That Which Has Been Lost - The Basics

Part One

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~BH

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

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

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 where he is a Past Master. He is also a Past District Deputy for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry and is also an avid home brewer. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Myth of Sisyphus

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


I graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Minor in Philosophy in 1995. As a philosophy student, I was particularly drawn to Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus and Kierkegaard. At the time, I was also wrestling with my ideas of faith, and belief in God. Ultimately, I made what Kierkegaard calls, The Leap of Faith. You can see my recent article on Atheism for what caused my leap HERE

The reason I bring all of this up is due to an article I read today regarding Camus and his seminal philosophical work, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. In it, Camus deals with the question of the absurd. The absurd, philosophically, is the conflict between the human tendency to seek value and meaning in life and the inability to find any. What struck me reading the article today is that how much of what Camus struggles with is addressed in Freemasonry, and how while Sisyphus might be posited as the Absurd Hero by Camus, I see him as a Masonic allegory. I’ll get to this in a second.

For those of you who don’t know, Sisyphus was according to Homer, one of the wisest and most prudent of mortals. Sisyphus asks his wife that upon his death, that she cast his unburied body into the town square. Sisyphus dies and wakes up in the underworld to find out that she has indeed fulfilled his request. He is angered that she did not bury him with love to his memory but rather followed his word. He asks Hades to return him to the world of the living so that he can scold his wife for her choice. Sisyphus decides upon his return to the mortal world that he does not want to go back to the underworld. He falls in love with the natural world. He disobeys Hades and does not return. Hermes captures him and returns him to the underworld. He is sentenced to carrying or pushing a massive boulder up a mountain. Once he reached the top of the mountain, the boulder would roll back down the mountain. Sisyphus would then march down the mountain to start the task again. This would happen for all of eternity.

In order to understand Camus, we have to understand what he was interested in. In his own words, he is cited by Michel Onfray in L'Ordre libertaire:La vie philosophique d'Albert Camus as saying: “I am not a philosopher. I do not believe enough in reason to believe in any system. What interests me is how a man can carry on when he doesn’t have faith in God or in reason.” For Camus, there is only one question in Philosophy that matters, "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide." For him, suicide amounts to a confession that life is not worth living. This confession leads to the “feeling of absurdity”. The feeling of absurdity is his realization as defined above, the human tendency to seek meaning in life and the inability to find any. Ultimately, Camus associates the feeling with absurdity with the feeling of exile. He wonders how we can exist when there is really no reason to continue to exist. He suggests that we have two possible outcomes to this question, hope or suicide. But that there are plenty of contradictions between people’s answer to the question and their actions. There are people that commit suicide because they feel that there is no meaning to life, or that their life is too painful for them to be able to continue living it. There are also people that kill because they feel there is no meaning to life, or that their life is too painful and they want to make other’s life painful as well. Hope nullifies the belief that there is no meaning to life, by means of blind faith.

Camus is interested in trying to find a third alternative, somewhere outside of rational philosophy which he rejects. He also discusses how philosophers in general try to transcend or refute the idea of the absurdity of life. When they do this, he argues that they commit ‘Philosophical Suicide’. Camus goes on to identify a concept of an absurd man. The absurd man acknowledges that there are three consequences of trying to live with the absurd: revolt, freedom, and passion. He suggests that in order to deal with the absurd, that we live life to its fullest, remaining aware that we are by birth condemned to die. His idea of revolt, is that we must with every breath deny the notion that we must die. He also defines his idea of freedom. He discusses how our idea of freedom, that we are free to make our own decisions and define ourselves by our actions, is wrong. He argues that by doing so, we confine ourselves to living out certain roles. That if we see ourselves as the Good Father, employee, citizen, that our actions will be guided by this self-image. This idea of freedom is a metaphysical one: it claims that the universe allows us to choose our own destiny. For Camus, the absurd man can only experience freedom by taking each moment of life as it comes, free of the trappings of a preconception of what our role should be. The absurd man also abandons any notion of values. If there is no meaning to anything we do, there is no reason to make one choice over another. Since we eliminate the idea of the quality of our experiences, we have to apply a standard of quantity. This quantity is what he calls passion. A person that is aware of every passing moment will have a greater depth of experience than someone who is otherwise living to perform a role.

Camus then goes into some case studies regarding the Absurd Man and how to be creative in an absurd world. They are basically illustrations of the points above, so in order to move on to his ideas regarding the Myth of Sisyphus, I will skip them. However, if you want to see how the ideas play out, I’d suggest picking up a copy of The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus identifies Sisyphus as the absurd hero, because of his behavior on earth and for his punishment in the underworld. What Camus is most interested in is Sisyphus’s thoughts at the moment when the rock rolls down the mountain. As he marches back down the mountain, he his conscious of the absurdity of his fate. He understands that his fate is tragic as he understands it and that there will be no parole. He is heroic, according to Camus, because of the lucidity of this understanding. He thinks that Sisyphus might also have joy in approaching this task. He only would have moments of sorrow when he reflects on the material world. When Sisyphus accepts his fate, the feelings of sorrow vanish. Camus thinks that by acknowledging his hopeless fate, he renders it less hopeless. Camus states that “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn”. Happiness and the absurd are linked by the acknowledgement that our world and our fate is our own, that there is no hope and our life is what we make of it. He concludes that as Sisyphus makes his descent, one must imagine Sisyphus as being happy.

Although Camus would think that Freemasonry would be a way of dealing with the idea of the absurdity of life by means of blind faith, I still see some parallels that can be drawn regarding Sisyphus and Freemasonry. First and foremost, I find the idea that Sisyphus is essentially a worker with stone, albeit in the underworld and for all eternity fascinating. Essentially, the boulder that Sisyphus pushes uphill can be thought of as being a rough ashlar. The boulder being in its rude and natural state. However, over eternity, by the mere work of friction, one would think that the boulder would transform into a smooth boulder, which is more easily pushed uphill (and roll downhill). The perfect ashlar, is that state of perfection that we as Masons hope to arrive by a virtuous education, our own endeavors and the blessing of God. However, as Camus imagines Sisyphus happy by the scorning and acknowledgement of his fate, I imagine Sisyphus as the perfect metaphor for one’s life as a Mason. Only through hard work and determination, can a Mason transform the rough ashlar into a perfect one.

In operative Masonry, the rough ashlar is only made into the perfect one by the use of one of the working tools, the gavel. The gavel is used by Freemasons of divesting our hearts and consciences of the vices and superfluities of life. We use it fit our minds, as living stones, for the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. How do we then transform our minds? By Masonic Education. But what is Masonic Education? There seem to be many definitions, and none of them seem to agree with one another.

Some older members of the fraternity would seem to think that Masonic Education only consists of floor work and ritual. Masonic Education is anything outside of the realm of Instruction, although traditionally it would mean the teaching of the exoteric and esoteric meanings of our Symbols, Philosophy, History and its Objectives. I would argue that while important, the floor work and ritual are taught at Schools of Instruction. There is a semantic different between instruction and education. Instruction is to teach, while education is to educate. My argument being, that when you are instructed to do something, you make it a habit. To use the metaphor of Sisyphus, it can be thought of as the time during which he is rolling the boulder up hill. Instruction is a one way street, directions are given to you, and you are expected to follow those directions. Education, however is a dialogue. It may be an internal or external dialogue, but there is information that is given, processed and digested. IE: when Sisyphus is walking back down the hill, engaged in his debate with himself regarding his fate.

I take the broad view of Masonic Education. As we state our purpose is to take good men and make them better, I see anything that helps in that process as being Masonic Education. One of the Lodges that I belong to, Homer Lodge #199 Illinois AF&AM, has taken this view of Education to heart. In the past six months, alone we’ve had the following Education:

1. The Mayor of Homer, Ray Cunningham, has been to North Korea several times. He shared his experiences and his pictures at our May Stated Meeting.

2. At our April Stated Meeting, we had the local daughters of the American Revolution chapter do a flag presentation, where the members and guest learned about the History of some of the historic American and State of Illinois flags.

3. At our March Stated Meeting, fellow Midnight Freemason Greg Knott, gave a presentation about Arlington National Cemetery and the Masonic connections there.

4. At our February Stated Meeting, I gave a presentation about the Masonic and Boy Scout connections regarding the Fleur De Lis.

5. At our January Stated Meeting, Midnight Freemason Founder Todd E. Creason gave a presentation called Freemasonry: The next three hundred years.

6. At our December Stated Meeting, RWB Raymond Cummings gave a presentation regarding Roslyn Chapel, sharing his experiences and pictures of his visit there.

One of the things that we do at Homer is that we allow guests in (by going to refreshment) after our opening, and then go back to Labor after the education takes place. When there are no guests, but only Masons in attendance, we open and go directly to our education. By making Education the focus of our meetings, we’ve made our meetings more interesting for our members. We’ve also been able to recruit some members along the way. By taking the focus away from the business aspects of our meetings, we have changed the way that our members view Education. Of course it helps to have two other midnight freemasons in the lodge with me. Our lodge is so well regarded in terms of Education that I recently was appointed to the Officer of District Education Officer for the 7thEastern District in Illinois, and Todd E. Creason is soon to be Area Education Officer for the Eastern Area. (He may already have his appointment).

My point is that Education shouldn’t be thought of like Sisyphus’s toil uphill with the boulder. It should be viewed as that respite during which Sisyphus travels downhill. Education can be anything you want it to be. As the incoming Worshipful Master of Homer #199, I plan on continuing our legacy of educational excellence. It’s not that hard to become like Homer. Talk to your Lodge, District or Area Education Officer if you’re finding it to be an uphill battle. It really shouldn’t be. If you’re ever at a loss for Masonic educational pieces, I would suggest looking on Youtube at the Masonic Minute series put together by fellow Midnight Freemason Steve Harrison. These pieces are perfect educational pieces for a busy lodge and short attention spans. But that is just one suggestion. All I’m saying is that when you implement Masonic Education, even Camus might imagine you as happy, which is high praise coming from him.

~DAL

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

Transition of Leadership

by Midnight Freemason Senior Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Admiration Chapter No. 282 of Royal Arch Masons received its charter in September 2017. Leading up to this momentous occasion was a series of requirements that had to be met as outlined by the Grand Chapter of Illinois. Having met all those requirements, the Chapter was then granted a charter.

Early in the process, the key founders of Admiration Chapter knew there were some in the Grand Chapter leadership who were skeptical of our efforts. I don’t blame them as I am sure they have seen other groups of well-intentioned companions who wanted to start a new chapter, but just never could get it off the ground.

At Admiration Chapter we did things differently. We deliberately took our time and assembled a group of Companions who were dedicated to a unified goal of completing the work necessary to obtain our charter. But none of this would have happened without leadership within these aspiring Companions.

In 2015, MEPGHP of the Grand Chapter of Illinois, Sean P. McBride granted the group a dispensation to become Admiration Chapter U.D. (under dispensation). When this dispensation was granted, one of the requirements was that a Companion who had previously served as Excellent High Priest (EHP) of another Royal Arch Chapter, serve as the initial EHP of Admiration. Michael J. Dooley, who was a past EHP of Champaign Chapter No. 50 (Champaign, Illinois), stepped forward and agreed to serve in this capacity.

Over the next three years, Companion Dooley did an outstanding job of leading the efforts towards the chartering. First off, Mike lives nearly 50 miles away from where Admiration Chapter meets and thus has a 100 mile round trip just to make the meetings. Mike has never missed any of our degree work, chapter convocations, special meetings etc.

Mike’s leadership style is one of encouragement to others, always putting in a good word for someone, and a willingness to perform any role. He is not one who worries about titles or medals, but rather looking for the growth of both freemasonry and the individual brothers. He is always the first to say “yes I can do that” and is very quick to acknowledge the contributions and service of others. He exemplifies servant leadership.

Let me extend my sincere thanks to Mike for both his leadership and example to others. This fraternity is better because of men like Mike and I have no doubt that his leadership will continue in not only Admiration Chapter but in numerous other places in Freemasonry.

At our convocation last night we had elections of officers for the upcoming year. Admiration Chapter is now in the very capable hands of Midnight Freemason Founder, Todd E. Creason. I foresee continued strong leadership ahead for Admiration.

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754, Homer Lodge No. 199 and Naval Lodge No. in Washington DC.

A Little Get-Together

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

Left to right; Steve Harrison, Greg Knott, Todd Creason, Darin Lahners

Each year in May when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Indianapolis 500 – a near-religious experience – my journey takes me through the Champagne-Urbana, Illinois region. There, in recent years, I've taken that opportunity to meet with friends from the area. We have lunch, share the experiences of the past year, exchange ideas and maybe even tell a tall tale or two. Freemasons all, the conversation usually has a lot to do with the state of the Craft, whether in our local lodges or with other Masonic issues in general.

Our small group consists of Todd Creason, Greg Knott, yours truly and this year, for the first time, Darrin Lahners joined us. While Freemasonry struggles with membership issues, our exclusive “order” has grown by 33%.

Todd is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He has written a slew of books on Freemasonry including three novels where some of the characters are Brothers, and has been named a Fellow in the Missouri Lodge of Research. Greg is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge 970 in St. Joseph, Illinois and is a director of the prestigious Masonic Society. Darrin just served as Master of St. Joseph Lodge 970 and this coming year will be Master of Homer Lodge 199. Darrin has written about some tough issues he faced as Master this year and the fact he's out to do it again at Homer emphasizes his dedication to the fraternity. That doesn't even serve as a “Reader's Digest” version of what these men have accomplished. Their full biographies can be found at www.midnightfreemasons.org/.

These Brothers are so dynamic, enthusiastic and have had so many successes I'm sometimes surprised to find they run into the same issues I encounter; but they do. We share those issues and try to work out what solutions and suggestions we can in the space of an hour or so.

I really look forward to this little get-together. It's nothing earthshaking. We're not going to solve the problems of the world in the small amount of time we have. Maybe its greatest significance is there are three – make that four guys – different ages, different backgrounds, different geographical regions getting together. If not for the bond of Freemasonry this wouldn't happen. I wouldn't know any of them and, although Darrin, Greg and Todd work at the same place they wouldn't know each other as well or perhaps at all.

I've seen this kind of thing happen a lot. We are a band of Brothers with common experiences and obligations. Knowing we share the tenets of Freemasonry brings us together like magnets. Just seeing that square and compasses pin on a lapel makes us want to know more about the man wearing it. It's not just a conversation piece; it represents the strong bond of Brotherhood.

This year's meeting came and went all too quickly. We finished our meal, posed for our mandatory photo and went our separate ways. Across the parking lot from the others, I barely could hear one of them say, “Meeting adjourned.”

That is until next year, God willing.

~SLH

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



Exercising Self-Discipline

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Just like any muscle in the human body, character traits also grow stronger when they are exercised.  Of these, I think most will agree that self-discipline is key to many of those most desirable traits. It’s also the most difficult to master—if we ever really do master it. If you look at just a few of the virtues a Mason strives towards, temperance, fortitude, and prudence, you’ll realize that without self-discipline there is little hope of making progress in any of those virtues.

Temperance is not about abstinence as many believe today, it’s about moderation. It’s about maintaining a balance, and applying due restraint to our passions so that we aren’t tempted by the allurements of excess. Masons are taught to avoid excess in all things, and temperance is that virtue that reminds us to practice all things in moderation. That requires a level of self-discipline.

Fortitude is that virtue that provides us with strength. As we’re taught, fortitude is that steady purpose of mind that enables us to withstand any pain, peril or danger. It allows us to stand strong in our words and deeds and not stray off the noble path. Again, this requires a mastery of self-discipline because standing strong in the face of danger or even criticism is a very difficult thing to do.

Prudence is a virtue closely related to both temperance and virtue. It is a virtue that helps us regulate our lives by applying reason and wisdom to any given situation to help to determine the proper path. It is the wisdom to know when to act, and when not to act. It is the wisdom to know when it is best to speak, and when it is best to remain silent. It is the wisdom to know when to fight, and when to flee. Prudence is the balance between temperance and fortitude. And without question, prudence requires a great deal of self-discipline.

I’m an impulsive person by nature—self-discipline is not something that has come easy to me. It’s something I’ve worked very hard on since I’ve become a Mason, and I’ve made tremendous progress over the last thirteen years. Much of the progress I’ve made is because I practice self-discipline every day.

I discovered early on, that I do great at self-discipline until I’m tempted, or I was put under stress, or I was challenged in some way—then my self-discipline vanished in an instant. That’s because I had self-discipline in theory only, but not in practice. I’d have a great day and meet all my diet and exercise goals, and then I’d drive by the Dairy Queen on the way home, and suddenly I’d be eating a peanut buster parfait. I’d stop by the tavern on the way home at 5 o’clock for “one beer” and I’d still be there at 10 o’clock (or later). I’d make an effort to control my temper, until somebody said something I didn’t like and in a flash . . . well, you get the idea. So I decided to teach myself self-discipline the same way I learned how to write books and play the piano. I practice it over and over again every day, and over time it becomes easier to apply in those situations when I’m tested.

I have a number of daily exercises I use. The purpose of these exercises is to challenge myself, and make myself pay particular attention to my words, my actions, and my attitudes in an area that I feel I need improvement in. I intentionally make myself live outside my comfort zone in different areas so that I can better handle myself in a proper manner when real challenges present themselves. Some of the daily challenges are fairly easy, but require me to think about one particular area for a day. Other challenges are very difficult for me, and I’ll often have to repeat them for a few days in a row until I move on—and I’ll go back to those again and again until they get easier to accomplish. Some of my challenges I’ll set up to last a week. Some of my challenges involve diet and exercise. Some involve my interactions with other people. Some involve distractions that I need eliminate. Some involve productivity. Some involve getting out of a rut I’ve found myself in. Some involve changing the way I think about things that repeatedly seem to irritate me. Patience is something I’m particularly challenged with at times, so those are exercises I go back to time and again. One thing you can be sure of, is that I’m working on something every day.

And it works. The more you exercise something, the stronger it gets—makes no difference if it’s a muscle or a trait. And just like with athletes, the time they spend training and working out off the field prepares them for the challenges they face on the field. As I’ve said many times before, it’s not just about doing Freemasonry, it’s about living Freemasonry. A big part of Freemasonry is that idea of personal growth and self-improvement. You can learn the principles of Freemasonry from books, but you can only apply the principles of Freemasonry through practice in your daily life.

Freemasonry isn’t three degrees and done. It’s a lifetime commitment to keep chipping away throughout our entire lives on that rough ashlar.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the the From Labor To Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary.  He is a 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.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The 24 Inch Gauge

How Can I Divide My Time To Meet My Obligation?

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


Within each degree, the instruction on the Working Tools is one of the most beautifully written parts of ritual. In the first degree the use of the 24-inch gauge continues to fascinate me. Every time I hear the breakdown of the twenty four inches into 24 hours, further divided into 3 equal parts of 8 hours, which are to be allocated for serving God, a worthy distressed Brother, our work, and refreshment and sleep — I always think, “How is that literally possible?” At some point in the history of our Craft there must have been a time when men had time in their day to live like this, right?

Those words were created back when we didn’t sleep in one eight hour chunk but in two shorter periods, overnight. Dating back to medieval times two-piece sleeping as it was called, was standard practice. Chaucer tells of a character in the Canterbury Tales that goes to bed following her “firste sleep.” And what did people do between their first and second sleep? Everything from reading a book (most likely their Bible), talk, or go for a walk in the countryside to visit with their neighbors.

Keep in mind this is back when time was still kept by burning a candle. Your day began, literally, at daybreak and you were in bed by sundown. Dividing your time into three equal parts wasn’t hard when your day was made up of eat, sleep, work, and repeat. Church wasn’t just something you did on Sunday morning: it was your Sunday. Take away my Netflix binging on Sunday afternoon when I finally get to watch TV for a few uninterrupted hours, and instead,  give me a few hours every night between Midnight at 2AM for reading and I would have that service to God box checked!

Fast forward to 2018
If I was to compare dividing my time to the Activity Rings on my Apple Watch, the large ring would definitely be my work hours, the medium ring my sleep, and the smaller ring the time invested in the service to God or my Brothers. I’m being very generous here with my math. I pulled up a random day on my calendar this month… Wednesday, April 11th. Workday for job #1 started at 8AM (up for work by 6:45AM). Work schedule has a couple conference calls, a meeting, lunch, and time at my desk to work on my daily task list. End of workday for job #1 is at 4:30PM. Job #2 starts at 5PM and goes until 11PM. Home by 11:30PM and in bed (hopefully) before Midnight.

My “Work” ring is dominating my life
And this isn’t just happening on Wednesday of last week, this is pretty much every weekday. The more I investigate the breakdown of my time, the only time I really dedicate to “Masonic” service are my nights at Lodge. Hmm. That’s like four hours a week.

I’m being literal on purpose because it’s impossible to literally divide your time into 8 hour parts every day. It is also important to remember that the working tools of an EA are the 24-inch gauge AND the common gavel. One to divide your time, the other to clear your life of distractions. That’s the important part of the Working Tools lesson: do you examine how you spend your time? If your time is not prioritized, how can you fix the areas that are lacking?

There is an advantage to living in 2018 versus 1518
Besides the warm shower to start my day or the fresh, brewed cup of coffee that is set to go off at 7:15AM, I also have this little blue book that was given to me when I was raised as a Master Mason that contains ALL of the standard work and lectures from the degrees I took. I carry this little blue book to work to read during my lunch break or downtime. On my drive to and from work I listen to my favorite masonic podcast (Whence Came You?) to get my weekly dose of masonic education and discussion. I also have a cell phone in my pocket and strapped to my wrist as a watch, which allows me to text or call my Brothers throughout the day. It might seem trivial but when I ask them how their day is going or converse with them about their daily dilemma, isn’t that service to a distressed worthy Brother?

When I re-evaluate my day through the lens of present day, yes, work still dominates my life (for now) but I can “steal” a few hours here and there to meet my masonic obligations. Instead of literally dividing my time into 3 “start/stop” parts I use a combined/running clock. Really what depresses me now is the fact that my sleep circle is pretty much non-existent. Until I start taking naps under my desk or retire, I don’t see how I’m going to catch up in that area. Perhaps that’s why we call them the “Working Tools.”

~MA

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

Remembering our Past Masters - Revisited

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


Last year at this time, I was lucky enough to receive permission to share my lodge’s Past Master’s Remembrance ceremony with you HERE. At the time, I wrote it from the viewpoint of the Master of the lodge, with more of a cold, analytical point of view, so that I could provide you with the script and staging instructions to hold your own ceremony. Now I’m the junior Past Master in my lodge, and would like to discuss the why, instead of the how.

As you read in the linked article, the junior Past Master is responsible for the planning and execution of the Past Master’s Remembrance ceremony. They arrange the dinner, manage the printing and mailing of the invitations, the programs, and present the speech given. This is considered their last official act as Worshipful Master, and to say that a lot is riding on it is an understatement.

Heading into the day of the event, I worked hard (under the direction of our long-suffering Tiler) to get the room set up properly and test the projector to be certain that all of the deceased PM pictures would appear in the proper order. We also arranged to have an Oriental Chair draped at the entrance, to further drive home our reason for being there. Before walking out of the lodge, we cranked the air conditioner to as low as it would go, in the hopes that the room would be cooled off in time for the ceremony. (Author’s note, this is called foreshadowing, don’t forget that we did this)

I mailed the invitations at the end of April, which should have provided plenty of time for them to arrive, however a number of people still haven’t received them as of writing this article. We are experiencing a similar issue with donation requests that are being sent out from one of the foundations that I work with. As an aside, if anyone knows a solution to getting first class mail delivered reliably, please email me at adam@wcypodcast.com and let me know!

Because many people didn’t receive the invite, turnout was significantly lower than expected, especially among the Past Masters. Out of the 31 living Past Masters in our lodge, there were only 7 in attendance (including myself), and attendance rates among the members and the widows was very similar. Very important lesson learned: while mail is good, you can’t put your entire hopes on it arriving. If I could advise future junior Past Masters planning this event, I would tell them to take a multi prong approach, by mailing the invite, then following up via email or phone.

The dinner itself was good, if a bit overpriced by the caterer, and I fear I may have driven our secretary into a minor mental breakdown when he saw the bill. One of the only positives that came from such a low turnout is that we’ve enough leftovers for our business meeting next week, and so one meal was stretched into two. I know, I’m stretching a bit to justify the cost. Very important lesson learned: try not to spring a large surprise bill on the person who will be writing the check.

After dinner, we retired to our lodge room for the ceremony itself, and I have to say that after having been out of the East for so many months it was a bit nerve-wracking being back up there. Even though I had practiced, and checked to make sure that everything would run smoothly, I was still back to being as nervous as I was at my first meeting as Master.

Ten minutes before the start of the ceremony, I returned to the lodge room, and turned the air conditioner off. Our air conditioner is an older system, and in addition to being slow to respond to changes, it is incredibly noisy. It is also incredibly complicated, as it has independent controls in three different rooms, and if they aren’t all set correctly it won’t turn on… or, as the case was last night, turn back off! Even though I was nearly shouting through most of the ceremony, part of the room couldn’t hear a word I said (except, of course, for when I mispronounced a name). Very important lesson learned: no matter how hard you try, some things will always be outside of your control, and you just have to learn to live with that.

The ceremony itself was as beautiful as always, as the original author had a way with words that I can only aspire to. I have been lucky that, through my Masonic journey, I have been forced into public speaking at every turn, and so I was able to actually look at the people gathered there instead of “talking to the podium” as I’ve seen done so often. More importantly, for me, is that I was able to watch as each of the 104 carnations was laid, one for each deceased Past Master, and so able to honor them by remembering them, and in this I learned the most important lesson: never forget the people behind the ceremony. It’s so easy to get caught up in worrying about all of the details that we forget the reason we hold the ceremony to begin with.

After the ceremony it was time for tearing down and cleaning up, presenting carnations to the widows, and thanking the current Worshipful Master for allowing me to have his lodge for the evening. Of course, we also had to go out for pie afterwards (for more information on the importance of pie, see my article HERE), and everyone talked about how great the evening was, but for me nothing will top the honor of getting to honor the 104 men who faithfully served our lodge in life before laying down their working tools and attaining peace at the last.

~AT

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