The Power of Positive Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


I have never been a positive person. Some people refer to themselves as a “glass half full” or “glass half empty”. For most of my life I have been a “the glass is empty and broken in shards on the floor” kind of guy. I am working on this, trying to be more positive as part of my life. I have noticed that the right environment helps when you are trying to find positive light in a world of darkness.

Many years ago, Brother Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (Midwood Lodge No. 1062, Brooklyn, N.Y. and served as Grand Chaplain: 1949-51 Grand Lodge of New York), wrote a book entitled The Power of Positive Thinking: 10 Traits for Maximum Results. The book’s Amazon page describes this book as “An international bestseller with over five million copies in print, The Power of Positive Thinking has helped men and women around the world to achieve fulfillment in their lives through Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s powerful message of faith and inspiration.”

I have not read this book, but I should, and I may in the future. While reading the books description I realized how much of this book, much like the recent book ”It's Business Time: Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry” by Brothers Robert Johnson and Jon Ruark adapted bestselling business and motivational books to running a successful Masonic lodge.

Amazons description of Brother Peale’s book, claims you will learn these skills:

· Believe in yourself and in everything you do

· Build new power and determination

· Develop the power to reach your goals

· Break the worry habit and achieve a relaxed life

· Improve your personal and professional relationships

· Assume control over your circumstances

· Be kind to yourself

I believe many of these can be concerted to the honorable and glorious purposes of fixing Masonry.

1. Believe in yourself and in everything you do

If you are a Freemason, hopefully you believe in the Craft and it’s teachings. You may, like many of us, be discouraged about Freemasonry’s current state, but I also hope you believe that if we continue to work and move forward we can put it back on a solid foundation

2. Build new power and determination

Each one of us who hold a current dues card has a voice and a vote on how we as an organization moves forward. Therefore, I am always saddened when I hear about a Brother who quits his lodge (and the Craft itself). Each one of us who is active in Freemasonry has a voice and a vote and if we stand together as a group we can eventually have the Fraternity we want. Each member we lose makes us weaker and will delay us in our ultimate goal. We need to stay involved and encourage each other to stay (or come back).

3. Develop the power to reach your goals

We as a group (Local lodge level, Grand Lodge level and nationally) need to know what we want the future of Freemasonry to look like and develop a plan in which we can implement as a group as we strive to meet our goals.

4. Break the worry habit and achieve a relaxed life

So many of us have raised our hands in frustration over the years when we are told we can’t change things in our lodges. I’m sure so many of you have heard, “We’ve never done it that way before” or “Grand Lodge won’t allow that” or “Please don’t do that out of the sake of harmony in the lodge”. So, we as a group have sunk back and quietly given up, and allowed what we know will drive members away to happen.

What we have forgotten is that we are playing the long game. We need to quit worrying and continue to try to make reforms. Eventually, they will happen. We are already beginning to see changes, so relax and remember the tortoise, not the hare.

5. Improve your personal and professional relationships

We must continue to strive to achieve our goals in Freemasonry and continue to make friends and “spread the cement” of Brotherly love. One of the things we strive to achieve in making ourselves better is not just in regards to education, but also making lifelong friendships along the way. Kind of like a “support group” when times get tough. We also need to continually interact, discuss and eventually agree on what we believe the future should look like. The more interactions and discussions we have is the only way we can put the designs upon the trestle board for the future.

6. Assume control over your circumstances

I think this point pretty much sums up everything I have written above. WE as a whole, as a group, need to discuss and plan for the future as we want it to be. We as a group or as the many separate jurisdictions in this country (or the world for that matter) won’t agree on every point, I mean we haven’t for three hundred years, but if we can begin to decide as a group what we want Freemasonry to look like we can be ready for the future when we can put our plans into practice.

Brother Peale lists one more point: “Be kind to yourself”, but for this paper I would like to replace this point with my own, which I feel is more important, “Don’t Quit”

Brother, I know we all get frustrated with the current state of affairs in our Fraternity. Cheap dues, crumbling buildings, boring meetings and in some cases mediocre meals have disappointed a lot of men who were originally excited to become Freemason. When they bring up ideas on how they can make the lodge better they are told to sit down and be quiet until they are Master of the Lodge. (They don’t tell them they will try to torpedo his ideas while he is Master anyway) After a while they begin to feel dejected or disappointed and slowly fade away.

Brother, please remember this. When we lose a member through suspension for non-payment of dues or through a demit we don’t just lose the chance for fellowship, we also lose one vote, one voice, one man who can help make a difference in bringing about the change we are looking for.

The old saying “United we stand, divided we fall” is true Brother. The more of us who stay in the quarries and work toward the future the faster we will be able to rebuild the temple.

~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.

What to Expect When You're Expecting - Epilogue

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners


The very first article I wrote for ‘The Midnight Freemasons’ was called: “What to Expect when You’re Expecting: Worshipful Masters Edition”. I wrote it as I was having trepidation upon going to the East in my home lodge of St. Joseph #970. I ended up setting out 5 things to follow as a guide on my way to the East.

1. Relax and have fun! You’re not going to be perfect, but you’ll be okay.

2. Communicate and be open to listening. Exchange ideas with your lodge.

3. Believe in yourself! Your brothers believe in you.

4. Have a plan. A mission statement is a good way to set out your goals in a few sentences.

5. Most importantly, invoke the blessing of Deity always before undertaking any task as Worshipful Master.

Now that my year is almost at a close, it’s time to reflect back on it. I’m going to address the first three items and then break out my Mission Statement.

1. Relax and have fun! You’re not going to be perfect, but you’ll be okay.

I don’t feel like I had time to relax or have fun during my term in the East. I had several things happen that while not in my direct control, contributed to this feeling. We spent a lot of time and money on the repairs for our stairs. Although the process of getting them repaired began while I was in the west, we went with a recommendation and bid from a contractor recommended by our Building Committee chairman. Unfortunately, once the job was done, the wood that was used began to split on the sides of stairs. When we asked him to replace it, he blamed everything on the age of our lodge. He didn’t take responsibility, so the committee chairman took it upon himself to fire the contractor. He then had to bring in another contractor to fix the stairs that were splitting. Needless to say, the effort took several thousands of dollars.

The brother that was going to serve as Junior Warden informed me shortly after being elected that he had been accepted into a program sponsored by his church that would allow him to continue his education. Unfortunately, his classes met on our Stated Meeting night, so he would only be able to make a few meetings. Around the same time, my Junior Deacon had to go back into the workforce and ended up getting a job which was second shift and would also keep him from the meetings. I was essentially two officers down, which I had to replace every meeting. Luckily my Senior Deacon stepped up to fill the Junior Warden’s station in his absence. I was also able to place one of the younger members of the lodge to the position of Junior Deacon from Junior Steward. All of this along with the items below contributed to a stressful time in the East for me.

2. Communicate and be open to listening. Exchange ideas with your lodge.

It’s difficult to communicate and exchange ideas with your lodge when nobody is showing up for a stated meeting. Of course, missing two members that regularly attended lodge meant that we were scrambling for quorum every meeting. There was actually one meeting where I had the bare minimum to open. While we were able to open every meeting, there were members that had missed meetings where we had discussed items and they had been voted on. Members would then occasionally show up for a meeting and question the items that had been voted on in previous meetings. This came to a head last meeting where I felt the choice of our scholarship winner was questioned. To be frank, I lost my temper when it was questioned. I blew up at the brother asking about it. In the not most gentle way possible, with probably not the gentlest of words, I told him that I felt that if he had made the meetings where we had discussed and voted on this, that he could have brought up his objections then. I felt that he was criticizing the decision and took it personally even though he was just trying to point out the original objective for the scholarship. My point is, it’s hard to communicate when there’s very few people to communicate to.

3. Believe in yourself! Your brothers believe in you.

I worked very hard with some other members of the lodge last year when I was Senior Warden to receive the Grandmaster’s Award of Excellence. At our Grand Lodge session as the Master of St. Joseph Lodge last October, we did it. Not only did we receive it, we also were awarded second place in the state for lodges under 80 members. In order to receive the award, there are a number of things that the lodge must do. These items always involve having at least 3 elected officers and a total of 5 to seven members doing them [the GMAE tasks]. For whatever reason this past year, very few members of my lodge were willing or able to make these events. It got to a point where I signed in as a member of another lodge to which I belong so that they would get the credit. While some of these events took place on dates where members couldn’t go because of family commitments or work, I feel that there is little to no desire by the membership to attend any lodge activities, especially ones needed to qualify for the award. It’s hard to believe in yourself and to believe that your brothers believe in you if you don’t share the same commitment to the lodge.

4. Have a plan. A mission statement is a good way to set out your goals in a few sentences.

In order to begin, I want to look back upon my Mission Statement. It was as follows:

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

So, let’s see if I achieved any of what I set out to do.

I will begin with: “I want to make Saint Joseph Lodge a better place.” It’s a pretty broad statement. There’s two ways to answer it. What is a lodge really? Is it the building or room where you hold your degree work and stated meetings? Or is it the members that gather for the degree work or stated meetings? Every Mason should know it’s both. What did I do to make the Lodge a better place? From the building standpoint, several improvements were instituted. The very first thing we did was we improved the lodge room itself. We had our old degree trestle boards framed to keep them from deteriorating. We installed the internet, a wireless network and mounted a Flat Screen television on the wall so that we could cast the Degree slides from our phones instead of needing to have someone bring a computer and projector into the lodge. Our stairs were in dire need of repair so we had them fixed. We had some boiler repairs that needed to occur also. Finally, I took an old lodge computer and converted into a Chromebook, so that we would have another device to cast from if needed.

The second line of my mission statement covers the Lodge from the member perspective: A place for brothers and their families to spend time, and a better asset to the community. I tried very hard to make our lodge better. I tried to have two separate movie nights for the members and community. On the couple of occasions when I did this, I was able to get a total of 4 members combined at both events including myself. We did have moderate success at holding a trunk or treat event for the local food pantry. The idea that was communicated to our community, was to have them show up and bring items for the food pantry and get candy. I had a total of 6 members including myself show up and help me hand out candy while we collected items for the food pantry. We collected a decent amount for a donation. We also held a chili dinner that we participated with Ogden and Homer lodges. This event brought out a good number of brethren and their families from across the area. We had a good meal and good fellowship as well. I have one more event planned before my time in the East is at a close. We’re having a dinner to recognize the veterans and first responders in the Lodge prior to our stated meeting in June. As of right now, I have one RSVP, but the mail just went out, so I’m hoping that I get more responses.

The next line of the mission statement is the big one: “ A place that men in my community want to join.” During my year as Master, we have had three petitions to join our lodge. We also have one candidate that is an EA but is a college student and has trouble scheduling his next degrees. Of the three petitions, two are now Fellowcrafts and one is getting his EA degree this coming Thursday. I think that getting any new members is doing a decent job, I’m a member of a few lodges where they’re lucky to get a new petition a year.

Did I really make the lodge a place the men in my community want to join? I certainly tried. I advertised on social media to have men come and meet us at a local establishment before our meetings. I tried to have community movie nights as well. We held the trunk or treat as a community event. I used the new materials from the Scottish Rite and posted the short video, “Not Just a Man, A Mason” all over social medians well. I’ve also discussed with the lodge using the Invitation to Petition in order to get new members. We’re giving away our yearly scholarship and teacher of the year award at the High School this week, which is another chance for us to get community exposure. My hope is that maybe one man in the audience will be interested in joining us.

I want to educate the brethren not only using traditional education, but also teach some of the esoteric meanings of the ritual. My biggest failure as Master has been in the area of Masonic Education. Quite frankly, compared to Homer where Education is the first and foremost item at every stated meeting, we have a fair amount of business to get through at St. Joseph. I absolutely tried to institute a meeting structure where Education was the first item, followed by the regular meeting, but it ended up being close to a 2-and-a-half-hour affair. Many of the older membership complained about the length of the meetings. Of course, this had nothing really to do with the education which might have added 10 minutes to the meeting. Some of the older members like to hear themselves talk and like to motion for items on the floor for votes. They also like to have me explain items that we are discussing multiple times because they are hard of hearing, even though they are usually at the front of the lodge. By the time we get to where education is on the agenda, most of the older membership will audibly groan or sigh when I mention it. It’s gotten to the point where at the last meeting, I told everyone that I had an education piece that I would give after the meeting if anyone was interested. Of course, the younger members of my lodge were interested, while the older guys just packed up and left.

The last item on my Mission Statement was a personal goal. Lastly, I want to raise some funds by having fun. At St. Joseph, we have a building with retail space downstairs. We have a renter that guarantees us fixed income every month, so we really don’t have to do any fundraising. The idea for my fund raiser was simply to help bring awareness that our lodge is more than a bunch of guys who dress up and wear aprons. The idea was to show us having fun in a relaxed setting. From my time being a Cub Scout Leader, the best event of every year was always the pinewood derby. So, my idea of having an Adult Pinewood Derby was one that I thought would be well received. As we began planning the event last June, the vision took twists and turns. However, I could not be more pleased to be partnering with some adult leaders from local Scouting units to have our lodge sponsor the event. The fundraiser has become an event with a real date, place and time. The fundraiser will donate a majority of the funds to help local scouting programs, while the Masonic Lodge will receive a small portion of the funds for sponsoring, which I plan in asking the lodge to donate to the Venturing Scout Crew that we charter.

5. Most importantly, invoke the blessing of Deity always before undertaking any task as Worshipful Master.

I know that we open and close every meeting with a prayer. I don’t know that I have really taken the time to pray before writing every email to the lodge. I know I haven’t done it as much as I probably should have. Maybe that’s what made the difference. I guess all I can do is hope to do it more during this next year. You see my brethren, I am hoping to be elected as Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge for the next Masonic Year. Which leads me to add a new item to my guide.

6. Never give up.

One of my favorite movie quotes is probably going to surprise you. It’s from Batman Begins. “Why do we fall, sir?” Alfred asks Bruce Wayne in the scene, and Bruce looks at him unable to come up with an answer, so Alfred says “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Yes, I didn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to during my year as Master in St. Joseph. I made some mistakes, some things were out of my control, and some things just aren’t worth worrying about. I have to learn from my mistakes and refocus my efforts for the coming year at Homer. I am not going to let what happened at one lodge take away from my enthusiasm for the coming year. I have to pick myself up. 

~DAL

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


We Are One EMP Away From Losing Civilization

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


Last week's episode of the Whence Came You podcast (https://bit.ly/2IhxBAr) is well worth a listen. Scott Hambrick, a member of Owasso Lodge 545 in Oklahoma, was Robert Johnson's guest on the show. Brother Hambrick is a founder of the Intellectual Linear Progression program, "an online community developing classically educated men and women using the great books of western civilization." (https://bit.ly/2GafSsU). With a decided preference for hard copy books, Scott notes, "One of the reasons I started this project is because I'm desperately afraid we're one EMP (electromagnetic pulse) away from losing civilization." Robert picked right up on that and they both agreed that is not an issue to be underestimated.

The discussion brought to mind some of the resistance offered when I was an officer in the Missouri Lodge of Research. We worked for a few years to establish the Masonic Library in Columbia. One of the arguments against going to that expense was, "We don't need books anymore. Everything is electronic these days. Books are old-fashioned and unnecessary in this 'modern' age."

I love technology. It was my profession. I want the latest gadget. I want every document I write to be in electronic format. Cloud storage is the way to go. With little reservation, however, I have a message for the world: Don't abandon paper.

In fact, along with that, don't abandon any of the "old time" analog archiving techniques. I mean it. Everything today should be digital... but not exclusively. Why? There are lots of reasons not to turn every document or historical item into a string of ones and zeros, but there are a couple of really good ones.

First, you've got to have the technology to use the technology. I have a boatload of old "floppy disks" around the house; not just the "modern" 3½ inch ones, not just the older 5¼ inch floppies, but the ancient 8 inchers. Try to find a way to read those bad boys today. They're obsolete. They don't even make good Frisbees.

Think that's going back a bit far? You think your CDs are safe? Studies have shown the average life of a CD is about 25 years. Uh-oh! You'd better run and check that Dire Straits CD you bought back in '85. Actually, the professional CDs have a life up to 100 years, but the ones you made... not so much. Besides, who knows if 100 years from now there will be a machine that can read a CD? A thousand years?

The solution? A good old fashioned record player. Really. As you read this, the little Voyager spacecraft has oozed out of our solar system into interstellar space. Know what's on board in case it encounters any extraterrestrials? Not a CD, not floppies, not tape, not an SD card, but a record and record player with pictorial instructions on how to use it. ET probably won't have CDs, but he'll be able to operate that simple gadget.

"Yes," you may agree, "but that's a really special case. There are no ETs around here." Well... probably not. But guess what: the official sound recording media our very own Library of Congress uses is 78 RPM records! Space age vinyl 78 RPM records to be sure but, still, Thomas Edison would be proud of us. And, naturally, original documents and books are its official hard copy storage media.

That brings us to the other big reason – the aforementioned EMP. Even if we do have the technology to read all this material, a single coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun or, God forbid, a nuclear war could wipe it all out in a single instant. Granted, if we ever have a disaster of that magnitude, our biggest problem wouldn't be whether or not we had last year's copies of the Short Talk Bulletin. Still, if we could survive such a disaster, in the long run it would be nice to have our historical documents. Hence, paper, vinyl and analog copies would be mighty handy. That's why the Library of Congress is making sure we keep them around. We all should — with both our personal and public treasures. 

Oh, and by the way, such an EMP episode already happened. Known as the Carrington Event, a major CME hit the earth in September 1859. The only reason it didn't fry every iPad on earth is there weren't many of them around back then. More recently, a small CME in 1989 brought Hydro-Quebec's electricity transmission system to its knees. It can and will happen. Guaranteed.

In 2013, the Masonic Library in Columbia became a reality. It was a vision of Harry Truman that finally came into fruition. Much of its material is online, with more documents being added daily. At the same time though, the library doesn't put everything exclusively into electronic format.

Let's be optimistic and assume there won't be a nuclear war. Doesn't matter: the next coronal mass ejection is right around the corner.

So let's keep pumping out the paper copies. Luddites of the world unite!

~SLH

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

Three Distinct Knocks

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB. Martin O’Brien 


Envision if you will a young man, a man who has grown up in relative financial and material comfort but in moral and spiritual ambiguity. Understand, that this man I am describing is not me but I can tell his story. You may even know him or another person like him. This man, at least he believes himself a man, no event in his life apart from the tearing of pages from a calendar has marked his transition from adolescence to manhood, comes from good stock. Salt of the earth people who were faithful to their creed and mindful of harder times, struggles that they have strived to shelter their son from. This young man is popular and has surrounded himself with friends of like mind and opinion. Perhaps this man has had the benefit of formal education beyond high school and so feels that he knows much and because life has been gentle on him he has faced no adversity to inform him otherwise.

He believes that he doesn't need superstitious religion because he has reason. He is comfortable. More passive than purposeful in his decision making, he goes easily where the tides of life take him. He does what his job requires of him, no more, no less, because he invests his time and energy more fully in leisure pursuits marking time through the week to get to the weekend and when he arrives he imbibes too much and makes morally questionable decisions. Perhaps he treats the fairer sex disrespectfully, allowing his passions to hold sway over that reason that he values over religion. Perhaps he has no male role model to show him there is another and better way.

He lives his life in a repetitious cycle, monotonous week to intemperate weekend over and over again. This pattern is reinforced by his circle of friends, all of whom are equally adrift. Until one day he sees something, a sign on an old brick building, an ancient sign that hints at a different way, a different path the wanderer can take. This sign pulls at something in his mind, perhaps the prick of conscience. 

As this feeling comes to the fore a feint spark flickers in his chest and draws him towards that symbol. Walking forward he begins to leave behind the chaos and apathy that have marked his life to this point and he moves Eastwards, towards something better. He gets the sense that he is drawing closer to something important and his excitement grows but still there is a shroud around the place he wishes to be and he is filled with uncertainty and trepidation. Yet that spark, flickering weakly in his chest, draws him onwards and soon the veil parts slightly revealing a gate guarded by stern faced sentinels that bar his way. 

They examine this traveler, their probing eyes, experienced from long years of labor in the quarries beyond, search for any sign of dishonesty or impure motive. Their examination is thorough and they can see that feint lights inside our supplicant and it is this that assures them of his sincerity. They step aside allowing him to advance through the West gate. Once through the portico he is met by gentle hands welcoming him in friendship, guiding his steps lest he should falter. He is reassured and told to fear no evil, for evil cannot take root in this place. He is prepared for what is about to transpire, taking off the trappings of the world he is beginning to leave behind and pass a threshold into a new way of being. He is given some time, a few moments, in which to gather himself and prepare his mind to receive the priceless gift that awaits him.

He is in darkness by design, his vision taken away the better to align his other senses. He is guided forward until his outstretched hands meet with obstruction. A door. He is told to reach for the heavy brass knocker that adorns it and taking it firmly strike the door with it three distinct times. His hand is shaking with nervous anticipation as it reaches for it. His fingers can trace a shape, the same symbol he found on the side of the building. 

The square and compasses. The knocker rises and falls, One! farewell to apathy. Farewell to the chaos of selfish and disordered thinking. He lifts it again. More forcefully this time the knocker hits the strike plate. Two! As the sound of it fades away so too does the man he was, he is already changed. A third time his hand rises, this is perhaps the first purposeful act he has undertaken, the first real movement towards taking responsibility for himself and his place in this world. Three! The door opens. Though blindfolded he is aware that a light is shining on him from within and that spark in his chest that was once so weak flairs brightly.

~MO

WB Martin O'Brien is a Past Master of Cuyahoga Falls Lodge #735, now Star Lodge #187 in Cuyahoga Falls Ohio. He is a member of Cuyahoga Falls Chapter #225 Royal Arch Masons and Cuyahoga Falls Council #144 Royal & Select Masters.


The Three Apprentices: An Experiment - Chapter Two

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


This is the second article in a series about a lifelong mentoring experiment I am conducting. Before continuing, you may wish to go back and read the first article (creatively titled “The Three Apprentices: An Experiment - Chapter One”), available HERE.

“Why do you think we say these specific words here?”

When I was doing my individual ritual proficiency examination with my lodge’s Deputy Grand Custodian, those were words that struck fear into my heart. From observing him examine other individuals and lodges, I had found that he had the absolute worst timing with that question; whenever someone was really in the zone with the ritual, he would interrupt and ask why we did something.

At first, it appears that he asks it randomly, but in reality he times it intentionally, but not maliciously. Real degrees often have unscripted interruptions, and knowing how to recover from them seamlessly is an important part of providing the best degree for the candidate.

In addition, the Deputy Grand Custodian who works with my lodge is incredibly intelligent and well learned, and while I always dreaded the interruption, I also knew that I was going to learn a part of the meaning to our ritual that most people wouldn’t even know existed. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to state that he has inspired many of the articles I have written, with that simple question “Why do we do it this way?”

Neil and I have been working very heavily on his Entered Apprentice proficiency. He received his degree back in the middle of February, and we have been meeting regularly at least once a week, and sometimes up to three times a week. Our meetings usually start with catching up on anything interesting he has found, going over different bits and pieces from the EA ritual, then we’ll spend the next hour working through the Questions and Answers lecture.

I cannot describe in words the incredible pride that comes with mentoring a brother through the degree work. Over the past few months, I’ve watched him go from struggling to read the words from paper to being able to recite the ritual back with very few mistakes, and seeing him begin to not only understand the words, but more importantly to analyze their meaning.

“Why do we say this here?”

It’s a question Neil and I have discussed quite a bit as well. As he has become more comfortable with reciting the ritual, we’ve started to analyze what the different portions of it were intended to teach him, and how he can apply them in his own life.

I have attempted to not impart my own Masonic biases on him, and to let him form his own opinion as to the meanings behind the words. I’m not entirely certain how successful I’ve been at that, but I can also say that Neil is highly intelligent, and I don’t believe that I could make him believe something against his will even if I tried. He has already discovered, entirely on his own, some meanings in the ritual that took me a few years to catch on to, and I see a time coming soon where he is teaching me more than I am teaching him!

With any experiment, it’s important to objectively judge results, and I’m afraid that in this I will fail miserably. In addition to being my apprentice, Neil has quickly become a trusted friend, and I cannot help but view his progress through that lens.

Although, isn’t that, by itself, an indication of the success of the experiment? The original stated intention was to minimize the risk of losing a new candidate by doing the exact opposite of what we normally do with our candidates, and I have no doubt that Neil will continue to be very active long past his Master Mason degree.

By the time this article releases, hopefully we will have finished conferring the Fellowcraft degree, and Neil and I will be deep into the esoteric meanings behind the middle chamber, which I’m highly looking forward to seeing his opinion on.

~AT

WB Adam Thayer is a grumpy-ish past master of Oliver #38 in Seward, NE and Lancaster #54 in Lincoln, NE. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, as well as being an occasional host on the Whence Came You Podcast. He may be reached directly at adam@wcypodcast.com or summoned by placing a certain number of lapel pins in a special pattern around a petition for an appendant body.

Atheism - Exploring the Concept in Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners



I might surprise many of you with the following confession: I once was an atheist. What? Freemasonry specifically bans atheists. Please note, I said WAS. I know that we’re specifically not supposed to discuss religion, but for the purposes of this article I need to provide my experiences as background to my broader point. 

CONSIDER THIS A WARNING, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES REGARDING RELIGION SKIP AHEAD. 

You see my brethren, I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradley, Illinois from Grade 1 to Grade 8. I was an altar boy, I went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with Catholicism. For example, I can remember my baptism. That’s because I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church when I was five years old. Long story short, my maternal Grandmother would not bless my parent’s marriage. This meant that the Catholic Church wouldn’t bless my parent’s marriage. Hence, The Catholic Church wouldn’t baptize yours truly. For years after this, my late uncle, Dennis Zajac, recalled that he thought that my father’s name was SOB before he met him. This due to my Grandmother’s insistence on calling him a Son of a….you know what.

As I enjoyed an education in the Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois, I began to question my own beliefs. I started to understand how the Roman Catholic religion took “pagan” Gods and made them into saints as well as their solstice celebrations and made them into Religious Holidays or as they call them Holy Days of Obligation. I studied and minored in Philosophy. My favorite philosophers were for the most part atheists. I also had difficulty with what I saw as a pay for salvation model of organized religion. Time and time again, the topic of the homily would be not regarding the scripture, but regarding how the congregation needed to tithe more to the church. While many of our families were tithing as much as they could, the idea that the Roman Catholic Church would need more money seemed preposterous to me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the Catholic Church. It would seem that when I would attend religious services with friends, who were from other denominations, the message was the same. So I turned away from God. I attempted to live my life ethically without the idea of God and an afterlife.

CONTINUE READING HERE IF YOU CHOSE TO SKIP THE ABOVE. 

I don’t know how many of my brethren believe in superstitions, but one that is prevalent in my family is seeing a bird in the house prior to a family member’s death. Prior to my Great Grandmothers death, my brother who was 2 or 3 at the time, came to my dad in great excitement talking about the bird that was in his room. My dad and I quickly ran to my brother’s room. My brother, Scott, was adamant about the bird, his face reflecting the amazement of what he was seeing. There was no bird that we could see, however it was clear to me that it was one that my brother could see. Shortly thereafter, we received the news that my Great Grandmother had passed away. Mother’s Day in 2002 was the last time that I saw my aforementioned Uncle Dennis alive. He and his wife, my Aunt Carol (my mother’s sister) were saying their goodbyes to myself and my family at my parent’s house. What I can only describe as a spectral flaming black bird flew over the head of my Uncle. I knew right away what this meant. I also knew by gauging the reactions of my family that no one else had seen this. He passed away a week or so later of a brain aneurism.

I feel a tremendous amount of guilt regarding this. I remember calling my parents and asking if they knew if Uncle Dennis and Aunt Carol had made it home safely. I didn’t explain to them until after his passing what I had seen. I had only told my wife at the time, what I had seen. I remember emailing my uncle and asking him to go get checked out. I didn’t tell him why, other than I was worried about his health. I didn’t want him to think that I was nuts. Now I wonder and deal with the what-ifs regarding it. Would he have believed me if I had been honest with him? Could I have somehow prevented what happened? I will never know until I meet him again.

There was one positive that came out of this experience. It solidified my belief in the Grand Architect. I knew right then and there that there was something bigger than I. That there were things that science couldn’t explain, my vision of the bird for example. I understood that the world wasn’t just controlled by science, but that science and scientific principles are our understanding of how the Great Architect designed the universe. Science was, to borrow some Masonic ritual from the non-secret (non-ciphered) work of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, the guiding force for ‘That All-Seeing eye whom the sun, moon, and stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions.’ I was, for lack of a better term, brought to light in that moment, many years before it happened in a Masonic Lodge. But the question remains, had I not undergone this supernatural event, would I have continued to be an atheist? But more importantly, for an organization that promotes religious tolerance, why do we ban atheists?

Historically, the operative Stone Masons from whence we came would most likely have been Catholic as they were working on the great cathedrals. In fact, looking at the Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem, which is dated to circa 1390 – 1425, we can see plainly under the points that the very first point says: “Anyone who wants to know this Craft Must love God and Holy Church”. So it can be seen, from the earliest written points in Operative History, that belief in God was without question vital to a man learning the craft of Masonry. This would have then been carried into speculative Freemasonry, but as we can see by the time that Anderson wrote his constitutions that only a belief in God was required, and that a particular religious belief was not: “A Mason is oblig’d by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charg’d in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish’d; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain’d at a perpetual Distance.

The argument regarding not allowing Atheists into our Fraternity usually falls back to the standard Freemasonic defense for not changing ritual or bylaws, which is: “That’s the way it’s always been!” However, if we look at the Halliwell Manuscript again, we can see under the fifth article: “The fifth article is very good: That the apprentice must be of lawful blood, The Master shall not, for any reason, Make one an apprentice who is deformed; It is necessary, as you know, That all of his limbs are whole. It would be a great shame on the Craft To make a lame or limping man an apprentice, Because such an imperfect man Would be of little good to the Craft; Everyone must know this. The Craft should have a sound worker; A crippled man cannot work well, This will be obvious right away.” So by this rationale, we shouldn’t allow any man who is missing a limb to become a Freemason, because that’s the way it was. However, somewhere along the way, Grand Lodges came to their senses regarding this, and they changed their by-laws and/or ritual to allow it.

To play devil’s advocate (literally), what would you do if you interviewed a candidate who expressed their belief in God only to find out after election that they worshipped Satan and requested to take their oath on a Satanic Bible? We as an organization preach religious tolerance. If this individual requested this, isn’t it our duty to accommodate them? Now of course I being facetious here, but my point is this, would you trust the obligation of a man taken on Satanic Bible above one taken with no volume of sacred law, or upon on A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking? My guess is that you would trust the atheist more. Shouldn’t what really matters be the character of the man and not the belief/or non-belief in God? Well, yes, but….

Unlike the example of the change of allowing someone missing a limb to become a Freemason, where there was perhaps a one word change in ritual; Allowing Atheists to become Freemasons would fundamentally change the Craft because our core beliefs and rituals are dependent upon a belief in God. To remove God from the lodge, would be to remove the letter ‘G’, from above the Master’s chair; to remove the lodge being dedicated to him and the Saints Johns of Jerusalem, is to remove the foundation of Masonry itself. While I can argue that an atheist can be just as ethical as a man of faith, I cannot envision American Blue Lodge Masonry without faith in God as a core belief. We begin and end our proceedings by invoking the blessing of deity. We ask the candidate almost immediately upon their entrance to the lodge for their very first time to attend to prayer and in whom they place their trust. Their answer is a declaration of faith in deity, and is answered that their faith is well founded.

Furthermore, the ritual makes multiple references to God, the volume of the sacred law and our submission to our faith in deity. In fact, if we use Mackey’s definition of the Great Architect of the Universe, it does a very good job of arguing why Deity is important to Freemasonry: “The title applied in the technical language of Freemasonry to the Deity. It is appropriate that a society founded on the principles of architecture, which symbolizes the terms of that science to moral purposes, and whose members profess to be the architects of a spiritual temple, should view the Divine Being, under whose holy law they are constructing that edifice, as their Master Builder of Great Architect. Sometimes, but less correctly, the title "Grand Architect of the Universe" is found.” Esoterically and allegorically, our rituals cannot be understood without a tie to the belief in the Grand Architect. Our ritual is steeped with references to Old Testament characters which uses them to teach our allegorical lessons of our degrees. The volume of the sacred law is one of the Great Lights of Masonry, and is the rule and guide of our faith.

So, I cannot in good conscience support an Atheist joining regular Blue Lodge Freemasonry given the complex relationship between having faith in a deity and the ritual. Let this be clear, I personally have nothing against Atheism. I just do not see what Freemasonry offers to the atheist other than placing them in an untenable position. Should one want to join, and is willing to be deceitful to do so, then we would never know what is truly in their heart. However, to do so, would be against the Masonic tenet of Truth. As we are taught: “Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry.” If you cannot be good and true, with the Masonic definition of truth being a divine attribute (from God), then you cannot be a Mason. Since Atheists, do not believe in God, then they cannot be true from our Masonic Point of view. Ergo, they cannot be a Freemason in a regular Lodge of Freemasons. 

~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

The 50 Year Member - Just an Old Photo On the Wall

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Bill Hosler 


“He needs to rest, so please make sure your visit is brief,” the nurse told the 50 Year member as he and Pudge were about to enter the hospital room. “Yes ma’am, we won’t stay long.” The nurse stopped and hesitated for a moment:“You are family members of his, aren’t you?” The old man smiled. “Yes ma’am, he is my brother.” She smiled, “I’m so glad. The poor man has been in here so long and has never had a visitor. You can see the loneliness in his eyes.”

The 50 Year member peeked into the sterile hospital room. He could see Martin Baker lying quietly in a hospital bed. The only sounds that broke the silence in the man's darkened room were that of the machines providing the medicines keeping him alive, beeping as the life-giving drugs coursed through his veins.

Martin was a long-time member of the 50 year member's lodge. The old man felt like he knew Martin his entire life. Which, for the most part was correct. Martin and the old man’s father served together in the same unit during World War II and after the war they continued their friendship for decades.

The two men and their wives socialized together, some nights playing bridge at each other’s houses. And both family’s kids spent summers at each others homes playing baseball and other games. Some of the 50 years members earliest and favorite childhood memories are spending time at the lodge building with Martin and his dad while they served as officers. The fondest memory of Martin was when he served as the Senior Deacon conducting him through his Master Mason degree while the old man’s dad sat in the east and obligated him.

The shuffling of feet into the quiet hospital room seem to wake Martin up. A smile came across his face as his eyes tried to focus in the darkened room: “John, Is that you?”  “It sure is Marty. I heard you were in here, I wanted to make sure you were okay and see if you needed anything.” Martin looked into the 50 year member's eyes and said with a feeble smile. “I’m doing okay. They are taking good care of me, considering everything that is wrong with me.” He looked over and saw Pudge standing near the foot of his hospital bed. "Who is this young man? Is this one of your sons?”

The 50-year member chuckled “Nope, but he might as well be. Marty this is Jeremy Pugslie. Most people just call him Pudge. He belongs to the lodge." Despite the many IV tubes, Marty raised his right arm and gave Pudge a certain grip. In a quiet voice Marty said, “Good to know you Brother. I’m sorry I don’t get down to the lodge much like I used to. I don’t get to meet many of the newer members.”

“I totally understand,” Pudge said. “I’ve heard a lot about you from John.” Martin laughed through a cough, “I bet you have. I could tell you a lot about him, too. I remember once, a long time ago when he was still in short britches, he carved the name of a girl he liked on the wall of the lodge’s preparation room with a pen knife when he was supposed to be cleaning it. His father tanned his hide so hard…” The 50 year member stopped Marty’s story, “Careful Marty, I am trying to run for sainthood and I can’t have these young ones know I am not perfect.” The 50 year member said with a laugh in his voice. Marty smiled and said, “Well son, you will never get elected as long as I am still on this earth. I know all your secrets. Lucky for you the doctor said I won’t be around here much longer.” Martin said quietly.

The 50 year member took the old man's hand and grasped it, trying to choke the tears away, “Oh Marty don’t believe those doctors. You are I both know they don’t know as much as they think they do.” Martin grasped Johns hand back. “I’m afraid this time they might be right. I can see the writing on the wall as clearly as I can see that girl's name you carved on the wall all those years ago.”

Martin continued, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve lived a good life. But sadly, most of the folks I have known all my life have went before me. I can tell because my daughter told me she called the lodge to let the brothers know I was in here and I wasn’t doing well. When I was in active in lodge we used to make it a priority to visit members or their wives in the hospital and make sure they didn’t have any needs. I never heard from anybody. I guess I have gotten so old I have been forgotten just another old dinosaur. I’m just an old photo on the Past Masters wall that no one ever looks at anymore. I know all these men are busy at their jobs, raising kids and trying to keep their wives happy,” Martin said with a slight smile on his face. “We had all of that and more in our day. But when we got a call from the lodge that a Brother was sick or his family was in a desperate situation, we all came running. I guess they are all busy with those charity projects the lodge does now that I read about in the paper.”

“I am just so glad you two came here to see me. I can’t say thank you to you both enough." A tear began to run down Martin’s cheek as his voice began to falter.

“You know I am scared but I am also happy because I will finally be able to stand in the Northeast corner of the Celestial lodge above and hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I will finally get to sit in lodge with your dad again and all those old guys I have think about every day. But John, I need you to promise me something. Since I had all daughters they don’t understand Masonry. When my time comes to climb those winding stairs will you please make sure I get a Masonic funeral? I will make sure to tell my daughter to get my apron to you.”

The 50 year member sitting at the edge of Martin’s bed. Tears running down his cheeks, his hands shaking said to Martin, “Of course I will Brother. I will personally conduct the service, if I can keep from crying, I am also going to promise you something else. I promise to make sure that you won’t be just another old photo on the wall and I will make sure no other member of this lodge ever feels like they just an old photo either.”


~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.

It is with Great Excitement...

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R. H. Johnson

Over the past year, I have been able to cultivate a relationship with Robert E. Jackson. I first met him at the 2017 Masonic Con in Attleboro, MA. It was a fantastic event that Ezekiel Bates Lodge had put on for the second time.   Rob and I had dinner together with some other delightful gents and I got to know him. In fact, you may have heard of his temple, Montgomery Lodge in Milford MA, the same lodge that does Brothers Blend Coffee.

Rob and I later connected on Facebook and have since enjoyed great conversation and camaraderie. He's also been able to submit several guest pieces to our blog, right here on The Midnight Freemasons. A list of his writings is below.


Last Sunday I returned from Massachusetts where I had been a panelist at Masonic Con 2018. It was another amazing event, bigger than last year and even more successful. While there, I got to hang out and chat with Rob again. It was a wonderful time. Rob's dedication to the craft and his unique ability to convey and connect to our readers on a fundamental level have marked him favorably. We are pleased to announce that Robert E. Jackson is going ot be joining us as a Regular Contributor.

Please join me in congratulating him and I hope you all continue to enjoy his works.

Rob's past articles:

The 24 Inch Gauge – Size Does Matter
The Importance of a Meeting

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







~RHJ

Guarding the West Gate: Part Two

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners


I recently wrote regarding a dilemma that I was facing in one of the Lodges that I belong to. You can read that article HERE. If you want the TL;DR(Too Long Didn’t Read) version of it, it dealt with my thought process regarding allowing a man into the Fraternity who had a felony conviction. I felt conflicted regarding this, balancing what I felt was every Master Mason’s obligation to guard the west gate against what could have just been a youthful indiscretion. The dilemma was, if a man is the same person at age 18, 19, 20 versus 30, 40, 50, etc. I think that we can all agree that the answer is no.

The candidate joined us for dinner prior to lodge a few nights ago. Both I and fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott were able to meet him and investigate him. None of the other brothers seemed to be interested in asking him questions at this time, so I sat next to him and introduced myself. We engaged in small talk, with me asking him what he did for a living and he asked me the same thing. Then Greg and I got down to business. The first thing we asked him was regarding his felony. He was forthright and honest. He was 17, and he and two friends who were younger, fell in with some kids who had been doing something on campus here at the University of Illinois. The short story is that they were caught and the candidate was given a choice. He could plead guilty to the felony as an adult and get parole, or face prison. To complicate matters, he had just had a son. So left with not much of a choice, he chose to remain free to care for his child.

As he was telling us this story, you could see the sadness in his eyes and expressions. I could tell that he deeply regretted that choice. He discussed the difficulty of finding work with a felony conviction. He said he was lucky that his older brother had a business so he could work for him. He learned his brother’s craft and started his own business. He works mostly on contract for realtors and leasing agents in the home improvement business. We also found out that two years ago he was in a terrible motorcycle accident, and he lost a leg. He was going too fast for conditions and the road curved and he dumped the bike. He’s lucky to be alive.

Greg and I asked him why he wanted to become a Mason. He simply stated that he had heard that we were a good organization that did charitable things and he had a desire to do that. He said that he was tired of ‘twiddling his thumbs’ at home, and needed something positive in his life. I explained to him that we also were about improving ourselves as men. He asked us what our expectations of him were. I told him that I would expect him to be an active member. That he would be at the meetings, degrees, and other lodge activities like the charitable activities. He said that he’d do that. He expressed a concern that he wouldn’t be voted in because of his past. I was quite frank in telling him that I was very concerned about hearing he had a record. After hearing that it occurred when he was a minor gave me pause for thought. Yes he was old enough to know better, but not technically an adult. Given that he was forthright in his sorrow over the incident, I saw how he desired to make a change in his life.

We asked him if he believed in God. He affirmed a belief in a supreme being, and that he was Christian. Not knowing much about Masonry, he was under the impression that it was a Christian organization. I explained to him that it is an organization that requires a belief in a supreme being, but leaves it up to you to define what that is. I did tell him that in the York Rite appendant body, the Knights Templar degree is only offered to. Greg then asked him, if this were a job interview, what would you say to me to try to get the job? He answered, that he was a good listener and a hard worker. That he doesn’t complain, and will get the job done.

In my previous article, I mentioned that the candidate’s answer to why he wanted to join would determine my course of action. The fact that he answered that he wanted to help others through acts of charity satisfied me. He didn’t mention himself. He showed remorse for what he did in the past. He wanted to do charitable works in the community. I think he saw this as a way to continue to pay penance for what he did, even if he didn’t say that. Greg and I asked him the difficult questions, ones that usually aren’t asked. We guarded the West Gate.

You are made a Mason in your heart. My brothers, I will be the first to admit I was hasty in a rush to judgement. I looked at the man’s crime, and expected that he’d be some hardened criminal unworthy to join our ranks. I looked him in the eye and apologized that night. I also decided that should he get elected, I would mentor him. I owe him that. He was humble and honest about his past. His heart was pure. He is a good man, and he wants to become better. Isn’t that what we advertise we do?

~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.

Golf Numbers Are Down Too

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott



Our local newspaper the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette had a front-pagestory today about the status of golf courses in the area. Many of the courses are hurting financially because the number of rounds played is down about. The paper reported that nationally more than 5 percent of all golf courses have closed in since 2005 and the number of participants has declined from a high of 30 million in 2005 down to 23.8 million in 2016.

In our area, one course is already closed and couple of others are on the verge of closing as well. One course was sold and re-opened as a 12-hole course. One of the owners of a course was quoted as saying "It's a different world. People are busy now, so we think that 12 holes is the place to be. They don't have time for 18," said Percy, whose group runs the only 12-hole course in the area.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Here at the Midnight Freemasons and on numerous other blogs and podcasts across the internet have been filled with articles on how to improve Freemasonry, how to get new members, how to make things easier, getting back to the basics etc.

Freemasonry is not alone on feeling the changes in society. At times we are very hard on ourselves about what is wrong with Freemasonry. But for all of things that could be improved in the craft, I personally believe we have a very awesome organization already in place.

Just as societal changes have impacted golf, they have also affected this fraternity. But we are adapting and positive changes are happening in this fraternity across the nation. A renewed focus on education has taken hold in many lodges. The fraternity is on a path to return to our roots and focus on what we do best, making good men better.

I am firmly convinced that greatest day in this fraternity is today. We have a long rich history as a fraternity, but today is what matters. I’ve seen the difference this fraternity has made in the lives of countless members, including myself. That’s happening across the nation every day when a lodge meets, initiates another brother or is out helping the community.

Make today count. Go to your blue lodge meetings, invite back a brother who hasn’t been there in a while, give a petition to a deserving potential brother, write a paper for lodge education or visit another lodge to meet some new brothers.

Just as the golfing industry is adjusting, so is Freemasonry and we will be stronger for it.

~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.

The Importance of a Meeting

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson


When is my next meeting? Ugh, that's too far out. I need to find a meeting. This day was complete crap, work is driving me nuts, family pressures are surmounting, and tax season. Arrgh! Great, I found a meeting, show up, there is coffee, some sweets, and people that I can speak with openly and trust not to judge me for my indiscretions.

Growing up in a household plagued with addictions, the discussion of 'finding a meeting' happened at least monthly, but not always the same person. The purpose for finding the meeting, however, is always the same. Things are going rough in life. Heightened stress and anxiety, pushing you to take another drink. Once in that meeting, though, you are surrounded by people who care about you, and your success in sobriety. People that will accept you, no matter what you've done, recognizing how difficult it was simply to be there, and that you're there for one reason, to improve yourself in sobriety. See any parallels? I'm hoping so…

This week was rough. I'm still not sure why. Any number of things can contribute to an 'off' day. The demands of Lodge, Scouts, Work, Family can ebb and flow on their own cycles. When those things add up though, sometimes life's challenges can seem insurmountable. Almost like a tidal wave of responsibilities and expectations, ready to knock you on your ass no matter how hard you try to stay on your feet. These are the times, when I need a meeting.

Last night, my Masonic District had our monthly Lodge of Instruction. Officers from around the district gather at one of our Lodges for a program assembled by our Grand Lodge. In the past, these programs have centered around a PowerPoint presentation, very similar to the presentation received the year before. Lately, however, the programs have become more interactive. Discussions of topics ranging from various interpretations of the circumpunct, to creating a value proposition for the Lodge. Last night's discussion was a great reflection on whether or not we were living up to the promise and ideals of Masonry. In the course of a few hours, I went from wondering how the world would be impacted if I simply drove into a telephone pole, to being excited about the prospects of our beloved Fraternity and its impact on our culture. None of my Brothers knew about my mental state walking into the meeting, but just by being there, by being my Brothers, they lifted me up yet again.

I'm not looking for a pitty-party, or any sympathy, with this paper. I have been incredibly fortunate in my life, and I fully understand that my trials are insignificant compared to many. However, I felt it important to tell this story for a couple of reasons. We all have our own struggles, and sometimes it can be really difficult to find a way out. Finding a meeting may help more than you know. Additionally, when you are sitting in Lodge, make that effort to reach out to a Brother. It doesn't have to be much…a simple handshake or compassionate smile may be all it takes to save a Brothers life.

~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 .

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


No matter how I struggle and strive 
I'll never get out of this world alive”-Hank Williams 

That line comes from a song my parents used to play on our record player at home many times throughout my youth entitled, “I’ll never get out of this world alive” by Hank Williams. The song which was written by Williams and his music publisher Frank Rose, a partner of Brother Roy Acuff, who was a member of East Nashville Lodge No. 560, Tennessee. Ironically the song was released after the death of Hank William who passed away on New Years Day in 1953. The song hit number one on the charts later that January.

When I was a child every morning seemed to start out the same way. From my bed I could tell it was 5:30 in the morning without an alarm clock, It didn’t matter what season of the year it was, the stillness of the morning would be shattered by the sound of my mother rattling the grates of the cook stove in the kitchen, preparing to build a fire to warm the house and later to make breakfast for the family.

The smell of coffee and wood smoke began to fill the whole house as the crackle of the fire inside the stove broke the stillness of the morning. My mother would take a cup of coffee and that days edition of the Journal Gazette newspaper and would start her morning ritual of reading the days obituaries.

She would joke about her routine by saying “Every morning I get up and read the obituaries and if my name isn’t printed inside then I get my day started.” Once she finished reading her paper and the contents of her coffee cup were gone she would put out the remainder of her unfinished Camel cigarette and depending on the time of year, mom would either put her cast iron frying pan to make our breakfast before she took us to school or perhaps start her day working in her quarter acre garden or canning and preserving the bounty the Grand Architect of the universe assisted her in growing. Mom worked hard her entire life until that day, March 21,1991, when she apparently did read her name in that newspaper, because she left us to reside in heaven. It was time for a rest after a long hard scramble life.

Maybe it’s my age but over the last year I’ve noticed the passing of friends, family and my Masonic Brethren. They've been shedding their mortal coils in a far greater number than I can ever remember in my life before this point. I don’t discover the demise of friends and Brethren from the newspaper like my mother did most of the time, I receive word through emails or through Facebook.

Sadly these deaths have made me reflect on my own situation. Now that I have reached my fifth decade. I've been fighting things like blindness and other physical maladies. I realize I am no longer the young man I once was. Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling it quits anytime soon but I am beginning to realize I am not immortal.

We all know the Craft does not say that our dogma will, if you practice and abide by our teachings assure your advancement to heaven or as we call it “The Grand Lodge Above” or “The Celestial Lodge”. Freemasonry is not, and never will be a religion. That is one reason why we expect members to possess a belief in a Supreme Being. But we do believe the teachings of Freemasonry will make you a better man, which should, if practiced correctly assist you with your journey to where you believe you will reside once you leave this earth. We may not be a religion but our Fraternity does teach us many things about death and mortality.

Freemasonry teaches us much about death, an exemplification of the symbolism which reminds us about our time on this earth and just how short it can be. 

It also teaches us, as it does in all of its teachings, that death is the one true way each one us us who travel on that level of time are truly on the level. Death doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your age, your color, your sex, or the size of your bank account. You will not be spared. Death is the true “Grand Leveler”, as the rapper Apathy sings about. We are reminded about this fact through the symbology of the skull, that symbol that millennials find so fascinating.

Other symbols include the symbol of Father Time unraveling the ringlets of the hair of a maiden, a broken column to a single sprig of evergreen and many more I won’t mention here.

I like to believe as my personal faith teaches me, that all of these friends, family and Brethren whom I now mourn, are waiting for me in a place where there is no sorrow or pain. To stand in front of the Grand Architect of the Universe wearing my white leather apron to hear those words, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” As we are told by the Senior Warden as my first apron was tied around my waist

In the end we are all just guessing about what lies before us. We all have our beliefs or faiths. One day we will finish walking, “that level of time to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns." We will know if we were right or if we were mistaken. All I know is I hope I can see my friends and hug my family and see if my mother's cooking is as good as I remember, before I sit down to spread some cement with some of my Brethren who I greatly miss.

~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.

I Spent the Night at the Valley of St. Louis...Alone

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



Earlier this year I was asked if I was going to attend the Spring Reunion of the Valley of St. Louis in April 2018. I had to tell my good friends that because I was traveling to Ohio for a short speaking tour and also, that I was going to Masonic Con 2018 in that same month, it would be next to impossible. Just too much time away from home.

Fast forward a couple months, it's April and I'd just arrived in Ohio to speak at the beautiful Willoughby Chapter #231 when I received an email from Randy Davis, a brother I'd never met. He asked if I could come down to St. Louis to talk at the Grandmaster's Breakfast. I took a deep breath. I called my wife. I think she said something like, "You can't turn down a request from a Grand Master like that." So I emailed him back and said I'd be there.

We hammered out the logistics and it turns out this was the same weekend that the St Louis Reunion was happening. It looked as though I'd attend the reunion after all. I arrived on Friday evening, just in time to see an excellent portrayal of the 14th degree. I looked around the library and then went to my accommodations for the evening, the dormitory.

The Dorm

I first slept here a few years ago and I loved it. I highly recommend the experience of a dorm stay at a valley, whether it's St. Louis or Guthrie or wherever. Typically, at the Valley of St. Louis there are about thirty beds, which are all filled up. Guys come in on Friday, and stay the night and head home Saturday, unless you're me. I stayed over an additional night into Sunday.

Getting ready for a degree.

I was told it would be fine by the Valley Secretary, the always awesome, Ill. Bro. Bret Akers. I was then told that there would be Brothers at the Valley until late, like 2am or 3am to clean up after the Reunion for a dance show that's coming to the venue. So I went along about the day, attended degrees, and at 5pm, I departed for a dinner with the Grandmaster with my liaison, Randy Davis. During the dinner, gents kept telling me that I was crazy, that the Valley was haunted, when they heard I was staying the night alone. And even that should look out for, "the Green Man". Afterwards, Randy Davis dropped me back off at the Valley and I made myself at home in the dorm, all by myself.

A view standing outside the dorm, looking down the
hall at the other end. Yes, it's dark. 

I stayed up a little late. I think I closed my eyes around midnight. I woke up a few hours later around 2am and heard some old wooden soled shoes walking the halls and some clear voices talking about reimbursements or something of the like. I went back to bed. I woke the next morning and made my way to the Grandmaster's breakfast where I was to present.

Setting up for the Grandmasters Breakfast

Before the event really started, I saw my great friends Jacob Thompson and Randy Sanders. I walked over and said, "Good morning.",  and exchanged the usual pleasantries. Jacob asked how I slept and I told him that I slept very well. I informed him that I only woke up once and that I heard them talking about some stuff and making final rounds before leaving the building around 2am.

Jacob then told me, "We left at 11pm."

~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.