Words To Ponder

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


In addition to a lot of the research I do for the things I write, I'm also responsible for contributing to my Lodge of Research Twitter and Facebook accounts. All that has left me with a rather extensive collection of quotes, quips and words of wisdom from a variety of Freemasons. Every day I discover more amazing facts about our Craft and the Brothers who have made it what it is. The more Masonic research I do, the more I realize what a stunning and positive impact Freemasonry has had on our country and the world. With that in mind, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite quotes from our Brothers:
"I don't suppose any organization has done so much for so many with so little selfishness as the Masonic Fraternity." ~Thomas E. Dewey
"The more I come in contact with the Masonic fraternity, the more impressed I am with our great charitable work." ~Franklin Roosevelt
"A pessimist makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist makes opportunities of his difficulties." ~Harry S. Truman
"I always advise people never to give advice." ~P.G. Wodehouse
"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education." ~Theodore Roosevelt
"My Lodge had at least 4 creeds. I was entered by a Hindu, passed by a Mohammedan and raised by an Englishman." ~Rudyard Kipling
"Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." ~Will Rogers
"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." ~George Washington
 "Let us not paralyze our capacity for good by brooding of man's capacity for evil." ~David Sarnoff
"Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America." William Howard Taft
"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." ~Eddie Rickenbacker
"Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one." ~Sam Rayburn
"I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money." ~Arthur Godfrey
"Knowledge is ecstatic in enjoyment, perennial in frame, unlimited in space and indefinite in duration." ~DeWitt Clinton
"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." ~Mark Twain
"If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes." ~Charles Lindbergh
"I am a Mason because care for those who cannot care for themselves." ~Danny Thomas
"We were put here for a purpose—to build not to destroy. If I can make people smile, I've served my purpose for God." ~Red Skelton
"A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle." ~Benjamin Franklin
"The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected." ~William O. Douglas
"Our world has nuclear giants & ethical infants. We know more about war than peace, more about killing than living." ~Omar Bradley
"The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation." ~Peter Marshall
"Fear... is something you learn how to deal with and set aside. You want to be alert as you possibly can." ~Buzz Aldrin
"There's no education in the second kick of a mule." ~Fritz Hollings
"Be sincere; be brief; be seated. " ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
"Life is tough. It's tougher when you're stupid." ~John Wayne
Perhaps fitting for the final quote, and one of my favorites, are the last words, as reported from his wife, of the founder of the Order of DeMolay:
"It is the beginning." ~Frank S. Land
~SLH

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

In Praise of Conductors

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks



The first things I used to think of with the mention of the word,"conductor" were: music, electricity, and trains. These are still fine examples of the word. The direction and coordination of a large group of musicians, when done well, the conductor is the heart of the music, co-creating it with the people holding and operating instruments. In wiring, electricity travels on the outside of the conductor, something known as the skin effect. It is also what protects you from lightning inside a car or faraday cage. The better the conductor, the easier the flow of electrons to their destination. A superconductor is a material or a material treated in a particular manner. They are cooled to close to absolute zero (less than 1K or around -260 C) wherein all resistance vanishes. Facilitating travel, the train conductor collects tickets, aids in operations, and has the unfortunate task of ejecting the unruly.

Socrates was said to be the midwife of the soul. A conductor of sorts whose philosophic technique still moves me to other places and frames of mind that I find pleasingly challenging. I sometimes feel my soul moving. My mother, using her body, conducted me from concept to creation, my first home in this world. I am grateful to her for using her-self to bring me to life. Parents, relatives, teachers, friends, conducted me through early years to adaptations, ideas and knowledge I appreciate, and some I’m still working to renovate. Literature is filled with all sorts of guides, gurus, and other forms of conductors.

At the start of my Masonic journey, several men brought me to, or to me, conversations about my intentions, qualifications, and expectations. Some of them met with my family to discuss these same questions and offered counsel if there were concerns about my voluntary choice to join. Most of these men were present during my degrees. Three (LaJoie, Gianoukos, and Crooks) endured over breakfast, a lengthy interrogation by me, Corinna, and our sons, as to why women were excluded from what we do (which is when I learned first about GES, Amaranth, & Rainbow Girls).

Now, my experience of the word, "conductor", has significantly changed; my personal experience with the idea, broadened. I was led to the door, the West Gate, to the threshold of my conscious mind and instructed in our way to ask for greater understanding of myself, through our unique process. I was caringly and thoughtfully guided and prompted through the steps, stages, and lessons in darkness and light. Brothers Grenier, Snyder, LaJoie, and Goetz and will always remain presences and voices in my mind of those who tended to my preparation and conducted me through ritual with dignity and grace. Between degrees, Brothers Crooks, Bodley, and Ehrlich helped me perfect the words I needed to perform to progress. Worshipful Marks will always be the face I visualize in the east when I recite the ritual to myself or practice with a new, “younger,” brother.

More recently, as mentors and friends, a host of new and previous Brothers guide and conduct my progress. Worshipful Snyder recently performed from memory a lengthy introduction of me at my first presentation to a Lodge of Instruction (though following the amazing conversation brought by the Brethren who attended at Mt. Hollis Lodge in Holliston, MA, I now think of it as “Lodge of Inspiration”). As I’ve had good fortune to travel, Brothers Jackson, Jarzabek, and Johnson help me through what I write; they help me edit, and encourage me to persist when I feel like giving up.

So, I write in praise of those who have conducted me this far and to those who continue. As a group, you are my superconductors! (Though “cool” people, these superconductors operate at room temperature and also, decidedly, not in a vacuum. Room temperature superconductors are mostly theoretical, where the above-mentioned human conductors are verifiably, real). With gratitude I hold dear those mentioned by name and the many more not named here. We repeat it because it is true: I would never have met these amazing people if it had not been for Freemasonry. The diversity in their thoughts, backgrounds, and ways of living challenge me to rethink what I know, and how I came to know. They present me with their full selves so that I may be present fully as I am, and we figure it out. Through repeated contact, we grow in trust and capacity to be and act harmoniously in the face of criticism, challenge, disagreement (also in fun and faux pas): we help and instruct one another to do this work, together. As in a super-conductive state, our resistance to ourselves and others diminishes, maybe vanishes, in the presence of others who wish only to aid in our growth and learning; to help with the transmission of knowledge, experience, and self-understanding.

I encourage you to consider those still standing among us who have conducted you through life to reading this post. Let them know the ways they have shaped your experience in, and more importantly, outside, lodge. For those whom have been your conductor though no longer with us, consider sharing a story about them with another brother, in writing, maybe…here.

~EAM

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

The Five Elements and Five Senses

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. J. Clint Lewey 



FREEMASONRY AND MASONIC SYMBOLISM

In Freemasonry, there always seems to be a rhythm or correlation with any number of things. It seems to nearly never fail for the Craft to line up with all things Hermetic, Kabalistic, mystical or beyond. Whether or not ‘modern’ Ancient Craft Masonry came from the ancient knowledge found prior to antiquity is a subject of debate. However, it does typically fall right into place with it and is unquestionably related.

As we were passed through the degrees of Masonry, we were introduced to esoteric, numerical studies and were explained some of their meanings. As we travel through the (B) and (J) pillars, we begin to ascend the flight of winding stairs. We first come upon three steps of which have an infinite amount of explanation based on the number three. However, we are taught they primarily represent the three main officers of the lodge: JW, SW and WM.

As we continue along, we come upon a set of five steps. Along with the five orders of architecture, each one represents one of our five primary senses. They are labeled hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting. We are taught in one particular degree to primarily focus on the first three senses but as searchers of further light, there is usually a way to correlate similarities with numbers in Masonry and beyond. These five senses are what we utilize to study the seven liberal arts we are later introduced to in the lesson.

In some of the more esoteric Masonic and non-Masonic groups, we are introduced to the four primary elements of the Hermetic and Kabalistic sciences. They are earth, water, air and fire. While many other teachings, such as eastern religions, utilize the same and different elements, I will stick with what our Masonic related groups teach.

Based upon my initiatory experiences and with some research, I found that there is a less known fifth element or Quintessence. According to Dr. Israel Regardie, the fifth element of spirit crowns and connects the other four. [i] This is a culmination of all the elements. One primary difference with this element is that it cannot stand alone as the others do. It is essential that the other four elements are ‘present’ and in alignment have an understanding of the fifth element.

As receivers of light often found in the blue lodge (but more often overlooked) and beyond, we are encouraged to learn and become familiar with numerology. In some of the first lessons taught, we are informed of the many meanings of different numbers but specifically here the number five. In one of our degrees as mentioned above, the number five is alluded to in regards to the five senses (and five pillars) and we are taught that when we are fully in sync with ourselves and surroundings, we can get by without any of our senses, spiritually speaking. In Masonry, the five senses are much needed. Touch whereby one mason may know another in the dark as well as in the light. Sight utilized whereby we see certain signs of recognition given to us or symbols as well. Hearing to hear the word of a brother mason, to also hear music as a part of some lodges ritual. Taste to rejoice among brethren in fellowship with fine food and drink. Smell when we have our ceremonial incense burning in lodge to help center our minds and bodies.

AIR & HEARING

In some Masonic traditions, the element of air is represented as intelligence and/or spiritual growth as well. During the creation days, it was God that breathed into a man’s nostrils and made us in his likeness. With air travels sound. From our time in the womb to our last moments on earth, we primarily hear sound through the air. Also through the air is played one liberal art that is perhaps the most recognizable and it is that of music.

Hearing in Masonry and other ritualistic orders is perhaps the primary means of communication. Whether whispering good counsel or carefully scripted, deeply esoteric lines of a ritual, the sound traveling in the air to our ears to be heard is everywhere. Air being represented by the east, it is from the east we receive most of our Masonic lessons. We are given our obligation from the east and admonished as well as other communications. The sense of hearing and air go hand in hand with gaining knowledge and spiritual growth.

It is not so much to simply say certain words, but to forcefully vibrate them out as to really push the sound waves through the air. As with our sense of smell, we often never see any of the day to day things we hear. From car horns and ambulances to other people’s conversations, the air is filled with constant sounds.

Perhaps no phenomenon in nature is as common and powerful as air. It is a driving force and a symbol of determination. In nature, wind storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes have no rivals accept themselves in destructive power. These forces of air carry with them thunder, howling winds and crashing noises of destruction. Air can also be gentle, cooling and bring in clouds of life supporting rain. It can tenderly blow a wind chime or be pushed through a musical horn or wood wind to produce beautiful sound. If harnessed correctly and brought under control, it can carefully steer a sailboat, generate energy or lift a 700,000 pound 747 jet airliner. Air can blow out fires, dry up water, and shift the earth. As Masons or students of the Hermetic sciences, when we hear the winds coming, it is necessary to be able harness and control these opportunities of learning something new or growing spiritually. 

FIRE & SMELL

In the Masonic tradition, the element of fire is a symbol of life and destruction. In the Winter Solstice Ceremony for Masonry, it is symbolic of creation and energy; a new beginning and life. In tarot and other studies, fire is represented as passion and change, whether good or bad. In alchemy, fire is often associated with sulfur, one of the most potent and distinct smelling chemicals on planet Earth. Fire is represented in the south; the opposite of the cold, dark north.

In Masonry, as mentioned previously, one of the senses less talked about is that of smell. Smell is often one of our first senses to be activated during certain situations. It is also one that could be considered quite subconscious yet if something triggers your sense of smell enough, it can be one of the most difficult to ignore.

When fire is created, we usually smell it far before we see, hear or feel it. Whether literally or figuratively, we often sense the smell of smoke, that all too recognizable smell of sulfur or worse yet, the ‘smell of death.’ On the other hand, fire and smell can have positive meanings as well. The culinary arts, we often smell what we are going to be eating before we ever see or taste it. As with fire, our sense of smell senses a sign of new beginnings, love and passion, physical attraction towards (pheromones) another, or the very familiar smell of a newborn baby. 

Our sense of smell often allows us to sense what is beyond our other senses, even hearing. It can also be right in front of us as we ‘stop and smell the flowers’ as to live in the moment. As mentioned above, you can smell fire miles away and know that there is likely danger and destruction. But you can be rest assured, it is also a new beginning in the making as well.

WATER & TASTE

In the Masonic tradition, the element of water is represented as emotion and intuition and according to Cicero [ii], it has creative, subconscious or mysterious qualities. As for taste, having ‘good taste’ is perhaps all of these things. It is that natural ability to make good choices, react accordingly, without thinking. It is also the ability to see beauty and everyone else in the room would likely agree. It is a subconscious ability to have a positive awareness of what everyone else likely should see or does see in something. Having those water qualities means you are fluidic in that not only do you have good decision making abilities, but that you also can adapt and see the hidden beauty in most everything.

As Masons, we should have the ability to be fluid in most scenarios. If we are demanding to be free and accepted ourselves, we must also be accepting of others as well. As Masons, we are curious about the ancient mysteries, both esoteric and exoteric. From the west is water and fittingly so as it slows the fires our minds for rest. The west is where the sun sets every day. The search for more light from the east is then allowed to be pondered and meditated over. As water is passive and feminine, it is utilized best as a time to contemplate those fiery desires for knowledge.

One tradition that has been long forgotten in our day to day lives of traffic, work and fast food is the slow consumption of our foods. As a whole, we eat more than ever in the history of mankind yet we enjoy our food less than we ever have. We often miss the taste of every nuance in a fine dish we are eating and therefore that likely reflects on our lives for the most part. We tend to not let our minds wander into its subconscious due to busy schedules. If we are missing those moments, it’s likely due to bad taste.

EARTH & TOUCH

In the Masonic tradition, the element of earth is represented as grounding, stabilization or material. This is the element often looked at as the element that really houses all of the aforementioned elements. The earth element is the basis of knowledge, things learned, which allow for further spontaneous/passionate (fire), logical (air), or emotional (water) abilities in our mind and spirit. It is our day to day life. It is what we can see, smell, hear, taste and most importantly touch. Being earthbound in a philosophical way is a less than desirable way to grow spiritually. However, it is the earth element and our physical beings that essentially make us up. While water can be touched and even held, it is more fluid and will change immediately. As for earth qualities, it is malleable, but not as much as air and water and is nowhere near as inspired as fire. The earth is under our feet and is all we can touch.

Earth is represented from the cold north. It is also represented with the color black and therefore represents our lack of ‘light’. We are too concerned about gadgets, money, and other items we must have in our possessions to be anywhere other than in complete darkness. While it is the earth element that houses the others, and is the basis for our growth, it is a virtue to have the stability underneath us. It is the basis for all Masons to be physically born in darkness and to have to put away our possessions we hold closely to us. We are even asked at one point to deposit a physical, metal item for archival reasons into our lodges. This helps us be able to give something up of a physical nature.

Being grounded to the earth to a fault can be a problem. As we can feel earthquakes underneath our feet if our Earth below us is toiling, so should we feel the earthquakes within ourselves if we are toiling inside. This toiling is often what pushes us towards any number of belief systems or to even begin our journey into Masonry. It is important to understand the positive and negatives of the earth element as it can keep us from ever growing but always allows our acacia to grow. 

SPIRIT & SIGHT

In the Masonic tradition, the element of spirit is a symbol of purity and is, more or less, a culmination of all of the other four elements. It is typically less spoken about or even recognized by many students of the ancient mysteries. It is so invisible; it is less visible than air itself yet as Masons we are constantly looking for it. It is nowhere yet everywhere. It is made up of all four elements yet none of them are specifically it. Spirit can also be called Quintessence or aether as well. 

It’s similarity to air is relevant since air is represented in the east, the place we are constantly traveling. As seekers of light, it is sight that we use most literally but figuratively as well. From the dawn of man until now, we have peered into the skies pondering questions of our existence. From worshiping the sun and moon or looking into the heavens for God’s answers, we are constantly looking for the light or spirit.

As humans with sight, we often have to ‘see it to believe it’. As seekers, we know we won’t see it with our physical eyes but with our wisdom and studies. Some believe the ‘third eye’ concept which allows for deeper meditation and understanding of things around us. As we bow our heads and pray, we usually close our eyes. This is most likely due to closing off our ability to actually see but utilize more of our inner sight. In Masonic lodges, we are ceremoniously given light, more light and further light by having our hoodwinked removed. Having a requirement to believe in a higher power, a GAOTU, this ritual alludes to the great light. To our ancestors it may have simply been the sun. To us it could be a multitude of belief systems.

If all things are of the aether element, then on an earthly level we see and detect signs from the universe such as numerology and things we often call coincidental. We use our sight to gain more knowledge that can be transferred into logic and wisdom.

My studies have led me to believe that in lodge, the spirit is represented in the middle of the room. The other elements are represented directionally, but not spirit. As indicated in specific grades of at least one appendant body of Masonry, our ‘spirits’ are positioned in a place of no direction but all directions, facing the east looking for light. Spirit is inside all of these elements and makes up the space each one of them lacks in.

It is often represented with a circle and this symbolizes the infinity of the spirit and how it is all things. It is also represented in the pentagram as the apex point of the star. In Masonry, we are caused to kneel at an altar and give a prayer. The VSL is also in the middle of the lodge as a rule and guide for us as Masons. This is fittingly so as it represents the place our spirit is. Our sight is taken away from us until a certain point and then as mentioned before, the hoodwink is removed for us to see the light.

The element of Quintessence has all of the features of the other elements. It is very logical and intelligent as with air yet as simple and grounded as the earth element. It is very emotional and soft as water yet powerful and scorching as fire. It is highly represented in Masonry but rarely, if ever, talked about. It is the ‘light’ we are constantly looking for.

PRACTICAL FREEMASONRY

The study of the aforementioned and our craft is not exclusive to blue lodge and can be explored via many avenues. Much literature has been written about the subjects and can be interpreted in an endless amount of ways. Also, much of what we learn is obtained from within through meditation and self-study. There are many Masonic appendant or concordant bodies that subscribe to these schools of thought as well as non-Masonic bodies that are considered more “fringe Masonry” but have just as much value as actual Masonic institutes. Incorporating the elements, senses and sciences into our daily lives can further shape our ashlars into that perfect stone we are striving to have.

-----
[i] Regardie, Israel (1938). The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Body Ch. 9, pg. 185
[ii] Cicero, Chic (2003) The Essential Golden Dawn Ch. 4, pg 117
-----

~JCL

Brother J. Clint Lewey lives in the greater Rochester, NY area and is a fourth generation Freemason. On the 17th of March, 2015 he was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason at Edmond Lodge #37 in Edmond, OK. Brother Clint is currently a member of Fairport-Flower City Lodge #476, Hiram Royal Arch Chapter #62 and SRICF New York College-Buffalo. He is allowed to divide his working hours serving Veterans in crisis at the Canandaigua, NY VAMC as well as serving his country in the military as a reservist. Bro. Lewey is happily married with two younger children.

Be A Warm Body

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


Attendance… just like the Old Gray Mare, it ain't what it used to be.

As much as ever, maybe more, family and job pressures continue to demand the part of our time we might otherwise be able to devote to outside activities like going to Lodge. Even more than that, we have become a society of non-participators. It's easier to stay at home and watch the latest on Netflix than to go out; and drooling into cell phones on anti-social media has replaced real group interaction. This phenomenon isn't limited just to the Freemasons. Nearly all fraternal organizations, churches, clubs, even once-popular sporting events are seeing an attendance decline. Organizations like these now lack something they used to have plenty of… warm bodies.

There's not much I can do to change society's juggernaut of non-participation. But I've decided to do what little I can. I've declared myself to be a warm body. I'm making every effort to show up where I can, when I can. That's my warm body motto: "… where I can, when I can."

Of course, being a warm body carries with it certain responsibilities. You show up at a meeting these days, you're probably going to be asked to do more. That's OK. I have no intention of going through the officer's line again, but you need a Marshal… I'll be your Marshal. And that's exactly what I am in my Lodge this year. In my Commandery, I've been Junior Warden seven years in a row. I've taken on other similar roles in other groups for one simple reason: so the head of that group has one less officer's chair to worry about filling. Still, the word "no" hasn't left my vocabulary. It doesn't have to for me to be a responsible warm body. You know… "where I can, when I can."

I'm pretty comfortable in my role as a warm body. It gets me out the door and to some meetings where I have a great time, learn something and would be sorry to have missed.

Just showing up is a prerequisite to active participation. Looking at it in that light, we really do need more warm bodies. Try it. Next time you just don't feel like going to a Lodge meeting, put down the TV remote, silence your cell phone and head out. The guys you see there will be glad you did and I'm betting so will you. Be a warm body. It sounds trivial, but it's one of the most important things you can do for the fraternity.

~SLH

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

When The Light Goes On


by Midnight Freemasons Founder 
Todd E. Creason, 33° 
Degree Cast at Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL) greeting candidates
This last weekend, the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (NMJ) held their Fall Reunion. We put them on twice a year, spring and fall. That’s when we all get together at the beautiful Danville Masonic Temple, bring in new Scottish Rite candidates, and put on degree work. They arrive on Friday afternoon, and by the time they leave on Saturday morning, they’re 32° Scottish Rite Freemasons. For our candidates it’s about learning the principles of Scottish Rite Freemasonry through the allegorical lessons taught in the degrees—which are presented as stage plays. For our existing membership it’s about fellowship, friendship, and fun. Our Valley covers a huge chunk of Illinois, so this is the only place a lot of us see each other regularly. There’s a lot of laughter and fun backstage at the Scottish Rite—it never ceases to amaze me how this group of fun loving men suddenly change when the curtain goes up and they present these deeply meaningful degrees for our candidates.

But the thing I enjoy the most, is watching the candidates. I remember sitting where they are. I remember watching some of these degrees for the first time, unsure what lesson I was supposed to be learning, and then suddenly realizing what the degree was teaching. A light would suddenly come on as I watched the degree, I’d begin to think of how I needed to apply that lesson to my own life. And as I’ve watched these degrees over and over again over the years, and participated in many of them, I continue to take away lessons I previously missed in these degrees—lessons I can apply to my everyday life.

The light doesn’t come on for everyone. For some Masons, what they experience in their Blue Lodges and in their Valleys, and in their York Rite Chapters, Councils, and Commanderies fills them with the desire to learn more, to improve themselves, and to apply the principles of Masonry to their lives—to actually do the work on themselves. For other Masons, they’re simply experiencing a degree, or watching a stage play.

Midnight Freemasons attending Valley of Danville Spring Reunion left to right: Greg Knott, Todd Creason, Steve Harrison, Brian Pettice, and Darin Lahners

It’s the ones that get it that I’m always trying to pick out of the class. Those are the men that will take what they learn and apply it every part of their life. They will become better husbands. Better fathers. They will become important leaders in their communities, and role models and examples for others. And without a doubt they are the future of the Fraternity.

A friend of mine said that some people see Freemasonry in the same way they see repainting their dining room walls. They go through some degrees, they slap a bumper sticker on their car and a ring on their finger, they buy a suit and tie, and think they’re a Freemason. But nothing changes on the inside. Freemasonry is like buying an old house, and gutting it down to the rafters, and remodeling it from the basement to the attic.

If Freemasonry doesn’t change you on the inside, you aren’t experiencing it in the way in which it was intended.

~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

Museum of Masonic Culture at the Grand Lodge of New Jersey

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins



History pervades every cobblestone of Barrack Street in Trenton, New Jersey. As the name suggests, standing on one side of the street is the Old Barracks utilized by British and Hessian troops from 1758 up until the Battle Trenton on December 26, 1776, at which point General George Washington and the victorious Continental Army took control of the area. Diagonally across from the Old Barracks stands a small stone building, built in 1793, which served as the original Grand Lodge of New Jersey. And in between those structures (at 100 Barrack St.) is the magnificent Trenton Masonic Temple, constructed in 1926, which is the current home of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey as well as the Museum of Masonic Culture. 

Last month, I was driving back to Massachusetts from a business trip in Philadelphia and passed through Trenton along the way. I had contacted R.W. Glenn Visscher, the Curator of the Museum of Masonic Culture, and he kindly agreed to meet my wife and I there to give us a tour of the historic Trenton Masonic Temple. I had first become aware of the Museum in 2018, when I was commissioned to make a charcoal portrait of the late Charles D. Visscher, the original Curator. He was Glenn's father. Caring for the collection has become a passionate legacy within the Visscher family. Glenn's mother, Barbara, and his sister, Karyn, both help operate the Museum as well.

After passing through the large doors on Barrack Street and seeing the ornate lobby, banquet hall, Library and administrative area, we headed upstairs. The second floor houses three large Lodge rooms. The first is utilized by a few different Blue Lodges, next there is the impressive Ionic Hall of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. Then, the far end of the level contains a third (former) Lodge room and several adjacent ante-rooms, all of which provide a wonderful backdrop to display the collection of the Museum of Masonic Culture. 

Cases in the hallway contain a stone from the White House presented by President Harry S. Truman to the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, the original 18th Century deed for the Temple's land, a cannon ball from the Battle of Trenton and a Masonic apron worn at the funeral of George Washington. A few connecting rooms with various displays lead to the entry of the main museum room, named in honor of Charles D. Visscher (with my portrait of him and a plaque hung beside the door). The main gallery contains a comprehensive, all-inclusive collection of historic and contemporary regalia from Blue Lodges and the various appendant bodies (including Prince Hall Affiliated bodies). There is everything from DeMolay and Eastern Star items to Scottish Rite (NMJ and SJ), York Rite, Allied Masonic Degrees, Shriners and the leather biker gear of the Widows Sons. 

Of particular note are an entire display case devoted to Astronauts that were Freemasons and a collection of rare artifacts related to the earliest days of Freemasonry in the State, including the first minutes of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey from 1786. There is something to see at every turn and it is extraordinary work on the part of the Visscher family to have assembled and maintained such a vast collection. I spent about an hour or so looking around and I'm sure I'd notice many new things on a return trip. 

Special thanks to R.W. Glenn Visscher for his hospitality and to the entire Visscher family for their noble efforts in preserving Masonic history for posterity.

Contact info is of the Grand Lodge website: www.newjerseygrandlodge.org

-TS

Travis Simpkins is a freelance artist with clients throughout the United States and Europe. He currently works on projects for the Supreme Council, 33°, NMJ in Lexington, Massachusetts and the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ in Washington, DC. He also serves as a portrait artist for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of New Jersey and other jurisdictions across North America. His artwork is in many esteemed collections, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bro. Simpkins is a member of Morning Star Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a 32° Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite- Valleys of Worcester and Boston. He is also a member of Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, Hiram Council of Royal & Select Master Masons and Worcester County Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar.

The Power of Ritual

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33°


Recently I had the pleasure of attending an installation of officers ceremony for a Chapter of DeMolay. The Order of DeMolay is a Masonic affiliated organization for young men from twelve to twenty-one years of age. In a Chapter of DeMolay young men learn moral lessons and develop leadership skills. The installation is a beautiful ceremony and, on this afternoon, the installation team was doing a fine job of it. When it came time for the flower talk though, I witnessed something very special.

The flower talk is a presentation of prose and poetry describing a Mother’s love and the gratitude, honor, and respect-- that love should inspire in a son. The talk is given around the Chapter Altar— in our case with the presenter on the East side and the members of the Chapter facing him on the West. I was seated in one of the sideline seats behind the presenter.

The presenter, a Senior DeMolay and Master Mason, delivered a flawless talk. By flawless I don’t mean that the ritual was letter perfect. Judging by his delivery it very well may have been letter perfect, but I and most, if not all of those in the room wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t. What I found flawless was the emotion with which he gave the talk. I teared up as he spoke and I was reminded of my own Mother’s love. I looked around the room and saw that I was not alone in having to wipe the moisture from eyes— other sons and mothers wiped theirs as well. What really struck me though was the reaction of the boys of the Chapter. Those dozen or so young men, ranging in age from twelve to seventeen, seemed mesmerized. They silently listened to this man talk. There was no fidgeting, no looking away, no distraction.

I don’t know if one talk can change a life, but for those few minutes those young men and all of us there were touched. It was great to witness and especially to FEEL the power of that ritual.

~BLP

Brian L. Pettice, 33° is a Past Master of Anchor Lodge No. 980 and plural member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, IL and an Honorary Member of a couple of others. He is also an active member of both the York and Scottish Rites. He cherishes the Brothers that have become Friends over the years and is thankful for the opportunities Freemasonry gives and has given him to examine and improve himself, to meet people he might not otherwise have had chance to meet, and to do things he might not otherwise have had chance to do. He is employed as an electrician at the University of Illinois and lives near Alvin, IL with his wife Janet and their son Aidan. He looks forward to sharing the joy the fraternity brings him with others. His email address is aasrmason@gmail.com.

It Matters

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners


Three weeks ago I was sitting with a candidate about to undertake his Entered Apprentice degree at historic Homer Lodge #199 in Homer, Illinois. Something happened that evening that I don’t recall ever happening to me previously in Freemasonry. Granted, I’ve only been a Master Mason since 2011, so my Masonic experience is less than 10 years. However, I was so caught off guard by it, that I felt it necessary to discuss it. The candidate, Tyler and I were eating dinner prior to his degree, and he looked around the dining room and asked me: “Are all these guys here for me?” My reply, was: “Yes, they’re all here for your degree tonight.” To which his reply was: “That’s awesome.” It was in this moment, which only shared between the two of us, that I realized that it displayed the power of our fraternity. He was the first candidate that I had ever heard recognize the effort that these men, who were for the most part essentially still strangers to him, were putting forth for him and express that he felt gracious for it.

On a grander scale, what the candidate acknowledged was something many of us already know, our strength lies with our active membership. According to the Masonic Service Association of North America, in 2017 the Grand Lodges of the United States of America had a combined 1,076,626 members. Extrapolating this number further, let me argue that 10% of that membership is active. For the purpose of this article, I’m defining active as a member that is attending regular stated meetings and degree work more often than not. That leaves 107,662 members that are responsible for keeping their lodges going, and participating in degrees, for the whole of the United States as of 2017. I would suspect that the number maybe down to around 100,000 members in 2019 as well as close to a million total members given attrition.

Furthermore, I’d be willing to wager that the average age of the active membership is somewhere in the mid 50’s to mid 60’s. What does this mean? Personally I take it as a challenge to step up my game. I turned 46 on Saturday, October 19. While I consider myself a decent ritualist, there is still much that I need to learn. Why? Because at some point, the brothers that are currently doing it won’t be there to do it anymore. I don’t mean to be morbid, but that’s the reality. They’ll either be physically unable to do it, or they will be dead. When that happens, who is going to carry the torch? The answer needs to be the rest of us. Participation matters.

If we want to impress upon our candidates the importance of being active Freemasons, then we need to stop telling them that “you get out of Freemasonry what you put into it.” We can’t keep setting the bar low for the members we’re bringing into the fraternity. We’re only contributing to the population of those that will go through the degrees and never attend a meeting. Worse yet they might attend a meeting, but we either run them off due to sheer boredom at hearing the minutes read, bills paid, debates over giving the Rainbow Girls an extra five dollars this year, or grumpy past masters “Helping” them after the meeting since they were forced to be Junior Deacon due to lack of participation of the other members who also don’t want to attend the meeting due to the same experiences. Sound familiar? If we had active membership, then we wouldn’t be in a situation where a new Master Mason would have to sit in a chair with five minutes of instruction prior to a meeting, and then have him humiliated, err I mean “Helped” by a past master that thinks they’re doing the new guy a favor.

Albert Einstein is attributed with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Because we keep repeating the same mantras like “You get out of Freemasonry what you put into it.” or worse yet, “We’ve always done it this way”, we are practicing insanity. While we set expectations for how a candidate should act as a Mason during the degrees, we don’t lay out the lodge’s expectations for them after they progress through them. We need to start stressing the importance of involvement, not only for our continued success, but for their own growth as Masons.

How do we do this? The answer is really quite simple. We need to set the expectations of the candidate from the beginning. We shouldn’t be waiting until a candidate is through all of their degrees to set the expectations that they should be active. We need to indoctrinate them to the idea. We need to set the expectation as part of our investigation process. We need to ask the investigation committee if they set this expectation with the candidate. If they didn’t, then propose delaying the vote on the candidate’s membership until the expectation is discussed. Yes, I know that I’m only human, and Yes, I have missed Masonic Events due to sickness, family issues, and work. I’m not asking to create an army of automatons that do nothing but attend stated meetings and degree work. The candidate will be human also. There will surely be times when he will have life happen, and cause him to be absent from a meeting, degree, etc. We still need to make sure that Family and Work are prioritized over Freemasonry, and that the candidate knows this. Obviously we don’t want to cause someone to have marital problems over Freemasonry, or to lose their job due to their participation in Freemasonry. However, we should be able to set the expectation with them.

When you’re interviewing a prospective member, it’s important to invite them non-tyled lodge events. If they show up for these, and more importantly show an excitement to be participating; then you should be able to view this as an indication that they will continue this activity after they are raised. You see, sitting down with a man in his own home to investigate him doesn’t help you gauge how he interacts with the members of your lodge. It doesn’t allow for a situation where he has to put effort forth to be investigated. If he wants to be a Freemason, he will show desire to be one. He will come to meet you at your lodge prior to a meeting; or go bowling with your lodge, my point is that he won’t mind putting in the effort to interact with his future brothers. If you have any doubt that they will be an active member, then we need to make sure to throw the black ball. We need to devote our time to bringing in members that are actively participating in Freemasonry, instead of being so desperate for membership that we don’t care if they participate or not. To borrow from a popular ad campaign: Just OK is Not OK.

Tyler being awestruck at the display of the men showing up for his 1st degree tells me that he’ll be one of them someday. I don’t have fears about him being inactive. He’s shown up for every dinner before our meetings while he was a candidate, and experienced his first meeting as an Entered Apprentice this past Monday night. I feel confident that I did the right thing by voting for his admission into Homer Lodge. I have volunteered to be his intender as he goes through the degrees. You see, if you want to set an expectation of participation, then you have to be an example of it. Participation matters. It matters.

~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.

Haunted Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW:. Alex G. Powers

RW Powers and the photo of PM McKlintock

Not everyone believes in ghosts or the supernatural, but around this time each year, most people can at least entertain the idea of spooky sounds, sightings, and even hauntings. Believe it or not, there have been many reports of spooky happenings in or around Masonic Temples for quite a long time. I think it goes with the territory of the whole Masonic lure and with many of our buildings being rather old, and kinda just creepy to start with. Nevertheless, many have claimed with certainty that they have heard, felt, and even seen strange happenings inside Masonic Temples.

While lower of the scale of “hauntings” we have had some unexplained occurrences at my lodge’s building that have succeeded at raising the hairs on the back of my neck. Pictures randomly falling from the wall, unexplained footsteps, the sound of doors opening and closing, and even the muttering of voices in the other room only to find no one there. The front door to our lodge has a large pain of glass looking up the stairs, which one evening, while locking the door I happened to glance up and caught a quick glimpse of a mysterious figure standing at the top looking down at me. Of course, after a double-take, it was no longer there. A simple remedy to this issue: I no longer look through the window while locking the door! 😊

While Robert Johnson was in town last year I took him on a tour of our Temple building, without mentioning any of the past “happenings” he mentioned he got a creepy feeling since arriving and whipped out an EMF detector (yeah, that actually happened). Picking several hits, we let it run while we continued to chat. Getting very strong readings next to the photo of Past Master McClintock on the north wall and by the Master’s chair in the East. In fact, while standing in the East the EMF kept getting strong bumps in readings as if something was coming closer. It did this about three times which, needless to say, had our undivided attention. Then all of a sudden, the readings zeroed out and I got chills from head to toe. While I will be the first to admit this was probably my mind playing along, that was enough for me to call it a night.

The strange occurrences at our building are not alone by any means. There have been articles published and even television shows covering unexplained events at many Masonic Temple buildings such as Plano Lodge 768 and so many others. But what about you? Have you ever had a creepy experience in a Masonic Temple?

~AGP

RWB, Alex G. Powers is a historian and esoteric enthusiast. As a fifth-generation Freemason, he carries a hearty interest in antiquities of the Masonic institution. He currently serves as the Director of the Kansas Lodge of Research as well as District Deputy Grand Master for Area 9A in Kansas, he is also a Past Master and currently serving as Tyler and Lodge Historian for Gardner Lodge No. 65. Brother Powers is the host and founder of Historical Light, an independent production focusing on the history of Freemasonry. He is also the author of “A History of Gardner Masonic Lodge No. 65” with additional projects in the works.

Fair and Fowl Correspondences

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW Spencer A. Hamann



The thoughtful pupil of Freemasonry cannot help but be pleasantly astounded by the various correspondences, both designed and serendipitous, which permeate our Craft. These corollaries irrevocably link the philosophy of the Craft with the whole of the human experience, if one only deems to pull the thread.

Consider the origin and formation of the first Grand Lodge. There is hardly a Mason who has not read or been told the anecdote: four early 18th Century Lodges in London, England decided that in the interest of unity they ought form a “Grand Lodge” or central regulatory body. On Saint John the Baptist’s day in June of 1717, the very first Grand Master (one Anthony Sayer) was duly installed at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in Saint Paul’s Church Yard.

For many, the story ends here, relocated to little more than a piece of trivia or a few sentences within a handbook. In truth, there is not a great deal on the written record about this event, save for some accounts both before and after the formation, and a few paragraphs in Anderson’s Constitutions. Besides additional research that can be done upon the climate of early Freemasonry, geography, and some of the men present, there appears to be little more to consider about the event.

Let us momentarily take a step back from this topic, and instead turn our attention to a figure of classical Greek Mythology. Orpheus, son of the musical muse Calliope and Oeagrus, King of Thrace, is particularly noted as a musician of exceptional skill. The music he plays on his lyre (an ancient stringed instrument somewhat akin to a small harp, and a thread which itself leads to fascinating occult musical and mathematical correspondences with Pythagoras) has supernatural abilities to charm humans and nature itself, even overpowering the spell of the Siren’s song.

As the myth goes, Orpheus marries the beautiful Eurydice, who not long after their marriage is bitten by a snake and perishes. Overcome with grief, Orpheus journeys into the underworld where he is met with numerous challenges and obstacles in his attempt to bring back his love. So great is his resolve and skill that he uses his music to persuade Hades to allow him to retrieve Eurydice. However, Hades sets one stipulation: Eurydice may follow Orpheus out of the Underworld, but Orpheus is not to look back or Eurydice will remain in the Underworld forever. Orpheus and Eurydice journey out of the Underworld, but as they are on the brink of escape, Orpheus is overcome with a terrible fear that his wife may not be following him. He turns to see if she is still behind him, and in doing so, both sees her faithfully there and loses her forever.

After Orpheus returns to the world of the living alone, he spends the rest of his days in quiet worship of the Sun (Apollo). There are multiple versions of how Orpheus died, but one widely recounted version expounds that he is murdered, playing his music until the very end. He is then transformed into a swan (a possible corollary to the concept of a “swan song”), and the muses place him and his lyre amongst the stars in the heavens.

Interestingly, in classical Astronomy, the 2nd Century AD astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) included the constellation Cygnus, the swan, amongst his 48 recognized constellations. Ptolemy also lists the constellation Lyra, the lyre, which closely neighbors Cygnus. These constellations both in name and proximity can be viewed as an astronomical representation of the Orpheus myth, and are still visible and recognized today in modern Astronomy.

Further tracing the Liberal Arts, as Western Art Music and specifically opera developed, the Orpheus myth was a favorite of early narratives. It is not difficult to see the appeal: the protagonist is a musician who uses music to supernatural effect during the story, and essentially “dies” and returns from death (the underworld) during the story. In fact the earliest surviving opera, written by Italian composer Jacopo Peri (1561 – 1633) and premiered in 1600, was titled Euridice and is essentially a telling of the Orpheus myth.

Whether fans of the form or not, most of us are already very familiar with a part of an Orpheus-inspired opera: the theme “Galop Infernal” from 19th Century French composer Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus opera Orphée aux Enfers, which is more lovingly known as a tune and dance craze by the name of the “Can-Can”.

The mythical, astrological, and musical associations with Orpheus have made him a popular figurehead for performing arts troupes over the centuries. Indeed there have been numerous societies and guilds which have taken up the moniker over the centuries, including the Swan & Lyre Musical Society, which has been active for over 500 years in England.

What does any of this have to do with Freemasonry, or the founding of the first Grand Lodge? As many a philosopher and Mason have asserted over the centuries: the answer lies in the pub. The Goose and Gridiron Ale House, a seemingly nonsensical name, is in actuality a parody of Swan and Lyre, the name of a musician’s guild which also met at the public house. Upon examination, the parody name makes perfect sense: a goose is a bird similar in build to a swan, and a lyre with its many strings, when turned sideways does indeed resemble an iron cooking grate (gridiron). While it is unclear if the pub was named Goose and Gridiron from the start, or if it was actually first named Swan and Lyre and became lovingly referred to as the Goose and Gridiron (in a similar way as one may acknowledge a certain global hamburger proprietor as “the golden arches”), by 1717 the pub was widely known as the Goose and Gridiron, and had a prominent sign hung above its facade with the image of a long necked bird and many slatted rectangular shape.

What becomes additionally interesting is the parallel between the myth of Orpheus and the Craft Lodge Masonic legend of Hiram Abiff. While specifics of each story vary, both tell of an extraordinary individual who leaves the realm of the living and rises back up from the realm of the dead to an ultimately higher realm. This transformation and transmutation through death can also be found in the doctrines of many religions and philosophies, including as Christianity and Alchemy.

Whether our early Brethern made a conscious choice based on symbolic correspondences when they chose the Goose and Gridiron Ale House as the birthplace for the first Grand Lodge is a matter of speculation: there has been no known documentation to surface with any evidence to confirm such a claim. However there need not to have been a deliberate and philosophical decision made to bring this together satisfactorily: even coincidences, by definition, are remarkable events, and whether wrought by the hearts and minds of men or drawn on a far greater trestleboard than they can comprehend, the universe is found to be a remarkable place when one only deems to pull the thread.

~SAH

RW Brother Spencer has a vast and varied set of skills and interests, and boundless curiosity. Drawing inspiration from his love of music and engineering at an early age, Spencer began apprenticing to learn the luthier’s art as a high school freshman in 2003. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2011 with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Musicology, focused on Organology. He now works professionally as a luthier, managing workshops in Illinois and Wisconsin, completing repairs and restorations of fine string instruments, and providing education on instrument history and maintenance. Spencer also enjoys performing music on a variety of instruments, is an avid collector of fine tools, frequently takes commissions for custom work within woodworking, and restores typewriters and bicycles among other antiques. Curatorship and adding value are core to his personal philosophies. Spencer was Raised in 2013, served Libertyville Lodge No. 492 as Worshipful Master from 2017-2018, and currently serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as their Grand Representative to Wisconsin, District Education officer for the 1st NE District, and is a Certified Lodge Instructor (CLI).

Was the Past Truly Amazing?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



A few weeks back, I asked my Grand Lodge about the digitization process for our Grand Lodge Proceedings. For those of you who don't know what those are, they are for lack of a better term, Grand Lodge Minutes.

I know, sounds riveting, right? Well they kind of are. Grand Lodge proceedings have so much information. A years worth of amazing communications, great orations on the craft, who recognizes who, and of course lots and lots of drama...and controversy.

in a vein of coincidence, I accepted a position as the new Webmaster for the Illinois Lodge of Research, and in order to really get things moving, I decided to take a page out of Ill. Bro. Harrison's book. Find the cool stuff in our history and tweet it out. Want more context? Check out the book and read it.

The Grand Lodge of Illinois actually had two iterations. The first from the 1820s-- then they went dark before 1830. They reemerged in the late 1830's or Early 1840s. Why the discrepancy? Well, the first proceedings book for Grand Lodge No. 2 was 1840. But there is a book out there that's dated 1838. So the jury is our until I can examine this book.

I'm currently going through each volume that's been digitized and finding wonderful and interesting things. Some amazing, some scandalous and some...shameful. But we should remember that reading these things should strengthen our fraternity. We read, we reflect, we self correct. Hey--that rhymes. You can thank me later, and if you make it a T-Shirt, send me one.

Here are a few interesting excerpts I pulled for examples in the blog post.

1854 - WHEREAS, it has been represented to this Grand Lodge, that a Brother of Union Lodge 78 has declared that he will oppose the admission of any person, making application [for the mysteries] of Masonry, who does not first distinctly avow to the Lodge his belief [in the] Authenticity of the Holy Scriptures : Therefore— RESOLVED, That, in the opinion of this Grand Lodge, such requirement on the Mason, is unmasonic and contrary to the fundamental law of Masonry; and that no [one] making application to a Lodge for the mysteries of Masonry, should be interrogated [on his] religious belief, further than his belief in a Supreme Being.

The above serves as a reminder that here, in these United States of America, Freemasonry is an organization open to ALL, who profess a belief in a Supreme Being. Beyond this, to ask anything else is-- Unmasonic Conduct. We are not made of a single denomination.

Here is another gem.

1856: Resolution - XXI . Resolved, That, in the opinion of this Grand Lodge, the Wardens of a Subordinate Lodge may preside and confer degrees in the absence of the Master, without regard to their having taken the Past Master's degree.
This one is more historical. It gives us some wild insight. It alludes to the fact that you used to not be able to preside or confer a degree if you hadn't had the Past Master Degree. Could you imagine?

Remember I said they could be scandalous? How about this one?

1856: Suspensions - Suspension Nunda Lodge No. 169 — R. C. Cady, for unmasonic conduct with a school mistress.
One wonders what "unmasonic" conduct with a school mistress entails... In any case, our proceedings have much to offer. History, reflections and even some entertainment. I may write about these findings from time to time. It may be here, it may be a tweet from the Illinois Lodge of Research, or maybe it will be on our blog, "The Lamp" on the ILOR website. I hope you find it interesting.

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. 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 Theatrewhich 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.

Honor Flight to Washington DC

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor 
WB Gregory J. Knott



Late this summer I had the incredible opportunity to serve as an Escort for an Honor Flight to Washington DC. If you are not familiar with the Honor Flight program, it was founded in 2005 by Earl Morse, a retired Air Force Captain and Physician Assistant for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Morse realized that after the opening of the WW II Memorial in Washington DC in 2004, many veterans would not be able to see their memorial, as they had no way or the means to get to Washington DC. Morse organized six small planes that flew 12 veterans to DC to see their memorial. This visit paved the way for the founding of the Honor Flight program.

The purpose of the Honor Flight program is to take WW II, Korean and Vietnam veterans on a one-day round trip flight to visit the memorials in Washington DC. Each veteran is paired with an escort who ensures that the veterans can physically get to each of the stops and assists them with any other needs they might have for the duration of the flight and visit. This group of veterans is aging rapidly with many of them needing wheel chairs to be able to participate.

I had long wanted to participate in the Honor Flight program after I attended a homecoming event several years ago. One night when I was on the Honor Flight website, I applied to become an escort and was accepted a few weeks later. Because I didn’t specify any veteran, I was to be paired up with whomever might need someone to go with them.

When I received the trip information, I was informed that I would be going with David, who was a Korean War Marine veteran who lived in nearby Tilton, Illinois. I didn’t personally know David, so I arranged to meet him a few weeks before our departure to have lunch. We had a good lunch and talked about many things as I got to know him. David’s wife had passed away a couple of years ago and he spoke fondly of their long marriage and life together. David had retired from the post office and was long involved with his church, including serving many years as an Elder. It was a great lunch and made my anticipation of the trip even more exciting.

In late August, David and I drove to Springfield, Illinois where the chartered jet would take us and 92 other veterans and over 100 staff and escorts to Washington DC. The Honor Flight team out of Springfield are all volunteers. Many of them have been staffing these trips for years and they have the entire day planned down to the minute. All the logistics had been taken care of in advance. I simply cannot say enough about the good work this team of volunteers does. It was outstanding.

We left about 4:00 AM from Springfield and landed at Reagan National Airport a couple of hours later. We were given a police escort as the buses left Reagan for DC with the first stop being the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. As the day progressed, we also visited the WW II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Air Force Memorial, , Air and Space Museum, drove by the Pentagon Memorial and finished up at Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard. It was a long full day, but it went off without any issues.

David, who was the youngest of several children, brought along his oldest brother George along on this trip. George was killed in action during the Battle of Tinian in the Pacific during WW II. David had a laminated news-paper clipping and picture of George that he wore throughout the trip. When we were at the WW II Memorial, I was able to take a picture of David and George in front of the Tinian maker, near the Pacific fountain.

As we concluded the trip, we headed back to Reagan National Airport for the trip home to Springfield. We boarded the plane and ended up having a 4-hour delay as we sat on the tarmac because of storm that had caused delays across the country. Originally, we were to be back about 
9:00 PM to Capitol Airport in Springfield, where the veterans would be greeted by numerous people to welcome them home.

We ended up getting back about 1:00 AM and I assumed that the crowd would not have waited and there would only be just a handful of people there. I could not have been more wrong. There were hundreds of people who waited for us as the veterans departed the plane. They were lined up as the veterans were led through a procession with bagpipes playing and American flags waving. This was one of the most emotional events I have ever participated in. I honestly was in tears as I pushed David through the procession in his wheel chair. The well wishes from the crowd was sincere as they showed their gratitude for the service these veterans gave our nation. I was particularly impressed to see several Freemasons who are members of the ANSAR Shriners out of Springfield, IL as part of the welcoming party.

I did not serve in the military and felt incredibly humbled and frankly almost not worthy of being in the presence of so many men who did serve. One member of our flight had been a POW in Vietnam and another a WW II Veteran who had received two Silver Stars. The stories I heard that day did nothing but reaffirm the deep respect and affection I have for those men and women who have served our country. I was so grateful to be chosen to serve as David’s escort for this amazing experience.

If you would like to learn more about the Honor Flight program or would consider donating to this amazing non-profit. Please visit their website at https://www.honorflight.org/. No Veteran is ever charged to go on these flights. Most areas of the country have an Honor Flight network who coordinates applications for the trips to DC. I encourage you to consider becoming an escort for an Honor Flight, I can assure there is no greater feeling of pride that I have had as American to be around these true American heroes.

~GJK

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

A Return to the Tradition of Grand Master Portraits

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins



Okay, so maybe “return” isn't the right word to use in all cases. Some Grand Lodges, like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, have kept up the tradition of commissioning oil portraits of Grand Masters from the beginning. Other jurisdictions have always simply relied on photographs to commemorate and honor their leaders. Others still began with paintings and, for any variety of reasons, gradually let the practice fade away.

Over the past couple years, I've been happy to work with the Grand Lodge of New Jersey to help renew the tradition there. In early 2018, Roger B. Quintana was serving as Deputy Grand Master and was planning ahead for his upcoming term in the Grand East. He contacted me about the possibility of having an original oil painting made for his Grand Master portrait. He said that New Jersey had commissioned some oil paintings in the past, but that now the portraits were mostly just large photos. He wanted to return to displaying handmade artwork. We agreed on the details and I presented the completed painting to M.W. Quintana in April of 2018, on the day of his installation as Grand Master of Masons in New Jersey at the Grand Lodge's Annual Communication in Atlantic City. The portrait was well received and I was invited back again this year to present the oil painting I made of his successor, M.W. Gregory J. Scott. And if all goes according to plan, I hope to return to New Jersey for a third time in 2020.

Not all budgets are the same and some buildings just don't have the space to display large artwork. Beyond oil paintings, I've also had the pleasure of creating smaller charcoal drawings of Grand Masters for many jurisdictions. Some have gone to Grand Lodges for display, others now hang in the Mother Lodges of various Grand Masters, some are in private homes. Commemorating our leaders for posterity in an interesting and appropriate way is the important thing, regardless of artistic medium or ultimate destination.

Handmade portraits, conceived by a skilled artist, contain a humanness and a spark of life that can't quite be captured in any other way. Both timely and timeless, they offer a sense of history and tradition: a connection to the past, a vision of the present and a record for the future.

If any Grand Lodge officials, or anyone else for that matter, is looking to return to or begin a tradition of Grand Master portraits, please feel free to reach out to me.

-TS


Travis Simpkins is a freelance artist with clients throughout the United States and Europe. He currently works on projects for the Supreme Council, 33°, NMJ in Lexington, Massachusetts and the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ in Washington, DC. He also serves as a portrait artist for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of New Jersey and other jurisdictions across North America. His artwork is in many esteemed collections, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bro. Simpkins is a member of Morning Star Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a 32°  Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite- Valleys of Worcester and Boston. He is also a member of  Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, Hiram Council of Royal & Select Master Masons and Worcester County Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar.

Contemplative Cornerstones: Trees

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks


The tall cedars of Lebanon, The Acacia in its many forms, the Kabalistic tree of life connecting the ten sephirot sometimes thought of as archetypes, Yggdrasil the everlasting green Ash reaching to the nine realms: trees convert CO2 to oxygen, filter water, provide sustenance of wide varieties, offer the weary traveler shade and a place to lean—backpacking, I hang my shelter, a hammock and tarp between two. 

Symbolically, spiritually, they serve as links between sky or Heaven and Earth; Esoterically, as emblematic metaphors embodying the same in the human experience. Trees are captivating, majestic, sturdy, useful, necessary in our world. Crosscut its trunk, tree has many concentric circles around a center point. The fruit of the apple tree severed in a like manner displays the physical manifestation of its symbolic nature: the pentagram, evidence of the knowledge imparted by one of the two pillar trees in The Garden.

For many, using visualizations can help bring and keep the mind present in the moment, in the here and now. When feeling adrift emotionally, psychologically, practically, a meditation embodying aspects of trees can help calm and center the mind and body.

Sit in a chair, near the front of the seat. Don’t lean back, sit with body erect. Place your hands, palms down on your thighs. Take three long, slow, deep, breaths, or more if you wish. Bring your mind to the image of a tall tree. Hold the image for a few moments. Then imagine yourself as that tree. Your legs its roots, your trunk, its trunk, your arms and head its branches and leaves. Feel your feet firmly planted on the floor. As you focus on self as tree, imagine your roots growing down through the floor. If you are on a floor higher than ground level, imagine your roots growing down through the structural elements of the building, reinforcing, being the strength as well as lending to it, solidly. Imagine your roots breaking through the earth below. Growing downward through gravel, rock, finding your way around boulders and through fissures. Deeper you grow through nourishing earth filled with nitrogen rich loam, peat, centuries of sediment until your roots contact a pure and cool underground aquifer. Drawing up the quenching water, cooling and calming, hydrating and adding to your ability to remain flexible and emotionally grounded in every way.

Imagine your trunk extending towards heaven. Your branches growing upward and outward, seeking the sun and the solar radiation even if seemingly obscured by clouds. You could imagine growing tall like redwoods or tallest cedars. You can grow up through clouds and stand in the full beauty of the sun at noon. The suns power transformed through the chlorophyll your leaves into fuel, food. Healing and health drawn in, from below, from above. Through your vital body, you unify heaven and earth, bringing the elements of air, fire/sun, water, and earth into balance and harmony within you. Stay in this image, reaching below and above simultaneously; try to feel all the functions happening at once as you breathe. Taking in and transforming the world, absorbing and utilizing sun, drinking up and in water, grounded in the earth absorbing all you need to grown and be at ease in your terrestrial home.

Alterations: Those so inclined could substitute a favorite tree, imagine Ratatoskr traveling the tree connecting the nine realms, or with greater focus and concentration along with knowledge or study of Kabbalah move through the ten Sefirot from Malkhut to Keter; Earth to Crown, draw back down and then return to crown in the order: Malkhut, Yesod, Hod, Netzach, Tiferet, Gevurah, Chesed, Binah, Chochmah, Keter. Finding the Tetragrammaton and also form the Adam Kadmon, (See MacNulty: The Way of the Craftsman and Kaplan’s Meditation and Kabbalah).

When working with strong emotion, imagine the earth taking back from you the emotion you wish to relinquish—to be clear, this is not denying or avoiding the emotion, its is an invitation to your non or pre-verbal self, your personal and collective unconscious, that you are willing to let this emotion move along. Or, that you feel strengthened enough to tolerate it longer. The earth can absorb the energy, the sun can transform it as fire transforms anything it touches.

~EAM

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

The Colorado Masonic Symposium 2019

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Highland Masonic Temple, Denver CO.

Early this year I was asked to come to the Colorado Masonic Symposium and give a talk. I didn't realize right away it was a Grand Lodge Symposium and, I really didn't know what to expect. I know how most symposiums go--several speakers, lunch, more speakers and then a meal together.

The talk I gave was one where I speak about the symbolism and esoteric nature of what is in our ritual. I also explore some of the other organizations that have existed in the past and present that also align to many of the facets contained within our Craft. After I agreed to do this talk, Brother Wyatt Page (the guy who planned this thing), asked me to also be a part of a panel discussion on Masonic Research Methodologies with Bro. Adam Kendall (Editor of the Plumbline AASR RS.)

I jumped at the chance to do this. But I had an ace up my sleeve. Scott Dueball, an Emeritus contributor to this blog is also the State Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois and just happened to be a member of Denver Lodge No. 5, so naturally I asked Bro. Page if Scott could come with and assist in this panel. Bro Wyatt agreed and that was that.

Fast forward many months, all-the-while checking the symposium website often to see the schedule--and the countdown clock, it was getting exciting. Finally it was the day to travel. Scott and I both woke up and did our normal thing. Went to work--all day. After work I headed to Scott's house. There, he and I gorged on Taco Bell with his wife and daughter, prior to taxing to the airport for a 9:00 PM flight to Denver airport. A couple things to note. First, amid the recent Taco Bell recall for metal shavings in the beef, Scott had assured me we'd be fine since we both went through the airport metal detectors and didn't set them off 😂. Second, Denver Airport really does have some freaky stuff, the hype is real.

                                

We arrived safely and got to our hotel thanks to Bro. Patrick Dey--we did an episode of WCY with him, so he should sound familiar if you didn't already know of him. After arriving at the hotel, Scott and I crashed hard at about 1:00 AM. We woke by 6:00 AM and made our way to the host lodge, Highland Masonic Temple. I have to say the lodge building was stunning. Check these pictures out.


RWB Kevin Townley

WB Adam Kendall

I was able to kick the day off which was an amazing opportunity. There were more than 150 Brothers present, and not only that--there were still 150 people there at the end of the day. Sustained interest! All the speakers did amazing jobs. Check that link above for the website and the schedule. Of course, Scott and Adam killed it on the research panel. I, as well as everyone present learned something of value.

WB Dueball chatting after the panel. 

After all the education, there was the festive board. The highlight of this trip of course, was spending time with Scott and sharing fellowship with all these [new] Brothers. But when Junior Grand Warden, Ray Dunn took the podium...WOW. His speech was so full of passion, I mean-- I teared up. It was awesome. I found it to be so great, that I asked him to send me a copy and to do a reading for the WCY Podcast. That episode will come out soon.

A Panoramic of the Festive Board

"So great, Robert. You went to another Masonic Education conference."


Yes I did. And it was fantastic. The concepts, the topics, the logistics, the fellowship--all of it went off like clock-work and could not have gone better. At least to me, an outsider, that's the way it seemed. I need to thank Bro. Wyatt for his amazing job in planning this. I need to thank Bro. Dave for his dedication to Masonic Education, to the Grand Lodge of Colorado for investing in Masonic Education with an event that likely cost a lot. And I want to thank Scott and Adam Kendall for their work on the panel discussion as well.

Freemasonry is Education. 

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. 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.