In Less Than Twenty Hours

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

In less than twenty hours it will be 2019. Queue all the futuristic sci-fi memes about how we're supposed to start dressing like this, or that something is supposed to be at this stage of development, based on the pasts rendition of how our tech future is supposed to look and feel.

Hover Boards? Not quite. Flying cars? Not yet. Jet packs for people? Impractical. Futuristic clothing like in Blade Runner? Only at the worst fashion shows in New York.

(The inspiration behind the Zoolander - Mugato Derelicte Clothing Line)

What are we supposed to have by now that's been in development for a long time? What has been evolving and changing for the better? What future bit of measurable matter has and will be delivered in 2019?

The answer, I'm sure you've guessed, is YOU. Presumably, you're a better more advanced version of yourself than you were even six months ago. Each year we make resolutions to do something--stop biting your nails, work out more, read more--whatever it was, I'm sure you made, at the very least. an effort. Even if you considered it a failure, it's changed you for the better.

You didn't make resolutions? Well, news flash--If you're a member of this fraternity, than you've almost certainly done things all year, however minuscule that have made large impacts on not only yourself, but the world around you. "The world is better, because you were here, George Bailey."

By all these various actions, you've grown. You've become a better version of you. All too often we're comparing ourselves to others. Whether it's money, being fit, our cars, homes--hell, even our cell phones! What we really need to focus on is being a better version of ourselves. Think about who you used to be. Think about your bad moments. Can you say you would have done them different? If the answer is yes, than you've changed. Write down on a piece of paper your faults, your dreams, where you are. Look at them again in 2020. Recently the Masonic world has made a statement regarding this. Notably, by the Scottish Rite NMJ in there new Meme collection.

Courtesy of

So according to the "sci-fi future", what thing are you supposed to have tomorrow, that you don't have today? What attribute are we supposed to assimilate into our being that we've dreamt about, seen in a movie or read about? Whatever it is, realize that it's within your grasp. Every micro second of our existence, we are evolving, changing and molting. You are not who you were ten years ago. You're not even who you were two years ago. Even in the non-holistic scientific factual land, your body has replaced all of itself (with minimal exceptions) completely, every seven to ten years. Every cell has been copied and replaced, all whilst maintaining your current consciousness. All while your soul, drives this extraordinary biological machine that you reside in.

Realize you're already better and that you'll continue to get better.

Happy New Year Everyone!


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 Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183 UD. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master 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. 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.

Are You A Mason? - Finding Your WHY In Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

Author note: Recently I was asked to speak at a "Brother Bring A Friend Night." The Master wanted me to address questions prospective members, their partners, and family members might have on the benefits of Freemasonry. This article contains many of the points made that evening.

Freemasonry as an organization does not actively recruit members. While most lodges have a website or social media presence, as a whole, we apply the phrase, "Ask One To Be One", to guide new members into our fraternity. Our principle of, "Making good men better”, is the message we publicly communicate to the uninitiated man, seeking to gain his part in Freemasonry.

As a marketing professional, I must admit that it was difficult to resist the urge to naturally promote my passion for Freemasonry to men I know, who personally and professionally, I believe would make an excellent addition to any lodge. I think back to my time studying Masonic degrees, where the word "caution" is used to teach an essential lesson on discussing the subject of Freemasonry. We are taught to exercise caution when speaking on Freemasonry, especially with its detractors. Imagine how difficult it becomes to answer questions prospective gentleman, their families, and loved ones may have when you are bound to not reveal the secrets of Freemasonry to anyone other than another Mason.

With this challenge in mind, I can't help but escape the thought of how do we grow as a force of good in the world when we cannot actively promote ourselves to those who would be strong candidates to petition a Lodge?

Start with your WHY

Simon Sinek shares his ideas on how the greatest leaders and organizations think, act, and communicate in his book "Start With Why.” Sinek discusses how successful brands like Apple, tell their story by sharing their WHY: the driving force, their desires, and hopes. Starting with your WHY makes it easier for others to understand your drive, it creates buy-in by connecting you with everyone else. Companies aren't the only ones, Sinek notes, that have changed their approach. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers all told us their WHY. Most of today's successful brands and leaders have abandoned the traditional benefits language, starting with what makes them different from their competitors (bigger, better, faster), in favor of sharing the most valuable ingredient in building a trust-relationship: passion.

If successful companies over time can create promoters from loyal customers, why can’t Freemasonry?

This is why, when asked the, "Are you a Mason" question, I include my WHY in my response. I sought admission to a lodge because I wanted to know why great men were drawn to this exceptional organization. How does a centuries-old tradition link to legendary figures throughout history? What possible lessons could be passed on to a man like myself? What did these great men know that I do not and how could I learn from their experiences? My WHY is my life-long pursuit of learning and Freemasonry provides vast resources from books to explore, to assimilating with its diverse members. My WHY is the fellowship I share with my Brothers, the enrichment gained from studying and the knowledge I gain from sharing life experiences with men from diverse walks of life. My Brothers are WHY I joined Freemasonry.

Masonry is not right for every man

It takes a unique individual to have the heart to serve others, an inquiring mind to learn new things and a noble character that accepts those of different faiths, backgrounds, and beliefs. As a Mason, I have several colleagues and friends who I believe would make excellent members, some who even ask about visiting, but for whatever reason, never advance to entering. Some don't have the time to attend meetings, the discipline to learn our traditions or the interest in expanding their circle of friends. And that is fine. Not every gentleman who visits a Lodge will join, this is how Freemasonry has remained a constant presence over time. We believe that the first place you become a Mason is in your heart, years before you enter our fraternity.

Too often today we join networks or groups that offer a promise to open doors or claim professional enrichment. Freemasonry does not. The only enlightenment you will receive will be from the work you put into applying our ancient teachings into your everyday life. I am proud to be a member of a global Fraternity of men who possess a higher calling, who participate freely without personal gain or private interests. Masonry has stood the test of time, from Kings to Revolutionists, from Civil War to Equal Rights. This is our WHY: we come together in harmony which is the support of all good institutions, especially this of ours’.


Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden 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:

I'll Never Be A DDGL

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

It was a Lodge's nightmare… both the District Deputy Grand Lecturer and Regional Grand Lecturer were in attendance. Also a visitor at that meeting, I sat next to the two dignitaries and thought, "The officers better be on their toes. This could get ugly."

It went better than I expected but at one point during the meeting the DDGL leaned over to the RGL and whispered, "The Senior Warden said, 'You will advance to the West and communicate the password...' It should be, 'You will approach the West...' Should we stop them and say something?"

The RGL shook his head, "No… they got there."

I'm with the RGL: I am not a hard-core ritualist – and that's blasphemy in some circles. Don't get me wrong. I like a well-done ritual as much as the next guy; but I care more about whether the ceremony comes off well than if a Brother says "this" when he should say "that." I know… I'll never be a DDGL.

And don't even get me started on the guys in the "peanut gallery" who start yelling out the next line any time the speaker has more than a two-second pause. I'm not alone in that. I've been in Lodge when the Master appointed a proctor with the admonition, "I don't want to hear a word out of anyone else." I'm big on proctors.

I bring all this up because this week my Lodge tested for one of the ritual awards my Grand Lodge sponsors. We invited the DDGL in to grade us on our opening and closing. The guys were well-practiced and the ceremony went like clockwork. 

I just sat there thinking how enjoyable it is to be in any of our ceremonies – especially degree work – when things just click along. That, as opposed to the living hell of sitting through the same thing when the speakers are ill-prepared and have to be prompted on every line. Sitting through an opening like that is the only time I actually look forward to getting to the reading of the minutes.

So, congrats to my Brothers at Liberty Lodge #31. They got the award.

Oh, there were mistakes. There are ALWAYS mistakes. I knew our perfect score was gone as the Chaplain, asking God to subdue our discordant passions, prayed, "Grant that the sublime principles of Freemasonry may so subdue every insubordinate passion within us…"

See, I just let that roll right off my back. In fact, I thought it was kind of funny. Unfortunately, the DDGL – you know, the guy keeping score – was not amused.


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 Freemasonsblog 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.

Counting Our Masonic Blessings

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

"May the blessing of Heaven rest upon us, and all regular Masons! May Brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us."

From the first time we step into a Masonic lodge room we are told, “No man should ever enter into any great or important undertaking without first invoking the blessings of the deity.” As we progress in Masonry, we begin to encounter the opportunities to ask our Creator for his blessings on our great and good works. But what are these blessings?

Recently while working on another essay, I began to think about the blessings we receive from the Grand Master of the Universe and began to wonder, "...what are we really asking him for?"

I started to think about this old song I would occasionally hear as a child about counting your blessings. A quick search of Google brought me the words of a song I had long forgotten written by Brother Irving Berlin, a life member of Munn Lodge No. 190, New York called “Counting my blessings instead of sheep”:

When I'm worried, andI can't sleep

I count my blessings instead of sheep

And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small

I think of when I had none at all

And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery, and I picture curly heads

And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds

So if you're worried and you can't sleep

Count your blessings instead of sheep

And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings

Now I know most of us to pause for a moment occasionally and reflect and give thanks to God for the blessings he's has given us--our families, our home or whatever you personally are grateful for, but how many times have we as Freemasons paused and truly thought about what the Grand Architect has blessed us with as a Fraternity?

We as Freemasons are blessed by our Creator to live in a time and in a land that allows us to practice our vocation of speculative Freemasonry in a spirit of Brotherly love and friendship, without fear of imprisonment, torture or death.

The members of the Midnight Freemasons constantly receive emails from men who beg us to become Freemasons. Some of them live in places where if it were discovered they were even attempting to join our Craft they could lose their Freedom, but despite the threat to themselves and their families they still desire the light we're blessed to receive.

The first time I visited what was to become my motherlodge I was approached by an elderly Past Master who said “I don’t know why you want to join the Masons. The Fraternity will be dead in ten years anyway.“ That was in 2002, sixteen years ago from this writing, and I am happy to say the Fraternity is still alive, even though that Brother who made that dire prediction didn’t live to see that he was wrong.

Through the years I have heard the same prediction that that Past Master made many times, and we are still blessed by the Grand Architect of the Universe to still be here and practicing our Craft. Sadly recently, I have been reading essays by Brothers that the Masonic skies are falling again.

These Brothers are using statistical data compiled over the last century to show the loss of membership, and if the statistics are correct at any rate, we are losing members, and the Masonic Fraternity will die within a few years. I will admit if you just look at stark, raw numbers they are correct.

But Brethren numbers are just that numbers. They don’t take into consideration the spiritof the individual Freemason and his determination. If you are read those recent essays or if you are reading these words now, it is apparent that you have either have a love of or at least an interest of Freemasonry and if there are still men who are Freemasons in their heart, no one will allow the Fraternity to pass away.

If you have ever studied the history of Freemasonry you know that our Craft has survived the inquisition, the anti-Masonic period here in America, The Nazi period in Europe where our Brethren were tortured and murdered, put in concentration camps. We've survived the false profits who've lied about us for centuries, claiming we're guilty of everything from murder to demon worship, as we supposedly attempt world domination. No matter what lies and discrimination has been thrown at us over three hundred years, we are still standing upright like a stone wall--composed of living stones, held together by the cement of Brotherly love which still unites us. Much like a forest fire which decimates a woodland, when the fire is extinguished nature will begin to regrow, and that land which was scorched will grow back more lush and stronger than before.

Brethren, I would be a liar if said Freemasonry doesn’t have problems. We all know it does. But this piece isn’t meant to address them or illustrate them. The message I am trying to convey is, we as a Fraternity need to embrace the blessings given by the Grand Architect of the Universe and begin to work together using That Noble Contention or rather an emulation, of who best can work and best agree, in order rebuild Freemasonry. And Brethren, negative attitudes and non cooperation won’t light our path. We are totally in control of our own destiny. If we want to survive, we must begin to actually work together.


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.

Doing It Wrong

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

Like many other American Freemasons, I was pleased to see that the documentary “Inside the Freemasons” which originally debuted on the Sky1 channel in England in 2017 was on Netflix. The 5 part series runs about 45 minutes per episode, and focuses on several Freemasons in England either beginning their Masonic journey, or continuing their Masonic journey. Now I realize, like all forms of media, that many of the experiences they were showing were most likely scripted or over-produced. Of course, maybe it was the ability to have a pint or two before or after the meeting, or the festive boards, or the pageantry of their form of Masonry, or their dedication to charitable pursuits, but they definitely had something that I felt was lacking in my Masonic experience. I couldn’t help but see the English form of Masonry and tell myself, "...we’re doing it wrong."

I returned from our Grand Lodge communication a few months ago, and I was happy to see that we finally have a Grand Master that broke with Tradition. He did several things differently that stood out to me. The first was that he had a group of young men who were still members of DeMolay but who were also Master Masons open our Grand Lodge session. I was impressed by this display. As Worshipful Master of Homer #199 in Homer, Illinois, I have a hard enough time fighting my nerves when opening lodge alongside brethren who I have known for years. I can’t imagine the nerves that these fine young men had on this day. But of course, this didn’t stop a brother within my earshot from criticizing their performance. You see, quite simply, they were “doing it wrong” and he could do it better.

The second was that on the second day, traditionally (at least at the past 4 sessions that I’ve attended), the Job’s daughters perform the Living Cross. This year, the Rainbow Girls and Job’s daughters performed another ceremony, where they laid flowers of the color of Freemasonry and its appendant bodies on the altar. I personally felt that the change was refreshing. However, this didn’t stop from brethren around me from muttering their disapproval under their breath. Once again, in their minds, it was being done wrong. Why Change something from the formula that has been working in past years? Nevermind that most of these brethren are talking to each other, or on their phones and not really paying attention. Change is bad!

How many of you have experienced this scenario? A newly raised Master Mason attends his first lodge meeting. As per usual, there is barely a quorum and the WM asks the new Master Mason to fill in as JW. There is some quick instruction given to the new MM regarding what to do and how to respond. This usually takes place 5 – 10 minutes before the meeting. The WM tells the MM not to worry about getting everything right. The MM stumbles through the opening and closing of the meeting. The grumpy old Past Master comes up to the MM after closing, and proceeds to tell him everything he did wrong, and puts him through the paces to “Help Him”. The MM leaves the meeting, never to return.

I could continue to fill this article with examples of this. We’ve all seen, experienced, felt, or probably thought something like this at one time or another. Quite Frankly, I don’t think it’s a relatively new thing. I’m sure I could go back through the minutes of any of the lodges that I belong to find instances of someone complaining about something being “wrong” in the past. The problems that we have as fraternity are not new. We’ve all been doing it wrong for a while now.

Fundamentally, I think we have forgotten the important lessons taught to us in our degrees. If we follow the three tenets of Freemasonry, namely Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, we shouldn’t be criticizing one another. We need to remember: “By the exercise of Brotherly Love, we are taught to regard the whole human race as one family - the high, the low, the rich, the poor - who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabiting the same planet, should aid, support, and protect one another. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and promotes true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

If we are criticizing someone or something, are we aiding them or it? We are taught: "To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, but particularly on Masons, who are linked together by a chain of sincere affection. To sooth the unhappy, to sympathize with them in their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds, are aims we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections." I think we can all agree that by criticizing, by saying or thinking that someone is doing something wrong, that we are not sympathizing with them. We are not being compassionate. We are not helping restore peace to their troubled minds. If anything, we are causing their minds to be more troubled. We are causing strife, not promoting relief.

We are taught: “Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy, and deceit are unknown among us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other’s welfare and rejoicing in each other’s prosperity.” Again, if we are criticizing are we pursuing truth? No. We are being hypocritical. We are not promoting each other’s welfare, nor are we rejoicing in each other’s prosperity. We are not following lessons in almost every volume of sacred law which is most eloquently summed up by Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you will be judged.”

We need to remember that we represent the Fraternity not just when we are in a tyled lodge, but outside of it. Nowhere is this more important than on social media. It’s very easy to forget to subdue our passions, and forget our tenets online. More often than not, I can on a given day, find someone that is a “Friend” on Facebook criticizing someone for something (more often than not their political or religious beliefs). Hell, we’ve all done it. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the ever available reality show that is social media. It provides an instantaneous outlet for our passions. Sometimes I see so many posts from my brethren that I contemplate bringing up a ritual change at our next Grand Lodge. “The twenty-four inch gauge is an instrument made use of by operative masons to measure and lay out their work. But we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. It being divided into twenty four equal parts, is emblematical of the twenty four hours of the day, which we are taught to divide into three equal parts, whereby we find eight hours for the service of God, eight for our usual vocations, and eight for Facebook and sleep.

If you’re on Facebook wearing a square and compass in your profile picture, but you continually post negative or critical things on social media, are you doing a good job of representing the Fraternity? I think we can all agree that answer is "No". If you’re out in public wearing an item of clothing with the square and compass but you’re rude and obnoxious, how are you representing the Fraternity to the public? I think we can answer: “Not in a very good light.” Before you think I’m being hypocritical and criticizing my brethren, I’m not. I am just pointing out that in all forums, not only when we are in public, but also when we are online, we need to remember our tenets and our lessons and act accordingly.

If we want to blame anyone for members not attending our lodge, or the decline in membership, or someone not getting ritual correct, or any other thing; we need to take a hard look in the mirror. We need to ask ourselves “What am I doing wrong?” Once we answer that question, we can help to fix the things that we might see as being done wrong. If your lodge is lacking in attendance, are you doing enough to help make your meetings interesting and/or educational? Or are you content with your lodge just reading minutes, paying bills, arguing over repairs, and discussing plans for the next Pancake Breakfast? If you’re not bringing in members, are you trying to press your lodge towards being more active in the community? With the aforementioned “Inside the Freemasons” program on Netflix, as well as the AMC show ‘Lodge 49’, fraternalism is finally getting some favorable exposure in Mainstream Media. If your only communal activity as a Lodge is a pancake breakfast every 3 months, do you think you’re going to attract potential members? If no one knows you exist, then it’s unrealistic to expect growth. If you are sloppy with ritual, are you practicing? Are you stepping up to defend that new Master Mason just learning the ropes when the overbearing grumpy Past Master tries to “correct” him? Are you aiding him in his learning? Or are you content with allowing him to walk out of the lodge room never to return?

Ultimately, the onus is on each and every one of us to do our part. It’s a group effort. If you’re the only one in your lodge that is trying to improve things, then it might be time to find another lodge. You won’t be able to fix things by yourself, and if no one around you cares enough about your lodge to try to help, is your energy really worth it? Visit other lodges, find like-minded individuals, and work on improving the experience for yourself along with them, or convince them to help you form a new lodge that will provide the experience that you are all seeking. Maybe then, you’ll attract the attention of some other Masons, who *gasp* might even comment that you’re doing it right.


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

The North Star Program

A Solution to the Masonic Membership Problem

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

"There is a great hunger in the souls of men today --- a lack and want that neither food, clothes, or shelter can fill. If Masonry is to save itself, it must be trying to satisfy this want. In my own town, with my own eyes I have seen it. (I) Have seen a Masonic college professor lecture night after night to an audience of three hundred brethren --- men from all walks of life --- they were all there, and they simply ate up that "high-brow" stuff and called for more. They sat over an hour, hearing him talk about such a thing as the 'Psychology of Architecture'. And the discussion and live debate that followed, the interest and enthusiasm that were shown --- and the new friends that were made --- and out of it all there has grown a great revival of Masonry throughout the community" --- The American-Tyler Keystone, February, 1922

It’s almost refreshing to read the desire for education in Lodge meetings. Our declining membership numbers, and challenges in engaging Brothers within the Craft are as old as Freemasonry itself. While it seems that in recent years with more voices rising to spotlight speaking to these problems, we would have an idea or solution. Grand Lodges in two jurisdictions, Michigan and New York, have worked together to present the North Star program to address the issue of membership retention. RW Daniel DiNatale, a member of the Grand Lodge of New York's North Star project, simplified their findings, "Men are less likely to leave a Lodge when they are more invested."

Brother DiNatalae describes himself as one of the first wave of millennials to petition a Masonic Lodge. "I was raised in March of my 21st birthday," he shared. Four years later, he served as Master of his Lodge. "I was in a class of one, in a Lodge where the next person was 30 years older than me. The only reason I joined was because someone saw something in me and wanted me to be better than myself." One of the first Masons Bro. DiNatale met in Western New York was Grand Master of New York Masons, Jeffrey M. Williamson, who had been following a trend in the Erie Masonic District. "Members were forming Traditional observance Lodges out of Lodges that were slowly fading." The evidence was clear, today’s Masons seek meetings that focus on escoterics and learning, rather than business and finances.

Instead of reinventing Lodges, an idea was proposed on how to improve them. 

"That's when we heard about the '7 Steps of Masonry' program that the Grand Lodge of Michigan had started. We took their ideas and brought them back to Buffalo," noted Bro. DiNatale. The Grand Lodge of Michigan had to address membership retention to survive. Flint, Michigan was their case study. The city of Flint had a population of just over 400,000 people in 2010 and was a very active community. When their economic downturn started in the mid 2000’s, the city became known for high-crime rates, a bad water supply, and was under a state of emergency. These factors created a domino effect and led to several Lodge closures due to a decline of membership. "They dropped to like three Lodges and needed to produce a quick solution." Their solution was to provide a structured coaching model along with a very active digital marketing component, creating an online awareness advertising campaign that addressed their sagging membership development. "They showed how to connect online interest with local Lodges," said Bro. DiNatale. The lessons learned in Michigan helped the New York Brothers find additional areas in improving the Masonic experience; Masonry needed to become “a way of life,” not just for prospects but for current members as well.

Creating Value in Membership

The original New York North Star committee met for five days to write the project. They proposed that instead of a giving a interested man a petition on his first visit to a Lodge, the Lodge would voluntarily follow a series of steps to slow down the steps leading to initiation. They used a Success Coaching system, where Petitioners would be paired with a seasoned Brother of the Lodge, who would meet with them before his petition is completed. The process would allow both the perspective candidate and mentor time to address the basics of Freemasonry, addressing and setting the expectation level from both the Lodge and the candidate. When followed, the steps could be completed in a month or less, creating value in becoming a Mason.

It should be noted that the Success Coach remains partnered with his Petitioner through each degree, following his Master Mason’s degree, meeting with him on the first anniversary of his membership as a Master Mason.

"Before they were allowed to ask for a petition we wanted a proactive step to analyze a gentleman on a self-written narrative without violating the Constitution of the Lodge," added Bro. DiNatale. The Letter of Introspection was an addition they New York project proposed. It allows for more constitutionally submitted information from the applicant to the Lodge. The candidate answers questions like, “What did you learn from your family that makes you the man you are today?” “What are some of your strengths and what would you like to improve about yourself?” “Every person has a personal code or philosophy they live by. What is yours?” And my favorite, “What do you expect from Freemasonry?

As a Master Mason, how many gentlemen have you balloted on where you can say you were 100% certain of the Petitioner's name, vocation, or interest in joining a Lodge? This voluntairy letter serves as the candidate’s narrative to all members of the Lodge.

Two years ago, I became North Star program certified for my jurisdiction. During the one-day training, it was instantly clear to me that creating value in membership is missed when we rush to hand a petition to the first man who asks for one. Outside of being able to find a Lodge, what do we really know about this man? I recalled my application process: starting with a search online to contact my mother lodge, I attended a "prospect" meeting where we watched a video on Masonry (a CBS news story), were allowed to ask questions, and had a group discussion over pizza and beer. By the end of the evening, I was offered a petition. Only after I filled out my application did I begin researching Freemasonry with a deeper, more intent interest.

Guarding the West Gate 

In the first meeting under the North Star program, the mentor discussed the required background check known as the Guarding the West Gate report. The Grand Lodge of New York now requires that a Petitioner provide a copy of a recent background review report attached to their petition when seeking membership to a Lodge. As RW Pat Imbimbo, Guarding the West Gate (GTWG) Advisory Committee Chairman, puts it, “Our purpose is to assist the Investigation Committee with their duties.” There are two items that immediately disqualify Petitioners from Masonry: registered on the sex offender database or lying on a petition.

This is where the GWTG program is helpful. The background check is paid for by the Petitioner, the report is sent to them, not the Lodge. Red Flag (felony convictions, violent offenders, sexual related offenses) items trigger emails to the Grand Secretary who communicates the warning to the Master and Secretary of the Lodge. Out of the 1860 reports conducted since 2016, only 60 were red flagged. It then becomes the Petitioner’s decision, not the Lodge’s, to pursue his application. If he chooses to continue, the Secretary of the Lodge will record that the review was completed, hand the paperwork back to the gentleman, and the Investigation Committee can discuss the particulars of the incident with the Petitoner.

Personally, I have had a one of these rare conversations with Petitioners. One gentleman chose to withdraw his petition after he revealed that he was less than forthcoming with the details of an arrest and conviction of a violent crime left off his petition. In the end, we discussed that he hold his petition until his legal matters were cleared but continue to come to Lodge dinners and events as a guest. The goal of the GTWG process is to maintain the sanctity of Freemasonry in an digital age where information and records are accessible. Most Petitioners receive a report that is only a page or two, present them to the Secretary of the Lodge in a sealed envelope, and continue advancing through the North Star program steps to their first degree.

Improving the Masonic Experience 

One stat that floored me during my North Star training is that the average Mason demits or disengages from a Lodge within three to five years after being raised. I didn’t believe it at first but then I thought of Brothers from my class who were raised, came to meetings that first year, started attending less frequently over time, and haven’t been back in over a year. Sadly, these are the names that are read by the Secretary for “NPD.” These men simply lost interest.

We promise men the opportunity to make themselves better, they spend months learning our ritual, only to attend meetings that are absent of education and enlightenment.

The numbers speak for themselves, since 1924 the Masonic Service Association has compiled the totals of Master Masons in the United States Grand Lodges. According to M.S.A. records, 1959 was the "high point" of members with 4.1 million Masons in America. Last year was the "lowest point" with 1,076,626 Masons. Over 59 years we have lost 3,026,535 members. In my state (New York) alone, we have lost 1,799 members in 2016 reporting just 33,595 members last year. There are many factors in declining membership: the baby boomer generation, changes in the modern American lifestyle, additional community/service organizations... but perhaps we must face the reality that the title of “Freemason” has lost it's value over time with less engaged, less motivated members.

You can improve the Masonic Experience at your Lodge by creating meetings that matter. Work with your Master to engage Brothers with compelling discussions and programs on his Trestleboard. It is possible to create those moments of “live debate, interest and enthusiasm, and new friendship” that we all seek. Recognize and acknowledge your newly raised Brothers along with your seasoned members with special anniversary ceremonies during stated communications. And most importantly, help Petitioners find the Lodge that is the right fit for their expectations and interests.

Our heritage is inexhaustible in interest, life-long in it’s appeal, with a power to enrich your life.” Lodge System of Masonic Education 


Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden 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:

A Template for True Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Scott S. Dueball

In my response to one of the latest in a string of blog posts decrying "Freemasonry is dying" in attempt to garner internet traffic, I said that I am becoming exhausted by the endless complaints regarding our decrease in membership alongside a void of actual work and solutions. Quite frankly, these posts have no vision. “Who are we shouting at to fix the problems?” I asked. We should all know that this isn’t likely to grab the attention of Grand Lodge Officers who, in their defense, do not have the means to truly address the supposed problem. This problem (if you want to call it that) will be best addressed by individual Masons and individual Lodges who care enough about survival that they are willing to make programming changes to address the changing needs of the market. In saying that, it occurs to me that some lodges have figured out the template for future success while a majority of well-meaning lodges are spinning their wheels trying to figure out what to do. You have to do more than say you want change and expect someone else to enact it.

While I was in college, the Interfraternity Council (IFC) hosted a speaker for all of Greek Life. This speaker, in an admittedly hokey manner, brought a textbook, a sweater, and a water bottle. He said the textbook represented out ritual. The sweater (with greek letters) represented our membership (or Brotherhood) in our respective Fraternities. The water bottle represented the social element of our organizations. These three components make up the the Fraternity experience. However, the individual chapters only function when stacked in the proper order. He demonstrated that when you use the bottle as the base, the sweater and the textbook will not balance. He then showed that if you use the textbook as the foundation upon which the sweater and the bottle can rest, your organization will maintain equilibrium.

Similarly, in Masonry, the ritual (textbook) must serve as the foundation for everything else we do. It is what makes the Craft. The brotherhood (sweater) can flourish with the ritual as a unifying foundation and only then can social activity (again, the bottle) be introduced. Freemasonry has these mixed in various orders. We lead our pitch thinking that we must show potential-Masons that we have fun and we donate to charity. We might talk about how George Washington was a Mason. To establish these things, we work hard to make social activity and Brotherhood a reality in our lodges. Eventually, we have brought new brothers in on the pretense of these activities alone without properly addressing that Masonry is a body of philosophical instruction. BROTHERS, this is summary of mid- to late- twentieth century Freemasonry establishing how we arrived here today.

What I find, is some of the most well-meaning brothers recognize the need to bring back education while still deprioritizing it below membership by shortcutting the paths to true enlightenment through the use of a number of non-ritual-centric practices. I hear those apologists say, “after all, who will we teach if we don’t have any members left?” We would be better served by initiating only those who seek the true path of Masonic enlightenment; those ones who will still fill our temples when the dust settles. Anything grander than this is in conflict with what the Entered Apprentice degree teaches us about our ego (buildings, membership, Grand Lodge viability).

In the decade and a half since I heard the above lecture, I have been shown it's truth time and again. I firmly believe that those lodges who have prioritized along the stated pattern (ritual>brotherhood>social) are the ones who will remain when the dust settles. In marketing terms, the unique value proposition that we offer is an intiatic experience coupled with a moral doctrine. We have the market on this product if we position ourselves as such. My close friends and Brothers know I like great dinners but that isn’t the unique product the Craft provides. You don’t need to be a Freemason to find a good meal. We aren’t unique in our charitable giving nor in our programs for youth. We have to lead with the unique value that only we can provide.

The successful template for True Freemasonry is in the ritual. The ritual provides for spiritual growth. The ritual provides for love among brothers. The ritual provides for convivial meals. But it is essential that we discuss, treat, and run our Craft in that order. If you are an LEO, teach the ritual. If you are a DEO, teach the ritual. If you are a brother who loves the Craft, teach the ritual. It is on each of you.


A Just and Upright Mason

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


I was in shock when I received the news that John Jones had passed away because of being involved in an auto accident. His wife Shirley Jones was seriously injured, and friend and passenger Kristine Trudeau also perished in the accident.

I first met John when I became a member of York Rite. John was especially active in the York Rite and his performance as the Prelate in the Order of the Temple Knight Templar degree was nothing short of spectacular. His clear pronunciation of the ritual provided extra meaning for not only the candidate, but those of us who were listening and participating in the degree.

But more importantly John was simply a spectacular human being. He always had something positive to say to you in conversation and somehow, I always felt better after having these talks. His genuine caring attitude for others was so evident in how he lived his life.

Brother Michael J. Dooley wrote about John on Facebook and I share part of Mike’s words with you here as they seem so appropriate:

” I just saw him (John) a week ago Sunday with his wife at a lunch I attended. What I didn't know then is that was the last time I would visit with him and he'd be gone in less than a week. We talked about many things, the holiday, things of mutual interest, good fellowship and seeing each other later on today at a scheduled meeting. People we know become so integrated into our lives and daily planning at one level or another...never consciously giving a thought they could be gone in the blink of an eye. We're not geared to think that way I guess. When you try to sort through the stark becomes more apparent, more real over time as it becomes the reality and from little things you wouldn't expect. Looked at my calendar just a while ago and saw the notation I made to call him later today...fully expecting to do so. I want all here in my friends group to know I appreciate you. I try to be cordial to those I know frequently and with sincerity. I would also say if you haven't talked to someone in a while you're thinking of, family or friends so. If you've had a falling out with someone or misunderstanding...try to resolve it. If you've been estranged from others...try to reconnect. Friends are special and those relationships with others are gifts...each in their own way. Be thankful for them. “

I am thankful for having the opportunity to have gotten to know John Jones. I won’t soon forget him or the impact he made on Freemasonry and myself.

Please keep John’s wife Shirley in your thoughts and prayers. Take Mike’s advice to heart and reach out to a friend or family you haven’t spoken to in while.

A line in the masonic ritual says, “He will be proud to pronounce him a just and upright mason”. John Jones was a just and upright Mason.


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

Sorry, You're Wrong. We're Not Dying...

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson 

With the recent publication of several articles, the Masonic presence on the web has caught fire...again. In any particular calendar year there are, without exception, several happenings within the Masonic world which rock the boat, so to say. Sometimes it’s ragging on the dress and formal attire: ”It’s the internal, not the external!” some shout. Other times someone will make Masonic minds seemingly explode by putting up images or articles showing women in full regalia, operating in their own Masonic lodges. “They’re not real Masons!” the masses scream. Still yet, there are a multitude of of other controversial topics that plague us, but none more perhaps, than that of this fraternity dying off. Whether due to our own greed, a misappropriation of members, religious fundamentalism or racism--the list goes on.

When I originally wrote this paper, it was 2016 and much had been written about our fraternity and its future. Data had been analyzed, surveys completed and more data compiled. After this last month’s rush of articles, I thought how interesting it is that when we decide to do the work of Freemasonry, to study, to contemplate, reflect and then sometimes write about it, we get only a few hits. Posts like how to critically evaluate ritual, or perhaps this piece on the symbolic interpretations of Solomon’s Temple just don’t get the traffic. Write about the death of Masonry and throw a catchy title on it and: STOP. THE. PRESS. Instant viral Masonic post. Does this confirm that Masonry is already dead in the hearts of those commenting on social media about it? Or rather, is it fair to say that if the only Masonic articles that gain traction are the kinds that speak about Masonry rather than those that are Masonry, that it is in fact dead?

The articles I’m referring to will be shared thousands of times, seldom read, and the “conversation” (I’m being polite about what I will call the dribble bantered about below said posts.) that has formed in the comments becomes inflammatory, and tends to divide Masons into fence sitters, spiritualists and ritual vultures.

The articles are good reading, but if you’re strapped for time, here are some brief words on the two articles I want to address. Here’s the TL;DR (too long didn’t read):

Is Freemasonry Doomed to Fail? - Posted to ( on December 2nd 2018

This article by Brother Justin Jones addresses the data compiling and analyzation done by Brother Lance Kennedy. Lance’s data is spot on and is showing us the absolute and unavoidable declination of our membership numbers. While Brother Kennedy’s work is “not flawless” it is solid and even I agree with them. However what was this blog post about? Well, it’s basically saying what I said here (below) in 2016. His conclusion is essentially that we will reach equilibrium. I highly recommend reading this article. It isn’t too long and his thoughts are concise. I tip my hat to brother Justin Jones for his post.

Freemasonry is Dying - Posted to ( on or around November 29th, 2018

Perhaps this one is one of the most inflammatory, at least at first due to the title alone. This is the post that essentially caused Brother Justin Jones, author of the previous article, to put finger to keyboard. A direct quote and complete summary of the piece is found right at the top of the paper:

Once you can get yourself to accept the fact that Freemasonry is dying, then perhaps some progress can be made in downsizing, consolidating, making Appendant Bodies stand on their own, raising dues significantly and other acts of resuscitation. Terminally ill patients require drastic and sometimes untried measures to save them.

What follows are several paragraphs explaining the data and its trend of declination. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty solid. I’m an analyst by trade and I won’t argue with these numbers. I once again will tip my hat to Brother Kennedy for his work in charting a path to our inevitable downfall. But wait! There’s more!

Theologians and professionals within the scientific community have argued incessantly for all time regarding what “truth” is and how it should be discerned. Objective and subjective opinions, exegetical and hermeneutical debates on all things, not just religion and its books. We see these debates about the truth of matters raised in philosophical discussions, whether something is prima facie or absolute. We see it in discussions in the medical field, about law, you name it...we’re debating it.

Freemasonry is always in the eye of the beholder. We love being a fault. For even when we are given data and facts, we toss them aside as if they don’t matter because what we built and the perpetuation of its ideals as understood en masse, is sacrosanct. Examples of this are rampant. One example, the Forget Me Not. That story is total bupkis. We know the facts are out there. Yet we keep on printing the anecdote on little cards and packaging them with the pins that we buy up every year. How quaint, how romantic. We don’t care that it’s factually incorrect. Read about it here.

A most recent and prime example is the research regarding our crafts founding by Andrew Prescott and Susan Sommers. In their research they confirm that our founding as an official organization was not in 1717, but rather in 1721. What did the Masonic scholars and members do? We screamed, “Who cares! It’s the spirit of it all….blah blah blah…” An effective solution for the majority of our membership. Not so much for those of us who are academically inclined.

The truth as we should all agree, is that in the world, as science and religion are interdependent on each other, so are objective and subjective opinions. That is, the outside and the inside must come together to bring us the facts. In the question then, “Is Freemasonry Dying?”, we see a dilemma. We cannot answer this question because there is a need to separate two ideas, which is likely not readily apparent to most.

We need to first ask what Freemasonry is. And the answer is that we are two things or ideas. Freemasonry is the organization which is beholden to a Grand Lodge, who derives its power and its existence from its contingency. That is, they don’t exist unless, or can’t financially exist unless they have/make money. The second thing Freemasonry is, and it's the more important thing, is that it is a philosophy, a school of wisdom.

So, now that I’ve said my piece on the aforementioned articles, this is my take on the situation. My subjective look as a Mason and my objective look as someone who isn’t so invested in the idea that I’ve lost my individuality.

I've been researching Freemasonry for about thirteen years now and there seems to be no shortage of information, ideas and general complaining about our membership numbers. That is, the number of Freemasons in the United States and it's decline over time. The obsession over these membership numbers has been covered ad nauseam. Especially recently.

Fixing things has long been the goal. Above I mentioned that Freemasonry is two things. The former of the two ideas, that it is Grand Lodge is in most ways, seen as the more important. From a Grand Lodge Officer, “These men don’t realize that if the Grand Lodge dies, they aren’t masons anymore. They’ll be clandestine.” This notion is FALSE. This mindset is wholly predicated on fixing the “membership problem”. Meanwhile, I'm not sure that we need to fix anything. It seems as though Freemasonry is correcting itself in that we are reverting to the small, refined group we once were, composed of knowledgeable, carefully selected and true brothers.

When I ran "surveys galore" as expressed by a post on "Blinded by the Light", it was interesting to see the take on it [my piece] and Jon Ruark's (see video link below) research into our decline. The aforementioned blog is stating the elephant in the room is that the Grand Lodge system itself is to blame for the downfall of membership. And in part it's true, but perhaps not why you think.

I think I am going to say something here which not many people, possibly no one has said quite this way before: We aren't losing members and we aren't dying and we aren't going anywhere. Your respective Grand Lodge on the other hand, may be.

Let me explain. In 1924 the Masonic Services Association started keeping track of the number of Freemasons in the United States. This number was based on regular lodges under the respective Grand Lodge system of that state. You can look at those numbers by clicking HERE.

Notice the rapid rise and the steep decline. At a point we had almost 6 million members, now we only have about 1.2 million according to 2014. It’s almost 2019 and the numbers reported by MSA for 2017 are in. We have a little less than 1.1 million masons in the United States. Grand lodges are consistently pushing membership drives and one-day conferrals, amendments to the way Freemasons progress through the degrees and much more. But none of it is helping.

Bro. Jon Ruark of the Masonic Roundtable did an excellent presentation this last year about membership numbers, which I mentioned above. You can watch it HERE. In short, Non Payment of Dues, suspensions and deaths are the culprit of dropping membership, coupled with the fact that not as many men are joining. But this is OKAY!

According to recent Pew poll the percentage of Americans who have a belief in a supreme being is decreasing. The target audience for Masonry is dwindling. Read about it HERE. After all this though, consider these statements:

  • At Masonry's peak, from an educational standpoint (1900) Freemasonry was small. 
  • The influx of men into the Fraternity during the 50s and 60s was an anomaly.
  • The craft built an empire based on an influx of men and treated that high number as the new normal, which for whatever reason they still measure us against today. This is WRONG!
  • Now that we are returning to normal numbers, the craft is trying to figure out ways to sustain the top heavy elements we built. I say, let them die. 

What I'm saying Brothers, is that the membership drives are here in order to sustain what was erroneously built-- based on a false presumption about what Masonic membership numbers would be in the future. We are returning to the smaller group we once were, and that's okay. In fact, it’s healthier, and all around better. Why is smaller better? A prominent Mason, who holds a doctorate and who has written some amazing texts once told me and a group of Brothers, “It’s hard to care about Brother John Smith, if you’ve never met John Smith.” The context of this quote comes from a conversation we we’re having about the value of knowing all of your members. The exemplification of crying with, or laughing with our Brothers. Truly knowing them personally, like best friends.

The prominent Brother continued, “We’re working pretty hard at making *Redacted* lodge smaller.” That really hit home with the one-hundred or so brothers in the room. The fact is, we cannot, no matter our intent or how hard we work, maintain this level of knowing, caring and being truly invested in our fellow Brothers when our numbers are sky high. Twenty to thirty men is truly optimal.

Think about the benefit of having this small number when we need to call everyone. Or even text. Yes, there are robo-dialers, but nothing beats a real call or a genuine text. Not to just announce to the recipient that a degree or a stated meeting is happening, but to say, hello and actually inquire as to how they’re doing. In an age where we are only just now admitting to ourselves that we lie to each other all the time about our feelings, we dare to be different. We dare to ask, “How are you?” and what’s different is that the Brother might unload their baggage rather than saying, “Fine”. And to top it off, we can care. We can be there. The small numbers and intimate meeting spaces do wonders for enabling the Brotherhood we are charged to exemplify.

If Brotherhood isn’t enough for you to get excited about, think about the amount of administrative work it takes to manage three-hundred men. Now make it thirty. A big difference. So significant in fact, that our secretaries will actually care enough to reach out to those members individually.

All this makes lodges stronger, better, and more efficient. The bonds become so tight that there is no distinction between our Fraternity Brothers and our blood brothers. In many cases, we’re even closer.

When I asked for a peer review of this piece, my Brother said "I'm left asking myself, what do I do with this information?" I'm not sure you can do anything with this information other than let it give you comfort. Comfort in knowing things are just fine. We are returning to our original purpose, our original aim.

The Masonic "Utopia"? - If we look at the number of actual members who are active (about 5%), and we divided them into about 2000 lodges around the United States, we'd have about 30 members per lodge. Is that so bad? The question is left on how to facilitate those lodges in that kind of a system. A few ideas, abolish progressive lines, get rid of all appendant bodies with the exception of the York and Scottish Rite and move business meetings to a quarterly basis. Masonic education can take its rightful place within the craft once more.

One of the most insightful replies to the question we’ve been talking about, I saved for the end of this paper. Brother R.H. said, “Freemasonry isn't dying. The huge influx of members during the post war years is the metric by which too many Brothers want to use for membership norms today. Masonry has usually been the province of the few who chose to seek light as opposed to the masses who joined during that period, looking for little more than a social club. Realistically, all the inactive brothers should be an indication of where our numbers should be and where they should have been all along. Our Fraternity is doing fine, just regaining its equilibrium.

In conclusion, think about all the successful degrees and new brothers coming in. Think about how serious some of us are. For those who say Freemasonry is dead right now, I ask you, “Are you a Freemason? Are you dead?” And I’ll follow that up with this, If you think Freemasonry will be dead in twenty or thirty years, Will you be here in thirty years? If the answer is yes, then Freemasonry will again, not be dead. It’s only dead to those who predicate success in numbers, who place the ideals of Freemasonry into the pocket of a Grand Lodge. Realize that Masonry doesn’t die because per capita is low, or that dues are too low or that Grand lodge can’t keep it in the black. It’s an ever living philosophy. As long as we’re alive and live it, it will be alive. I don’t mean that in just a philosophical way. I mean it literally. Lodges wouldn’t just fold. They'd refine and regather. If you think otherwise, turn in your dues card right now, because you’ve already rolled over. Go find another organization. If I’ve inspired you here, good. The next time someone says "Masonry is dying.", make sure you tell them, "We're not dying, we're refining."


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 Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183 UD. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master 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. 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.

Where Ever You Go, There You Are

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Evve Kuykendall 

A few months ago and at the time of this writing, two well known celebrities had taken their own lives. Kate Spade, a well known fashion designer and Anthony Bourdain, a celebrated chef and television host, both died by all available accounts, at their own hands. For most, the depths of despair they felt as a result of their depression is unfathomable. They were, by almost any standard, successful, having fame, money, and strong carriers that have influenced millions of people worldwide.

And yet, they differed enough to resort to suicide. Why couldn’t they see everything they had to live for and all the good things in their lives? Why couldn’t they just “snap our of it” by practicing an “attitude of gratitude”? I mean, they had everything, right? Money? Check. Fame? Check. They had friends and family…why couldn’t they just get over it, especially for those they loved? They had the ability to travel anywhere and do anything…why didn’t they just take some time off to get happy?

Most of the those things had been posted on social media by people who were hurt or confused by their deaths.

What is that old saying?…”Where ever you go, there you are.”

As a younger man, I never really understood that saying. As far as tautologies go, that one really never landed for me. Until it did.

When I left active duty Air Force, I started dealing with a deep depression coupled with suicidal thoughts. I didn’t really know why nor did I have any real coping mechanisms with which to handle it. I started pushing people away and didn’t want to see my friends because I felt even more alone and depressed when I was around them and other people. I could be in a room surrounded by people and feel completely alone. It took an incredible amount of psychological energy to be social, even for short periods. So, I stayed home alone. A LOT. My friends eventually stopped calling and inviting me to go places.

I blamed it it on my having gone back to school full time and of course working full time in order to pay my bills. I was exhausted and just needed sleep.

After I graduated and started my new career, I expected things to change and to have the energy to be social and reconnect with all my old friends—but they didn’t. I was starting a new job so I blamed the depression on the stress of financial insecurity and the loneliness. I blamed my friends for abandoning me when I needed them during school. In retrospect, that wasn’t the case at all.

I worked hard and after some time, received a job offer in another city and state and thought to myself, “Here is my chance for a clean break to start over in a place where I can be anyone I want to be!” So I loved.

Where ever you go, there you are.

The depression and suicidal thoughts followed me, which surprised me. I thought it was because my friends had abandoned me and the city I used to live in was lame. My job had me traveling 20-25 days a month, so once again, I blamed it on the long hours, jet lag, and loneliness.

A call came in that I would be moving again to an even more desirable city, at least socially speaking. I jumped at the chance for another change to move back to my home state of Texas, where I knew people and might have a leg up meeting people. I mean, there has to be a place meant for everyone, right? So, I moved again.

Where ever you go, there you are.

The travel stayed the same, but I was determined to be a happier person; to find fulfillment in my personal time and maybe even find someone special. So, I took some chances socially, connected with someone and started dating. It was slow going and we dated for almost a year before it was time to make the next step.

We moved in together and I started a business with the hopes that we would eventually run the business together. I thought I had finally overcome to darkness from which I had run so far. But the shadow was still there…and that someone special didn’t understand why I was angry and moody and sleepy, and didn’t want to be social. Predictably, everything fell apart. As a result, all that darkness that I thought had gone away or that I had locked away hadn’t gone away at all. It was just behind the door that had been thrown open with my breakup for me to deal with, all at once.

One night soon afterwards, I was texting with an old friend. I mentioned how bad things were going and that I only had one reason for not killing myself: my mother. I couldn’t stand the idea of knowing that I had hurt her with my actions, but that after she passed, I would have nothing tethering me to life. His response sticks with me to this day.

“You need to get help. Fast.”

I realized I had been too honest with him. He just didn’t get it. Doesn’t everyone feel like this from time to time? Isn’t depression normal? But, he got me thinking.

So, I decided that I since I was due for my annual checkup anyway, when I went to the doctor in a few days, I would bring this up to him and put it all behind me. He was going to tell me it was normal and that I just needed some sleep or to take some vitamins or prescribe me something that would turn me into a walking zombie.

I went to my doctor and as his assistant prepped me for the doctor, she peppered me with some questions. I told her that I had been feeling…depressed. She asked if I was having any suicidal thoughts.

“Well, yes,” I explained, “I think about killing myself all the time, but not in one of those ‘I’m gonna actually do it’ kind of ways. It’s more of a comforting, ‘I’m just thinking about it’ kind of ways.” As I heard myself saying it, I realized how crazy it sounded. And so did she.

I came to find out that I have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Its symptoms include social anxiety, depression, mood swings, suicidal thoughts…everything I had been dealing with for a decade or longer.

My doctor said, that along with treatment, I needed to begin working on myself. I needed to do things that I found enjoyable and helped me get out of my anxiety and depression. I had to find a way to start enjoying life again.

It had been so long since I had even considered life as something to be enjoyed. One would think such a task would be easy, but nothing was farther from the truth. I had difficulty finding anything that made me want to get out of bed, much less enjoy life again.

Across the street from where I worked was a Masonic Temple. "Wasn’t there a time when I was in the military that I had wanted to check them out or heard something good about those guys?"  I could check them out now. I worked across the street, for crying out loud. I have no excuse. And if they are weird or if it's some kind of cult, I could just say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” There was a possibility I might not even be invited to join the group. So I emailed the lodge secretary and made a subtle inquiry. I was told to come to fellowship night before the next stated meeting.

The night came and I was terrified. I. Was. Terrified. The anxiety of PTSD almost stopped me from walking across the street, but I was determined to stop letting this illness rule my life. So, I got up and walked across the street into a room full of strangers. Now, looking back, Freemasonry, the fraternity I love so much, was (and remains) part of my treatment.

So, I understand better than most what Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were dealing with.

Where ever you go, there you are.

Depression is a part of you that cannot be escaped with vacations or fancy clothing, or great food, or friends. It isn’t a switch that can be turned off. It follows you everywhere you go, it influences every conversation and thought you have. It hides for periods of times, then re-emerges in different clothing, but it is the same old depression. It isn’t sadness. It is an emptiness—for me it is in my abdomen—a void that cannot be filled by food or alcohol or material stuff. It consumes everything good in your life and convinces your mind that you are alone and would be better off dead.

So, where ever you are, your depression is there, too, inevitably making it feel like everything would be better if it just…stopped

This is the first time I have ever spoken to anyone but family and close friends about my PTSD or my ongoing battle with it. I do so to implore our brethren to look out for one another. Look past the smiles and handshakes and self-deprecating jokes. There are brothers among us dealing with exactly what I am dealing with, some more successfully than others.

It was my brethren that have kept me here, even when they didn’t know it.

For those brother who are suffering, thinking there is no where to turn and no one that cares…there is hope and help, even when that voice is telling you that you are alone. You are loved. You are valued. You are a brother.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-8255


Bro. Evve Kuykendall is a Master Mason from St. Johns #51 in McKinney Texas.
He currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas and is a Veteran of the United States Air Force (1999-2005)—Air Traffic Control Specialist. He can be reached at

My Masonic Journey

A discussion on Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

The first look of your Lodge’s trestleboard is like the predicting your favorite NFL Team’s schedule; there are apparent W’s and L’s for the year. Wins: meetings with engaging programs, guest speakers, the official DDGM Visit, and degree nights. Losses: business meetings. Sometimes a discussion can be a toss-up. Especially when the program for the evening is dependent on participation, that's when well-intended “discussions” can suffer a painful death. Brothers can choose not to speak, go off topic, or worse, overshare personal information that turns the meeting into a yawner. But there are those rare discussions that silence a room with focus and personal introspection. Our meeting was during the week of Thanksgiving, timely for Jason Chaplin, Worshipful Master of Mt. Zion #311, to read “George Washington’s 1789 Proclamation”, written by Midnight Freemasons Senior Contributor WB Gregory Knott. I enjoyed learning that it as Washington’s first official Presidential Proclamation, the first of a new nation, he formally established, “a day of thanksgiving and prayer” on Thursday, November 26, 1789. Lost for 130 years, when you read the words of Washington, you can trace its origins to our Masonic ritual and prayers. After Washington’s words, the Master then turned to his trestleboard, a discussion on “My Masonic Journey,” an idea inspired by Bro. Christopher L. Hodapp's blog. The Master began by sharing his journey to and through Freemasonry. He then asked that each Brother share as much or as little as they like. As the Master posted later on Facebook, “The program turned out to be exceptional. There were even a few tears.”

Exceeding Expectations

I followed the Brother who was moved to tears as he shared his story. VW Wesley Hall is a fourth-generation Freemason, tracing back to Vermont Lodge #18 in Windsor, Vermont. Wes, wears a ring that dates back to the turn of the century, passed down from his great, great-grandfather. He shared the pride he has in continuing his family's tradition and his hope for future generations to join the fraternity. What moved Bro. Hall was when he spoke of the Brothers he had raised as Master or those whose degrees he had participated in. How he thought of the Lodge more like a family, one that not only shared a desire to learn Masonic lessons of improvement but also cared for each other, outside of the Lodge room. I'm usually not one to have a hard time finding my words when speaking but I was utterly befuddled as Bro. Hall sat down. I'm the first Mason in my family. I knew very little about Masonry before I joined. My best friend in college and best man at my wedding became a Mason years after I started my family. He told me that I would love Freemasonry, based on my interest in American History. Matter of fact, I learned more about it from friends who asked questions or shared their thoughts on Masonry after my first Lodge visit. I petitioned my mother lodge while going through my divorce and finishing my Bachelor's degree. I thought Freemasonry would be a healthy distraction, a place to meet men with like-minded values, and "make myself better," although at the time I petitioned a lodge, I understood very little about what that meant. I finished my part with the revelation that what I thought I would get from Freemasonry is much different than what was expected. That was a common theme with what the other Brothers shared that evening. Who could have never imagined learning so much from studying the degree work to be proficient -- not just memorizing parts but the knowledge that comes from reading, researching, and value of what those words mean? There is a network of Brothers we instantly have a connection. I shared how when I boarded a flight home from Las Vegas in September, I spotted a Brother wearing a Chicago Bears jersey, with a Masonic pendant on his necklace. I reached out to wish him a safe flight as I passed his seat. My girlfriend asked with surprise, "Do you know that man?" Another Brother spoke of the meaningful relationships we make with Brother outside of our jurisdiction or area of the country --- this after being reluctant at first to visit Lodges in our district.

Reaching To The Farthest Points of Light

Oddly enough, the only time I have the "What you get out of Freemasonry" talk is with gentlemen interested in joining a Lodge. I always smile when we get to this part of our conversation, as it is my favorite part, sharing the "secret" of Freemasonry. I love the look on their face when they hear how Masons are not valued for who we are but for what we do. We reach across barriers of division: creed, color, economic status, politics, and religion --- differences that often divide men, but as Masons, unite us to work together as one. As the Brothers spoke during the meeting, you heard how each was drawn to Masonry, from diverse backgrounds, perspectives on life, and with different expectations on what they would learn. I highly encourage Master's reading this article to consider adding this discussion to an upcoming open meeting program or future trestleboard opportunity. “The discussion was designed for each of Brother to share their individual Masonic journey,” stated WM Chaplin. “By the end, the lesson was how we have influenced each other. “


Brother Michael Arce is the Junior Warden 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: