The Jewel

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


Midnight Freemason founder Todd Creason recently wrote a piece about a Brother who had objected to being called "Bro."  (https://tinyurl.com/y73zfl4t) It brought to mind a somewhat similar experience I had when I was editor of theMissouri Freemason magazine.

As do many Masonic magazines, ours included a section in the back containing news and events from Lodges around the state. Many of these were stories about Lodges which had recognized Brothers for 50 years of service.

On one occasion I got a rather scathing letter from a Brother with an intense objection to the fact I had called the award a "50-year pin." In his letter, he was adamant about the significance of the award and insisted it should always be called a "50-year jewel." He made impassioned points about how Brothers receiving that award had served the fraternity for nearly a lifetime and deserved more respect than having the award called a "pin."

The fact is I agreed with everything he said about the 50-year members. They were, in fact, among our most esteemed Brothers and they had served the fraternity well. They deserved every bit of the respect the author of the letter called for.

So I wrote him back and told him that; but I added that I didn't see the word "pin" as derogatory, and said I didn't think it detracted from the significance of the award. I noted it is the term Brothers commonly use when they talk about or present it. I also pointed out I didn't write those articles. Rather, the members of the Lodges themselves wrote them and sent them in. The articles almost always referred to the award as a "50-year pin," confirming how common that terminology was. I might also note Ray Denslow, one of our most prolific and respected Masonic authors, called it a "50-year button."

So, in the magazine, I continued to allow authors to use the terminology, "50-year pin;" but that isn’t the end of the story.

Todd's article eloquently talked about respect within the Craft.  While I still believe calling the award a "50-year pin" is not disrespectful, I can't help thinking about that Brother's letter almost every time I see the award presented. I am persuaded that the word "jewel" may elevate its status, or the meaning behind it, just a bit. That pin and the Brother who wears it certainly deserve respect for his service to this fraternity. So, I find myself more and more referring to it as a jewel. That letter I received years ago was caustic in tone, but I am increasingly grateful to the Brother who wrote it. He gave me something to think about.

I might add, this coming April I am eligible to receive my 20-year… jewel.

~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 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.

We’re Still Here

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners
I was in a local gas station here in the booming metropolis of Saint Joseph, Illinois, when the clerk remarked, “The Masons? I didn’t even know you guys were still around.” It took me a minute to realize that I was wearing one of my shirts from Bro. Carl Hern’s company Ascended Masters (Shameless Plug), which featured the Square and Compass on it. I quickly replied to him, “Yes, we’re most definitely still around. If you’re really interested in knowing more, let me know.” As I’m in the gas station quite a bit, I figured he’d either ask or wouldn’t. I’ve read here at this very blog several articles by my brothers in response to Bro. Lance Kennedy’s article: “The Decline of Freemasonry: A Data Analysis, in which he shows something that I had seen Bro. Jon Ruark give a presentation on in 2017, namely that the membership numbers are declining. I’m not writing an article to debate this. The cold hard math does show that if the rates of decline continue as they have been here in the United States, that our fraternity will be a shadow of its former glory. The conversation that I had with the clerk highlights one of the main reasons that we are declining. Hardly anyone knows that we’re still around.

First and foremost, if the public doesn’t know we exist, how can we hope to gain new members? In 2004, the Masonic Service Association of North America tackled the problem of Public Awareness and moving Masonry into the 21stcentury (http://www.msana.com/downloads/abouttime.pdf). Although I might not agree with all the points made in the report, I still think it features a lot of good information that was relevant then and is still relevant. The report summarized the lack of awareness of Masonry as such: “Masons are not visible in the daily life of their communities. Their identity is frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in the press and by religious critics. There is little reserve of positive memories of Masonic activity remaining in our communities. Within eye and ear range of the public, Masons have failed to perform what they profess; consequently, they have lost their significance within the context of community.”

Speaking from my own experiences as a Worshipful Master, one of the main problems that exist at the local lodge level is the engagement of its own membership when it comes to trying to do community outreach. When you have say 10 - 20 members that are fairly active in the lodge, meaning that they occasionally or always show up for meetings, but only 2 of them show up for events that you’ve planned and the membership has voted in favor of at a meeting; then it’s no wonder that we aren’t visible. Even when we do something that should gain some community visibility, like when we give out a Community Builder’s award where the lodge selects a local citizen that has impacted the lives of much of the community and holds a dinner in their honor, we’re not capitalizing on the opportunities that it presents. The lodge might be posting it on social media, but we’re not inviting the rest of the community to celebrate the achievement. The lodge hosts the honorees family and lodge members at a local restaurant, when it should be having the dinner at the local lodge, and it should be inviting the public to dine with them, and it should be using the opportunity to show off the lodge and to gain potential membership. Such an event shouldn’t be happening once a year. The lodge should be doing community events on a monthly basis. However, when you’re not doing anything, or only doing something once a year, it’s no wonder that people don’t know we still exist.

Secondly, we have an identity problem. We’ve all heard the mantras, “Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” or “We make good men better.”, but that doesn’t quite explain to the average man what we really are about. Reliance on a catchphrases to bring in potential members doesn’t convey what we as an organization are trying to accomplish. In fact, I think it is a banal attempt at marketing ourselves. If you want people to know you exist as an organization, the organization needs to be actively marketing itself and it has to agree on a definition of what it wants to represent. We can’t expect bumper stickers that say: “2B1Ask1” to send potential members to our doors. We can’t continue to take a passive approach and expect our membership numbers to reverse, we need to actively market ourselves and what we represent.

As the MSANA report states: “Under perfect circumstances, the public would know Masons according to the following observable accomplishments: 

  • Building community based on shared Masonic values 
  • Constructing a positive environment for personal growth 
  • Encouraging education, idea sharing, and open discussion 
  • Welcoming diversity across religious denominations, ethnicity and age 
  • Growing leadership ability 
  • Establishing the relevance of Masonic values to contemporary life 
  • Advocating concern for the well-being of other Masons and their families 

Ideally, Masons would be defined as members of a fraternity, which fits the following descriptions: 

  • Masonry is a serious men’s organization, dedicated to self-improvement coupled with community involvement. 
  • Masonry is a provider of camaraderie, trust in each other, instant fellowship, and brotherhood. 
  • Masonry brings together a group of people who emphasize individual excellence. 
  • Masonry is a provider of an atmosphere of inclusiveness.

How do we as a fraternity convey the above ideas to the public? We need to start actively promoting the above ideas via a mass marketing campaign sponsored by each individual state’s Grand Lodge but also at a grass roots level by each individual lodge. At the state level, I’m talking newspaper adverts, radio and television advertisements, as well as ads on Social Media and the internet. At the local level, lodges need to show themselves as an active force in the community, as well as using social media to promote and advertise our lodges. As the MSANA report states: “Freemasonry’s significance to our culture is timeless and offers a major stabilizing influence within our communities. The Masonic identity needs to be understood and observed by the following: 

  • The general public, specifically the individuals who seek knowledge about themselves and their humanity 
  • Our existing members 
  • Potential members who need information about the fraternity’s benefits 
  • Members of the media community 
  • Religious leaders who need to understand the distinction between Masonry and religion 
  • Civic leaders” 

The only way to make all of the above parties understand our identity is to market it to them. Yes, I’m discussing an expenditure of a substantial amount of money, however I believe that we are at the point where the old adage, “You need to spend money to make money.” applies. If our Grand Lodges want to remain in existence and reverse the trend of declining membership, we need abandon the old idea that we can’t or shouldn’t actively market ourselves. I’m not saying that we need to stop guarding the West Gate, we need to make sure that is still done, however we need to make ourselves known so that more men will at least approach it.

Furthermore, as part of this advertising, we need to stress how important the below values are for men today. As the MSANA report says when discussing the benefits of Freemasonry in the 21st century world: “Masonry offers an opportunity for a principled way of life rooted in the following Masonic values: 

  • Integrity
  • Diversity 
  • Inquiry 
  • Community 
  • Vitality

Masons are men who build community through brotherhood that is based on a principled lifestyle. A Mason’s life is deeply rooted in a system of values. Masonry cannot be kept inside the individual; it is a philosophy of fraternity that must be shared in action through numerous experiences, which are lodge-based, personal, and professional.“


I would substitute personal development in place of inquiry. I don’t see the act of asking for information as being one of our values. Instead, I see personal development more in line with our values. Personal Development covers the activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. I personally have observed in my children a lack of certain life skills, for example, although I’ve shown him numerous times, I doubt highly that my 18 year old son could change a tire. As another example, my 16 year old son can’t cook a simple meal for himself. Sure he can microwave a meal, boil an egg, and do other simple kitchen tasks, but if I asked him to cook me a hamburger or pancake for instance, there’s a good chance that he couldn’t do it. Freemasonry can be marketed in such a way to younger generations to show them that Masonry can help teach them these life skills, either from the experience of being with older men who know these things, or by outright setting up workshops to teach them. 

 As a district education officer serving the Grand Lodge of Illinois, I know that Masonic education doesn’t need to be just focus on Freemasonry. Anything that teaches an individual how to be a better person falls under Masonic Education. If we can capitalize on filling a void in young men’s lives where we teach them not only basic life skills, but instill in them values that we as a society are lacking; I truly believe we can turn the tide. However, that again requires marketing a brand which highlights Masonry’s ability to teach these skills and values.

One thing that the MSANA report points out which we need to use to our advantage in marketing is what they call tangible and intangible resources. The report states: “Our Masonic resources are great! Our resource management skills are rusty.” Personally, I couldn’t agree more. To be honest, I never thought much about the great number of resources we have at our disposal as a fraternity. According to the report:

  • "Tangible resources may include the following: 
  • Existing physical structures 
  • Network of over one and one-half million Masonic members 
  • Extensive North American geographic coverage 
  • Lodge facilities with their community centrality—kitchens, libraries, collections, artifacts, exhibits, archives 
  • Existing programs 
  • Masonic clinics and hospitals 
  • Current Masonic publications 
  • Phone and e-mail networks 
  • Lodge-based websites 
  • Financial assets (even if limited) 
  • Contemporary books and films 

Also consider the following examples of intangible resources: 

  • Our good name for doing good works 
  • Centuries of history in multiple countries 
  • Individual talents of each brother 
  • Historical and contemporary cultural associations 
  • Community relationships 
  • Family links 
  • Educational and arts partnerships 
  • A legacy of leadership 
  • Respected values system 
  • Tradition of diversity 
  • Rituals 
  • Mystery 
  • Symbols 
  • Opportunities for self-improvement 
  • Fellowship 
  • Recent positive media exposure through books and films 
  • Community history”

Having so many strong resources at our disposal, we should be able to use them to recruit new members. However, once again, it requires a buy in from all of our membership. Lodges that sit empty except for the nights of their stated meetings are doomed to fail. We need to use our lodges for more than Masonic activities. We need to turn them into communal spaces, where other local organizations can meet in peace and harmony. Forming lasting and strong relationships with organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, Parent Teacher Associations, Rotary Club, among others. This can only help give the local lodge positive PR and word of mouth advertising, but maybe also help in recruitment. Men who sit month after month in a lodge room during a PTA, BSA or Rotary Meeting can’t help but wonder what goes on in that room during a Masonic Meeting, and then due to natural curiosity will want to know more.

Ultimately, the onus is on each and every one of us to advertise Freemasonry. We need to make sure that in our actions that we are setting an example for other men to follow. We need to make sure that our words, both verbal and written are carefully chosen. We must be what we promote ourselves to be. When we wear the square and compass, we must be sure to act according to what they represent. Most importantly, we must make sure that we are as a fraternity adding value to men’s lives. As the MSANA’s reports call to action states: “Now, we must move forward both individually and fraternally. We encourage you to think carefully about how you invest your time, which is everyone’s most valuable asset, and we ask that you use your time on programs and actions that are uniquely Masonic. As we work together, we must ask each other how a program, a meeting, or an event improves and demonstrates our experience of being a Mason. We have not a moment to lose.” We need to make sure that people are aware that we’re still here, and most importantly, that we’re not planning on going anywhere.

~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.

Divesting Our Hearts and Minds

Freemasonry with a little Stoicism to begin this New Year

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce


A few days after Christmas, I attended a Masonic funeral service. During the ceremony, the line, "His labors here below have taught him to divest his heart and conscience of the vices and superfluities of life," spoken by the Master, took me back to one of the lessons learned in our degrees. I spent the car ride home digesting that line, really focusing on its deeper meanings. How our work here on Earth teaches us to push aside the struggles and challenges of finding happiness in our everyday life.

In a way, as I attended this funeral just days before the start of 2019, I found myself at that familiar place and time of making a New Year's resolution. I have been re-reading my copy of Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations" and found one of his passages to be similar to one of the lessons on The Working Tools. As Emperor of Rome, he also struggled with purging his mind and heart of the distractions or wants that create dependency.

"Is it possible that one day I shall see you, O my soul, good, simple, indivisible, stripped of every pretense, more solid than the flesh that covers you now? Will you ever know of a day of unclouded love and tenderness? Will you ever be content --- no hopes, no regrets, needing nothing, desiring nothing, animate or inanimate, not even for a moment's pleasure --- nor wanting a little more time to prolong the ecstasy, or a more pleasing room or view or climate, or more sweet accord in your relations with others? When will you be content with your present condition, happy with all you have, accepting it as a gift from the gods and acknowledging that all is well with you and that will be well? When will you understand that the gods hold dear those gifts (the good, the just, the beautiful) they intend for the preservation of a living whole --- gifts that nourish the universe by gathering and binding the primal elements dispersed by dissolution and decay and needed for new creation? Will there ever come a day, O my soul, when you can live in the company of men and gods, blameless in their eyes, without blaming that at all?"

Many centuries have passed since Aurelius' time, even more since the beginning of Freemasonry. Yet, we still find ourselves searching for the answers to ancient questions. Instead of asking how, perhaps we should be asking when? Is NOW a good time to begin divesting your heart and conscience of the vices and superfluities in YOUR life? Less than half of all New Year's resolutions are successful, but remember, an obligation is for life. I wish you all the best in making yourself better in this New Year!

~MA

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: michael.arce@me.com

More than Green Beans at the Masonic Table

by Midnight Freemason
Robert E. Jackson, PM


What are the biggest holidays of the modern era?  I would say Thanksgiving, and Christmas. What main event is shared with both of those holidays?  A big, bountiful, meal with all of your family. The Normal Rockwell picture! Think now about the big moments in life?  Birthdays, Graduations, Weddings, Funeral…they all have a primary meal aspect to the occasion. It seems that nearly every special occasion in life accords a nice meal around your closest friends, and family.  In times back, not very long ago, the family would sit down every night to dinner and discuss the events of the day. It was ritualistic occurrence nearly every night that strengthened the bonds of the family and taught many of us the manners we know today.  I suspect there is a low likelihood of this ritual existing today, which makes those big gatherings that much more important.

Every month, ten months per year (minimum usually), there is a special event at each of our Lodges.  Each time we gather, it is a special event, and as we've seen, each special event deserves a bountiful meal. It doesn't have to be a costly endeavor, or overly time consuming.  Details like tablecloths, the arrangement of the tables, and the utensils used can spruce up even the most drab green beans. We shouldn't forget, however, that its not the quality of the food that makes the evening special, it's the quality of the company.   In many cases, this is the only time we get to meet and talk with some of our Brothers, our family. Sometimes we catch up on family events and health, but sometimes we also have the opportunity to discuss more of the symbolism in our ritual. Well, what about the symbolism in the meal itself?

What are our wages? Corn, wine, and oil.  Yes we learn they mean health, plenty, and peace, but at the basis of these artifacts, we have food, drink, and warmth…the bare necessities of human life.  When we feed a Brother, we are providing them with energy, and life. Furthermore, our food, all that we ingest, connects us with the Earth in which the food was grown.  It is energy from the sun and nutrients from the air and ground. We consume, produce our own energy, and return what is left back to the Earth to continue the cycle. As Masons, I feel our connection to Nature is like none other, and every meal provides us with an opportunity to recognize that connection.

As Masons, we are also taught to be charitable, caring for the weak, and the sick.  We also need to consider this characteristic in the realm of food and drink. Gluttony not only damages our own bodies, but can deprive others of those requirements for survival.  Certainly there are enough instances where the excess of drink has not only impaired health, but has ruined lives. As we sit back with a full belly, contemplate the virtue of temperance, and how critical it can be to the wellbeing of our communities.

But it's more than just filling the belly.  Around the table, a bond is made. Conversations that might otherwise not have happened, flourish.  In the Christian belief, the Last Supper is where Jesus announced to his disciples that one of them would betray him.  Quite a heavy subject, and accusation. The bread was broken, and consumed, and from that point on Jesus would live within each of them, including Judas, who not only betrayed Jesus, but he betrayed himself.  How would this story be different were it not gathered around the table (I still find it strange that they all sat on the same side of the table).

On a lighter note, restauranteurs are finding that when they allow their staff to eat together, the bonds within them strengthen and they create better friends.  These are companies whose primary job is to provide a quality meal. They are now learning that it isn't just the meal, it is the interaction during the meal. People are finding that those bonds created around the table not only improve their own happiness, but also retention in the workplace.  Have you ever left a job? It's not the job you miss, or that you have to say goodbye to. It's saying goodbye to the friends you've made in your career that hurts.

The importance of sitting at the table, and sharing that sacred space (and it really is a sacred space) can not be overstated.  The energy from the Earth undergoes its own alchemical transformation, take the basic building blocks of life and creating material ready for your consumption.  All of this enables us to work, play, and maintain health. In some cultures, simply sitting at the table is a noble act. Slaves would eat standing….continuing their work, no table at which to sit.  Only the nobles, those worthy, were welcome at the table. My Brothers, we are all worthy, and should welcome the opportunity to sit at the table in Harmony with our Brothers in Freemasonry.

~REJ

Robert Edward Jackson is a Past Master and Secretary of Montgomery Lodge located in Milford, MA. His Masonic lineage includes his Father (Robert Maitland), Grandfather (Maitland Garrecht), and Great Grandfather (Edward Henry Jackson), a founding member of Scarsdale Lodge #1094 in Scarsdale, NY. When not studying ritual, he's busy being a father to his three kids, a husband, Boy Scout Leader, and a network engineer to pay for it all. He can be reached at info@montgomerylodge.org

The 50 Year Member - Talkin' Bout My Obligations

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


Pudge was sitting comfortably in one of the newly restored leather wingback chairs in a quiet corner of the Temple’s Social room. Pudge seems quite happy while looking at a pad of drawings with a group of the lodge’s younger Brethren. The group was talking and laughing with cigars in their hands as the 50 Year member walked into the room. A smile came across the old man’s face as the sound of young men laughing took him to an earlier time on a cloud of cigar smoke. “It’s just like old times.", the old man thought to himself.

As the 50 Year member approached the men, he could begin to hear some of their conversations. “I like that one.” Said one young man “Have you seen the Superman I have on my calf with the Square and Compass on his chest in place of the letter "S"? I finally got the coloring finished on it.” The 50-year member laughed and said, “It must be hard coloring something on your calf. I hope you stayed within the lines.” the old man said with a laugh in his voice. The group checked. “Pudge looked up and saw the 50-year member. “Hi,John! Hey, do you have any tattoos?” The old man smiled. “Nah, back in my day the only guys who got tattoos were either servicemen, while they were away from home or prisoners who got them while they were in prison. Neither of which I would have been, my mother would have killed me.” The crowd laughed as the old man slipped quietly into a leather chair. The group continued to discuss various kinds of tattoos and showing each other pictures of Masonic tattoos that they found on Google while doing their research on the topic.

Hearing the laughter while walking down the hallway on the way to the lodge room, Past Master Herb Johnson ventured into the Social room and began to listen silently to the young men’s conversation. Herb piped in after he heard the 50-year member's response to the younger guys. “No John wouldn’t have a Masonic tattoo. John remembers the obligations that he took!” Herb said in a gruff voice.

The young men sat silent for a second and lookedat each other. They all seemed confused. One young man said hesitantly in a quiet voice “It’s unMasonic to get a tattoo?" Herb stood up and arched his back and said in the know-it-all authoritarian voice, “It is if you get a Masonic tattoo!” Herb said, matter-of-factly. “You kids have already forgotten, "I will not print, paint…” Each with an uneasy feeling, the entire group of men began to steal glances at each other, worried and questioning if they were all going to be in a great deal of trouble. Herb continued “Yep. If you got one of those tattoos, the lodge might have to file charges on you for expulsion.” The group started talking to each other in quiet scared voices.

The 50-year member began to laugh so hard he began to shake in glee, as he slapped his knee. The old man eventually gained his composure again as he wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, “John this is no laughing matter. This is serious business!” Herb said. The 50-year member began laughing again and said to Herb through his laughter, in a mocking tone, “Oh yes it is Herb. You have them quaking in their boots at the thought of a Masonic trial. I hope you are as equally prepared as these young men will be when the un-Masonic charges are filed against you.” The old man was laughing so hard he could barely stand up from his chair.

Herbert, who began to sputter while his face reddened with anger looked at the old man and said in the high nasal tone, "File charges against me!? Why I never! I have been a member of this lodge almost as long as you have! I have never done anything that can be considered un-Masonic in my entire adult life! I served this lodge as Master four times! I served on several Grand Lodge committees-- I have been a model…” The 50-year member interrupted Herb’s tirade “Oh Herb, I know! That’s why it will be a sad day when I walk into the lodge room and see the Tyler using his sword to keep you from gaining admittance. It will be a downright shame.” Sweat began to drip down Herb's forehead as his fists were balled up in anger. “So what is the evidence against me that you are going to use?” Herb said in a quiet voice, trying to calm his anger.

The 50-year member said, "Basically the same evidence you are planning on using against these “kids”, as you call them. Violating their obligations to keep secrets. Herb,you know as well as I do the only real secrets this Fraternity are its words and grips, and you know as well as I do you can pick up a hundred books or get on the internet and find those. These young men aren’t going to tattoo those words on their bodies. That’s stupid. If you ever bothered to talk to these young men before acting all high and mighty, you'd discover they are going to tattoo Masonic symbols like the square and compass, symbols from the York Rite or the Scottish Rite. Just like the ones you have on the back of your car and if I am honest, I've seen on the mailbox at your house, and I know we as a lodge have contributed to your guilt by giving you plaques and certificates through the years with those incriminating symbols on them. So I think if these young men are guilty of a Masonic crime then sadly Brother, you are guilty, nay, more guilty than the rest, because you have been in the Craft long enough to know better.

The 50-year member got quiet. The sound of the silence in the room was deafening. The old man said, in a quieter, more calm voice “I’m sorry if you think I'm rough on you Herb, but dang it! I feel like you have it coming. You might know our ritual front to back, but you haven’t bothered to learn the meaning of one single word in which you've memorized. But that doesn’t stop you from spouting off pieces of ritual, trying to act like an expert on the matter when you haven’t the slightest clue what you are talking about."

The old man continues “Sadly you aren’t the only one with this particular notion. Think back to last month when the lodge was discussing men, for goodness sake, policemen, to carry their legally owned pistols to a lodge meeting. Sadly, I knew as soon as the discussion began, some poor, uneducated Brother would stand up and utter the phrase “I will carry nothing offensive or defensive into the lodge room with me.” And I was surely not disappointed, because it didn’t take long for the phrase to be uttered. You know what gets me? I bet that poor ignorant Brother and every man who grunted his agreement to that phrase was nodding his head while he was carrying a pocket knife in his pants pocket. Should we have the Tyler frisk each brother before he enters the room? Or better yet make them pass through a metal detector to ensure he isn’t carrying anything metallic into the lodge? If we are going to misquote ritual, we might as well go all the way with this silliness."

“Brother we both know that line is about a candidate, not for a Master Mason attending a stated meeting. It’s just one of my pet peeves that we either use pieces of our ritual wrong, or worse yet, we purposely twist a bit of the ritual, out of context in order to further our argument or to prove a point to someone who is as equally ignorant into the meaning of those words we've all memorized, but we can’t call them on it because it will cause “Disharmony” within the lodge.”

The 50-year member paused for a moment as Herb’s head began to lower “Brother all I am saying is we are either going to hold all members to the same standards, or we will continue to see this Fraternity further erode. The days of saying one thing but meaning another have to stop before we drive off every new member. If we are going to make good men better, we need to do it through education and teaching actual Masonic education, not through twisted, bastardized ritual which has lost it meaning through the years because we have misapplied it." The old man smiled. “OK I am now going to step down from my soap box and get ready for the lodge meeting. Herb go in and gets us some good seats, will you?”

Herb slowly backed away. “Honest John. I think I am going to head home. I don’t feel so good right now. I think I am going to take one of my Nitro pills and head for the house.” One of the younger men of the group stepped out of the crowd and said to Herb. “Brother, my name is Tim. I am a paramedic by trade. Why don’t you sit down here and let me examine you? You look a little flushed. If you are feeling that bad, I don’t want you traveling home by yourself." He continued,  "After I look you over if you still don’t feel well, I’ll take you home, or if need be to the Emergency Room. You shouldn’t be left on your own if you feel that bad.” Herb looked up at Tim and said in a weak voice. You are going to help me even after how bad I was talking about you kids? Are you sure?” Tim just smiled, took Herb and sat him in one of the wingback chairs and said ,“Of course! I may not know all the ritual as well as some of the guys here, but one part I do know and remember quite well is “I will help, aid and assist.” It’s not only my obligation, but I live it every day of my life." Tim took Herb's hand, “Now just be still, let me have a look at you.” He looked to the crowd and said as he threw his car keys in the air, “Hey Pudge go to my trunk and get my paramedic bag out of the trunk please.” Tim then looked back to Herb and started his usual questions “So tell me Brother are you having any pains? Nausea?” …

~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.


Brotherly Love Off To A Rough Start In 2019

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

As Freemasons, we’ve made the decision that we want to live our lives a different way, by a higher set of standards than other men. We consider ourselves a fraternity of freethinkers—a society of thoughtful men who ponder the great questions in life. We believe in many things including equality, brotherly love, relief, truth, charity, toleration, etc. And we talk about these concepts and tenants at great length within our Fraternity.

Yesterday, on a Grand Lodge Facebook page, a Brother expressed an opinion. It wasn’t very eloquently expressed, but he simply pointed out he didn’t like being called "bro." The traditional way Masons address each other is “Brother” not “Bro.” It was a pet peeve. It wasn’t something I’d probably share on that venue, but I didn’t think much about it because I understood exactly where he was coming from. We are a fraternity steeped in tradition, and those titles we use in addressing each other are a form of showing respect for each other. And I share with him an opinion that too many Masons don’t show proper respect for our traditions and ritual. Like Masons that show up for a Masonic funeral in jeans, or don't bother to turn off their phones prior to a Masonic meeting (and then answer a call during the meeting).  So I got what he was complaining about--a lack of decorum, respect, and reverence for the Fraternity and what it represents.  And in truth, I don’t like being called “bro” either and I’m not exactly some stodgy old curmudgeon—as far as I’m concerned it’s the same as being called “dude.” What surprised me was a number of comments on that benign post—so I decided to read them.

It was disappointing. Instead of letting this Mason share his opinion, and give a moments thought to where he might be coming from, what the vast majority of more than fifty Masons did was ridicule him. They made fun of him and his petty little pet peeve. It was the equivalent of a 21st century stoning. Several of those Masons that participated in humiliating that Mason I know quite well. It was disappointing to see, and something I see far too often amongst Freemasons in these groups. This is something I expect to see on a political page, not on venues hosted by enlightened freethinkers.

I'm sure everyone that participated in that exchange thought they were absolutely hilarious, making jokes at his expense.  But how do you think that made that Mason feel? 

It’s easy to talk the talk, but not so easy to walk the walk. Being a Freemason means more than giving lip service to a bunch of old outdated ideas, concepts, tenets, and morals. It means we should be applying them to our lives on a daily basis because those ideas are the gateways to a far superior way of life, and a much more civilized manner of interacting with our fellow mankind. We even talk about the interactions we have with each other in our rituals. They’re not just words, they’re meant to be instructive.

How should Masons meet? How should Masons act? How should Masons part?

One of the insults that were hurled towards the Mason who shared his opinion on that post was “and we wonder why Freemasonry is dying.”

Let me tell you something, Brother. It’s not him. If Freemasonry is dying (which is a belief I don’t share), it’s because too many Freemasons don’t practice what they preach.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor. He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is the Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR). He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 where he currently serves as EHP. He represents the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M. as the Eastern Area Education Officer. He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316. You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The Guttural

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners



Many of you may have at some point in your life found yourself in a similar situation to one I had recovered from recently. On November 27, 2018, I had to have my tonsils removed. I'm a 45 year old man. When I wrote this, I was twelve days post-surgery and my throat was still hoarse and sore. As is often the case with me during times in my life where I need guidance, I turn to the lessons taught to us during our degrees. In the first degree, we are taught, “to be able to make yourself known among other Masons by certain signs, a token, a word and the points of your entrance which are four: the guttural, the pectoral, the manual and the pedal. These four points allude to the four cardinal virtues: Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice.

We are further taught that “Temperance is that due restraint upon affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice.” It is stressed to us that this virtue, “should be the constant practice of every Mason, as he is thereby taught to avoid excess, or the contracting of any licentious or vicious habit, the indulgence in which might lead him to disclose some of those valuable secrets which he has promised to conceal and never reveal, and which would consequently subject him to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons, if not to the penalty of our obligation, which alludes to the guttural.

What is the guttural? From the Latin: “guttur”, meaning throat, literally meaning,“of the throat”. It’s a term usually reserved for sounds which are particularly harsh or grating. Because the throat is the entrance way through which vice, (alcohol, tobacco, food) enters the body, that this would be why temperance is associated with the guttural. Allowing such vice to influence a Mason’s behavior would inevitably lead to the possibility of giving up the secrets of the Craft via a loose tongue. The old saying, "Loose lips sink ships." comes to mind. However, In this day and age, it would be as easy to write down the secrets (using the manual) on a form of Social Media, and press enter. To complicate matters, the attachment of the four cardinal virtues to the “perfect” points of entrance didn’t occur in the ritual until the mid-1800’s. So why then is the guttural so important to our Craft?

While thinking about it and beginning to research why temperance would be associated with the guttural, I came across something that I never thought about. Operative Masons (at least in Ireland), had their own secret language (https://www.jstor.org/stable/534860?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents). 

Called “Bearla lagair”, it was an artificial or technical jargon or gibberish used by Masons. Furthermore, in Ireland, this language was traced back to a character named Goban Saor or Goban Saer (Gobban the Builder). He is regarded in traditional Irish Folklore as originating in the 7th Century, as one of the Tuath De’ (Tribe of the Gods), who are a supernatural race in Irish Mythology. According to myth, Goban forged their lethal weapons and brewed their magical elixirs of invincibility. (Hmmm, does this archetype of a master instructor in metallurgy sound familiar?) Historically – he is thought of as the builder/founder of many churches in Ireland and was canonized as St. Gobhan for his works. The canonization of Pagan gods was common during the early spread of the Roman Catholic Church, as many local pagan gods would become Saints in order to ease the transition from the Pagan religions to the Catholic one, and this is most likely the case with St. Gobhan.

In any case, the knowledge of this secret mason’s talk was known by many throughout Ireland. Like our degree system, apprentices obtained “papers” from the master-mason, and an increase of wages with each paper. The third paper (or third degree as we might think of it), was called an indenture. No apprentice would be entitled to this until he was able to speak the Bearla lagair. They were forbidden to teach it any one not a mason, even to the members of their own family. They also had secret signs, methods of handling their working tools, ways of pointing, smoothing and laying mortar which would also identify them, but only the other member of their craft would pick up on these things. To the non-mason, it would have been their cryptic language which identified them as free-masons.

This being said, the points of one entrance can be thought of the precise moment that a candidate for initiation enters the lodge, or the entire ceremony of initiation. The first thing a candidate does after knocking three times on the door from the preparation room to the lodge room is to use his voice to answer a question. Without the guttural, he would never be able to enter to lodge room. As only a man who affirms that he is entering of his own free will and accord can become a Freemason. Yes, a candidate needs to use his voice to repeat his obligation, and the penalty of the obligation of the Entered Apprentice impacts the guttural, but at this point, the candidate has already vocally affirmed four times that he is entering the lodge and wanting to receive the rights and benefits of Freemasonry. It is at the point of entry, where they affirm that they are joining without being asked, invited, solicited or pressured to join.

This is also one of the most powerful arguments that one can use when Freemasonry is accused of being a religion. The custom of most religious groups is to urge people to join their religion. They proselytize actively, and during certain points in history, have persecuted people who are not of their religion. Freemasonry does no such thing. Albert Mackey when commenting on a man coming to Freemasonry of his own free-will and accord said: "This is a settled landmark of the Order," but, he did not include this ‘settled landmark’ among his list of Landmarks for some reason. In his article on Proselytism, He states; “Freemasonry is rigorously opposed to proselytism.” And follows: “Nay, it boasts as a peculiar beauty of its system, that it is a voluntary institution.” We accept men of all religious backgrounds, and allow them a forum to meet and enjoy fellowship with other men who might believe in a God that is not their own. But they must seek out us out.

Furthermore, if a Man was to join due to pressure from his father, brother, uncle, friend; and left it might result in a family argument, or a lost friendship. Mackey states that coming of our own free-will and accord means that Freemasonry is truly a voluntary association of men, and that this is where the saying ‘Once a Freemason always a Freemason’ comes from, and has meaning. This is what in my humble opinion ultimately unites us as a Fraternity. Each of us, who have stood at the door of the preparation room have answered affirmatively that we are joining of our own free will and accord by using the guttural. 

~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.