.

There are those who claim our [Freemasonry's] origin is from Ancient Egypt, and much has been written about this. However, there are also scholars who claim this is absolute nonsense. That we came from the descendants of Noah, again, nonsense. Why nonsense? Because there is no factual historical record to be examined. Where we came from lends to the credibility of what we are said to teach. E.g. If we came from Ancient Egypt, than perhaps we would truly value the magical elements of ritual. If we came from Ancient Greece, perhaps we would value more the sacred geometry.

The question remains, what does Freemasonry teach? Certainly, Grand Lodges refrain from taking a stance on what it is, we wouldn’t want to alienate hundreds of thousands of members. So we’re left with the maxim, “Freemasonry is many things to a great many people.” This just isn't satisfying, and perhaps it is the reason for all the appendant bodies. Believers of certain paths can join up and get active in one or several other “Masonic” groups dedicated to theosophical ideologies or perhaps just to have a social club.

Certainly brethren, we are more than Faith, Hope and Love. We should indeed admit to ourselves that the esoteric ideas which are written of our craft, which are not so much authorized interpretations shared by any Grand Lodge are most likely the product of Renaissance and Enlightenment period members joining our ranks and influencing the direction of the craft. For in our fraternity was a safe haven for these free thinkers, these titans of philosophy and romantic chroniclers.

It is thanks to these members that we have a craft left at all. A craft who’s documented origin is that of operative, that is, actual stone masons and their guilds in which obligations were taken over the guilds bylaws, not it’s holy book. From this, we sprang forth. A society who's chief concern was that of Unity. An influx of free thinkers then came into the craft, and changed it forever. This fraternity is in a constant state of change.

In the end, we teach ritual. We teach how to make a square corner, hold your rod and how to memorize words. “You forgot a word in there.” “You did a back hook step instead of a prep step.” We’ve heard it all, haven’t we? The ritual vultures leave no ritual uncorrected. If we only teach ritual, than what is the supposition? If there’s nothing deeper, what is the point? If you argue that the ritual teaches something else, than what is it? And why hasn’t it been stated officially?

To be sure, there are some Grand Lodges which have made tantalizing statements in the materials given to the members. See the Illinois Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Education’s Intender Guide; “The Master Mason Degree Proficiency Booklet” Pg. 10

The Symbol of the Temple for each of us is founded upon the idea that man himself is a living Temple, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe resides.

This has since been removed. The new version of the Illinois Intender Program negates this concept completely, and yet we ask, “What are we teaching?” Are we not teaching these things any longer? Apparently not, which is why so many young Masonic authors are taking it upon themselves to dive into such topics. A matter of grave importance comes with these newly discovered ancient ideas notwithstanding is an unyielding strong grip on reality.

Too often a Brother may dive into the depths of Masonic philosophy only to risk nothing less than one’s own sanity in the search for divine truth. Perhaps if our lodges were to develop a posture on the philosophy of Freemasonry as it relates to enlightenment and not just the ordinary perpetuated concepts, we would foster developed thinkers, attract new members, provide a safe place for study and discussion and be a nucleus for progressive ideas to be born, which the rest of humanity might eventually look to for direction. Brethren, what are we teaching…officially?

~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.

Masonic Etiquette for the Entered Apprentice

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


In my lodge, we have a tradition: after the Entered Apprentice degree is conferred, after the lectures and the charge, a brother in the lodge will approach the newly made brother and speak to him about basic Masonic Etiquette. The lecture is informal, and usually given with just an outline of what needs to be covered. It has proven useful to both our newly made EAs, and to help remind our current brothers about the basics as well.

Below, I’ve included the version that I present; feel free to adapt it to your lodge’s use. A few tips on preparation: it is helpful to sit in the South, across from the candidate, so that you have to walk West of the altar to approach him. Warn your Worshipful Master and Senior Deacon in advance when it comes to the raps of the gavel, as it makes a much better impression (and is respectful to the WM to not surprise him). Finally, I’ve made notes in parenthesis that will help improve your performance, or clarify some points that are jurisdictional-specific.


My brother, while most of the degree work you have seen has been repeated verbatim from memory, this is the one portion of the degree where we can relax and speak freely. At the request of the Worshipful Master, I would like to spend just a few minutes explaining to you some of the basics of etiquette within the lodge.

Masonry is an ancient science, and has evolved over the centuries to its current state of existence. As such, much of what you have heard in our ritual work may have sounded very strange and archaic, and many of the words you’ll hear us use are currently unfamiliar to you. I promise you that, in time, you will come to be as familiar with our work as we are ourselves, and it will all feel very comfortable.

When you go home today, your wife (NOTE: only if applicable. Ascertain in advance if the candidate is married), family, and friends are probably going to have a lot of questions about what happened here. They will want to know all about our ritual and ceremonies, and will hopefully be taking an active interest in your involvement in Masonry. Tell them! You are welcome and encouraged to tell them, in your own words, what you experienced, how it felt, and what you learned from it. We ask that you don’t share the specific details with a man who is interested in joining us, so that he can enjoy the ceremonies the same way you did. The only “secrets” of Masonry that we ask you to protect are the specific modes of recognition, which are the grip and word that we taught you earlier. (NOTE: in Nebraska, my home jurisdiction, the modes of recognition are the only protected secrets, per our Grand Lodge. Verify with your jurisdiction if this differs)

Because we always hold a meal before our meetings, you generally will not need to enter or leave the lodge once we have opened. (NOTE: in my lodge, we always have a meal. If your lodge is different, adapt this as necessary) If you do arrive late, however, there is a specific sequence you need to follow to gain admittance. First, knock on the door of the lodge three times. (POINT to the door) This alerts the Junior Deacon (POINT to the J.D.) that there is a brother outside of the lodge seeking admittance. He will respond by knocking either once, or three times. If he knocks only once, it means that we are at a portion of the ceremony that cannot be interrupted, and that you will need to wait a few minutes until we’re ready. When he knocks three times, he will open the door and let you in, and also indicate the proper place to salute; either the Senior Warden in the West (POINT to the SW), or the Worshipful Master at the altar (POINT to the altar), and also indicate which degree we are open in. You need to approach that officer, and give the appropriate salute, then take a seat in the lodge.

You’ll have noticed that when I came over, I took a bit of a circuitous route to get here. That is because there is an area of the lodge, between the Worshipful Master and the altar, that we do not cross through, unless specifically granted permission from the Worshipful Master. This is a sign of respect to the Worshipful Master, and to the Grand Architect from whom he draws inspiration.

Although Masonry is not a religious organization, we do require a faith in a higher being, whom we, at all times, reverence and serve. One of the ways we do this is by praying before we eat, in our ceremonies, and before we close our lodge. (NOTE: if you aren’t in Nebraska, you may leave out the explanation of the Cross of the Good Shepherd) Nebraska Masons pray in a very unique way, which is called the Cross of the Good Shepherd. This is made by crossing the right arm across the chest, onto the left shoulder, and then the left arm across the chest onto the right shoulder, and bowing your head. At the end of the prayer, we conclude the prayer with the words “So Mote It Be”. This is an old English term that means “So may it be” or “So let it be”, and is best described as an amen with emphasis.

As an Entered Apprentice Mason, you’re limited in which meetings you may attend. You are, of course always welcome at our dinners, and you may, if you choose, attend any EA degree being performed at this lodge. We encourage you to observe another EA degree as soon as you can, because this will help you learn what happened within your own degree more, and will show you many things you may have missed the first time.

If you have something specific which you wish to address in lodge, please stand, and wait to be addressed by the Worshipful Master. Generally, there is time to do this toward the end of our monthly business meeting, and the Worshipful Master will open to floor to any brother who wishes to contribute.

At various times during our rituals and meetings, you’ll notice that the Worshipful Master will wish to speak to a specific brother in the lodge. Worshipful Master, if you would be so kind as to call up the Senior Deacon. (NOTE: Wait for this to be done). Now, if the Worshipful Master desired to call up all of the elected officers in the lodge, he would do this with two raps. Worshipful Master? (NOTE: Wait for this to be done). These are the elected officers of the lodge: The Treasurer, Secretary, Senior and Junior Wardens, and of course the Worshipful Master himself, who does not rise for anyone save the Grand Architect himself.

Now, what would happen if the Worshipful Master were to rap three times? Worshipful Master, if you would be so kind? (NOTE: Wait for this to be done. Tell the SD in advance NOT to prompt the candidate, as this is a great way for him to learn by observing). As you see, three raps of the gavel raises the whole lodge. (NOTE: If the candidate hasn’t risen, say “My brother, as you are now a part of this lodge, you should rise as well!”) Remember: one rap for a specific brother, two for the officers, and three for the whole lodge. Now, if the Worshipful Master will rap one last time? (NOTE: Wait for this to be done), you can see that this is the signal for all standing to be seated.

We understand that Masonry is a very complicated subject for a new brother to learn, and many men have spent a lifetime studying it, and still have yet to learn all it has to teach. You won’t have to take this journey alone, as the Worshipful Master has assigned Brother XXXXX to be your mentor. (POINT to this brother, so the candidate knows who it is). Any questions you have, he will help you to answer, and he will also help you through your proficiency guide and memory work. Of course, every brother here wishes to see you succeed, and will be happy to help you in any way we can.

(NOTE: If your lodge doesn’t have a Facebook page… get one) Finally, our lodge has a Facebook page that lists upcoming events, practices, and other Masonic information. Your mentor will help you to join it, so that you can always stay informed of what’s happening to the lodge.

On behalf of the officers and brothers of Lancaster Lodge Number 54, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, (NOTE: Obviously, use the name of your lodge here, and substitute F&AM if appropriate) I most heartily congratulate you, and welcome you into our lodge, Brother XXXX.

~AT

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

The Meeting

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


The Lodge room looked better than I had ever seen it. Magnificent, actually. The officers' chairs were solid walnut with gold filigree inlaid designs of the working tools. An Italian marble podium sat in front of each of the warden's chairs with an intricate swirling design that matched marble insets on the walls around the room. New deep blue wall-to-wall carpeting covered the floor. A crystal chandelier illuminated the altar and an ornate Letter G hung above the Master's chair in the east.

I was encouraged by the size of the crowd at the meeting — probably over 100 Brothers. I couldn't help but think how great it was that the Grand Lodge had voted to change things to allow lodges to make every use of the technology available, a move I was certain had everything to do with the large number in attendance.

I saw Joe, an old friend, across the room and went over to greet him. "Wow," I said, "I haven't seen you in years. When did you get back in town?"

"I didn't, Brother Steve." he replied.

"Me, either," I said and we chuckled at our little exchange.

The Master called the meeting to order and we all took our seats. Some things change and some don't. After the opening ceremonies the Secretary read the minutes and the Treasurer gave his report. During the business part of the meeting we discussed the sad state of our Lodge furniture, something which seemed inconsistent with the gorgeous view I had of my surroundings. Based on the Treasurer's report we decided we didn't have the funds to do anything about it now, but with participation up under the new rules, maybe we could do something next year.

The reason I go to meetings these days is the Masonic education, and that meeting did not disappoint. We took a walking-tour of the Loge des Neuf SÅ“urs as it appeared during the time Ben Franklin was a member. Then, the main speaker, Brother George Washington, spoke on his thoughts about the fraternity, a presentation based on his writings and experiences during his lifetime.

The Master closed the Lodge and I greeted several more old friends before leaving. Conversing with them after the meeting we agreed it had been an inspirational evening and would look forward to more of this kind in the future.

A great evening at an end, I popped the Virtual Reality contact lenses out of my eyes, and re-acclimated myself as I looked around the bare VR room surrounding me. "I'd really like to go back home and visit that Lodge," I said to myself, "Gosh, I don't think I've been back there since about 2025." Then, I leaned on my walker and slowly made my way back to my room at my retirement home in Florida.

~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.

My Masonic Ring - A History

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM



There are thousands of designs and variations in Masonic rings. Much like a fingerprint, each ring is as distinct and different from the next as the individual who wears it on his finger. From an inexpensive ring made of a dull material to a custom ring of fourteen karat gold designed by its owner, to an heirloom passed down through a family for generations, a Brothers ring not only tells the world he is a member of the world's oldest fraternity but also tells a little about the man himself. Each ring has its own story, and listening to these stories can be quite fascinating. Each one, no matter cost of the ring to the owner, is priceless, because of its story and what the ring signifies. 

My ring is no different. In 2002, after my petition for membership was voted upon and my degree work scheduled, I began to look at Masonic rings. I must have sent away for every Masonic catalog I could find. Sitting alone at night, I would look through each one like a kid at Christmas time. I would look at each ring and dream of how it would look on my hand. Finally, after months of debate, I settled upon a design. In my mind, it would be the perfect ring for me to display my pride of being a member of the Fraternity. 

In October of 2002 I was finally raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason. The next morning I went to a local jeweler who also happened to be a member of my new lodge and placed the order for my ring. I took the catalog to the jeweler with me so I could show him the exact ring I wanted, and so there wouldn't be any mistake.  It was a large gold ring with a big blue stone. The Brother smiled (I'm not sure if he smiled because of my enthusiasm or because he made a sale) and he assured me it would be perfect when it arrived…in three weeks. 

THREE WEEKS! How in the world would I subdue my passions for three weeks until my new beauty arrived? I kicked myself for waiting so long in ordering my ring. I finally convinced myself that waiting to receive my ring after my Master Mason degree was much easier than waiting to wear a ring I had in my possession for months before I was entitled to wear it. 

After a very long and tortuous twenty one days, I got a call from my jeweler telling me my ring had arrived and I could finally pick it up. I'm sure it really wasn't like this in real life but when I look back at that moment in time my memory goes to an event in a movie; I remember looking at my new ring with an angelic type heavenly choir singing in the background, and as I moved my fingers the rays of light which appeared from the Grand Lodge above made it sparkle.  It had finally arrived. 

Like a young girl who had just received an engagement ring, I walked around thinking everyone was looking at my new status symbol. The Brethren of my lodge complimented my purchase. One of the Brothers complimented it (I think) by saying “Oh my, it is really…large.”  Ok, so it was a little showy, but I felt that the purpose of such a piece of jewelry so that the world would know I was a member of the world's greatest fraternity. 

After several years of wear, my beautiful, shiny ring began to lose its luster. Wearing it twenty four hours a day garnered nicks in the gold. The blue stone received several chips in the cuts of the facets and some of the enamel in the middle of the square and compass had fallen out. I had also began to lose some weight, and my well fitting ring now was too loose, and I even considered not wearing it for fear it would slip off and become lost. While I'm sure I was the only one to see these flaws, in my mind they were glaring. I decided that once I became Master of my lodge, I would consider replacing this ring with a Past Masters ring. 

In the fall of 2006 while I was Senior Warden of my lodge, I attended the Indiana Masonic Home Festival in Franklin, Indiana. It was a beautiful day. I got to visit many friends I rarely was able to see since we all lived so far apart across the state. After a long day, I was sitting down to rest when I heard a familiar voice and a hand upon my shoulder. Standing behind me was my friend and Brother James Barkdull, Grand Master of Masons in Indiana and Carl Cullman, then the Grand Photographer for the Grand Lodge. 

The three of us started talking. It had been a fine day and we all commented on the success of the day's event. Brother Barkdull asked me if I would do him a favor. Of course I agreed; Most Worshipful Barkdull was a good friend, and one doesn't say no to a Grand Master. 

Brother Barkdull asked me if I had heard of the song “Masonic Ring” by Brother Howie Damron. At that point in my life I had not heard it yet. Jim told me about it and how they wanted to get photographs of brothers shaking hands to show show on the screen while the song played at the next Grand Lodge session. We started shaking hands for the camera but Brother Cullman suggested we switch rings. Apparently the swap would make the picture better. 

I gave Grand Master Barkdull my ring and I put on his. It was a simple gold ring, average size, and fit me perfectly. Once the photos were taken, we were commenting on how we liked each other's ring more than the ring we wore to the festivities. Jim suggested “Why don't we swap rings until I install you as Worshipful Master in a few months.” In my mind it was a great idea. I would wear this ring which I preferred, and once I was Master I would look into getting my Past Master ring. It was the perfect plan. 

Over the next few months I really hated the idea of giving up that ring.  Pardon the pun, but the Grand Masters ring fit me like a glove. It was beautiful, and I didn't need to worry I would lose it because it was too loose. And I must admit, it felt good when a couple of Brethren I knew who had aspersions to be Grand Master someday were green with envy at the thought of me possessing the Grand Master’s ring. 

In December, the date arrived in which I was to be seated into the Oriental Chair of my lodge.  Grand Master Barkdull had agreed nearly a year before to install me as Master. It was a great honor.  The evening went very well. I was the first new Worshipful Master of my lodge in nearly six years. It was a great celebration!

Once I was in my chair in front of the group assembled, Grand Master Barkdull and I told the audience about our little swap. Jim asked me if I wanted my old ring back or did I want to make our swap permanent. With a smile on my face I agreed to the permanent swap. I have worn that same ring since then. Several years later, Jim told me he had picked up the ring from a pawn shop in Elkhart Indiana. I never asked him what he paid for it but I'm sure it wasn't a lot.

I never did purchase a Past Masters ring or any other Masonic ring. I will always treasure the ring I have. To me, it also proves that behind every piece of Masonic ring there is a story, and that the sentiment behind the piece makes it more valuable than the precious metals it was made from.

~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.

Which Bible Will Trump Use?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

This week Donald Trump will take the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States of America. It has been a tradition since George Washington was sworn in that the President take his oath of office while swearing (or affirming) on a bible of his choice.

The story goes that all the preparations for the first inauguration were made, when at the last minute the realization was made that a bible had not been brought for President-Elect Washington to use in taking the oath of office.

St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in New York City was nearby and they describe on their website the actions in detail:

Everything was ready for the administration of the oath of office to the President of the new government, when it was discovered that a Holy Bible had not been provided on which the President-Elect could swear allegiance to the Constitution. Jacob Morton, who was Marshal of the parade, and at that time Master of St. John's Lodge, was standing close by. Seeing the dilemma they were in, he remarked that he could get the altar Bible of St. John's Lodge, which met at the Old Coffee House on the corner of Water and Wall Streets. Chancellor Livingston begged him to do so. The Bible was brought, and the ceremony proceeded. The stately Washington took his oath with his right hand resting on the Bible which had been opened to Genesis XLIX and L. His head bowed in a reverential manner, he added in a clear and distinct voice, "I swear, so help me God!" then bowing over this magnificent Bible, he reverently kissed it, whereupon Chancellor Livingston exclaimed in a ringing voice, "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!"

George Washington Bible at the Annual Communication 
of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in 2009

The constitution does not require that the President take the oath on a bible, but nearly all of the President’s since Washington have done so. Those that have not include; John Adams who used a book of the law to take his oath, Teddy Roosevelt only used a bible for his second term, and Lyndon Johnson who used a Catholic missal. The St. John’s bible has been used by four other Presidents since Washington; Harding in 1921, Eisenhower in 1953, Carter in 1977 and Bush Sr., in 1989.

In 2013 CBS News did this excellent story on the Washington Bible.

So which bible if any, will Donald Trump use to take the oath of office? Or as some have suggested might he use his book “The Art of the Deal”? We will soon find out.

~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.

Craft Saturation and Acceleration

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Dan Gentry



What a weird day and age to be in the craft, don’t you think? A lot of saturation of lodges within a relatively small area. No more following the path with only a few lamps and the light of the full moon as you work your wagon to get to the lodge a long distance away, now we have motor vehicles and at least 3 lodges within 30 min drives from our houses (in many areas). In some area’s you have 2 or even three lodges that meet at the same building just different days. Would that not just blow the mind of the brothers that were in lodge in 1776. Populate the state with so many lodges, each with 100 to 250 members, but cannot get 7 to open, stretching their coffers as thin as they can all the while saying they cannot raise dues because it will stop brothers from coming out to lodge, or god forbid cut their per diem. We often talk about things like which light bulbs to buy and how to pay the bills if raising dues should happen, and then there are other "logistical" issues sometimes discussed likeif someone’s religious beliefs make them a brother or not.

I remember when I petitioned a lodge for degrees, I had no idea what I was doing. “Hi I’m Daniel,” I said as I came into the lodge, man I think I signed a petition for degrees that night, and I think that two out of the three men that signed my petition knew me for a very long time, I mean years so I had that going for me. I was in lodge as-soon-as-can-be, learning verbiage and lines, memorizing catechisms and not really understanding a damn thing of what was going on. Whew! Before I knew it I was a Master Mason, and it was during my third degree that I realized I had missed a lot during my first and second degree. "Man, I wish I could go back and really learn what… wait what? You want me to sit in a chair with a title and special what nots? Ok sure but what about… ok yeah got it, burnt out past masters, ok yes doing it every other time between two guys, right but I need to learn… oh he almost lost his wife because of how much he was doing here, huh... I mean could we just go over… I mean yeah I could be the Intender but what about, you know what never mind." And here we are now, I have moved WAY out of my jurisdiction, and I am taking my time finding a new lodge here in the great State of Washington, why? Because I am done with the go fast do fast get home fast attitude. Now that I am a more seasoned Master Mason I can go to these lodges here and feel no pressure as long as I am paying my dues at my old lodge. Great part is, they don’t know me, I get to just sit on the sidelines and take it in, because apparently so far, the Midnight Freemasons is not such a big thing here in the Seattle, Washington area.

If you get anything out of this, I beg each and everyone of you, slow down. Take your time and if anyone says they need time, give them time. Be patient, and more importantly, if you are burnt out, the answer is not burning out the new guy coming in, very few three year Master Masons can be successful Past Masters. Also, get out and travel as Master Masons, it amazes me as I travelled to Indiana and Wisconsin lodges when I lived in Illinois to find out that more Master Masons do not get out of their own districts let alone their own lodges, what else did you become a Master Mason for if you do not travel?

~Doc

Brother Daniel "Doc" Gentry is a Brother Master Mason under the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Mason's of the State of Illinois, in the 1st Northeast district. His sign is Leo, and has been known to enjoy long walks in blizzards. He is stubborn and has no plans of joining the York or Scottish Rite anytime soon. Also in his spare time, he is a great DM for D&D games. Sacred Geometery! You can reach him by email at doc@midnightfreemasons.org

The Original Roast

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



"It's no coincidence George Hamilton loves the sun. They were born in the same year. The difference is the sun is actually a star." ~Lisa Lampanelli

"What's with all the surgery, Kathy (Griffin)? You've been stitched up thousands of times but you're still sad to look at. You're like the AIDS quilt." ~Greg Giraldo

"Justin’s fans are called Beliebers because it’s politically incorrect to use the word retards." ~Natasha Legerro

"My good friend Snoop Dogg said Jeff Ross' book was unreadable, but that's because Snoop can't read." ~Larry King

Bill (Shatner), you were supposed to explore the galaxy, not fill it”- Betty White

Don't you just love a good roast? You know they're those events where people get up and destroy their friends in what is allegedly good-natured fun.

Modern comedy roasts date back to the Friar's Club events of the late 1940s and have progressed (if you can call it progress) to today's televised productions that seemingly make a science of mean-spirited nastiness.

What may be the original comedy roast, however, dates well before the Friars thought of presenting organized evenings of vitriol. That honor goes to a gala event the Atlantic Monthly held in Boston the evening of December 17, 1877, celebrating poet John Greenleaf Whittier's 70th birthday.

People today revere Brother Mark Twain as an American treasure. During his lifetime he was in demand as a speaker and it seemed no one was more well-suited to deliver the keynote address on that auspicious occasion.

Ever the mischievous humorist, Twain decided to go over-the-top and take a few friendly jabs at some of the impressive guests in attendance, specifically Henry Wadsdworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

He launched into a story about stumbling upon a miner's shack. The miner told him, "You're the fourth... literary man that has been here in twenty-four hours — I'm going to move. [The others were] Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Emerson, and Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes — confound the lot!"

"Mr. Emerson was a seedy little bit of a chap, red-headed. Mr. Holmes was as fat as a balloon; he weighed as much as three hundred, and had double chins all the way down to his stomach. Mr. Longfellow was built like a prize-fighter. His head was cropped and bristly, like as if he had a wig made of hair-brushes. His nose lay straight down his face, like a finger with the end joint tilted up. They had been drinking, I could see that. And what queer talk they used…"

…And on and on it went. Expecting laughter by this point, Twain found himself speaking to a hushed crowd.*

Writing about the event later, Twain said he knew things weren't right, "Now, then, the house's attention continued, but the expression of interest in the faces turned to a sort of black frost. I wondered what the trouble was. I didn't know. I went on, but with difficulty… In the end, I didn't know enough just to give up and sit down.”

Following the speech, newspapers across the country erupted with stories of Twain's rude remarks and bad taste. His book sales dropped off as did, understandably, invitations to speak.

Today we think of Brother Samuel Clemens in his Mark Twain persona as having had the "Midas Touch" when it came to writing, a sense of humor and popularity. It was not so. At the time of the speech, Twain was in some degree of financial distress, and counted on speaking fees and book sales to carry him through. After what author William Dean Howells called "the amazing mistake, the bewildering blunder, the cruel catastrophe" Twain had trouble making ends meet. With no prospect of financial success in the US, he was forced to undertake a grueling European speaking tour.

Twain never completely recovered — financially or emotionally — from his faux pas. Near the end of his life, he wrote about it in an apologetic letter to a friend, "It seems as if I must have been insane when I wrote that speech and saw no harm in it, no disrespect toward those men whom I reverenced so much."

Maybe Brother Twain was just ahead of his time; or maybe we today have become a little too desensitized to what was one time regarded as rude.

____________________________

*Although at the end of the speech Twain called the men in the story representing Emerson, Holmes and Longfellow "imposters," it was a question of too-little-too-late. The full text of the speech is available at http://bit.ly/2ibRsU7

~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.