Welcome Travis Simpkins!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Today is the day! Friday! But more importantly, the Midnight Freemasons is proud to announce that Bro. Travis Simpkins, world renowned artist is joining the Midnight Freemasons as a regular contributor.

I joke often that, "You know you've made it when Travis decides to draw you." He's a very talented young Mason with a lot to give. Travis has written two very excellent articles and a third is on the way. His points of view are wonderful and he has a great amount of expertise and knowledge to share. Please take a moment and congratulate our newest contributor. His bio is below. Make sure to follow him on social media as well!

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. You can visit his website http://www.artcrimeillustrated.com and check out his great work!


Often Tried, Never Denied

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

“I have been often tried, never denied, and willing to be tried again.” When I first heard these words during my Masonic work I truly had no idea what the line meant. A Brother I know told me at the time “It means no one stopped you from becoming a Mason.” At the time I thought to myself, "Okay, That makes sense." (At least as much sense as any of these funny sounding words in the catechism did.) But honestly, recently I’m beginning to think this phrase has a different meaning, or at least it has an alternate one.

For the last few months, myself and another Midnight Freemason have been, I feel, targeted by people on social media in order to stop us from publishing Masonic education. Recently I was banned from a Masonic group. Honestly it shocked me. Upon investigation I was told by a moderator of the group I was turned in because, “Masonic education offended them."

Since then my posts have been turned into Facebook as “Spam” and my author page was unpublished by the site because I had been turned in for “offensive content”. I wasn’t allowed to share posts or even post on my own page for several weeks. In this time I truly began to think, "I should just stop writing, sit down in my easy chair and just educate myself." It was about this time that phrase from my Masonic work came to mind. I realized for centuries our Brethren haven been, “often tried” in the public for just for the offense of “Being a member of the Freemasons.”

From the anti Masonic period in the nineteenth century, when Masons faced discrimination, examples being; getting fired from their jobs,  not being able to rent houses and families being forced to leave communities which they had once called home.

During the Spanish Inquisition men who were suspected of being members of the Fraternity were imprisoned and tortured until they would finally, under duress, confess to the horrific offense of being a Freemason. During the Third Reich, many Freemasons were placed in concentration camps and murdered because Hitler was so intimated by our Masonic light, he knew the darkness he preached was no match for it.

Even today there are Brethren being tried in the United Kingdom because they are Masons. I have a personal friend who would have been expelled from the college he was attending if it were outed that he was a Mason. Even as I write these words there are places in the Middle East where it is a capital offense to take the obligations we took at the altar of Freemasonry. It seems sometimes “being often tried” is just part of the weight you feel when you wear a Masonic ring

When these accusations were leveled against me, I felt the need to defend myself against these accusations. I knew I was innocent and appealed. Within a few days Facebook reviewed the evidence and found in my favor. My posting privileges were restored and my authors page was republished. Not only did I feel vindicated but I knew once the evidence was judged I could  claim, “I was never denied”.

“I am willing to be tried again”, because I know if I just throw down my working tools and walk away out of frustration, I'm not just failing myself, but I'm failing those who have written me to tell me they like my writing and have been touched and inspired by my work. I would also be disappointing all the Brethren who came before me and suffered discrimination, hatred or even faced imprisonment, torture or death just because of those vows we all took. I will not allow a few closed minds and hearts filled with hatred to make me leave the Fraternity which I love.

My Brother I’m sure many of you have been, “Often tried". Each of us have viewed things within the Fraternity that angered or disappointed us. The wagging finger of a Past Master or trying to stay awake during a boring meeting or something else that frustrated you to the point that you just want to walk out the door of that lodge room and never return. But my question is, "Did you quit or did you decide you were “Willing to be tried again?”"

Think about it. Every member who gets frustrated with he Grand Lodge red tape or  the ever-present, “We’ve never done it that way”, who walks away, is one less person to help us develop the Craft into the Fraternity we want it to be. Each empty seat in that lodge room is one less vote to counterman that crusty stick-in-the-mud who refuses to allow the lodge to try new things. That empty seat is also one less Brother who can help with a lodge committee or serve in an office. Ultimately each man who picks up his ball and goes home is one less vote in a lodge, one less-voice for change and prolongs the struggle. Stay, help put the Craft on a solid foundation and make it ready to face new generations.

If we stand up, as a group and declare we are “Willing to be tried again.”, as a group there is no way we can, “Ever be denied again.”


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.

Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry - The Cheese

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

I’ve taken some serious time off lately. There, I said it. For almost ten (long) years, I made the Fraternity a priority. I had planned on retiring from many of my Masonic duties this coming October, at this years Grand Lodge Sessions in Springfield Illinois. Some things occured recently and have made that retirement sooner. As I've had much time recently to sit around and do (almost) nothing in regards to meetings and the like, I’ve really enjoyed spending quality time with my four kids.

I think my kids enjoy the time we spend together a lot as well, that is, when I’m not hounding them about closing the door, touching the thermostat, putting their shoes on the mat, picking up wrappers, and putting the milk away. We’ve really done some fun stuff. In my down time however, when I’m not hanging out with them or my wife, I notice my thoughts returning to the Craft.

Reading the various opinions, statements and diatribes from around the web on Freemasonry and its goings-on, whether here in Illinois or around the world for that matter, it’s really the same stuff I’d pontificated in my writings since I began. Read some old Manly P. Hall, read some old Mackey, Pike, Pottenger, Waite, it really doesn’t matter, you’ll find the guys 100 years ago are complaining about the same thing we are today. Attendance, Education etc etc. Regarding the blogs of today, sure there are some new takes on old problems, and those new takes get some guys really excited. Whilst I and others may not be thrilled, let’s face it, we’ve seen this kind of thing before. We should remember however, that the momentary bursts of wind, however stale we may think the air is, can still move a ship.

Concepts from the corporate world--seemingly weird common sense systems invented to sell books to CEOs worldwide are still prevalent in business today. Concepte that are seriously basic, and yet we treat these books or ideas like they’re the new gold standard for protocol. These ideas are making their way into Freemasonry. We’re trying to adapt the teachings and utilize them to motivate, accelerate and put into practice ideas and concepts which, may have a kind of impact on the fraternity that we’re looking for.

Some have claimed that these kinds of concepts are corporatizing Freemasonry. That we’re a Fraternity, not a business. I agree. But that really shouldn’t stop us from looking at how we can adapt successful systems, and see how it can be used to make Freemasonry better. I’ve joked with the always data-driven Jon Ruark about writing such a book, and it's on the way. But in this piece, I thought I might put to the reader a “Corporate Concept”, what it means generally, the critique of the concept and finally, how each part of it might be used within Freemasonry.

The first one comes to mind because I joke about it frequently, usually to my peers (who are much younger than me) and the response I get--a blank stare. They're just too young to remember, “Who Moved My Cheese?” Perhaps when they go through a corporate restructuring or acquisition, they might get a chance to read it. The book itself spent five years on the NY Times best seller list. “Who Moved My Cheese” is an allegory, something Masons should already be familiar with, that conveys a set of mantras if you will.

These mantras or sayings, are really aimed at the business, and whilst we’re not a business, it might be well to pay attention to them. What you need to know to understand them: Two “mice” are in a maze and they learn where the cheese is. They return everyday to eat it. Humans come and move the cheese and the “mice” get mad. One mouse becomes pessimistic, the other is scared. The “mice” are named “Hem” and “Haw”, you know a couple Maso…, I mean “Mice” by that name I’m sure. One of the “mice” decided to not live in fear any longer and to strike out to find the new cheese anyway. As this mouse is looking for the new cheese, he scrolls mantras on the walls as he realizes them, hoping if his friend ever decides to follow, he will read them and be changed. Here are those Mantras:

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

I’m sure you have ideas of how this could be applied to Masonry already. But before you jump the gun and write a lengthy response, your own article, or click “unfollow”, here are some main contentions with this analogy.

Firstly, that the “Cheese” doesn't matter. Rather, at a point in the allegory, one of the “mice” comes to believe that the cheese is really just a superficial way to get to happiness. It isn’t the grand aim or goal, it’s just a road to the goal. There may be others. Masonically, I think this could be related to a great many things; titles, appointments, degrees, being published, the list is as long as the day.

Secondly, that we’re comparing mice to men. We’re literally comparing the mice in the maze to the men in cubicles whilst the humans who move the cheese are our overlord bosses and corporate entities who are ruled by the evil board of directors in search of profits. Masonically, this could be how some see the Grand Lodge and it’s officers or perhaps how brothers of a local lodge see it’s executive officers.

Thirdly, that philosophically speaking, there just isn’t any cheese. It’s an existential crisis that leads one to the thought that no matter what, there are an infinite amount of roads and paths that lead to the issue. Masonically, maybe nothing matters but that you’re being fulfilled? I can let you think about this one. It is, existential after all.

So let’s address those Mantras one by one.

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese

In this mantra we should understand that the world continues to change and because of this, the people, the minds, the populace, will influence the changing of policies, the normalities of society and the rules to which we’re all held. Ultimately, we need to know this. Never for one second think that our Fraternity, just because we’re based on tradition and ancient rules and edicts, won't change. It will. You will see it. Be prepared mentally. 

Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Here, we need to take what we just talked about and live by it. Understanding that the world, and all things therein contained will change. We must anticipate these changes. It allows us to stay on top of things. We can be proactive, instead of reactive. Strike first. This is important because it breeds an air of credibility in terms of relevance. If we’re viewed as antiquated, the organization will die. The teachings may live on in books, but you’ll not be reading your minutes or eating those green beans anymore in a tax exempt building. 

Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

In this passage we should be charged to do our research. We should look around the bend, send a scout on ahead and send a report back. By doing this, we are prepared for the challenges that we’ll be facing shortly. There’s just no getting out of this one. We’ve spent so much time looking in and being concerned with our own Fraternity, the world that we once set an example to, has passed us by. You spend so much time being busy looking at how to stay the same rather than how to adapt, and surprise, it’s already too late to save ourselves, according to the mathematics. As Isaac Asimov once wrote in his quintessential sci-fi series, “Foundation”, the fall of the great Empire which has stood for 12,000 years will happen. And when it does, we will have 30,000 years of barbarism to look forward to. This is almost unavoidable. If we act now, we can cut the 30,000 years down to just 10,000. Work now to save not our children, but our ancestors in the distant future. 

Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

In this piece, we can say to ourselves, ‘Let go”. What that means to you, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a lodge, maybe it’s a scholarship program, maybe it's a proficiency requirement, I don’t really care. The point here is that if you can look to the future, see the dawn on the horizon and get excited about it, you can turn your back on the night that much easier. Let go of things that no longer have a place in today's world. You’re holding onto something, an idea that has no place in this current world in some respects. Do you sweep a carpet? Maybe sometimes. More often than not you’re using a vacuum. Who amongst you is demanding to use incandescent bulbs? Ditch the things we can ditch and latch on to new traditions. Get passionate about these new things. 

Move With The Cheese

Here, the takeaway should be evident. If you’ve read these in order, they build on each other in fundamental ways. Look ahead, see where the trend is going and go there too. Cut them off at the pass. Be the change. I know you’ve all heard that. It is imperative that if we are moving with the trends, it puts us in a better position economically to impress or to influence the changes in the future, those that are to come. If you refuse to be a part of the future, you’ve signed your death warrant. 

Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

In the “Adapt to Change” paragraph, I ended with, “Get passionate about these new things.” I mean it. If you get serious and get excited about the new things that are happening, then you’re honoring the idea of a progressive moral science. We should always be excited about our new brothers and what they’re interested in. Right now, the big wave is Education. I’m on that wave, in fact, I’ve been on it since almost the beginning of my joining. I wasn’t on it in the very beginning because I assumed we had Education covered. Unfortunately that was just all ritual instruction. Not my thing really. So you know what? I got passionate about Education. My best friend is the embodiment of education. My mentors are all educators in a masonic sense. They are passionate about changes, they’re passionate about tasting that new craft beer, that new steak rub, or trying that new social network that didn’t sell their personal data. But all jokes aside, be excited!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

Simply put, know that change is always happening. Just when you bring home that top-of-the-line computer, they’ve already agreed on the marketing for the new model, and the production line is already fired up. It’s important to be educated on the trends of society, not that we need to bend to the will of society, but so that we may maintain relevance and spread the light of Freemasonry to anyone looking to understand it’s important concepts and morals. And lastly, be excited about trying those new things all the time. If you get excited about the changes and find the value rather than continuing in a downward spiral of doubt and despair about things, you’ll find that by freeing yourself of fear, we’re allowing ourselves to operate at our fullest potential, a concept that every Master Mason should be well acquainted with. 

*Editors Note* This article is an excerpt from an upcoming book on using and adapting corporate stratagems for Freemasonry. It will be released in 2018.


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 currently working on several books, Masonic essays, strategy and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

The Black Panther Ritual

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

It’s difficult for a self – proclaimed geek like me to admit that I knew very little about the character Black Panther before seeing the movie. He was in my mind always somewhat of an enigma. I knew about his suit, that he was from a place called Wakanda somewhere in Africa, and that Wakanda was the source for the strongest metal on the face of the Earth in the Marvel comics, Vibranium. I know that Captain America’s shield is made from Vibranium. I had seen him appear alongside Captain America, The Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man in the comics, as well as make an appearance in Captain America:Civil War, but I knew very little otherwise. The movie is fantastic, and there was a particular sequence that was repeated which stood out for me. Caution: Spoilers Ahead.

Following his Father T’Chaka’s death, his son T’Challa returns to Wakanda to assume the throne. Part of the coronation ceremony requires that if challenged, the heir apparent must fight in ritual combat for the crown. One chieftain, M’Baku, challenges T’Challa. T’Challa ends up defeating him and gets him to yield rather than die. After this, T’Challa undergoes the King Making Ceremony in which he ingests what’s called the Heart Shaped Herb, and he is buried. T’Challa visits The Djalia, which is the mystical realm where his ancestors go after death. T’Challa meets his Father here, and they converse briefly before T’Challa resurrects from his burial, changed into the Black Panther.

Later, after Killmonger reveals himself to be T’Challa’s cousin, and heir to the throne, he defeats T’Challa and hurls him over a waterfall. Killmonger then ingests the heart shaped herb, and orders the rest to be destroyed. Luckily, one is saved which plays an important part in the film. Killmonger undergoes the same ceremony, being ritually buried and then visiting Djalia. After having a vision of his Father, he resurrects as King of Wakanda, and dons his own Black Panther suit.

We find out later that M’Baku has saved T’Challa as a repayment of saving his life. T’Challa is given the very last Heart Shaped Herb, and is buried. He again visits Djalia, where he confronts his father regarding why he did not bring his cousin, back to Wakanda after killing his own brother, N’Jobu. He also tells his ancestors that the days of Wakanda hiding from the world is over. T’Challa then resurrects and goes on to fight and defeat Killmonger.

What stood out to me, and hopefully to you as well, is how the “King-Making” ritual in Black Panther parallels what happens to Hiram Abiff in the 3rd degree. Like T’Challa or Killmonger, Hiram undergoes a form of ritualistic combat. In Hiram’s case, it’s not by choice. He is challenged by three ruffians who attempt to get from him the Master’s word, which will allow them Master’s wages and the ability to travel freely. Hiram has promised this only when King Solomon’s temple is completed, however they cannot wait that long. In a parallel, all too familiar to our time now, they want instant gratification. Hiram, being steadfast in his convictions, that the reward will come only after the Temple is completed, pays with his own life.

The ruffians dispose of Hiram in the Temple rubbish, and meet later that evening to secret his body away. They end up burying him east of the Temple, at the foot of Mount Moriah, marking his grave with a Sprig of Acacia. Early the next morning, King Solomon finds the workmen in disarray, as there are no instructions on the trestle board. Fearing something has happened to Hiram, King Solomon dispatches twelve fellow-craft to find him. Three of the fellow-craft find Hiram’s grave and report back to King Solomon. Solomon and his fellow –craft exhume the body, raising it by using the strong grip of a Master Mason and with a phrase.

Taken literally, King Solomon essentially performs Necromancy in raising Hiram from the dead. While this is quite possible, given the legends surrounding the Seal (Ring) of Solomon and his ability to command demons with it, the story is not meant to be taken literally. Instead, it and the sequences in Black Panther share the same motif. That the resurrection which takes place is a spiritual one. In both cases, they undergo a baptism.

Now in a traditional sense, baptism is: a rite or sacrament of dipping a person into water or sprinkling water on him, as a sign of the washing away of sin and of admission into the Christian church. But it also can mean: "any experience that cleanses a person, or introduces him into a new kind of life." In the case of the Black Panther, the ritual grants him super-human power. He is faster, stronger, tougher and more intelligent than the average individual. In the case of the newly – raised Master Mason, the ritual removes the vestiges of his former life. He is also made anew, as part of the fraternity of Masons, he now must conduct himself as one in all aspects of his life. Much like the Black Panther must defend his kingdom of Wakanda from evil influences and forces, so must we defend not only ourselves but also Freemasonry from these forces.

One of the most oft – overlooked privileges or right of a Master Mason, is that he gains the right to vote in the affairs of his lodge. Most importantly, you might find yourself in a position where you need to decide whether or not a candidate is worthy for admission. I’ve been pretty forthright in my opinions that we all must face with this decision and the difficulties that we all face with this awesome responsibility. We all must guard Freemasonry from evil influences and forces, and by using the ballot you can do so. You also must remember to guard yourself. Remember that your every action, word and manner reflects on our Fraternity. Be ever vigilant. Just like the Black Panther. 


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 darin.lahners@gmail.com.

Oriental Lodge - A Not-So-Enduring Tradition

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

Fun fact: The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race has never been run in Indianapolis.

Stick with me. I'll get back to the Masonic significance of that later.

Back in my DeMolay days I was a member of Oriental Chapter in Indianapolis. We met in a magnificent building near the city's center. Its entire first floor was an expansive lounge with plush leather chairs, couches, coffee tables and smoking stands scattered around. Matching pool and billiards tables, massive and ornate, sat in the back of the room. I loved the place – especially the pool table.

Oriental Lodge 500, F&AM, owned the building and met there. That Lodge, chartered in 1875, was a Masonic powerhouse. With a peak membership over 1,000 many of its members were the "movers and shakers" of Indianapolis society. Among the more famous Brothers who called it home were US Vice-President Charles W. Fairbanks, US Senator Albert J. Beveridge, conductor Fabien Sevitzky, world table-tennis champion Jimmy McClure and railway president Bowman Elder.

Over the years the surrounding neighborhood changed and membership fell. Oriental merged with Evergreen Lodge, became Evergreen-Oriental Lodge 500, and moved to a newer, albeit less distinctive building in the western suburbs. I visited the building once and was disappointed to discover the DeMolay chapter was long gone.

Meanwhile the great old building that had been Oriental's home had become the new home of Central Lodge No. 1 of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Indiana. As a bonus, the building itself is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

So on my last trip to dear old Indy, I had dinner with a lifelong friend who had been a member of that DeMolay Chapter with me, and had subsequently joined Oriental Lodge. We talked about DeMolay and that Lodge and I discovered he was angry. Really angry… so angry he had quit the Shrine and Scottish Rite in protest. "In protest of what?" I asked. (Inquiring minds want to know).

He explained there had been another merger. As a result, he was now a member of Northwest Lodge, located in the same building as the former Evergreen-Oriental. Sadly, the Oriental name, probably along with much of its rich history was lost. But what seemed to anger him more was the fact that he was now a member of Northwest Lodge 770.

770? What happened to 500? Why not take the lower number?

Back to the little fun fact. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is actually located in an incorporated town known as Speedway. As you can tell by its name, the town wouldn't even exist but for the presence of the famed brickyard. It is also the home of Speedway Lodge 729.

Or, I should say, "was the home…" It seems in its infinite wisdom, the Grand Lodge of Indiana yanked (I think that was the term he used) the number 500 and gave it to the Lodge in Speedway making it Speedway 500. Cute, Grand Lodge of Indiana, very cute. And cheesy, very cheesy. History and tradition be damned for a cheap trick that, frankly, not many outside the Masonic fraternity will ever care about.

I completely understand my friend's anger. I also wonder if it might have ticked off some of the members of Speedway Lodge. I know, it's only a number; yeah, along with history and tradition and other things the fraternity is supposed to embrace. It's the world we live in. Publicity and marketing seem to be ubiquitous. The likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook are constantly hounding us to go here, go there and ultimately spend money. While I think the Masons need to do a better job of promotion, I'd rather see a more classy way of going about it. We're swimming in advertising, promotion and gimmicks – poor substitutes for brotherly love, relief and truth.

Besides, what did Indiana Masons get from this… more members? I doubt it.

For a follow-up stunt I wonder if they plan to rename it Verizon Wireless Lodge 500 brought to you by Pepsi.


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.

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 darin.lahners@gmail.com.

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 dfarris1981@gmail.com.

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: webmaster@toddcreason.org

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 darin.lahners@gmail.com.

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 info@montgomerylodge.org