Where Do You See Beauty?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson


Over the years, I've been involved in several conversations about the physical attributes of others. Beautiful, handsome, hot, sexy, ugly, homely, but it all comes back to 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

As a society, we seem to be infatuated with beauty. Fancy material items, medical procedures, expensive clothing, extensive workout regiments, all things we do to make ourselves appear to be more beautiful. It is a common joke, that some people are just “too ugly for TV”, or that performers have a “face for radio”. We have television shows that never, never, never die that are completely focused on outward appearance…that which society thinks is “beautiful”. And yet, starting at a young age, we are taught that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Why as a society, do we seem to lose sight of that simple and common phrase?

The origination of the term is actually a paraphrase from Plato’s Symposium:
"Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may."
This phrase was later simplified by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 book, Molly Bawn. This is where we get “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but like many things in our life, in order to truly understand the meaning, we need to dig for the foundation.

Thinking about Plato’s original statement, through our human eyes, we may perceive beauty. However, beauty is subjective, qualitative, and there is no Truth in perception. It is important here to distinguish between a Truth, and an agreement. Truth is a quantifiable measure. A divine attribute that can not be argued. There is a Truth in mathematics, a Truth in geometry, a measurable Truth in astronomy. And although there may be a Truth in nature (golden ratio), there is no truth in a persons physical attributes. After all, when discerning the beauty (or lack thereof) of a human, isn’t that where we often apply this common phrase?

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, in reference to anything but physical beauty. And not just physical beauty, but physical beauty of a human. We see a couple, and we aren’t physically attracted to either party, it doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t cause us to emotionally erupt in a storm of verbal artillery. Why not? We remember the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we move on.

So now I must ask, why do we only seem to apply this philosophy to physical beauty? Why is it so easy to accept that physically, our attraction (or lack thereof) to another can vary so greatly, but when we have discussions about food, music, politics, religion, we suddenly become more polarized? Yes these are topics we can feel very passionate about, but just because I find the music of Iron Maiden to be beautiful, that doesn’t make it Truth. One may be incredibly dedicated and passionate about a political or religious belief, but that doesn’t make that belief Truth (isn’t that why we call it a belief)?

Now, I’m not suggesting that anybody abandon their personal beliefs. I would simply like to posit that the term "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" does and should apply to far much more than our physical attributes of the meat suit. I can’t believe that Plato was merely thinking about the figure of a woman (or man) when he wrote his Symposium, but without summoning him, we’ll never know. 

However, if you were able to apply this phrase more universally, think of how it would help you. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Shallow Hal,’ think about how happy Hal’s character was. His friend couldn’t accept it, and was nearly driven mad! Instead of an elevated heart rate driven by anger and confusion, accept that our perceptions and beliefs are different. If you’re ambitious, try to understand that beauty that another might see. And the next time you see a post, or hear a discussion, that you don’t agree with…simply remember, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

~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

Why Are We Always Talking About What We Can't Do?

by Midnight Freemason’s Founder 
Todd E. Creason, 33° 

The devastating fire in April 2019 was not the end of Notre Dame Cathedral, but the Cathedral will not rebuild itself.
“If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing—you’re right.” 

~Henry Ford 

I just read another article about the impending death of Freemasonry. We’ve got to start closing our Lodges and pooling our resources because membership is falling and nobody wants to join us anymore. Sometimes I think when I read these articles that there are too many Freemasons out there rooting against their Fraternity instead of working to turn the ship.

Like Henry Ford suggested, it’s all about what you believe and what you actually do. One of the things that impressed me the most about Freemasonry was the big impact such a small group of men could have on their community. In my little lodge in the Midwest we started a Masonic Charity Trail Run, and we did it for several years. There were literally four of five members of my Lodge that did 90% of the work, and we raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities, and most of that money was raised through private donations not through the entry fees. That money went a long way in helping those local charities, and providing services for those desperately in need in our own communities.

While several lodges around us failed, closed, and merged, a few of my Brothers and I formed a new chapter of the High Twelve several years ago—I was the charter President. We’ve used that club to introduce new Masons to the wider world of Freemasonry. We’ve encouraged our members to bring their Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts so they can get used to the idea that Freemasonry is bigger than just that Lodge up over the hardware store in their town. We’ve had many, many speakers over the years, including the President of the University of Illinois.

While other groups were busy dying, we’ve been building.

During this same period of time we managed to save one of the oldest Lodges in our area. We did so by improving the meetings and turning it into Lodge that was more education based. We have great meetings, we get guests from other Lodges that come for our programs, and a Lodge that was facing closure at least for the time being has come back alive in our community.

While other groups were busy dying, we’ve been building.

And in that same lodge building, we formed a brand new chapter of the Royal Arch—Admiration Chapter! I’ve talked about this group many times before. Again, it has a focus on education, and we get guests coming from all over the state. We’ve grown quickly, and in our last meeting we had guest from Bloomington (1 hour away) and Pekin (2 hours away) and elsewhere along with several members of the Grand Chapter . . . on a Thursday Night.

While other groups were busying dying, we’ve been building.  My first-hand experience is very different than what the conventional wisdom is on this subject.  We're too focused on the problems rather than the possibilities, and we give up far too easily.  And I'll be the first to admit that this is hard work.

Let’s look at the positives we could (and should) be building on. Self-Improvement has not gone out of style—it’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry. There are seminars and retreats and apps, etc. Look at the number of self-improvement books published every year on subjects that Freemasonry has historically done a much better job with teaching men for generations. Population is increasing so there’s plenty of men out there to recruit. There are fewer and fewer institutions teaching those values that men today are wanting to learn from all those books and seminars that are available . . . topics like leadership, and character, and integrity, etc. Freemasonry has been teaching men these fundamental principles for three centuries. We’ve just gotten away from doing that, and we’ve forgotten how. So that’s where you start.

But rather than going to work to build another generation of Freemasons, we sit on our thumbs in boring meetings and wonder why nobody joins our Fraternity anymore, and while the world around us expands, we shrink. Masons complain to me about these problems all the time, and when I ask what they're doing about it, I get these blank looks.  Instead of figuring out how they can save their lodge, they sit around waiting for the doors to close.

It’s been said that great nations die when they get away from the things that made them great to begin with. Fraternities work the same way. And that’s the real problem we’re facing today.  We can blame it on the changing world around us that lacks values and a desire to grow, but if you know your history, you'll know that this is the exact kind of environment in which Freemasonry was born.  And they thrived because they offered an alternative to the world around them.  There's no reason we can't do the same thing today.  

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. Todd started the Midnight Freemason blog in 2006, and in 2012 he opened it up as a contributor blog The Midnight Freemasons (plural). Todd has written more than 1,000 pieces for the blog since it began. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is a 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 the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP. You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Its Not About the Food

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks


At breakfast of my first day in the Scottish Rite, a Brother welcomed me and said: “don’t you worry, you’ll make back your dues in the meals…the food is great.” I thought to myself: “I didn’t come here for the meal.” Later the same evening in recounting an amazing day of deep insights and new friends to my partner and sons. I explained with slight dismay of my newfound Brother’s welcome serving. It was disappointing the first fare of the day was the extent of his and my conversational fodder. My spouse exhorted: “Erik. You know this: it is notabout the food!” Light. In her inimitable way, Corinna conducted me with laser precision to the heart of what is my problem, not his: our breakfast banter is my bread and butter.

Food is the metaphor for the nurturing, Love, we never received in our families or denied in our co-construction of society. In every culture, we have traditions, ceremony, and rituals around or about food. The Seder plate has foods with metaphoric meanings. We eat specific foods on designated days to remember aspects of divinity, honor ancestors, and celebrate the ample freedoms we enjoy. We break fasts with specific foods. Certain foods are used as medicines. In traditional Chinese Medicine, Vedic and Tibetan medicinal systems, foods are prescribed for myriad ailments. A doctor with an integrated approach prescribed warmed garlic oil for an ear infection I kept having, along with the standard amoxicillin in case the natural method didn’t work. I never had to fill the penicillin prescription…

Foods are sometimes misused as a substance for emotional management or control. People restrict intake to feel a sense of control over their body. Some over indulge regularly or at intervals in order to generate strong bodily sensation to mask emotion, divert attention from emotion, and create an emotion to manage another. Often, anxiety creates an empty sensation people try to fill or blunt with food. When sad, lonely, or depressed, we use foods that boost positive feelings: chocolate, carbs, fats, and sugars. We use food to fill emptiness and its encouraged through marketing. “I’m an emotional eater…” is a common phrase I hear. This can be a difficult pattern, habit, or symptoms to change since we can’t simply encourage abstinence as we can with alcohol or drugs/substances used recreationally or to self-medicate. Food is essential for life, so other approaches to change problematic eating are needed.

Food has always been a part of Freemasonry—as it has in every tradition. It is both material relief and metaphor. In our second degree, part of our traditional wages. Lodges set aside days of the year or month to serve those less fortunate. We provide meals to brethren with thought and care. Men, cooking or providing for, and nurturing, one another…and cherishing every moment. To be clear, at the core of every meal is not always about the food. The primary ingredient is quite often, Love. I can’t blame lack of coffee the morning of my initiation for the fact I wasn’t ready to ascertain the meaning in my newfound Brother’s gift to me: “Welcome. You will not be taxed or punished for getting what you need here. I’ve felt welcomed and cared for by the fraternity. Don’t worry Brother, it can happen for you, too.” He is getting what he needs for his development through the way he serves and is served-literally-in the Scottish Rite. Who am I to disrupt or disparage his path? 

 I may not see what he gains through the degrees or deserts. I may not need what he needs to be nourished towards perfection. Labor, physical, psychological, or spiritual can be draining and requires sustenance. Just because he doesn’t reflect his experience back to me in an esoteric or philosophic frame does not mean he isn’t affected in the ways I may want for me and would like to discuss. Growth can take time and our path cannot be everything to all men at the pace wethink they need. Nor should we try to be so for everyone. It seems we offer a tremendous amount to some; for others our overtly esoteric and philosophic explorations may go unnoticed, for now and we remain persistent. So, the problem is my own. He welcomed me in his way and I missed the chance to engage him: due to my insistence on a particular mode of communication, we both lost out…or maybe it was only my loss. Thank you, Brother. I hope to see you at the next reunion’s wonderful breakfast.

~EM

Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org

OMG! I'm not old enough to be this OLD!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

Staying connected with your Brothers during the dark season

I'm finally at the age where I look forward to summer again. As a kid, it was like counting down the days until Christmas. "No more teachers, no more books. No more teachers dirty looks." I still remember those final days spent helping the teacher clean the classroom, watching movies, and enjoying the free air conditioning. Now that I'm firmly planted in my 40's, my body enjoys these warm summer days a little more each year. Winter with her ice and snow does a good job of getting my mind past the memories of bugs that sting, sunburns, and humidity that makes the boards on my deck bend.

As a Master Mason, summer means no more Lodge meetings. In exchange, I would get back two weeknights for a few months. While I look forward to enjoying Monday night dinners with my lady on our deck this time of the year, it's a bittersweet feeling knowing that I also won't be enjoying fellowship after meetings with my Brothers. No more ritual, no more meetings... but also no more of those random conversations on history, the meaning of life, or just the craziness of our daily lives. This year, I found with each passing meeting I was dreading having to say, "see you in September," to the most important guys in my life.

The promise of "this summer being different" started when I picked up a copy of "Born in Blood" for $5. Can you believe it?!?! I would have done a cartwheel if I knew how! I'm sure that one of the best rummage sale book finds was freshly donated from someone's basement. When I got to the halfway point in John J. Robinson's book where he begins to tease his belief in a connection with The Templars and Freemasonry, I found myself snapping photos of the pages to share in a text message with a fellow Brother. That's when it happened.

"Wow! I always wanted to read that book too.
I know. This is amazing! I love authors who write research books like this; it gives me something to do with my free time."

"You know, we should start a book club or something. It would be a cool way for us to get together still and talk about things this summer.
Really? A book club? Aren't we a little too young for that?
Yeah. We should call it a "summer reading group" or something! Hahahahahaha!"

Within an hour I had texted my other chat groups. "Hit me up with a private message if you want details. We're starting this week." There are three Brothers from my Lodge and one from another - that makes four. I started another Summer Masonic Reading group chat. "We'll meet on Wednesday night at my place. I'll make dinner - you guys bring over whatever you like. Here's the link to buy the first book. See you in two weeks." Before the end of the day, all three Brothers had ordered the title from Amazon; I suspect we'll all have the book read the day it arrives. The other cool thing, our group chat started flowing that night with those discussions on morality, symbolism, and the deeper meanings of our ritual that I have me crossing off the days on the calendar until our next Lodge meeting.

Stay cool and enjoy your summer. See you in September.

~MA

Bro. Michael Arce is 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

A Poem: White Gloves


by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
Robert Wesley Hawkins

WHITE GLOVES

At the time I take my final breath,
I hope all others know,
I tried to give my best in life,
on a path where Brothers go.

I hope to be in heaven,
when those white gloves are at my side. 
I hope to be in the hearts of Brothers,
when I take my final ride.

I hope some good fine words are said,
about some good deeds that I’ve done. 
I hope there are jokes and smiles,
I hope my funeral’s fun. 

I hope when I take my final step,
I’ve become master of my mind. 
I hope I leave a better man,
no unlearned lesson left behind. 

I hope there is a knock on the wood,
as they lower me down with care. 
I hope all my brothers laugh,
remembering the times a rod hit my chair. 

I hope to be in heaven,
when those white gloves form a line. 
I hope to be in the hearts of Brothers,
as they are now with mine. 

~Robert Wesley Hawkins 2019



Robert Wesley Hawkins is a member of Olive Branch #38 in Danville, Illinois and a 32* Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Danville Valley.  Bro. Hawkins enjoys contributing to the arts through writing and is on the Board of Directors with Rebelsfare Arts & Music Foundation based in Oakwood, Illinois. He is a husband, father, and has a career in education.

Esotericon - The First of Many Masonic Moonshots

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Kevin Homan




Many of you have probably heard either through here, or any number of the other Masonic dedicated sites and social media of the recent success of the first inaugural Mid-Atlantic Esotericon held in Manassas Virginia. Many thanks to RWB Johnson for writing about the success of our Conference, and even bigger thanks for your direct involvement in making it a success. As RWB Johnson adequately covers all the details of the event, we won’t rehash them here, what we did find both eye-opening and concerning from his piece however was this line;
Conversely, The Mid-West Conference of Grand Lodge Education had a whole 20 dudes present.
This line is eye-opening and disappointing for the sole reason of we were four Brethren who ran a Conference that outgrew its venue in our first year. We had 147 Brethren attend our event, Brethren from as far west as Seattle Washington, and even an international Brother who came down from Canada. We…were four…Brothers. Contrast that with the Mid-West Conference of Grand Lodge Education where you have multiple Grand Lodges coordinating an event, with far more resources at their disposal than we had, and the disparity becomes really clear. Now, we don’t know exactly why this event only was able to pull in twenty Brethren, and while we have some guesses, we will not speculate without knowing concrete facts. 

What we can talk about without speculation is that the hunger for Masonic education is most definitely there, and it’s there for more than just Esoterics, although we certainly know that hunger is there for that as well. No, the appetite for Masonic education is there for ALL topics, as shown by the success of the Masonicon held annually by the Brethren of Ezekiel Bates Lodge in Attleboro MA. The Grand Lodge of Ohio each year hosts Camp Masonry, a multi-day Masonic event combining education, ritual and Degree exemplification all in one weekend, making both ritualists AND education seeking Masons happy at the same time. Of course, and again, our Esotericon was a rousing success with an educational focus of esoterical and mystical topics. What is our point you might be asking? Our point is that the interest in these Masonic topics is absolutely there, so getting more than twenty Brethren to show up to an event shouldn’t be happening, these are the types of things that sell every single ticket or seat available to them and STILL have interest for attendance.

You all may be wondering what our special sauce was that made our first-time event a success. While we’d love to claim it was hard, and a lot of blood sweat and tears went into the making of the Esotericon, the reality is ANY Mason or group of Masons can put together a successful event like this with limited resources. Now, that’s not to say it was an entirely pain-free event, it was not. We certainly have some things to improve upon for next year’s Con, but we also got lucky in that we did not have anything seriously terrible go wrong. So, how did four Brethren run a successful first-time event you may be asking yourself? Here’s how;

  • We started our planning early, especially the social media campaign. After our initial discussions, and our consensus that we would go forward with our event we created our Facebook page, Twitter and Google accounts and put teasers out there as we came up with our speaker list.
  • We put together a truly kick ass group of speakers, and got all but one of our initial list of eight speakers. 
  • With our speakers set, we opened our sale on event tickets…without announcing our speaker lineup. For the first several months of ticket sales we sold tickets for a ten-dollar discount, and also offered a limited run of pre-event tickets to a brewery the night before. We created an incentive for people to buy tickets early.
  • After a week we started our announcement of speakers, releasing a new speaker each week after that. Each speaker announcement coincided with a bump in ticket sales. It was a way to keep the event fresh in the minds of those following us and interested in attending.
  • We would be remiss to point out that two Brethren of our Organizers are Masonic podcast hosts…we got some really good advertising on the Masonic Roundtable and Whence Came You Podcasts. Don’t fret if you don’t know any of the hosts on these shows, they’re really nice guys and I’m sure they’d be happy to help out if they can.
  • Good planning. We planned everything out, put it on a scheduled and held occasional meetings when we felt they were necessary. We enlisted our local Rainbow and Demolay for help and encouraged donations to their organizations from the attendees.
  • Last but not least, frequent communication with our attendees. We tried to let our attendees know what was going on when there was something important to relate to them. Whether it be asking for shirt sizes, meal preference, etc. we made sure we stayed in touch from time to time.

All this is to say, anybody, any Mason can run one of these. All it takes is an idea, a plan, a bit of dedication and with the interest out there in Masonic education the Brethren will come. Whether you’re a Grand Lodge, a group of Grand Lodges or just a group of four Brethren like ourselves, if you’re interested in putting on an educational program similar to what we did, please, reach out to us. We want to see these events pop up all across the Masonic World, and we want them to be a success. Masonic education never truly went away, but it has been neglected for far too long. If we’re going to stem the flow of Brethren out of our Lodges, if we’re going to hold the interest of the Millenial and future generations, and give them a reason to join, its going to take more than just four Brethren to effect that change. Join us, let’s do something great together!


~Joe, Jason, Jon and Kevin - Hosts and organizers of the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Esotericon

Bro Kevin Homan was Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in August of 2007 at Olive Branch Lodge No. 114 in Leesburg, VA., and since then, has like many Masons, involved himself in more and more bodies. In addition to being a Past Master of Olive Branch Lodge, Kevin is a member of Potomac Chapter No. 88, RAM, currently serves as the Eminent Commander of Piedmont Commandery No. 26 and the Alexandria Scottish Rite Bodies. Additionally Bro Kevin is a member of several of the York RIte invitational Bodies.

Bro Homan has been married to his wife Hillary for the past ten years and they have three wonderful (mostly) children. When he’s not doing something with his family or the Lodge Kevin enjoys a good glass of Scotch, the occasional cigar and reading a good book in his office, which “smells of leather-bound books and rich mahogany”.