Death Creeps

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



"The Scythe is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life, and launches us into eternity." These words spoken near the end of the Master Mason Emblems lecture catch us of guard. I know the first time I heard them, I almost didn't hear anything else after. As the lecture moves on, we hear the following, "We follow our friends to the brink of the grave, and standing on the shore of a vast ocean, gaze with exquisite anxiety, until the last dreadful struggle is over and see them sink into the fathomless abyss."

I've always thought that that particular bit was a striking visual representation of what it's like to watch people around you die. But the lecture continues still, "We feel our own feet slide from the precarious bank on which we stand, and but a few suns more, my Brother, and we too will be whelmed mid Death's awful waves, there rest in the stilly shade where the worm shall cover us, and naught but silence and darkness reign around our melancholy abode."

Is there a better description of feeling that emotional anxiety that comes with realizing our own mortality? "...Our own feet sliding", reminds me of growing up on the ocean, standing there gazing out at the vastness and as the waves crash and the water creeps up the beach, we think, surely it won't get us. But it's reach is underestimated. We stand there, gazing out, and in a matter of minutes our feet are buried in the sand as each waves pulled us deeper into the ground.

The last two weeks have been trying. This past Sunday, a Fraternity Brother, along with his wife were in a bad car accident. They will recover. That same evening, another Fraternity Brother in my area suffered a traumatic stroke. He's still in the hospital, and has been unresponsive, although he has had some marked improvement. Then we lost Bro. Tech, aka Frank Rook, aka Lance Kates on Thursday. Later that same day, we lost Jim Tresner, a titan in Masonry. And the morning I am writing this, Sunday July 15th, my sister called me to tell me my brother passed. Totally unexpected. He was 46.

We return to the lecture, focussing now on the Hour Glass. Time moves, it passes almost imperceptibly. "Today he [man] puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him; the next day comes the frost, which nips the shoot, and when he thinks his greatness is still aspiring, he falls, like autumn leaves to enrich our Mother Earth."

Death is organic. It's biology, it happens everyday. These losses are nothing in comparison to the whole, but in my circles, we received a reminder of the important lesson on Death. A good friend, Bro. Ben Wallace was talking to us one day and he said, "The test always comes before the lesson." Well, we've been tried and tested. Perhaps the lesson is in the retrospection of how we handle these tests.

It's time to keep moving.

~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 is also a Past 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 the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

The Pitfalls Of Being Worshipful Master

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I recently ran across some photos of being installed Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge back in 2010.  I recall that day clearly.  I remember going home after being installed, all wound up about all the things I was going to accomplish during my year in the East.  I told my wife, Valerie, that it wasn't necessary for her to call me Worshipful at home--she could just call me MASTER.  

I was only joking, but it made her so angry, I didn't see her for two solid weeks!  Well, actually after a week, I could see her a little bit out of my left eye.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blogYou can contact him with complaints about this piece at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Farewell…

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I had my last meeting as Master of St. Joseph #970 on June 7, 2018. I’ve made no secret about my struggles as Master if you’re a regular reader of The Midnight Freemasons. As a Farewell address, I said the following to the Lodge members there. We actually had all of the chairs filled for my last meeting, which was due to having a dinner and ceremony honoring the Veterans and First Responders in the Lodge. The names have been expunged for privacy reasons. I present it below, in edited format:

     "People talk about how the seat in the East is a hot seat, but you really don’t grasp it until you sit here. As a Mason, you have to remember to act in a certain way while in public in order to not give the Fraternity a bad name. As the Master of the Lodge, this is doubly so. You are the public face of the Lodge to the Community. You’re expected at every Grand Lodge school, every local event.

     We’ve had successes this year. We’ve brought in two amazing Brothers. "Brother K" and "Brother C". We raised a lot of items for the food bank with our "trunk or treat". We should look to try to expand that this year. I think it is still a great idea. We are still having an adult pinewood derby and most of that money is going to another worthy cause. The multi lodge chili dinner was a success also. I think tonight is a success. We are blessed to have Bro. S and C. They are amazing cooks. Let’s give them a round of applause to thank them.

     It’s been a rough year for me. I faced a lot of challenges. Stairs, juggling officers, falling attendance at meetings and lodge events. I’ve been super critical of myself as Master this year. I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I wanted to. I blame myself for a lot of things that were out of my control, but because they happened on my watch they feels like they are my legacy."

(Note to the reader: We spent over 5k on stair repairs. My Junior Warden had an opportunity to go to school, so he discussed it with me and we both agreed that he couldn’t pass it up. However it put me in a position where I had to elevate my Senior Deacon to Junior Warden for a majority of the meetings.)

     "I don’t think we maintained the level of excellence that we should have. There were a lot of events that we needed numbers for officer wise, and we weren’t able to do it. Now these are just accolades, but I still think that we need to have some standard set. We will become sloppy without instruction. Hopefully we can start having schools of instruction again, even if they are before meetings. I’d also like to see us try to reach out to brothers who haven’t come to lodge to check us out. I know that my hope was that would happen tonight."

(Note to the reader: The Grand Lodge of Illinois awards a Grand Master’s Award of Excellence. Last year we were second in the state for lodges under 80 members. This year we will not receive the award. This is the level of excellence to which I’m referring. My hopefulness regarding getting brothers to lodge was due to having a dinner to recognize members of the lodge that were Veterans or First Responders before my last meeting as Master. My hope was that we’d have a decent turnout of some members of the lodge that hadn’t been to lodge in a while. It seems my optimism was not well founded. However we had every chair filled in the lodge and two of our Fellowcrafts were present, so it was better than the average attendance.)

     "I also think we lack in the area of education. As the District Education Officer, I’d like to see the incoming Master appoint a lodge education officer for me to work with. I’d like to see education be a part of the meetings going forward. I know there are groans and sighs, but if you make it short, it can work. Even if it’s just showing some short YouTube video, something is better than nothing. Education doesn’t need to just be Masonic. There are many folks here that have a wealth of experience in life that you might not know about. Bro. W for example is a WWII vet. And if he’s willing to share some of those stories, that can be your education. Or Bro. Secretary B… B was on Hillary Clinton’s security detail when she came to give the commencement speech at the U of I in 1994. My point is, there are opportunities for education within this room, which can be utilized with little or no effort.

     We need to challenge ourselves to show up for events. If we discuss an event in lodge, and everyone agrees to it, then I see that as a de facto confirmation that you’re going to be able to participate. There is nothing more frustrating as a Master than to try to do things as a lodge, fun things like a movie night, and only have one or two brother’s show up. So if you can’t make it, don’t vote for it. Tell the lodge that you can’t make it. Make sure the Master is aware. Don’t be afraid to communicate, or think that other brothers will think less of you. Honestly I would have thanked you for your honesty and been able to schedule or reschedule based upon the input of the lodge. So I’d encourage the lodge to try get more exposure doing things together. Involve the newer members, get them active. They are the key to our future growth. If we give Bros. K, C, W, and C a good experience in Lodge, then they will get other men like them to join.

     To Bro. F, our incoming Master. Rely on your officers. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Use our secretary B. He’ll move heaven and hell for you. Just make sure you communicate everything with him. The issues I had this year were mainly due to me trying to do a lot of stuff myself, and not using him or communicating with him.

     Good Luck, try not to let the chair get to you. If you need anything from any of the Past Masters, they’ll be willing to give you advice. Good Luck and may the Great Architect bless your endeavors for the coming year.

     And since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m going to be Master at Homer 199. Try to come visit us on the 3rd Monday at 6 for Dinner and the meeting is at 7. We’ve made education our focus there and I think we’ve got a formula that works. I’d like to see more lodges adopt it. So come out and see what all the fuss is about.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you and the lodge as Master.

FIN"

And with that, my time in the East at Saint Joseph was done. I had a week’s respite before being installed at as Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge #199. I know that some of what I said fell on deaf ears. I’ve always been a believer in actions speaking louder than words. I hope that the energy I poured into St. Joseph #970 will pay dividends. As for me, I’m solely going to be focused on bringing Brothers to Homer #199 for education and fellowship. We meet the 3rd Monday of each month, with dinner at 6 PM, and the meeting at 7pm. One thing unique that we do at Homer is that we have education first. We also allow any visiting brethren to leave if they don’t want to stay for our business. We realize that you’ve come a ways to visit us. If you’re ever in the East Central Illinois area, you can meet not only myself, but also Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd E. Creason and Senior Contributor Gregory J. Knott. We’d love to have you.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

A Witness to History

How big ideas come from small conversations


by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


Sometimes it’s the things we say to each other outside of lodge that have the greatest impact within the craft.

History by its very nature is abundant in Freemasonry. Photographs of our distinguished Brothers hang in our lodges. Pictures of our esoteric ideas and symbolism decorate our halls. The legacy of George Washington is so strong, I would bet that there is not one member today who would fail to identify the “Washington as a Freemason” portrait with him wearing his Worshipful Master apron while standing at his station. Close your eyes, you can see it too.

History’s mark is evident on every event in Freemasonry. In our first degree we as the candidate, who after months or years of preparation, have finally come to the moment we have longed for; to become a Brother and learn the secrets of the craft. Think back to your EA degree. Do you remember the feeling you had when something was demanded of you? That brief moment creates an impressive lesson in our masonic career that spurs our desire to be a part of something great.

Some of us continue on the path of contributing a worthy accomplishment for the benefit of the craft. 

This summer I was fortunate to witness history in New York Masonry. “We haven’t had a Lodge dedication in Monroe County since 1927,” proclaimed Deputy Grand Master of New York Masons, RW Richard J. (RJ) Kessler. “That was around the same time as ‘The Great Gatsby,’ must have been some year!” On Saturday, June 9, 2018 Ecclesia Lodge No. 1189 was officially presented its charter by the Grand Master of New York Masons, MW William M. Sardone and Past Grand Master, MW Jeffrey M. Williamson, along with members of the New York State Grand Line. Our Grand Master, in his address, spoke to the significance of the day’s event. How too often we hear of lodges consolidating or worse, surrendering their charter and closing their door forever.

What made this lodge dedication special was more than the fact that it was the first new lodge chartered in Rochester in 91 years -- it was that the beginning of this lodge started as a conversation in the backseat of the car ride to a masonic event in Buffalo between three Brothers. As Bro. Sam Friedman, the newly installed Junior Warden of Ecclesia Lodge and author of “Millennial Apprentices: The Next Revolution in Freemasonry”, described that moment as, “we were just talking about what we wanted from a lodge.” The ‘we’ here is Bro. Ryan Ramplin, now Secretary of Ecclesia Lodge. “I wanted created a lodge that I was excited to attend,” exclaimed Friedman.

The dedication of a lodge is a grand ceremony, if you have the chance to attend one, I highly recommend it. The experience will leave you with energy from the excitement of joy and pride on the faces of the new lodge members who accomplished years of planning and preparation that led to the day. “We began researching the process of chartering a new lodge,” said Friedman. “The steps are outlined in our constitution but as you know, it has been sometime since the last lodge was dedicated.” For example a lodge under dispensation in New York State must show proficiency in the Standard Work and Lectures. “We had to prove ritual proficiency. Did that mean we needed to display opening and closing of a lodge? Did we have to provide proof of degree work? We were unsure. There were many times we contacted Grand Lodge for answers and direction.”

What made this challenge unique to Ecclesia was that their idea for this new lodge was not typical by any means.

As Sam shared with me, “Our goal was to create a lodge that hearkened back to the experiences that the Brethren in the 18th century experienced, a Lodge that not only fulfilled the spiritual needs of its members, but also actively assisted them as they sought wisdom and enlightenment.”

By design business meetings were replaced with discussions as the Lodge meets quarterly on a Saturday afternoon with a fifth meeting exclusively, “For elections, reading petitions to affiliate, balloting, and paying bills,” Friedman commented. Ecclesia offers a “Builders Library” as part of its membership. Included in their dues are the books and reading materials, the subjects of lodge discussions (so far they have provided 6 books to members) as well as the cost of meals.

In December of 2017 I was invited to attend an Ecclesia meeting by a formal invitation sent from Worshipful Master Bill Edwards. I quickly extended the invite to two of my Brothers from the Old 17th District to make the three hour road trip to Rochester. Included in the invite was a letter outlining the assigned reading material as well as “The Rules of Engagement.” Each Brother was expected to contribute to the discussion. When you wanted to request the opportunity to speak, we were instructed to turn on the light of our small candle placed in front of our name card on the table. The subject for discussion was “What Is the Interplay between Punishment and Redemption,” which comes from the lessons in the numerous references in our ritual for breaking masonic obligations. The assigned book title along with a summary of the reading became the main talking point during our car ride to Western New York!

Ecclesia has a unique manner in how their meetings are conducted. Before lodge you enter the Chamber of Reflection to collect your thoughts, meditate, and focus. You can smell the scents from the oils fueling the lights, combined with the aroma from incense and candles burning in the lodge room. The mood is calm and sober. When you enter the lodge room you see three tables set up like a table lodge or festive board, in a U formation. These tables and seats are positioned just south of the altar. The officers sit in their respective stations to start each meeting. After the Opening of Lodge, the Worshipful Master instructs the Brothers attending to take their place at one of the three tables assembled in the center of the room. Once seated the primary officers began the discussion by sharing their thoughts; it wasn’t long until every candle was lit.

When the discussion was ended by the Master, the officers and Brethren returned to their stations and places for Closing of Lodge. Afterwards I looked down at my watch with surprise to see that it had been THREE hours since the meeting began. It felt like 30 minutes! I can’t tell you how many times it has felt the other way around after a typical “business meeting.” Ecclesia then hosts a post-meeting dinner at a restaurant where the conversation continues during the reception along with the usual fellowship we all enjoy at masonic meals. As visitors we felt just as welcome and included as the regular attendees. Our three hour drive back to the Capital Region was filled with highlights from the meeting and a desire to bring this discussion format to our lodges back home.

I realize, this concept, an open dialogue in lodge, is hard to fathom. The idea that every Brother contributes to a discussion may seem impossible. But Ecclesia Lodge has found a way to encourage the conversation flow. After attending their meeting in December, seeing every candle glowing and hearing every Brothers’ voice, an invitation was sent to Sam Friedman to present this format to my mother lodge, St. George’s #6, in Schenectady, New York. His talk was one of the highlights of our year with many members asking follow up questions, wanting to know how we could create a similar experience in a future meeting. He also spoke at our Masters and Officers (District) meeting that winter, again with the same response. Six months later while sitting in Grand Lodge, I smiled proudly when the Grand Master read that Ecclesia’s charter had been approved. At the Grand Master’s dinner that evening I congratulated Ecclesia’s Master, Bill Edwards, on the Lodge’s accomplishment. I was surprised to learn that two and half years had past since Sam and Ryan’s idea was put into action, they were now official!

Instead of accepting the norm, dare to change it.
The work for the members of Ecclesia Lodge #1189 is really just beginning. Now they must band together to sustain this idea, constantly working in harmony to ensure their lodge is relevant to future members and the craft. There is no denying that Masons today are all seeking the education and enlightenment promised to us when we are raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Books and recorded history are resources that will continue to be at our disposal in seeking the additional light we are promised. Finding the light is rarely the problem. Finding a place to light our candle, share our knowledge with like-minded Brethren, and improving ourselves --- that is constant challenge that has persisted to exist throughout the detailed history of modern American Freemasonry.

The lesson that we can learn from the Brothers of Ecclesia Lodge #1189 is that history is present to those who dare to make it. If you want to improve your lodge discussions; do it. Become a part of the solution: get involved! Share your ideas with the Brothers of your lodge or district. Tell your Master that you would like to present a program in an upcoming meeting. Be that single source of light that begins small and grows into a chorus of burning passion. As John F. Kennedy once said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

To contact Bro. Sam Friedman to learn more about engaging lodge discussions, visit his website at http://millennialapprentices.com

~MA

Michael Arce is JW of St. George’s #6, Schenectady and a member of Mt. Zion #311, Troy New York. When not in Lodge, Bro. Arce is the Marketing Manager for Capital Cardiology Associates in Albany, New York. He enjoys meeting new Brothers and hearing how the Craft has enriched their lives. He can be reached at michael.arce@me.com

NASA - Giordano Bruno and Other Worlds

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins 


The best parts of being a freelancer are the frequent surprises that come along with it. When you open yourself up and are willing to work with anyone, you never know who will reach out to you next.

One morning a couple months back, I woke up and checked my email like I always do. Mixed in with the usual communications was a rather peculiar one. The message was from NASA, and the writer was looking for permission to use my artwork depicting the 16th Century Hermetic philosopher/astronomer Giordano Bruno in an upcoming presentation in Sorrento, Italy. The artwork was to be projected on screen during a lecture by Colonel Roger Hunter, program manager of the Kepler Mission, and this particular section of the presentation would focus on Bruno's theories regarding “other worlds.” After restraining my excitement and quickly verifying the information, I very happily agreed to the request.

It was obvious why NASA is interested in Giordano Bruno (1548-1600). He was an ex-friar turned natural philosopher, whose Hermetic teachings put him at odds with the dominant ideological visions of the Church. Condemned by the Inquisition as a heretic, Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome's Campo di'Fiori on February 17, 1600. Among the many theories introduced by Bruno, one of his most profound was the idea that the universe is infinite and the stars we see in the night sky are actually suns being orbited by other planets that have life on them.

It was also obvious how Colonel Roger Hunter and the Kepler Mission are inspired by Giordano Bruno's work. According to the official statement on NASA's website: “The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery Mission #10, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.”

Less obvious, to me anyway, was just how strong the Masonic connection was to all of this. I knew of astronomical references in the lectures and of Bruno's influence on memorization, relevant to our ritual studies, through his well known work on “The Art of Memory” which utilized the many mnemonic devices we all use (whether we credit Bruno for it or not). However, I didn't fully see another much deeper and direct Masonic connection until I shared the news of this project on my Facebook page. Soon after posting the update, Shawn Eyer commented asking if I had seen the old Fellow Craft lectures that related to Bruno's theory. I replied in the negative and he sent me a fantastic article he had written titled “Numberless Worlds, Infinite Beings” that had originally been published in Philalethes (Vol. 65, No. 3) back in 2012. Among the mosaic of valuable insights contained within the essay was an eloquent quote, once included in the Fellow Craft Degree, that directly corresponded to the subject. I found myself reflecting on it's meaning and implications for much of that day. The words were taken from William Preston's 1780 Lecture of the Second Degree: “Here we perceive thousands and thousands of suns, multiplied without end, all arranged around us, at immense distances from each other, attended by ten thousand times ten thousand worlds, all in rapid motion; yet calm, regular, and harmonious; invariably keeping their prescribed paths, and all peopled with a myriad of intelligent beings, formed for endless progress, in perfection and happiness.”

Ask a number of supposedly learned people about Giordano Bruno and at least half of them will reply, “Who?” Never elevated to his proper status among the historical luminaries that comprise the world's greatest thinkers, Bruno is under-appreciated and yet his enduring influence is still ever-present in the shadows. On the landing of the main staircase in the House of the Temple, chiseled into the wall, is a quote attributed to Albert Pike that reads, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” While meaningful in their own right, Pike's words echo a sentiment written 300 years prior by Giordano Bruno: “What you receive from others is a testimony to their virtue; but all that you do for others is the sign and clear indication of your own.” (On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, 1584)

~TS

Travis Simpkins is a freelance artist with clients throughout the United States and Europe. He currently works on projects for the Supreme Council, 33°, NMJ in Lexington, Massachusetts. He also serves as a portrait artist for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of New Jersey and other jurisdictions across North America. His artwork is in many esteemed collections, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri.

Bro. Simpkins is a member of Morning Star Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a 32° Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite- Valleys of Worcester and Boston. He is also a member of Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, Hiram Council of Royal & Select Master Masons and Worcester County Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar.

A Brother’s Love

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson



Seven score and 17 years ago, the United States of America was ripped apart and thrust into war with each other. The 85 year-old debate between State independence and centralized Federal control, was coming to a head. The descendants of those who worked and lived side by side in a fight for independence from the British Crown, had turned their guns and aggression onto each other. Families were split, and the friends and Brothers found themselves in opposition on the battlefields. The entire world was watching, not only to see if this experiment in democracy could survive, but as 75% of the worlds cotton originated in the southern states, the topic of slavery and 'free' labor had global economic implications.

Roughly two years into the war, 155 years ago this week, the soldiers and civilians of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, would witness a battle more horrific and bloody than anything imaginable at the time. During a 3 day period, the lives roughly 50,000 people were eliminated, with more deaths following due to complications of the countless injured. To give this some perspective, the entire population of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1860, was about 50,000 people. An entire city's worth of people, gone. The estimated 2400 civilians who lived in Gettysburg, PA, no longer had to imagine what hell was like, they could see it with their own eyes.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee thought his army was invincible, and on the 3rd of July, 1863, directed his soldiers to charge up the open fields of Gettysburg and attack the defenses of Union General George Meade. These men were supported by several commanding officers, and thousands of soldiers. Two sides, fighting to the death, and yet amidst the fighting, a symbol of true unconditional love, emerged.
Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, in an unwavering display of courage, charged through the bodies and bullets, and crossed the Union Lines. As he prepared to turn the Union cannons around and fire onto their owners, he was struck down. As Armistead fell, Union Captain Henry Bingham, noticed a familiar sign. Bingham was an aide to Union Major General Winfield Hancock, a man who knew, and was friends with, Armistead, since the 1850s. Again, friends battling friends. But these men were more than friends, they were Brothers. Bingham stepped into the fire, to the aid of General Armistead, his direct opponent. These men were ready to kill each other in battle, but when one fell, the fear and anger immediately turned to love and compassion. Armistead reportedly told Bingham “Tell General Hancock for me that I have done him and you all an injury which I shall regret the longest day I live.”

Yes, the Fourth of July is the day we celebrate the time when the founding fathers of the United States of America, stepped forward and pushed back upon an oppression. A task that seemed insurmountable. These men, many of which were Brothers, sacrificed everything for a better future for their children. But when Brothers disagreed on the future of our Country, they divided, and fought to the death. Throughout the cookouts and fireworks, it would behoove us as Masons to remember the value of Charity displayed by Brother Henry Bingham. We will never all agree on everything, but those differences are what strengthens us. When we feel divided from our Brothers, and from our Lodge, have the fortitude to reach across the battle lines, and spread the cement of Brotherly Love and Affection.

~REJ

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

To Reinvest Or Start Anew?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
Robert H. Johnson


Today's article is not an article really, it's a question. I hope you all decide to voice your insights either below in the comments or on social media. Over the years we've heard countless folks talk about the benefits of an active lodge, but how do we get there? Many times lodges are in bad shape, financially and often times worse, with active membership. This can lead a man to view his membership with the specific lodge as unfulfilling, boring or even disdain.

Now, consider yourself the active member who still wants Freemasonry in his life. The question is put to us, what do we do when we decide that we still want to be active? We still want to enjoy those things that [our brand] of Masonry offers, whether it be a focus on some aspect of community, charity, education or perhaps fellowship. But where are we going to get it?

We have a few options. First, we can look for a lodge that exists which is doing what we want. This sounds easy, but maybe it isn't. Survey the lodges around you, are they really everything you want and nothing you don't? Maybe they are, and if so, you're done reading this article.

Our second option is the reinvention model. You're going to start a new lodge. Alright, well maybe not yet. It's been suggested by many that instead of getting everything together and chartering a new lodge, that we should instead look for a lodge that is in the dumps and take it over. Reinvigorate it, reinvent it. Is this for you? Will it work? Maybe the existing members will welcome this and it will work out perfectly... Or, it could be messy. We'll have a lot to clean up. Is this too much work for us? Maybe we love a challenge.

Of course the third option is to just start a new lodge. Write some bylaws, get some guys together, figure out where you will meet, get certified on ritual  and fill out the paperwork. Sounds easy enough but don't forget all the other hard work here. Gathering furniture, administrative work and red tape.

What's the best option?

I recently had a chance to ask a Grand Secretary about what he thought about new lodges, and if there is an impact for the better in terms of membership numbers and his answer surprised me. He offered me some thoughts on what the numbers prove in terms of new lodges. He said, "What we see when a new lodge is formed, is additional plural memberships and then sometime down the road, there is a dimit from the mother lodge and the guy maintains only a membership with the new lodge."

I hadn't thought of that. Membership numbers is not what this post is about, but perhaps if you were in the line of thinking about starting a lodge simply to boost membership numbers in the state, maybe that's not the right idea. The Grand Lodge of California has made it pretty simple to start a lodge, but the availability of the data on whether or not it seems to work is likely a few years away. It would be interesting to see if this model keeps members engaged, recruiting and active, thus sustaining what the members got together for in the first place. I'd like to leave you all with my final thought on the matter, and if you read my last piece, you'll know what to expect here. If we're doing any of the things outlined above, we really should be doing it for one reason, your own fulfillment.

So what say you? Do you reinvest, or do you start anew?

~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 is also a Past 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 the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.


Impact of War – Part 1

by Midnight Freemason Senior Contributor
WB Greg Knott

Word War 1 Soldiers 1

One hundred years ago the world was at war. Known as the Great War or the War to End All Wars, World War I (WWI) began after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand[i] of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Germany declared war on Russia and soon other countries also declared war on Germany including France, Great Britain and Italy.

The United States initially stayed out of the war, pursing a policy of non-intervention. The 1915 sinking of the British liner RMS Lusitania by a German U-boat, saw 128 American amongst the dead. President Woodrow Wilson demanded the Germans end the attacks on passenger ships. The Germans ignored this request and the U-boat attacks continued.

Ultimately the US would enter the conflict after Wilson called for war on Germany on April 2, 1917[ii]. Congress approved the request four days later. Though Wilson was generally not favorable to war, he saw the opportunity to end all future war by defeating the Germans. America quickly scaled up its military and began a mobilization to confront the Germans in Europe.

Freemasonry was an active supporter of America’s cause and helped contribute supplies and funds to help the war effort.

In his 1918 report at the Seventy-Ninth annual[iii] meeting of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Illinois, Brother Austin H. Scrogin, serving as Grand Master wrote: “In this great work Masonry has no small part. Members of lodges in vast numbers have joined the colors and are, either “over there” or are in camps training for overseas service. It has been my great privilege to loosen the rains, heretofore firmly held, and my dispensation enable many soldier boys to bow at our altar before embarking on their great missions abroad. Masonry in Illinois and elsewhere has shown its devotion to freedom’s cause in provide large funds by free and voluntary contribution for the comfort of those in the camps here, those in need abroad and to care for their loved ones left behind…”

Illinois Freemasonry was clearly supporting the troops and war efforts.

Grand Master Scrogin had numerous challenges of his own back on the home front in Illinois. He reported that several lodges were encouraging the recognition of Grand Orient of France. He reminded the constituent lodges, that however noble the cause was in supporting the French lodges, only the Grand East had the authority for such recognition. Brethren and lodges should not be entering into a campaign for any reason not endorsed and approved by the Grand Master.

Scrogin wrote “It will be recalled that under the wise leadership of Joseph Robbins, the profoundest Masonic jurist and scholar Illinois has ever produced, the hand of fellowship was withdrawn from the Grand Orient as well as the Grand Lodge of France. This was not done in any fit of anger, but action was taken after due deliberation and most thorough investigation. There are certain landmarks or fundamental principles which, if removed, would render Masonry innocuous. It would become a purely benevolent and social association of men merely for pleasure and good fellowship…”

The land mark Scrogin was referring to is the requirement of a belief in a supreme being. French Freemasonry had dropped the requirement in 1877. The French lodges also did not place a bible upon their altar, instead using a book of constitutions.

The Grand Master of Illinois understood that patriotism and the need to support the French people in time of war was important, but not so much as to ignore one of the fundamental principles of Freemasonry. Apparently, some brethren were looking to bring Masonic charges against those proposing recognition. But Scrogin deferred any action saying[iv], “It is my suggestion, therefore, that action be deferred until the calmer counsels of peace may lead us into safer channels that those to be found in the vortex of war.”

These weren’t the only things that Grand Master Scrogin was facing. In the next installment I will review a number of other actions and recommendations he made that are impacting Freemasonry in Illinois to this day.

~GJK

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

___________________________

[i] “Educate Home - World War I Centennial.” Finding The Lost Battalion - Home - World War I Centennial, World War 1 Centennial Commision, www.worldwar1centennial.org/educate-home.html.
[ii] Stables, Gordon. “1917: Woodrow Wilson's Call to War Pulled America onto a Global Stage.”The Conversation, The Conversation, 24 June 2018, theconversation.com/1917-woodrow-wilsons-call-to-war-pulled-america-onto-a-global-stage-75022.
[iii] Scrogin, Austin H. Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Illinois. Vol. 79, Grand Lodge of Illinois, 1918.
[iv] Ibid

Memento Mori: Death Reflection

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I recently found out that the mother of a very good friend passed away. I hadn’t talked to my friend in some time. We seem to have a love/hate relationship, where we talk for some time, but then ultimately one of us does or says something that causes the other to stop talking to each other. Life takes over and then a year or two, or five passes. While distance may separate us, I always have a love and respect for her. I remember her mother fondly. Her mother, Barb, was a strong woman, having to bury her husband while supporting three children, my friend being the oldest when her father died. She loved her children, and supported them in all of their undertakings. She was everything that a mother should be. My friend may or may not realize how much of Barb’s strength I see in her, even though we don’t get to talk as much as we used to. My friend is now an orphan. While empathizing with her pain, I took the time to reflect upon my parent’s mortality and my own.

Memento Mori roughly translated from Latin as: “Remember that you have to die.” It is a practice of reflection on personal mortality that was very popular in the middle ages. It focuses on considering the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death. It is a way of improving one’s character by focusing on living a virtuous life, by turning one’s attention towards the immortality of the soul and the afterlife. The idea also found artistic expression in European Christian art. The most common image of memento mori in art is a skull, or a skeleton. The Danse Macabre with its dancing Grim Reaper carrying off rich and poor alike is another example. The memento mori theme can be found in funeral art, architecture, literature, jewelry, music, and time pieces of this era. A version of the theme in the genre of art known as still life is referred to as Vanitas, Latin for “Vanity”.

My guess is that most of you know what a chamber of reflection is. For those of you that don’t, it is normally a small darkened room adjoining a lodge room in which the candidate for initiation is able to reflect and meditate on the journey he is about to undertake. Many grand lodges have frowned upon or outlawed the practice. There are some that allow it. It has become more popular with the advent of Traditional Observance lodges. If you’re interested in the subject and a Masonic representation of such, I’d recommend reading the article by WB Andrew Hammer on the Masonic Restoration Foundation website:

http://www.masonicrestorationfoundation.org/documents/A%20Time%20With%20Patience.pdf

There is no specific list of contents, but it can contain either literally or representatively such objects as a skull, a scythe, an hourglass, bread and water, sulfur, salt, a cockerel, a candle, a mirror, or the acronym ‘V.I.T.R.I.O.L’. Each item has an exoteric and esoteric meaning. My objective isn’t to discuss these. You can find a pretty good short explanation of their meanings on our own site or a deeper dive at the links at the end of the article. My objective is to discuss why each of us as Freemasons still need to seek solitude and reflect in our daily lives.

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”- Blaise Pascal, Pens’ees

While Pascal wasn’t a Freemason, he was a major contributor to natural and applied sciences, mathematics, philosophy and invention. His earliest work made important contributions to the study of fluids, and he clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum. While still a teenager, he started working on calculating machines. After 3 years of trial and error, and over 50 prototypes, he finished 20 machines known as Pascal’s calculators over the next 10 years. Making him one of the earliest inventors of a mechanical calculator. At age 16, he wrote a treatise on the subject of projective geometry, and was influential in developing economics and social science with his correspondences on probability theory. His most famous work, however, is the philosophical treatise: Pens’ees. His work is an exploration of the human condition. He deals with two themes; our state without God being one of misery, and our grandeur with him.

Pascal argues that without God, our spiritual condition is a state of misery characterized by anxiety, alienation, loneliness and ennui. He suggests that if we could sit still and honestly look inside ourselves, we would recognize our despair. We however spend most of our time blocking out or concealing our true condition by using various forms of self-deception. He calls this continual need and addictive tendency to seek out mindless and soul numbing forms of entertainment or amusement divertissement (distraction or diversion). These diversions can be immoral: drunkenness, or sexual promiscuity, but more often take the form of habits that are merely wasteful or self-indulgent, like gaming, sports, even the arts. All of the luxuries, consumer goods and creature comforts that we surround ourselves with are distractions. We use them as a way of concealing our bleak inner reality from ourselves and from one another. They are a way of denying our own mortality and hollowness. Luckily, our state is dual. We have a sense of our intrinsic dignity and worth because we are able to think. Thought is the attribute of our nature that elevates and separates us from the rest of the universe. Our consciousness is a gift from God, and a sign of his grandeur. Pascal was 39 years old at the time of his death. He died in 1662.

What really strikes me about Pascal’s themes are how relevant they are now. We now live in a time where most of us carry around a device of divertissement, which allows us to access the internet where we go to sites like Facebook or Twitter, and argue with strangers about our own philosophies and how superior we are to them. We post photos on Instagram showing selfies, pets, family but they don’t really represent us. We have lost the ability to be social. We interact electronically. We use Email, text message, or various messenger apps from Facebook, Google, or other providers to communicate. I experience it at home, where it seems the only way I can communicate with my children is via text message. We see it at work, in public, at home and at lodge.

Most of us are addicted to this behavior, and most of us are addicted to our phones. Walking around campus at the University of Illinois, you see this first hand. At any given time you will see the mass of zombies shambling across campus, lost in their little divertissement devices, not paying attention to anything around them. They walk into walls, into trees, into bus shelters. Go to any concert and you don’t experience the concert through your own eyes. You hold up your phone and record or photograph the entire thing. I remember bringing my son, Ken, to see Bernie Sanders when he stopped here in 2016 prior to the Illinois primary. There was a young women who was mindlessly trying to walk along the wall of the gym that I was next too during the rally. I wondered what she was doing, as she seemed distraught. I didn’t know if she needed help. She looked like what I imagine a heroin addict looks like while trying to find their next fix. It then dawned on me what her issue was. I noticed that she had her charger cord in her other hand. Her phone was dead. She was looking frantically for an outlet to charge it at.

Our addiction to our devices has led us to have inauthentic connections with the world and each other. We see the world through an electronic eye. We don’t take the time to think in the digital age. We react emotionally or instinctually because the information is coming so quickly we have a hard time processing it. Many of us don’t take the time to see if something they read on Facebook, or the internet in general is actually true. We have lost our ability to think rationally. Most importantly and sadly, we’ve lost the ability to authentically connect with ourselves. We don’t know who we really are anymore. There is no impetus for contemplative thought or meditation, self-discovery, or personal growth. In today’s world, you can go your whole life, live superficially, and not even know it.

Bro. Manly P. Hall saw this danger coming from technology in the 1960’s. In his lecture, “How to Turn Off the TV in One Easy Lesson and Live Happily Ever After”. He states: ‘Nothing happens upstairs in ourselves, nothing is being developed as a factor in the growth of our own thinking. We are not thinking, actually, and if we are thinking, we aren’t doing anything about it because most of the thoughts are non-factual. So here we go, all through an entire lifetime surrounded by all types of information which we accept only through the eyes and ears and when the time comes we do very little to solve our own problems. A person whose mind is being used every day to find new values, accomplish new works, do new things that have not been done, improve the quality of living, solve the personal problems of his life – these are the things that help to exercise the mind, but to drift along from work to television to bed and then up and again the next day is not doing anything to make people, it is only continuing the humdrum which is only one step above animal existence.’

When was the last time that you sat alone quietly lost in contemplative or meditative thought? The working tools of Masonry are meant to help build the spiritual temple within yourself. The ability to contemplate or meditate on one’s existence, one’s purpose, one’s relationship with God, the Universe, Mankind and one’s own mortality are the foundations upon which Masonry is built. It’s only when we reflect that we come to understand the wisdom, strength and beauty not only of Masonry, but of the world around us. We can start to have authentic experiences, thoughts, and actions that are free from the shackles of divertissement.

The world becomes more beautiful, and it becomes more beautiful because of our consciousness of it. In our state of authentic consciousness, we understand the grandeur of God, much like Pascal understood it. The Lost Word in my mind isn’t a word at all. It’s our inability to be conscious of God’s beauty, splendor and influence on this world, and most importantly the inability to understand that we each carry God within ourselves. The ennui we suffer which causes us to seek out distractions is a result of a denial of our unconscious longing to be one with ourselves and with our creator. Our expulsion from Eden is played out again and again every time we pick up our Apple iPhone to distract ourselves from the beauty and grandeur of God within each of us and the world around us. It’s a beauty that can only be found through contemplation of one’s life and death. Our own chamber of reflection, our contemplative thought process, brings us back into a state of oneness with God. This is why I believe a chamber of reflection is relevant more now than ever in Freemasonry.

I’m going to suggest something that you might see as radical. While I know many brothers that have built their own chambers of reflection in their own homes, I don’t think you need to go to that extreme. Start by isolating yourself, either in nature or indoors. Leave your phone in your car, or another room. Get away from all possible distractions. Sit down and begin a mental exercise of contemplation or meditation on your own life and death. Start small, say like 5 minutes. Do this daily. Slowly increase the time you take for contemplation or meditation. See what happens. I’m still only a few days into the process myself. But I can tell you in the short time that I’ve done this, that I’ve discovered truths about myself that were hidden from me. I’ve made decisions that are ones that I wouldn’t have made a week ago. I’m really trying to be more authentic in my relationship with myself, the world around me, and God by remembering that as I live, I also have to die. Memento Mori.

Links regarding the Chamber of Reflection:

http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2016/11/the-chamber-of-reflection-and.html

http://www.esonet.com/News-file-article-sid-406.html



https://elvinehelms926.org/2017/05/05/the-chamber-of-reflection-a-revitalized-and-misunderstood-masonic-practice/

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of the new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282, and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). He is also a member of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com.

That Which Has Been Lost - Laws, Rules and Regulations

Part 2
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

 

Recently I published a piece in which I laidout my belief that we who are in pursuit of Masonic education have forgotten to educate newly obligated Brethren on the basics of Masonic membership and my theory on how we came to our present situation.  This is the second installment. You can read the first part HERE.

In the original piece I was going to write was about how one dresses while attending lodge meetings. As part of the research I asked a question in a Facebook group.  I even gave an example of what I was searching for from my jurisdiction.  The debate from my question went in every direction (except for answering my question.) It became very heated.  I realized even though my question brought about a lot of debate, very few Brethren understood my question.

Although as important as the subject, is it has been debated over and over to the point it has almost has become the infamous debate that stemmed from “Points in or out” article from a few years ago.  So although I reserve the right to throw gas on that fire at a future date I went to discuss something I felt was more important.

During the dress argument, a Senior Warden of a lodge stated that during his year he isn’t going to enforce the dress of his members while attending lodge events. “I don’t have the right to tell members how to dress.”, he stated. I’m sorry Brother, but that isn’t correct. 

Even before you become a Mason you are asked many times if you will (paraphrasing) “cheerfully conform and submit to the laws of Freemasonry." You also agree during your obligation that you'll follow all laws, rules, and regulations of a lodge of (Whatever degree you were receiving).  In plain English, “If you want to play our game, you have to play by the rules we've set up.”  In many cases this includes how your lodge chooses to direct you to dress while attending a lodge communication. So Brother, yes you do have the authority to instruct a Brother how to dress when coming to lodge.  

I have come to believe many Brothers within our fraternity are not aware their grand jurisdiction have put in place many rules (in Masonic circle called laws), which govern their day to day life.  

All you have to do is pick up your jurisdiction’s book of Masonic laws. I think you'd be surprised at some of the laws on the books and possibly how many of these laws you might accidentally break during the course of your daily life, through ignorance.  

Many of the laws lay out the functions of the Grand Lodge, the officers and their responsibilities.  Other sections layout rules for subordinate lodges which they govern.  Others still enumerate the laws and personal responsibilities of the individual Mason within the jurisdiction.

I have gathered some laws which are actually on the books from several jurisdictions. Some of the laws are common sense.  

It is a Masonic offense in one jurisdiction to: 
“...wear a Masonic emblem, or otherwise claim to be a Master Mason in good standing while an Entered Apprentice or Fellow Craft Mason, a suspended or expelled Mason, or a Mason unaffiliated for more than one year.”

Or

“Failure of an officer of a Lodge to settle and to return his books over to it at the proper time, or failure to perform with fidelity a duty as an officer of a Lodge or of the Grand Lodge.”
Or

“Using Masonic membership for commercial purposes.”

There are others laws which govern your daily life.  Here are some examples from various states:

“Failure to support defendants is unmasonic. It  shall be  the  duty of  every  Master Mason  to  provide his  minor children, his father and his mother with the necessities of life to the extent that they will not become a charge of the lodge”.

 Or

Masonic offenses:

“Drunkenness.”

“Gambling, in any amount or at any time, which may unreasonably impair one’s ability to support himself or those having prior claims upon him, or which causes a discredit to the brother or to the fraternity.” 

“Profanity or the habitual use of obscene and filthy speech.”

Or

“To promote or encourage the production, distribution or use of obscene films, pictures or writings”
Or one which has brought about much controversy in the last few years from the Grand Lodge of Tennesse:
 “To engage in lewd conduct. To promote or engage in homosexual activity. To cohabit immorally in a situation without the benefit of marriage.”

There are many more.  If you look, you will notice some have been in place for many years, decades even. I want to state I am not saying I agree or disagree with any of the above Masonic laws,  I am just submitting them as examples to illustrate my point.


In my opinion, you can look at these laws in several different ways. If you totally disagree with a particular law you can work through the legislative process of your Grand Lodge to change a law you disagree with.  

You might also look at these laws and you might find one of them bring to your attention something you do in your daily life that you aren’t proud of.  It might be like tossing some cold water in the face, a wake up call. 

You can also demit from the Fraternity.  (I don’t suggest this one.) 

But one thing you cannot do Brother, is ignore the lawyers of your Masonic jurisdiction.  It is very possible it could lead to suspension or expulsion.  

Just like in every other part of your life there are rules you have to live and abide by. Whether you are at work, playing in a softball league or living as a citizen of your country, there will always be laws and like it has been since the days of the laws of the Romans “Ignorantia juris non excusat”. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Take notice, govern yourself accordingly Brethren.
~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.

If Not Us Then Who?

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

The Scoutmaster by Norman Rockwell

Midnight Freemasons Editor Robert Johnson, recently wrote an outstanding piece titled “Shadows Burned Onto the Walls – Addressing Freemasonry’s Biggest Problems”. This article expressed in very clear terms the thoughts and concerns that I and so many other brethren have had over the years. If you have not read this article, stop reading now, click on the link above and go read it. Seriously.

If you are like me, the article left me shaking my head and thinking “yes this is spot on”. Brother Johnson ends the article with some very frank and wise words about what is needed in this fraternity:

“If we don’t work to make our experience better, to get ourselves in the seats, to read the books, to bring those things to the lodge, to make men better, it’s going to continue to be an empty experience both literally and figuratively. We gaze at the shadows of the great fraternity, burned into the walls with wonder. Like an archaeologist looks upon the dead language, we are reminded that while we respect the past, we cannot be a slave to what was. It’s time to work harder on what you want.”

Let me reflect further on Brother Johnson’s conclusions. I have been in the fraternity since 2007. In that 10 plus years, I have been extremely active, joined numerous masonic bodies, served as Worshipful Master of a lodge, brought one lodge back from the verge of extinction and helped charter two new masonic bodies a High Twelve club and a new Royal Arch chapter. I received the Mason of the Year award from the Valley of Danville (IL) in 2015.

I don’t list all these activities to brag on myself, but merely to illustrate that I have been an active mason. But I must be honest, there have been numerous times that I have wondered, why bother anymore? There are many ways to spend my time and I am active in numerous other organizations including serving as an elected community college trustee, attending my sons track meets and my long-time passion, being a scout leader. If others don’t care about masonry then why should I?

But then I pause and think about the impact we are making. I recently met with two Fellowcraft masons and worked with them on learning their catechism. They were nervous, but excited about joining the craft and progressing through the degrees. In that short meeting we had, they did nicely on learning their work and are ready to prove up at the next lodge meeting. It left me thinking, perhaps I was making a small impact on their lives. Helping them develop themselves into better men by understanding what our fraternity stands for and giving them a framework for self-improvement.

I do not have the answers for what the long-term solutions are for building this fraternity and ultimately building better men. But I do know this, if someone doesn’t work on it, or more precisely if WE don’t work on it, then who will?

Honestly, what keeps me motivated and an active freemason are the men like the contributors here at the Midnight Freemasons, individuals like Brothers Denver R. Phelps and Stephen C. Hooper of my home lodge Ogden No. 754 (IL) and countless others who put in their time and effort to make freemasonry happen.

In many ways it is like the efforts I put into Scouting. I don’t see the full return today, but I know somewhere down the road, what we are doing in Scouting will make a difference. I think back to the men who stepped up to be my scout leaders. Many of them have passed away. But in their day, they put in countless hundreds of hours to ensure that myself and all other fellow scouts had opportunities to grow and learn. Ultimately, I earned my Eagle Scout badge in 1981 and it was a special honor. Clearly however, as a 15-year-old I did not understand the full impact of what scouting had given me.

37 years later being an Eagle Scout, means much more to me today than it did then. Not because of the badge or the Eagle Scout medal, but because of the life lessons and core values which have helped shaped my life and ultimately who I am. This was made possible because of those volunteers that came every week to ensure that we could have a troop meeting, a campout or canoe trip.

I believe that freemasonry operates in much the same way. The time spent working with a brother on a catechism, playing a part in a degree, reading some of great works of masonic authors or providing some lodge education at a meeting might not yield an immediate return on our time investment. But we keep working in the quarries because we have the hope and knowledge that what we are doing will make a difference down the road on improving our individual lives and the lives of our brethren.

Let me close by saying this, what we do matters. Our impact is real. The values we stand for are timeless and needed by society more than at any point time in our history. We should not rest on our magnificent history or laurels of the past. Freemasonry is about building for the future.

If you won’t step up, who will? If not us then who?

~GJK

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

That Which Has Been Lost - The Basics

Part One

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Recently I was trying to research a paper that I was writing. I was trying to gather information from the brethren on a Masonic Facebook group. I posted a request for examples from their Grand Lodge Jurisdictions which legislate their personal life. I even gave an example from my ow jurisdiction.

It may have been my fault, as how I phrased my question but very few of the members knew or understood what I was asking for. I realized I had uncovered what Masonry has lost: The basics of Masonic membership.

Over the last half century or more,  in the search for new members and even higher membership numbers, we've neglected to educate our newly obligated brethren with the fundamentals.

We might teach them the lectures (the words anyway, not what the lectures mean) or not to walk between the East and the altar while lodge is open, or the importance of holding a rod as a Steward or Deacon before we sit them down and start to put them to sleep with the monotone of minutes and the arguing of the price of toilet paper in 1967. But sadly, for many members this is pretty much all they are taught until they are elected Worshipful Master, when the chorus of  “You're doing it wrong.” is sung from the north side of the lodge room. Sadly, I realized I am as guilty as the rest of the fraternity, including my fellow Masonic writers.

Most of us, when we write about Masonic education, we rightly discuss the esoteric and symbols of Masonic history. All of which are great to learn and much like the basics, are non-existent in many lodges these days. But we often make a crucial mistake, we don't make sure the brother has a solid foundation first.

When I submitted my petition I started to be mentored by a Brother who was a 25 Year member of his lodge. He always informed me on how things in lodges worked. Nearly everything I was told was passed down to him by a long departed brother who had been secretary of his lodge. Each time the brother would mention the secretary by name it was like he stood a bit more erect, almost at attention, and with a glint in his eye and reverence in his voice he would say the mans name which almost sounded like angels singing. (I swear I heard harps as white doves flew from the Heavens.). The only problem was everything this Secretary told him was dead wrong.

I have encountered this several times among some older members. The secretary of their lodge, or someone who wanted things done their way, would give these brethren instructions and since they weren’t encouraged to read or study Masonic education, it just stuck.

It began, in my opinion, at the beginning of the Masonic ignorance of several of our generations of members. Members were brought in and they were given what information their mentor wanted them to know and then,  sent them on their merry way. Usually that was enough for the usual “Knife and fork” Mason who came for a free mean when the lodge had a function.

If the man wanted to be an officer of the lodge the Secretary would give him further instruction and continued to run the lodge as he saw fit, no matter who sat in the East. If the new Master wanted to do something different he was told about the long and hard process of changing the lodge’s bylaws or the brother was told, “Well you know Grand Lodge will never allow that.” Sound familiar? If the Master questioned the brother, he was referred to the Past Masters who parroted what the Secretary told them during their year.

Sadly, I also believe this has caused many of our issues among the generations within our Fraternity. For decades this secretary’s doctrine passed from one year to another until these urban legends have taken on a life of their own.

These doctrines worked well until the recent Masonic renaissance began about a decade ago when men who have educated themselves by reading the classics and spread light amongst the younger brethren. They began to question these old “truths” which have been passed down. Older men who have been confronted with challenges to what they had believed for a lifetime are being told they're wrong by men who are the same  age of their Grandchildren. They become incensed, angered and threatened. To be honest I understand it, and I would be angered to.

So in my next few articles, I am going to try to at least lay out a basic primer on Masonic Education which I hope will better prepare a new member on his journey in Masonry.

~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.

Shadows Burned Onto the Walls - Addressing Freemasonry's Biggest Problem

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


Freemasonry is a wonderful organization. It’s members hold it to the highest regard. Whether active in all things Masonic or simply a man who receives the degrees and caries his dues card around for the rest of his life without attending another degree or meeting, we value the membership. At the thought of getting suspended for non-payment of dues (NPD), we pay a forgotten invoice. At the thought of closing the temple, we rally to fund-raise. When confronted with facts regarding the organization's declination, we hold endless dialogue until we all feel good and convinced about our future, our current action and our past choices.

Today, Freemasonry claims 1.1 Million Members (MSA N. America). A mere 50 years ago, we had almost five times the membership. This speech isn’t intended to cover or rationalize the dwindling membership. We know the reasons. Definitively, we gained members who valued something the fraternity had, a social aspect, a gathering place, which was a rare occurrence in the linear progression of time, that is, it aligned with the societal norms of the day. Have no fear, just like styles go through cycles, so do societies trends in some ways. We will again see uptick in membership, someday.

More to the point, this fraternity, which boasts a membership that loves itself so much, that would seemingly do anything for the Craft, has for all of this grandeur in the mind, empty lodges, empty participation, and empty sidelines. There are arguments for why this is -- fulfillment being one. But this is still not what I am referring to. We have, even in the ranks of the craft a general issue of participation.

A lodge meets for business on a summer meeting, a rarity since it usually goes dark this time of year. The Worshipful Master called a special meeting to discuss finances, come up with a way to raise funds and collect volunteers. Men show up, they even come out of the woodwork, as it was unusual for the Master to call such a meeting. It must be important. The members heard the report, they were roused.

A date was picked. An event was planned and volunteers were gathered and assigned duties However this was not without the Master having to ask men sitting in the lodge if they would assist. This should have been a red flag. But it wasn’t. Fast forward a few months. Calls, emails and communications regarding the event were received by all.

It’s the morning of the event. A bit foggy outside, but warm. The Master pulls into the parking lot. Empty. It’s early yet, they’ll trickle in. He walks to the door, unlocks it and wanders inside. He hits the lights, turns on the coffee and heads back out to the car to grab the box of donuts and treats he purchased to feed his volunteers.

The Master then begins to set up the lodge for the event. He re-positions tables, pulls out a few more since he is expecting a crowd. He sets up the lodge for anyone who wants a tour and before you know it, it’s been an hour. The event is set to start soon. Just then, a member walks through the front door. It’s not one of the volunteers, but a member of the lodge and decides to see what he can do to assist. The Master has the brother wander around and just straighten up the place a bit. Another hour passes. No one has come. The Master makes several phone calls to his officers. He leaves voicemails, gets hung up on by full mailboxes and those he did get ahold of, well it turns out they can’t make it due to some family event. The Master sat down, took a breath. Just then, the other brother who had shown up earlier announced he had to take off, but wished the lodge luck on the day’s event.

The front door to the lodge closed as the Master sat there in his chair, not even touching the coffee he poured. He stood up, walked to the front door, locked it. He walked back to the kitchen, dumped the coffee, gathered his items and left for home. The donuts left on the counter, likely to be eaten by the members at the next meeting if the mice don’t get to them first. On the drive home the Master felt a sense of something that had been growing. He had many questions come into his mind.

Where was everyone? Why didn’t they come? Why did they say they would be here if they couldn’t? Why did this always happen? And maybe most importantly, why was he still surprised by the turnout?

A few hours later, a man pulled into the parking lot of the lodge. He had read about an event at the local lodge. He was interested in joining and thought this was a great chance to get some information so he decided to work it into his day before grabbing some lunch with his family. The family waited in the car as the man walked to the door of the lodge. From the parking lot, the lodge looked closed and the lot was also curiously devoid of cars. But, there was a parking garage and so perhaps that’s where everyone parked.

The man got to the door, gave a gander inside through the glass windows. No lights. No noise. No one. It was empty. The lodge was closed. The man thought he must have missed it. Maybe it was a different day. He checked Facebook. No, today was the day of the event. It should be open right now. He turned and headed back to the car. As the man strapped on his seat belt, his wife asked him what was wrong. The man simply declared, no one was there and drove his family to lunch.

When things like this happen, we think about so many things. We condemn it. We justify it. We go the rounds month after month and wonder what the magic formula is which might offer some form of menial success. At first our leadership tends to become upset at the men who seemingly shirked in their duty to the lodge. After some years, this same scenario can play out and instead of anger, we justify the action of non-participation. We chalk it up to, “Family first” or the volunteer mentality. We then come back to square one and ask ourselves why this is.

Ultimately, we find that this may actually be as it has always been. One hears of the glory day of Freemasonry, when fifty or more men would show up to dinner, when the wives had an auxiliary and made the meals, served dinner and played cards whilst the men were in the meetings. The kids were in the parlor, talking about DeMolay, Rainbow or Job’s Daughters. But this truly is a myth, while it may have happened once in a while, it was certainly never the norm. One need only pull out the minute books and count the signatures to verify this.

When we look into Freemasonry, many of us want to find a cure for what is ailing this beloved Craft. But what exactly is ailing us? Is it laziness? It it apathy? Is it a sense of worthlessness? Maybe it’s all of these things.

In an organization that’s been built over the last 70 years to sustain a massive membership, it’s no secret that the sheer amount of members we had were not all truly interested in what Masonry is supposed to be. That continuity between the social trend and something Masonry offered, opened the doors and those doors were never truly closed again. We’ve initiated many men who had no idea what they were joining. A fact that was confirmed by the Grand Lodge of Colorado in the 1990s. Results came in from a survey they sent out to all those who were suspended for NPD.

The more men we let in, the more possibility for failure exists. This is simple probability. The more members we have, the greater probability that our lodges are flooded with men who are not truly committed in the way we want them to be. We’ve lost nearly ⅘ of who we were. I, myself have justified this in terms of what I call refinement. I and many have called attention to the fact that we’re measuring ourselves to a false standard. Something that was not the norm and while the fact of membership numbers can be shown to us, the myth of epic participation haunts us still.

Are our members lazy? All too often our members will confirm that they will be at an event. They will tell us how excited they are, and when we’re setting up for the event, when we’re bringing in the donuts and putting on the coffee, we notice no one is coming. We check Facebook and see those same excited members posting about going to the gym, waking up late or some other family event. Begin the cycle outlined in the above narrative.

We might inquire with this member why he didn’t show up. The answer is all to often, that they forgot. We ask ourselves again, “How do you forget? It’s on social media, we did a call, you RSVP’d via social media, which means it’s on your calendar, the phone even alerts you the night before the event!” But we dare not press the issue for fear of being unbrotherly. We are after all, family first and they are volunteers.

Are we apathetic? In the beginning? No. As a seasoned Masonic Veteran? Absolutely. When we use terms like “Veteran”, it typically conjures imagery in our minds of a man who’s spent tens of years completing tasks, pulling his weight, making it happen, whatever it was, no matter what. A breast filled with bars and rank insignia.

This may also apply in Freemasonry. But in truth, today’s Masonic veteran has been in the craft less than five years. They’ve been Master of their lodge. They headed up masonic Education to some extent. They’ve taken their expertise in modern technology and dedicated countless hours to bringing the local lodge or maybe even their Grand Lodge into the 21st century. Recent data compiled by the State Education officer of Illinois 2017 / 2018 shows definitively that the average time from joining today to being Master of your lodge is little more than five years.

These Masonic Veterans of today, push with everything they have for results. All to often, they’re met with questions regarding their motive, their attitude and their expectations. They are told to “Be the Change”, which is absolutely the epitome of irony in an organization so against progression. And finally, after years of trying, they give up. They agree to do one thing, fulfil themselves and leave the Craft to fend for itself. If the leadership across the organization is not going to listen, then there’s no point in talking. They become apathetic to the entire organization. Men just stop caring, and can we blame them?

It seems all too often the men who are working for the betterment of the craft do so only at the meetings. To be seen, to shake hands to offer assistance and yet in the space between meetings, there’s nothing being done. The apathetic see this as title chasing. They watch these men climb the ranks and for what? A purple apron? A red hat? A white hat? The awards going to men who have done little to progress the Craft and done much to tout the Craft and perhaps only when someone is looking. Where are these high ranking members when the local lodge needs them? Where are the regular dues card carriers when the lodge needs to simply open?

We’re left asking ourselves the same questions we started out with. And I fear there is no real answer. We romanticize the fraternity. We utilize our inherent human flaw of justifying inaction because it allows us to justify our reason for perpetual action. Our senior members, many of whom succumb to the cognitive bias of declinism, or believing the past to better than it was. The modern Brother, trying so hard to live up to these things and eventually, giving up.

This speech is not intended to be a call to action, as it’s infrequent that words can drum up any kind of long lasting support for a cause. Sure, speeches have riled mankind to win battles, wars and to vote. But whilst you all may sit here in the audience, agreeing with the words I’m saying, while you nod your heads in agreement, while you take notes and write down ideas about what can be done, we should all understand that after this moment, after today, after next week, you'll have forgotten. And none of this will matter to you until that next meeting, that is, if we even show up.

I offer no solutions but to fulfill your own Masonic desires, to vote with your feet and let whatever happens to Masonry happen. Work to improve things and if it doesn’t happen, then try to move on and focus your energy where you think it will make an impact. Don’t let the apathy, laziness and fair-weather Masonic experience get you down. As a great man and mentor once told me, “You have to be okay with Masonry the way it is. Work on your own path.”

If you were taking notes, if you were having little ideas about things while hearing or reading this, I hope you stopped and wrote those down. Those are the ideas which can be tried and tested, those are the ideas which may change the future of this fraternity. To be sure, not all of the ideas you’ll conjure up are good, but some of them certainly will be. If we don’t work to make our experience better, to get ourselves in the seats, to read the books, to bring those things to the lodge, to make men better, it’s going to continue to be an empty experience both literally and figuratively. We gaze at the shadows of the great fraternity, burned into the walls with wonder. Like an archaeologist looks upon a dead language, we are reminded that while we respect the past, we cannot be a slave to what was. It’s time to work harder on what you want.

~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 is also a Past 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 the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.