Freemasonry: It’s What’s for Dinner

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

I’m sure you're thinking by the title of this piece I am going to give you a great recipe for Salisbury Steak or a way to spice up green beans for your next lodge meeting. Nope! But it would make a great article (For Pinterest maybe, but not for this website.)

Recently I have begun to realize some dishes we eat every day will look and taste different, even though the dishes all have the same name. Take chili for instance.

If you order a bowl of chili in Texas, you will get a spicy red bowl of soup filled with chunks of beef like brisket, onions, beer without beans. Garnishes include sour cream, cheese or Fritos corn chips.

In the Midwest the soup will have lots of beans, sometimes several different types, ground beef and under normal circumstances, the midwestern dish will be less spicy than its Texas Cousin. It is usually served with saltine crackers.

Cincinnati chili is a totally different animal. Chili lovers in the Queen City cook their chili with a small amount of chocolate.The dish is also served in different “ways”. Two-way: spaghetti topped with chili, Three-way: spaghetti, chili, and cheese, Four-way: spaghetti, chili, cheese, and onions., Four-way bean: spaghetti, chili, cheese, and beans (beans substituted for the onions), Five-way: spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions, and beans.

There are other types dishes some people would call chili including a vegetarian dish and a white soup with white navy beans and contains chicken as it’s protein. In my opinion, these aren’t chili and in my opinion are clandestine and won’t be discussed here.

I also believe what you consider chili and your preferences for this dish comes from the part of the country (or world) from which you hail from. The spices which your pallet craves, can be a fun and educational event to attend, like a chili cook off where you can taste all of these versions of chili or even more varieties. Many times these competitions will display a cooks culinary capabilities (Or lack of capabilities in some cases). In my opinion, Freemasonry is much the same way.

As we all know here in the United States there is no general grand lodge. This leaves each state, or jurisdiction, to set up Freemasonry the way they feel it should be. Much like a chili recipe, each of these grand lodges started out their organization with a few similar ingredients and over the years while the dish was cooking they began to add or subtract ingredients which fit their tastes better until they had a dish which suited their pallet.

These recipes can endure for many generations, with the occasional addition or subtraction of an ingredient to satisfy a particular persons flavor profile.

Sadly some timeless recipes can be changed to the point in which the people who would be served the dish might find it inedible. Many times in the pursuit of profit, a business (Or even worse some lodges I’ve seen) will replace quality ingredients with less expensive items, maybe add “fillers” to stretch the recipe which brings the cost of servings lower, thereby expanding their profits. Or maybe, even leaving some ingredients out altogether to cheapen the costs and Maximize their profits. Most of the time the chili will begin to taste terrible and the customers will quit coming in, and the only way the business will survive is having to continually bring in new customers who haven’t tried their terrible food before. Eventually, the business will run out of new customers or word of mouth will keep others from trying the restaurants’ food. Sadly the the owner’s shortsighted practices will resort in the doors of the restaurant to close forever.

In the last few decades, In my opinion many Grand Lodges (Or local lodges) have began to change their original recipes, replacing Freemasonry’s quality ingredients like a quality Masonic experience, Masonic education, and Brotherly love with the cheaper ingredients like long boring meetings, arguing over bills and baloney sandwiches served with room temperature Kool-Aide.

Much like the chili, the cheapening of the recipe for a successful Masonic lodge, the removing of the quality will cause the lodge members to stop coming and the lodge will have to rely and a constant flow of new members joining to keep the lodge going until eventually, the flow of new members will dry up, and like the restaurant the doors of the lodge will close.

Brethren as much as people want to eat quality food they also want a quality lodge experience. Much like a restaurant wants return customers, Masonic lodges want their members to return to the lodge and be active. Over the last half century, we have established that long boring meetings, substandard ritual and constantly being shanghaied to work in fundraising activities isn’t working. If we want to be successful we must return to our original recipe.

Now if I can come up with a way to compare store bought canned chili to one day classes….


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

The West Gate Dilemma

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I have recently encountered a situation within Freemasonry that I had hoped that I would never encounter. I have always been steadfast with my belief that we need to Guard the West Gate. That there are certain men that lack the character to become Freemasons. While my view might be thought of as elitist, I still think that I need to protect the fraternity. This being said, let me discuss my situation.

One of the lodges I belong to read the petition of a man who had committed a felony when he was a young adult. The petition was read and I was the only vote in dissent of accepting it. The man who is the top signer is someone in Freemasonry that I admire. I trust his judgement, but yet I still feel obligated to guard the west gate.

Another brother that I respect and admire also told a story. It was about a brother who as a young man had too much to drink. He passed out in the backseat of a car. His two mates decided that it would be a good idea to take said car, with said brother in the back seat, to steal tools. They were caught and all three of them were booked. Luckily, the brother having no knowledge of the crime and not participating in it did not get in trouble. He went on to be a Past Master and a 33rd Degree Freemason in the Scottish Rite. It could have been a different story. His point was that youthful indiscretions should be forgiven.

We’ve all made mistakes right? Let those among you without sin cast the first stone! Where do I draw the line? I just can’t shake the feeling that I need to do what is right for the Fraternity. I don’t want to judge a book by its cover, however I also don’t want to make a decision that I’ll regret. You see my brethren, if we are so desperate for men to join our ranks that we will consider accepting felons, then I feel like we need to close the doors.

We have a real problem in Freemasonry currently. It’s a crisis of identity. An identity crisis is a period of uncertainty and confusion during which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society. Applied to Freemasonry, we can’t decide what we want to be. Do we want to accept every petition that comes to our lodges just because we have an issue with membership? We need to make a choice. We need to decide what we want to be. Do we want to be an average fraternal organization or do we want something better for ourselves?

I want to have men that want to be Freemasons, but I also want to have men that I can look at proudly as being a member of the Fraternity. We as an organization are who we let into our fraternity. Not every man should be able to be a Freemason just because they pay their degree fees and fill out an application. I have, in my time, voted for members that later became habitually derelict on paying their dues. Those that never show up for lodge, and that we chase year after year for dues, don’t really belong in our organization do they?

We need to do better. If we allow the election of members that have committed a felony, then why do we kick those out that have committed felonies during the course of their membership? In my mind, they are one in the same. I’d go one step further, I’d ask for automatic suspension of any member that has a pending felony charge, along with a communication from Grand Lodge regarding said Felony. What would happen if we had someone that committed a Felony as a member of our Fraternity, but they took a plea deal that lessened their charge to a Misdemeanor? Don’t you feel like you would benefit from having this transparency? I would have a hard time being a member of an organization that put forth an aura of wanting only good men, to find out that we might have skeletons hiding in our closet.

So, I’m still left with my crisis of conscience. On the one hand, if I were in a similar situation, wouldn’t I want a second chance? On the other, I need to guard the west gate. The candidate in question is joining us for our pre-lodge dinner before we vote next meeting. So I’ve decided that I’m going to ask him a question. It’s really simple really. Why does he want to join our Fraternity? It’s a question that I have asked every candidate that I have been able to interview. Based upon what the answer is, then I’ll make my decision. So far a candidate has never convinced me not to vote for them. This is the first time that the answer will determine if I vote for them. I hope it’s the right answer.


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

Perfect Ashlars And Broken Sidewalks

 by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
Bro. Gregory Dustin Farris

The bicycle path that I use on my way to 9:00 am class is of a peculiar design. In order to preserve the existing trees, the engineers designed two parallel, narrow walks, allowing for the trees to remain in the middle, rather than one wider path that allows for traffic to flow in both directions. One rainy morning, my path was blocked by flooding that had overcome the entire westbound lane. Eager to get out of the rain and be punctual to class, I steered my bike across the grass median, into the eastbound lane. Immediately, I was stopped by the pavement, which had become uneven, separating in large chunks as the force of gravity had conformed the pavement to the earth. Passible only in the proper eastward travel, I gave up on this path and walked my bike out and around the water.

As I pushed my bike, I kept hearing in my head the words of a Brother Master Mason who helped guide my early steps in the fraternity. “Masonry isn’t walking cornrows, and you’re trying to walk cornrows. Slow down,” he would say when I would attend the occasional workers club. This advice seemed to extend to the aspects of Masonry outside of the lodge, in the opinion of this man. When I was eager to get involved in an array of appendant bodies well before I had properly examined the Blue Lodge, I was met with the same caution against “walking cornrows.” This proved to be sound advice, as I found myself overwhelmed and in penalty of suspension for non-payment of dues. Nearly twenty years later, I am finally comfortable with tiptoeing into York Rite.

On that bike ride in the rain, I had the fortune of being slowed down enough by those puddles that I realized I had been walking cornrows and nearly missed an important Masonic lesson the world was offering. That piece of pavement was whole and straight when it was placed upon that stretch of earth. As the grade of the ground and the action of the bicycles pressed and pushed, the needs of the earth were realized by the pavement. This, in my opinion, is an amazing expression of a Rough Ashlar becoming the Perfect Ashlar.

Seeing the manner in which that bicycle path found the true purpose it was to serve in the whole of its existence inspired me to further consider the Ashlars. Just as a stone gathered from a quarry, rough and imperfect might be polished and worked to the specifications of the Master so as to fit the purpose an entire building, we Freemasons, have taken the quest of polishing and perfecting ourselves as stones to fit the specifications The Grand Architect has designed for this building called earth.

Each of us as Masons have our own missions. No matter the design of that mission, it certainly involves becoming a better person and being able to better help others. If we would each take the time to hear the words of my friend and Brother, Dr. William E. Alwerdt, and, “Stop walking cornrows,” we might all find, daily, ways to remove the rough and superfluous parts of ourselves and soon become a Perfect Ashlar like that bicycle path that slowed my day into reflection.

Each moment of a person’s life can operate as a learning opportunity. I have attended lodge under a Worshipful Master who makes the challenge to his lodge, immediately before closing, “If you have the chance to do something nice for someone, go ahead and do it.” Sending us Masons into the world with this instruction serves the purpose of better hueing the part of our personal stone that derives its strength from charity. There are opportunities to apply this thinking to all aspects of life. In any situation, a person can ponder how they might best be fit to serve that situation. How can you become the Perfect Ashlar in your home, workplace, marriage, church and community? The lodge that is our world under the watchful governance of the Supreme Architect tends to give clues to answering these questions if we slow down and apply masonic concepts to our perceptions.

Masonry does not have to stop when the lights turn of and the gavel sounds. Masons walk around in the same world as everyone else. The difference is, we have been taught how to view it. We all, as Masons, have an idea of our mission. Mine is to make the world a living lodge. I challenge you to define yours.


Brother Gregory Dustin Farris is a member of and was raised in George A. Sentel Lodge #764 in Sullivan, Illinois. He is a plural member and active attender at Urbana Lodge #157. He is a husband and dachshund enthusiast with the mission of opening a Masonic club for pet owners. He can be reached at

Freemason Roadtrip: Fort McHenry

by Midnight Freemason Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

"And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

~Francis Scott Key

We all know the story.  On the morning of September 13, 1814, British warship began a brutal bombardment Fort McHenry--a bombardment that lasted 25 hours.  However, the following morning, September 14th, it was obvious that the Fort had withstood the constant bombardment of cannon fire and rockets.  The message was clear.  The small storm flag which measured 17 x 25 feet, had been replaced with the garrison flag that Major George Armistead had ordered when he took over Fort McHenry.  He described the flag he wanted made as "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance."  That flag measured 30 x 42 feet.  When the British saw that flag the next morning, it signaled to them that the Americans had won.  Francis Scott Key having witness that bombardment and the Star Spangled Banner waving proudly that morning wrote a poem called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry."  The words of that poem would later become the National Anthem.  The British withdrew, and Baltimore Harbor was safe.

I visited Fort McHenry a couple years ago.  Three Masons from Illinois decided to go on a road trip to Washington D.C.--Greg Knott, Denver Phelps, and myself.  We stopped a few places along the way.  Gettysburg and Fort McHenry were two stops we made.  I've visited old forts before, and generally, there isn't a lot to see other than brickwork.  Fort McHenry did have a huge place in American history, so I was pleased to have a chance to see it.  And it was a beautiful June day--clear blue sky, and a nice cool breeze.

They had a very nice visitor's center at Fort McHenry.  The fort is some distance away up the hill from it.  We went through the museum and took in all the exhibits.  Just about the time we were getting ready to leave they started a video presentation.  We decided to stay and watch it.  It was a description of the 1814 bombardment of Fort McHenry.  It was very well done, and made us all feel very patriotic and very anxious to go up and see the fort.  As the presentation ended, the National Anthem began to play--of course all the veterans stood up.  Suddenly, the entire wall that the movie was being shown on began to open up, and behind it was a huge picture window.  And up the hill in the distance stood Fort McHenry, with its enormous Star Spangled Banner waving over it.

That may have been one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen--it couldn't have been any better choreographed.  It's one of those things that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your arms, and puts a lump in your throat.  I've seen a lot of America, and visited many famous places, however, I'm unlikely to ever forget the first time I saw Fort McHenry.  I saw it much the same way Francis Scott Key had back in 1814.  I believe that was the entire point of that presentation--to show visitors Fort McHenry for the first time as Francis Scott Key had seen it as the daylight dawned on September 14th, 1814.

If you're in the Baltimore area, don't miss it. 


 Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754.  He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282.  You can contact him at:

Timeless Traditions

by Midnight Freemason Senior Contributor
WB Greg J. Knott

When somebody tells you a story, as long as that story lasts, you're caught in this sort of timeless moment. Michael Paterniti

One of the greatest strengths of our fraternity is the timeless traditions that are passed from one generation to the next. Our ritual work is at the heart of this tradition. If it was possible to go back in time, you could enter any lodge in America over the past 200 years, be able to watch or participate in a degree and the words would generally be the same.

These timeless traditions came to mind as I attended a third degree at Sidney Lodge No. 347 in Sidney, Illinois. This lodge isn’t far from where I live, but for whatever reason, I have seldom attended any functions there. Sidney lodge was charted in 1860 and is still going strong. They have five new brothers coming through the degrees at the current time and are working hard to improve their lodge.

The lodge is located in heart of downtown Sidney, which has about a 2-block business district. At one time the Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias also had lodges in town, but it is the Freemasons that have survived and thrived in Sidney.

Sitting in that lodge room that night, I looked at the old Past Master pictures hanging on the wall and thought these men went through the exact same degree work that the brother was about to have conferred upon him.

The degree work that night was excellent. A new brother Master Mason was raised and Sidney lodge had its newest member, just like the degree night 158 years ago.

The next time you are attending a degree or stated meeting, take a minute and think about all the men who have passed that way before you and know that you are sharing the same experiences they did. You now share in the obligation of helping carry that tradition into the future for men who will petition to become Freemasons that may not have even been born yet.

As a Freemason you are carrying on these timeless traditions.


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 Secrets of the Boy Scout Fleur De Lis

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I recently gave a presentation to a Group of Boy Scouts from Homer Illinois, Troop 42 at Homer Lodge #199. I called it the Secret Meaning of the Symbols of Scouting. I decided that I liked my research so much that it would make a great article for the Midnight Freemasons, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did putting it together.

The primary identifying symbol of the Boy Scouts is the Fleur de Lis. This symbol was adopted by Sir Robert Baden – Powell due to it being the symbol used by soldiers who qualified for the position of Scout (reconnaissance specialist) for the 5th Dragoon Guards, which was the unit he commanded at the end of the 19th Century. In 1907, Baden-Powell made brass fleur-de-lis badges for the boys attending his first experimental ‘Boy Scout’ Camp at Brownsea Island. In his seminal book, Scouting for Boys, he referred to the motif as “the arrowhead which shows the North on a map or a compass” and that “It is the Badge of the Scout because it points in the right direction and upward… The three points remind you of the three points of the Scout Promise, being Duty to God and Country, helping others and keeping the Scout Law. 

In addition to the Fleur De Lis, the emblem also has two stars, which stand for truth and knowledge. The Eagle stands for the Freedom that the United States affords. The shield on the Eagle represents a Scout’s readiness to defend that Freedom. The scroll is the smile on a Scout’s face as he does a good turn. The knot reminds a Scout to “Do a Good Turn Daily”.

We can contrast the Fleur de Lis with the Masonic Square and Compass. The Square and Compass is the primary symbol used by and which identifies Freemasons. We proudly display it on our rings, regalia, clothing, cars, and pretty much anywhere we can put it. We adopted this symbol because we grew out of the medieval trade guilds of the operative Stone Masons, who were free to travel in these times because their craft was in such high demand. 

By the square, A mason is taught to “Square his actions by the square of virtue with all mankind”. The compass, exemplifies the wisdom of our conduct. We are taught as Freemasons to “Circumscribe our desires and keep our passions within due bounds”. When these two tools are placed together we note that the “G” representing God is the central focal point, and that Peace and Harmony is the result.

Like Freemasonry, the Fleur de Lis can be traced back to ancient Babylon. The Sumerians worshipped three primary Gods, based upon Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz. These three gods represented a trinity for them. Nimrod was also known by several names. One of which was “Kronos”, which means ‘The Horned One’. The horn is a symbol of power or might. Genesis 10:8-10 tells us: “And Cush begat Nimrod: he bagan to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech and Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar”. 

The meaning of the name, “Kronos”, “The Horned One”, as applied to Nimrod fully explains the origin of the Fleur De Lis. Three horns frequently occurred among the Nineveh sculptures, the gigantic Horned man-bull representing the great divinities in Assyria. The same word that signified a bull, also signified a ruler or prince… BAAL. BAAL was also know as Marduk, and was associated with the Sun and was a Solar God. Semiramis was Nimrod’s wife, and was associated with the name Astrate or Ishtar. Astrate put on her own head a bull’s head as a Symbol of Royalty. She being the consort of BAAL or Marduk was a “Moon Goddess”, and referred to as the “Queen of the Heavens”. After Nimrod’s death, Queen Semiramis gave birth to an illegitimate son. She claimed that he was Nimrod reborn, and named him “Nimrod – Tammuz”. Another name for him was “Cupid”, which means desire. He was named as such because Queen Semiramis lusted after him. She married him, and Tammuz was forever associated with being a child god. In the depictions of him, he was often seen holding the ‘heart shaped fruit of Persea in his hand.’ Thus, Tammuz or Cupid became associated with being the “God of the Heart”. This is where Cupid, who we associate with Valentine’s Day, got his start.

The three horned cap which both Baal and Ishtar or Nimrod and Semiramis are depicted wearing became a sacred emblem, and the power connected with it was said to be of celestial origin. The three horns represented the power of the Trinity. The idea of a Trinity would start in ancient Babylon and would spread to Egypt, where we have Osiris, Isis and Horus, Jupiter, Venus and Adonis in the Roman myths, and God the father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit (taking the place of the feminine). It is because the symbol represented Royalty, and the holy bloodline of the trinity, that is was adopted later by the French Kings for their heraldry.

In Genesis 9:1, God told humankind: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.’ However, Nimrod was in opposition to this. Genesis 11:4-9 states: Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Who would have been building this tower? Those who were adapt in working with Stone, ie: The Stone Masons who later would become known in Medieval times as Free-Masons, because as I explained earlier, they were allowed to move from city to city to practice their craft. The symbolic tools which we use to teach our lessons would have been first employed in the massive building projects of Ancient Babylon, including building the tower of Babel. Going back to the idea of the Fluer-De-Lis being the arrowhead which shows north on a map or compass, you see that it has a total of six points, 3 pointing up and 3 pointing down.

The Fleur-De-Lis connects to the Square and Compass, in that from above, it has the exact shape of the six pointed star. In Freemasonry, The blazing star (six pointed star) is described as one of the ornaments of a lodge, as being a hieroglyphical representation of Divine Providence. In more ancient traditions, the blazing star is represented as consisting of two equalateral triangles interlocked. The triangle with the apex pointed down was emblimatical of the creator, with the apex pointing down toward the created universe, whereas the triangle pointing up was representative of man, pointing toward God, the creator. When intertwined as a six pointed star, they would form a single figure, the symbol of unity between God and his creation. So the Square and Compass and the Fleur – de –Lis are both representations of the Blazing Star, and they both originated in Ancient Babylon. Is this a coincidence? I leave that to you to decide.


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

The Future Of The Past: Supporting Historical Museums

by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins

In June of 2017, I was contacted by the Grand Lodge of Maine. They were looking to acquire my portrait of Major General Henry Knox for a special exhibit at the Knox Museum. Located in the coastal town of Thomaston, the Knox Museum is a recreation of the original 18th Century home of Revolutionary War General Henry Knox, key advisor to George Washington and our nation's first Secretary of War (Fort Knox and Knoxville, Tennessee are named after him). For decades, the Maine institution had conformed to the traditional model of a “House Museum” with guided tours through rooms that appeared frozen in time. Now, they had made the bold decision to change direction and transform the Museum into a series of interactive exhibits focused on various aspects of Knox's life. Included in this vision was a display, curated by the Grand Lodge of Maine, that centered on his role as a Freemason. My original portrait of Knox was to be a central component of the exhibit and the image was printed on a promotional brochure that the Grand Lodge had prepared to illustrate his Masonic history. The framed portrait was to have an engraved brass plaque on it as well. Rather than just have my own name emblazoned there, I decided to donate the artwork in honor of my friend and Brother, Jack Hickey, who was Worshipful Master of MG Henry Knox Lodge in Boston at the time. I shipped the portrait to Maine and it was on display in the museum by mid July.

All seemed well, so it came as a bit of a surprise in December, when a statement was released saying that the Knox Museum would be forced to close if they could not raise $150,000 by January 15, 2018. In the absence of large donors, the museum was in a “dire situation.” The museum had been operating for nearly a century on a generous gift, but those initial funds had been exhausted. The building itself is a replica, built in 1929, of Knox's 1794 home which was located nearby (it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1871). Despite being 89 years old, because the museum structure is not original, it does not meet the requirements for a protected historical site. 

On January 19th, four days after the deadline, the trustees announced their decision. Although the Museum had only raised 2/3 of it's $150,000 goal, the doors of the Knox Museum would remain open... with some expected changes. The museum would continue to operate, but they would have to restructure the staff organization, keep on fundraising and move forward in envisioning new methods of engaging audiences (the bold changes in the Summer of 2017 had been the first step). All future events will be mission-driven and streamlined, focusing on Henry Knox and the Revolutionary War as well as honoring veterans. The museum also seeks to establish stronger ties within the community, encouraging citizen involvement and utilizing local resources. The trustees and staff deserve to be applauded for their admirable efforts. I am optimistic about their future path, and if you're in Maine, stop by to visit my portrait which I'm proud to say is still on display there. 

Although this will likely turn out well for the Knox Museum, it draws focus on the ever-present problem of dwindling support for our smaller historical institutions. Whether it is your local historical society, library or even a Museum room that is set up in your Masonic Temple, these collections require constant effort to maintain. They rely on the dedicated support of individuals, who either donate funds or donate their time by volunteering. Museums in precarious circumstances don't necessarily have to close. Creative thinking and a concerned group of supporters can be enough to begin turning things around. Not all of us have the means to be wealthy benefactors, but everyone can play a part in helping to preserve history, ensuring that these unique museums stay open for future generations to enjoy. 

Here are some easy things that can be of help: 

Become a Member: If you think you'll visit a particular museum several times within a year, consider making the annual membership contribution. Quite often, it is even tax deductible. 

Pay the Admission Fee: Too many visitors wait to take advantage of “free admission days” that museum's occasionally offer. These promotions don't really benefit the organizations in the long run. If you're interested in the subject, just consider paying the minimal price of admission. Ticket sales usually go directly towards operation costs. 

Volunteer: While big art museums employ a staff of hundreds, most small museums have very few paid employees. Consider volunteering as a docent. Docents are an indispensable source of knowledge on tours and are the lifeblood of a museum. 

Tell Your Friends: Follow the museum's Facebook page and share their events. Post your own photos and memories. Encourage others to visit the museums you enjoy. A friend's enthusiasm is a great endorsement.


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. 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, NMJ- 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.

There is More to Being a Traveling Man than Pins and Mileage.

by MidnightFreemason Guest Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson

For many months I’ve had a paper idea in my ‘todo’ list on the importance of travel.  When I saw the topic show up in another blog, I scrapped the idea and yielded to the Brother.  However, recent experiences have inspired me to continue the subject, and although I can’t find the other article, I hope people find my story complementary to that article. 

I used to travel frequently for work, 2-3 weeks out of each month, sometimes weekends.  Eventually the airline gate agents and hotel workers got to know me.  Although I was a Mason for much of this time, I never took advantage of the travel and visited other Lodges.  Add this to the plethora of mistakes that I hope to learn from.  Back then, I thought visiting Lodges was only about expanding your network and maybe making new friends.  I’ve come to realize it is much, much more.

During a recent business trip to Dallas, I researched the Texas Grand Lodge website to see if anybody was having regular stated meetings.  I found two relatively close by, and decided to head downtown simply because I was interested in the Scottish Rite building in which they held their meetings.  As I arrived, I learned that another Lodge, Highland Park Lodge, was holding a special communication for the purpose of raising a new Master Mason.  Man, I could not pass that up as I’ve never seen a raising outside of my own district.  I found the worshipful Master (easily distinguishable, due to his hat), who welcomed me as if I was an old friend, and quickly introduced me to their candidate and several other Brothers.  It was heartwarming how quickly these Texans embraced this Massachusetts Mason.  

Although the Fraternal Love received was amazing, it pales in comparison to the Third Degree I was able to witness.  There were few similarities between Massachusetts and Texas, aside from the general story.  Some roles were played differently, many words were different, but the performance was absolute top notch.  This was the first time in many years that I was able to attend a degree without worrying about remembering my lines or agonizing over the late arrival of key Brethren.  Furthermore, by hearing a different set of words, I’ve been able to answer certain questions in the ritual that have plagued me for years!  I honestly believe sitting with these men and focusing on their work (which was beautifully and perceptibly flawless) not only uplifted my spirit, but also afforded me a better understanding of our ritual.  Moreover, seeing a man reach out and raise his son, brought a tear to my eye as I recalled the time when my father raised me.  What I would give to meet him again on the five points of fellowship.

I do feel the need to apologize to both Northern Star Lodge of Dallas and Estelle Lodge of Euless for not attending their meetings, and I would like to thank them for responding to my messages.  Had they not encouraged my travel, I might not have found myself in the right place and time to witness the degree.  

Brothers and friends, we as a human species have so much to learn. Our paths are long and winding, but the love of a friend can lift us from the deepest chasms, and a little bit of light can make an ordinary day something special and memorable.  As we travel, it is important to remember that our journeys aren’t just about being sociable and meeting new friends and Brothers.  It is also about how different jurisdictions and Lodges perform the ritual.  By observing others and appreciating the differences, we can perfect our craft.  If we carry this philosophy into all of our actions, there is no end to the amount of knowledge we can attain.  Even if our Brother's view seems completely perpendicular to our own, if we respect the differing opinions and continue searching for that light, there is a point where the ideals cross, and on that point, we will find a level unlike any other. 


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

The Six Points of the Master’s Square

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM 

When you are first raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason, chances are these days you will be asked to become an officer of the lodge. Although being asked to assume a chair in the lodge room, that seat comes with responsibility. You will soon discover as you advance through those chairs the seats become more comfortable, but the comfort of the chair comes with a price.

If you are anything like me, you are probably thinking “No biggie! I’ve got this!” You will even tell yourself, “I’ve chaired committees and I’ve been the president of other groups, it can’t be that much different!” Forgive me Brother, while I suppress a small chuckle as I continue to explain.

In the last few decades many lodges have replaced Masonic education in their stated meetings with a Secretary reading the minutes of the lodge in a quiet monotone voice, and delightful discourse of Past Masters complaining about the cost of doing business in the current year, versus what the cost of running the lodge was when Brother Gerald Ford sat in the White House.

This gives a newly installed Worshipful Master many issues. The poor guy needs to understand how Masonry works, but with no experience he will only discover, “What he did wrong", when, after the close of lodge, several bony fingers of Past Masters begin to harangue the poor guy with a laundry list of mistakes he made during the meeting or degree work (After they thoroughly argued amongst themselves). 

Where is this Master supposed to gain the experience he will need to sit in that comfy chair in the East? Sadly, there is only one place: The progressive line.

The progressive is to those of you who are new or not a Mason is the line of offices in a lodge room. A newly raised Master Mason if he chooses to become an officer will be placed in the office with the least amount of responsibility like memorization and floor work, in most places this is the office of Junior Steward and told to watch how the lodge works while under the supervision of his immediate overseer, the Senior Steward. (In some places like Texas the Stewards are charged with providing the lodge with food.)

Each year, in theory, the man is advanced (or progressed) to the next chair and his education is furthered and the responsibility of that chair continues to grow. Many Brethren (Including myself) aren’t the biggest fans of the progressive line system. Many argue that the progressive line just moves men along, from chair to chair, until they reach the position of Senior Warden and it is expected that the end of his term the brother should automatically be voted by the members of the lodge to advance to the position of Master. In most cases that is fine, but there have been times in every lodge (and if I am honest, Grand lodges, too since they follow the same line.) that a man is elected to the lodge's highest position who isn’t ready for the post. Or perhaps, is so incompetent that he will fail in his work or worse yet, has mercenary motives and shouldn’t be in an office and his attempts to enter should have been stopped before he passed through the West gate.

Sadly, in cases like this the Brethren of the lodge have few good choices. Most of the time it is a choice of desperation, the inoperancy of their current leadership and in almost every case resentment and the loss of attendance.

The progressive line is often the only source for leadership preparation and many officers must train themselves. Grand lodges may offer seminars or courses they consider to be training, but mostly it is just a course in what form to fill out in certain situations or what passage of the law book to read, and rarely has anything to do in regards with actual Freemasonry.

Brethren, until we can reinstate actual Freemasonry and Masonic Education back into our lodges, here, in my opinion, are a few ways we can help educate our officers and put them on the square of success.

Reading- An officers first upright step in his Masonic Education is to start reading Masonic material. Knowing our history and the symbology behind the way we do things never hurts and is always a good place to start.

Speak to experience- You will remember from your charge as an Entered Apprentice “At your leisure hours, that you may improve in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well informed brethren who will always be as ready to give, as you will be ready to receive instruction.“

Find a Brother, who can serve you as a mentor. Perhaps a well-educated Past Master, and pick his brain. The possibilities are endless! Discuss with him the books you are reading or ask him questions about his time going through the chairs. Ask him what he would do differently if he had the chance. Any advice a well-informed Brother gives you, will place you on the level of success.

Grand Lodge Sources- Ok earlier I did complain about the content at Grand Lodge seminars. But as part of a well-rounded education, these seminars could help you while governing your lodge. The seminars aren’t perfect but in conjunction with other sources of education these might become a valuable asset.

Watching- From the time you assume your place in lodge, You should begin to watch the way the other Brethren do things within lodge. From watching other men as they do their floor work and they handle their rods to how they stand and address others when they have the floor in lodge, can provide you a good primer in what you should be doing. As you continue to progress you will notice yourself able to square your floor work as well as your older Brothers. If you have questions about the process, ask the mentor we discussed above.

Planning- If you are on a progressive line your eventual destination will be that big chair in the East. One thing you will notice about that seat is you are sitting all by yourself for the first time in lodge. Every eye in the place will be on you and expect you to have all the answers. (Ever hear the old phrase “It’s lonely at the top”?)

This is the point where all the watching, reading and conversing comes into place but there is one more piece of the puzzle: Planning. Successful Worshipful Masters have a plan long before their election. (Planning ahead is the one true bonus about the progressive line.)

Starting the year, you become Junior Warden you should start planning your calendar. Special events (Like Past Master nights, Widows nights…etc) should be placed on the calendar and you should begin thinking about who you would like to chair these events. In many jurisdictions lodges have standing committees. You need to consider who should chair these committees and either let them pick their own members or whether you need to pick the members for them. You will also have to begin to decide who you will choose as your appointed officer line. 

Some Masters (Myself included) come into the East with several agenda items they wish to accomplish during “Their year” in office. Even though many of these items will have to be voted on by the lodge (and have the potential of being voted down by the membership), you will need to plan and staff these items too.

Brother, I know it can be tough. You will make mistakes and you will probably have to suffer the occasional wagging finger and rough lounge of a grumpy Past Master but that’s ok, you are tougher than that. Just learn from it and move on. Do your best and strive to make “Your Masonic year” to be the lodges greatest year and while doing so, strengthen your lodge and Freemasonry.


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.

Are You a Traveling Man? – What the TSA Can Teach Us About Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor

WB Martin O’Brien

“Make sure your laptop is out of its bag and your belt is off”. The TSA officer’s voice carries with authority over the quite shuffle of humanity. Collective sighs are heaved and the line progresses slowly forwards. The New Year has begun in an atypical fashion for me. Normally I don’t have to travel much for work but 2018 has started off differently. I have spent this month bouncing from airport to airport and from hotel to hotel and as those of you who have travelled on business can attest, the days have a tendency to blur together and time starts to be measured in terms of boarding passes and complimentary pretzels. While I can’t, with any legitimacy, count myself among the ranks of the grizzled road warriors that spend most of their working lives like this, the travel has toughened me some and the idle time between flights has afforded me some quite time for reflection. The result has been surprising insights into Freemasonry.

On one morning in particular I found myself in Bradley International, Hartford CT without any coffee and a 5AM boarding time. Despite the lack of caffeine, I had the mental acuity to be struck by the similarity that exists between passing though the TSA security check and our beloved Craft. “That’s ridiculous!”, you say. Wait a moment and let me explain. First, passengers are duly and truly prepared and they had better be or else the process can become much more personal than one would like. They are then divested of all metallic substances. They make their way along the winding stairs demarcated by pylons and nylon straps. They are caused to meet with obstruction until at last they reach the inner chamber, the sanctum sanctorum of the concourse proper and are no longer tormented by ruffians. Some candidates don’t make it through smoothly owing to some shortfall in preparation. These unfortunate travelers are shuffled to the side and are, perhaps, never seen again. Now doesn’t that sound like a Lodge?

The line waiting to pass through security is a scene of uncomfortable and self-conscious chaos as travelers unlace shoes and being neither barefoot nor shod, wrestle laptops and liquids out of bags. Take belts and jackets off and place them in those too small grey totes to later be invested with that of which they had been divested. In many ways this scene reminded me of the challenges that can present themselves as we try to move candidates and brothers through the degrees. And like those misfortunate travelers that are shuffled to the side, inevitably we lose some men who, for one reason or another, do not complete their degrees, do not return their proficiencies and so do not continue on the path laid out before them by our fraternity. In some cases, this is because the man is intimidated by the memorization work that is required, in others scheduling issues result in the new Brother losing interest and drifting away. 

In others still, the man, having dipped his toes into the waters of Freemasonry, determines that it is not to his liking and after making several excuses for why he isn’t available to meet his coach slips away into the ether. How can we retain good candidates? I suggest the problem is not one of retention but of election. We must closely look to our duty to guard well the West Gate. This is not a world shattering revelation and much has already been written on this topic. In my own Lodge we considered this problem from many angles and tried many strategies to overcome it. We made proficiencies easier, we made it more difficult, we picked candidates up in a limo and took them to their initiation. We met with them for several months before initiation, we initiated them as soon as they came through the door and still we lost some. Raising one in five. No strategy we adopted following their election to receive the degrees ensured that they would make it through.

I have become convinced from our failures that the answer lies in electing for degrees only those men who truly want to be Masons, men who are truly prepared in their hearts to be Brothers of the Craft and willing to pick up the working tools for their own betterment and the betterment of their communities. Let us not allow our fears of a declining membership to cloud our judgement and cause us to accept men who are deemed fit simply because they knock on our door and can fill a chair. Men who we determine will benefit from Freemasonry but never consider if Freemasonry will benefit from them. This way leads to frustration, doubt and ultimately the weakening of our order.

Let us return to our TSA analogy. While there is a winding line of travelers awkwardly preparing themselves to pass through scanners there is another group for whom no such burden is levied. These are the travelers for whom TSA has already guarded well the West Gate. These are those travelers who have already obtained the TSA Pre-check. There is no fumbling with luggage for them, no long lines that cause anxiety about whether or not flights will be made. For these well-prepared travelers there is only a steady and sure progression from the door to the inner chamber. There is far less uncertainty for these wanderers. They know for where they are bound and they have prepared themselves and been prepared sufficiently. So it is with our Lodges. Let us guard well the West Gate. 


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.