What is Good?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚
The basic purpose of Freemasonry is to make better men out of good men.” “Masonry is a path to moral goodness.” “Masons are to be good citizens.” “To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry.” We’ve all heard and said these statements. These and others were mentioned in recent Masonic Education discussions of the meaning and purpose of Freemasonry at Olive Branch lodge No. 38. The use of the word “good” prompted one Brother to suggest the lodge devote a meeting to discussion of the meaning of the word itself and prompted me to ponder its meaning myself for several weeks.

Last month we held that discussion. We did not reach a satisfactory conclusion of the meaning of the word “good.” Words like honor, integrity, morality, and righteousness were said by the Brethren to be virtues that described the word “good.” These words are all nearly synonymous with each other. Virtue itself is defined as conformity to a standard of right. So does “good” as it applies to men and Masons mean conformity to a standard of right? That is certainly part of it. Conformity to the morals and values prized by Freemasonry is certainly evidence of a man being a “good” man. But does Freemasonry exist merely to reinforce these morals and values in its initiates? Does it exist to teach men what they already know? Is its purpose to increase virtue in already virtuous men? I believe the answer is no.

W. L. Wilmshurst wrote in The Meaning of Masonry, “It is absurd to think that a vast organization like Masonry was ordained merely to teach to grown-up men of the world the symbolical meaning of a few simple builders' tools, or to impress upon us such elementary virtues as temperance and justice: – the children in every village school are taught such things; or to enforce such simple principles of morals as brotherly love, which every church and every religion teaches; or as relief, which is practised quite as much by non-Masons as by us; or of truth, which every infant learns upon its mother's knee. There is surely, too, no need for us to join a secret society to be taught that the volume of the Sacred Law is a fountain of truth and instruction; or to go through the great and elaborate ceremony of the third degree merely to learn that we have each to die. The Craft whose work we are taught to honour with the name of a "science," a "royal art," has surely some larger end in view than merely inculcating the practice of social virtues common to all the world and by no means the monopoly of Freemasons."  What is that larger “end” Wilmshurst speaks of? What is the “science” and the “art?” Volumes have been written on the subject. I have read many. I have learned much and forgotten much. Often I have thought the “end” was close to my grasp only to learn something new that showed me I had much farther to go. Will I find the “end?” I don’t know. I think in my heart I already have, even if I can’t fully comprehend it or put it into words. My journey continues.

But arriving at the larger end, if even possible, is also not what defines “good” in Freemasonry. “Good” in Freemasonry is a journey of self-discovery. It is the willingness to look beyond conformity to a standard of right. It is being prepared in your heart. It is curiosity born of a humility and love that makes a man seek to become more than a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. It is study and meditation and prayer. It is seeing differently. It is opening your mind and heart and soul to the divine spark living in you and everyone around you. It is taking up the lifetime journey to learn and face the truth about yourself and to surrender to the divine love within you. It is building your soul –“the immortal part which survives the death of the body” and “bears the nearest affinity to that supreme intelligence which pervades and animates all nature and can never, no never, die”—filling it with love of God and love of your fellow man. If you travel on this journey, virtue will follow.

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.

Holes in the Border - An Interesting Parallel

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

Notice: For the next few minutes, put your politics aside. This is published without comment as a scenario from the past with an interesting parallel to today's current events. Once you have read it, take three deep breaths and count to ten before taking it to FaceBook, Twitter, or other anti-social media platform of choice. Thank you. You may now continue reading the article.

The week of February 19-24, 1947, Freemasons convened in Washington, DC, for a series of combined meetings. On Friday of that week, Frank Land, the founder of DeMolay, arranged for a select group of Brothers, mostly Grand Masters, to meet with President Truman. The meeting was more than a formality, given Truman's interest in Masonic affairs.

Truman greeted the Brothers in the Oval Office, beginning with some informal chit-chat and pointing out some of the items there. He said he was somewhat preoccupied, having just received notice his mother, 94-year-old Martha Ellen Young Truman, had fallen and broken her hip.

The group got down to business and the subject of Truman's impending trip to Mexico came up. Masonic relations between Mexico and the US were good, but there were still issues needing to be ironed out. Chief among those were concerns about some of the Spanish Ritual translations. In addition there were Masonic divisions within Mexico itself.

Truman was to meet with Mexico's President Miguel Alemán Valdés. Alemán was a member of City of Mexico Lodge No. 35 and also a Scottish Rite Mason. They asked Truman if he would arrange for himself and Alemán to meet with a group of Mexican Freemasons in the interest of harmony.

Truman declined, saying his agenda was full. "The sole purpose of my trip," he told them, "is to discuss how to patch up the holes in the Mexico-USA border."

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.

Is This A Degree or A Dressed Rehearsal?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

This is a warning up front. This article you’re about to read might make some folks a little upset. I’m whispering good counsel right now in the ears [eyes] of all our Masonic readers and I say the following with all due respect.

From the title of this article, you might have guessed what this is about, then again, so many are oblivious to the issue at hand...maybe not. I think the vast majority of Freemasons ought to know what a Masonic Degree should look like, sound like, feel like. Let's explain how the typical work night goes, shall we?

Perhaps a meal, either before or after. The brothers move to the lodge while a few brothers linger, finishing their conversations or maybe just shaking the candidates hand and saying, “Just relax.” or “Hope you’re ready!”. The officers, dressed in their finest wearables, whether tuxedos or Harley shirts and jeans. Brotherly love is in full effect.

The Master of the lodge gavels and the officers take their stations and positions around the lodge. Fast forward through the pledge and the opening ceremony of the lodge. The Master looks around and there are some open spots to fill for the 3rd degree that weren't necessary to fill for the opening, notably, the ever absent Sr. and Jr. Stewards. The Master fills the Sr. Steward's chair with the Secretary and then invites the Tiler to Tile from within the lodge, then promptly has him fill the Jr. Steward’s chair.

As usual, side liners are sparse, but it doesn’t matter. Tonight, is a 3rd degree and nothing is going to impair it. The Master of the lodge decides to announce that there will be no “Standard Work” books open and that there will be just one prompter for the evening. In the event someone gives "the look" to this designated person, they can hit them with the next word and spare the Brother moments which seem like an eternity, when trying to remember a specific phrasing—“Was it Nor or Or?” while the candidate stands there, looking around in a bewildered daze.

The degre begins well enough, a prompt here or there. Fast forward through the first section and a five minute break ensues. Of course the five minute break becomes a ten minute break due to the usual characters stepping outside for a “bad habit”.

The 2nd section begins and it’s as if the Master of the lodge never said anything at all about a prompter. Strategic and thoughtful pauses are met with shouts from across the room, from various men, all giving the next word of the ritual. The brother delivering the verbiage holds a hand up, “I got it. It was a thoughtful pause.” We all wish that’s where it stopped, but we know it doesn’t, don’t we?

The rest of the evening is filled with prompts for directional floor work, loud enough for everyone to hear, including the candidate. “Not that way! Go around!”, “Where is so and so? They need to be in here right now!”, and a slew of other things you’ve all heard before. And just like that, the degree is ruined. It went from a play in progress, to a damned dressed rehearsal. All the action, plus direction, given way too loudly, and being a stickler for minutia that truly matters not. A back hook step in place of a turn in place? Stop the degree and reprimand that brother right there! Show him how it’s done, right now, while the candidate is hanging out right there in the West.

Brothers, during the degree is not the time for correction, full stop. If you’re a guy who’s all about the ritual and you see something that irks you, wait until after the degree to bust the offenders chops or to teach the right way. If we continue to allow this kind of open dialogue and in-degree instruction, we might as well just invite the candidate to the actual practice, let him go through it, then mark him done and move on.

I’ve witnessed this, and so have you. Let’s stop this practice now, before we ruin another man’s experience and embarrass ourselves. It may not be on this night that the candidate realizes what a train wreck his degree was. But if he sticks around long enough, one of two things will happen. He’ll slowly realize that his degree was ruined by some guy shouting instruction the whole night or, and you’ll hope for this one, that he accepts it as the norm.

Was your last work meeting a degree or a dress rehearsal?


RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183 UD. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

The Coolest Guy I've Ever Known

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

My cousin Bob Davis, a member of Veritas Lodge 608 in Indianapolis, was likely the coolest guy I've ever known. From my earliest memory of him, he was tinkering with cars that were junky heaps of metal and turning them into automotive masterpieces. I was amazed at his drawing abilities – the sketches he drew, to me, belonged in some art gallery. He was an Eagle Scout. A product of the 1950s, he could out-jitterbug any of the kids on the old American Bandstand show. He loved all things Marilyn Monroe and all things James Dean. He turned his basement into a museum of 1950s memorabilia. He took me for rides in his dune-buggy.

Bob was also an accomplished jazz drummer. I'm told he played for many famous acts as they toured through Indianapolis, including playing alongside one of the greatest drummers ever, Buddy Rich. On a couple of occasions, he took me to the smoke-filled nightclubs where he was working. I was way too young to be there, legally or otherwise, but I sure had fun.

If all that wasn't enough, Bob had a job working with Indianapolis 500 race drivers Eddie Sachs and Bobby Marshman, helping them to promote whatever products their celebrity could help sell. The fact he worked with Indy race drivers was alone enough to brand him as the coolest guy in town as far as I was concerned – because if you're a kid growing up in Indianapolis, you're probably a race fan. I certainly was.

As race day dawned in 1964, I'm sure Bob was there not only to cheer on his work-buddies but also to see some of the all-time greats: Jack Brabham, Jimmy Clark, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, and the incomparable A.J. Foyt. All the buzz was about a new guy, Dave MacDonald, who was driving a low-slung "car of the future."

The race began, and as the cars crossed the start/finish line at the end of the first lap Bob watched Jimmy Clark in the lead followed by one of his favorites, Bobby Marshman. The cars came around again and Bob followed the two leaders into the first turn. When he turned to see the rest of the field he said he saw something his mind really couldn't process.

Black smoke. Fire. Chaos.

The entire north end of the track was on fire. The ENTIRE north end. Thick smoke billowed up several stories above the track like the mushroom cloud from a nuclear test.

Coming out of turn four, Dave MacDonald in the "car of the future" had spun. His car skidded across the track, hit the inside wall and exploded in a fireball. He ricocheted back across the track where Eddie Sachs plowed into him, his car also exploding.

Eddie Sachs, Bob's friend and arguably the most popular driver at the Speedway at the time, died. Later came word that Dave MacDonald had also been killed.

After the disaster Brother Bob continued to work with Bobby Marshman, but things understandably weren't the same. Then, later that year, the unthinkable happened. Marshman died in yet another fiery crash at the Phoenix Raceway. The events of 1964 stunned Bob to the core.

Brother Bob found other ways to make a living. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He could fix anything. He continued to build custom cars and was a co-founder of the Indianapolis Custom-Car Show held in the huge parking lot next to, what else, a 1950s-style drive-in. The last car he built was a customized 1952 Chevy that was the subject of several magazine articles and won many awards. In later years his business card touted the fact that he and his wife Peggy were "the world's oldest teenagers."

Bob passed away in 2016. His gleaming black custom Chevy sat outside during the services and carried his ashes to his final resting place.

With all his talent and all the things he could do and do well, there was one thing he couldn't do. He never went to another race.


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

What's In Your Heart

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson

The heart is an amazing muscle within the human body. From the moment we are conceived, until the day we take our last breath, our heart pumps the nutrient rich blood throughout our bodies. A single muscle, no bigger than the size of our fist, responsible for the collection and distribution of resources, for all other muscles and organs within the body. In addition to this crucial job, our heart also takes the ownership of our emotions and desires. There is no scientific correlation between the heart and emotion, however, our feelings continue to be listed as a product of this muscle. As a society we continue to believe this, while the sciences tell us otherwise.

In fact, our emotions and desires, all thought, originates from our brain. It is the central computer of our entire existence. The performance and actions of all muscles, including the heart, are driven by the brain. Throughout each day, as we love and hurt, those feelings continue to be associated with the heart. When we feel great loss, or 'heartache,' our chests physically pain us. To the contrary, any anger or jealousy we 'feel,' is often attributed to the brain. Why is it the brain owns anger and fear, whilst the heart owns love and passion? Perhaps the ownership lies within the ability to change. We often believe that those emotions perceived to be grounded in the brain can be changed, but those emotions of the heart are less wavering.

Since I was little, I've often heard that you can't force somebody to love you. I believe this was even a limitation within the movie "Aladdin," where the all powerful genie could do anything, with exception of those matters of the heart - Love. There is a passion there that cannot be argued away. I've seen arguments, or 'discussions,' among Brothers on social media that have been very concerning. Such discourse and anger ripping through our Fraternity like molten lava through a forest. It is absolutely true that through debate, we can educate ourselves and others. But why debate over matters and subjects with such an emotional basis? When a topic is held within the heart, it seems to me that no amount of rhetoric could ever change that.

I suspect that this steadfast behavior on some subjects, is exactly why those subjects are forbidden from discussion within an open Lodge. These subjects are part of the human passion, in our hearts, and the debates do little more than create anger and animosity. However, I do believe that other passions can intervene. In a marriage, both parties don't always agree, especially on political issues, but the Love they feel for each other overpowers those differences, and ultimately creates a more balanced union. Their relationship is in their heart. Where were you first prepared to be made a Mason? Could that passion and Love for Masonry overshadow other desires of the heart and help with the temperance of some of those other topics?

Now I'm not suggesting that we remain silent when disagreement exists. It is possible to simply state our peace and disapproval, but why drone on trying to convince somebody of something, trying to change them, when they have no desire to change? Growing up in a family plagued with addictions, the serenity prayer was a frequently referred to prose. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Accept the things I can not change. I believe there is one thing in this world that we can change. Ourselves.

The foundation of Freemasonry is based on our ability to change ourselves. We take good men and make them better. But the way we do this is not by forcing others to agree with our beliefs and actions. We do this by becoming better versions of ourselves, which can in turn positively influence others. We all knock on that door in our own search for light, what use is the light if we don't internalize it to illuminate our inner selves? Every one of us is a teacher, and a student. What are we actually teaching, if we don't endeavor to be the student? Certainly embrace your passions my Brothers, strengthening your Masonry, but don't let the other occupants of your heart cloud what truly matters and inhibit your progress as a student.


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

Motoring into the Future

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

 Harley-Davidson Concept Bike – Source Harley-Davidson Facebook Page 
I was surfing Facebook on a Friday night while awaiting snowmagedon to come through east-central Illinois when I saw an advertisement for Harley-Davidson. I have long admired Harley-Davidson (HD) for their innovative products and capturing what I consider the true spirit of an American company.

This ad caught my attention because the bike that HD was promoting was vastly different than anything I had seen before. Generally, when you think of HD motorcycles, what comes to my mind is the big bikes that are often customized by their riders. These have been the backbone of HD’s business for decades.

But this new bike was not anything like the traditional HD products. The FB post said, “Although we’re still committed to staying a leader in heavyweight touring and cruisers, we’re working to develop new ways to reach even more riders, like our lightweight electric concepts.”

As younger generations have come of age, they are not buying as many HD’s as their parents and grandparents did. HD has had four straight yearsof declining sales. In 2017 they had a 10% drop in sales of motorcycles. Numbers like this are simply not sustainable if the company is to survive.

Recognizing their problems, HD has decided to develop and enter into the electric motorcycle market. HD has a goal of adding two million new riders in the US over the coming decade. In many ways this is a company returning to their historical roots. HD as a company evolved out of the bicycle market when William S. Harley and Walter Davison put an engine on a bike in 1903.

The Facebook comments were harsh and critical of HD by many of the “traditional” HD riders. As in typical social media fashion, most of the comments were without fact and mostly based on farfetched non-sense. Many didn’t want anything to change and felt that HD was losing their mind my trying to do something different.

HD is facing reality head on. They are balancing new ventures while staying true to their more recent traditional markets of the bigger bikes. Company leaders know if they do not change and adapt to the current market conditions, they will be out of business. Period. Simply trying to hang onto their legacy, will not be the means to a bright future.

Sound familiar?


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.

The Jewel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

We’re Still Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Integrity
  • Diversity 
  • Inquiry 
  • Community 
  • Vitality

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

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

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

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

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

Also consider the following examples of intangible resources: 

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

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

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


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

Divesting Our Hearts and Minds

Freemasonry with a little Stoicism to begin this New Year

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

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

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

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

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


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

More than Green Beans at the Masonic Table

by Midnight Freemason
Robert E. Jackson, PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Brotherly Love Off To A Rough Start In 2019

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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