Contemplating the Level

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33°


Last month Brother R J Budler, posted a Masonic Challenge on the Grand Lodge of Illinois Facebook group page. He challenged all to pick a specific working tool to ponder the meaning of and attempt to apply to our lives for one month and then share our thoughts and results. The Worshipful Master of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38, after learning of this challenge, charged each of us lodge members to do this exercise and report back to the lodge. I chose the level. Here are my reflections on the symbolism of the level and how I attempted to apply it to my life.

When the level is introduced to us a working tool, in the second degree, we are told that it is an instrument used by operative masons to prove horizontals and that it reminds us as speculative masons that, “We are traveling upon the level of time, to that undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns.” This is not the first we have heard of it though. If we were paying attention at the close of the first degree we learned that masons should, “meet on the level.” I think the symbolisms of the level in these two instances hints that the level has something significant to teach us about both life and death.

First, anyone familiar with the works of William Shakespeare recognizes the phrase, “that undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns” from Hamlet where one of its interpretations is that it means death. From this we are reminded that we all are going to die. We all have the same destination. We are equal in this regard. Texts from ritual we use in our public ceremonies further bear this out. In our Funeral ritual we are charged to learn, “from the level, equality.” We also meditate on this passage, “What are all the externals of human dignity, the power of wealth, or the charms of beauty when nature has paid her just debt? View life stripped of its ornaments, and exposed in its natural weakness, and we see the vanity of all earthly things save those which go to the growth and perfection of individual character.

In the grave all fallacies are detected, all ranks are leveled, all distinctions are done away. Here the scepter of the prince and the of the beggar lie side by side.” We also learn when the Senior Warden is invested with the level as the jewel of his office at installation that, “a time will come—and the wisest knows not how soon—when all distinction but that of goodness shall cease, and Death, the grand leveler of human greatness, reduce us to the same state.” We are all, indeed, equal in Death.

But what does the level teach us about life? Again from the Senior Warden’s installation ritual, “The level demonstrates that we are descended from the same stock, partake of the same nature, and share the same hope; and though distinctions among men are necessary to preserve subordination, yet no eminence of station should make us forget that we are brethren; for he who is placed on the lowest spoke of Fortune’s wheel may entitled to our regard.” Recognizing that we are all equal in Death, we should also recognize that we are equal in Life. This recognition should change the way we live. It should change how we treat each other. 

It is intimately connected with Justice, not in the sense of retribution for a wrong done, but in treating each other with that, “just due without distinction.” We are to love each other. We are to serve each other. We are to treat each other better than we deserve—everyone, not just the person you like, not just the person you agree with, not just the person who treats you well, but everyone. For as we are equal in death, we are equal in life. We all are endued with that divine spark; with a soul; with that, “immortal part which survives the grave and bears the nearest affinity to that Supreme Intelligence which pervades and animates all nature, and which can never, no never, die.”

I am reminded of a scene in lecture in the upcoming Feast of the Paschal Lamb portrayed by the Scottish Rite. On the evening of the Last Supper, Christ’s disciples argued about which among them was the greatest. Just as we often are-- as I often am—they were concerned with matters of ego and of passions that have no importance. Jesus responded by giving them a lesson in sacrifice and humility as he washed their feet. It is that kind of humility, that kind of sacrifice, that kind of selflessness that the level challenges us to strive for. These are the things I thought of as I contemplated the level this month. These are the things I tried to remember and apply to my interactions with my fellow human beings.

~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.

Mindfulness and the Working Tools

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Erik Antony Marks, 32, LICSW

It is commonly held and well documented that meditation is a practice, since about 1500 BCE in areas of India. From there, the famous story of the Buddha was popularized in the west by Herman Hess’ work, Siddhartha. Meditation of some form is found in all of the major religions of the world and have significant presence in lesser recognized religions and spiritual practices. We can find in the esoteric branches of the major religions—Gnostic, Sufi, Vajrayana or Tantric, Kabalistic, a strong emphasis on meditation. In Freemasonry we agree that no major task or important venture should be started without the invocation of Deity. Mindfulness meditation can often be used as a preliminary practice to prayer, be mixed with prayer as in Trappist Monk Thomas Merton’s Contemplative prayer, or be prayer in and of itself: a prayer without words, a prayer of presence.

There are gigabytes of resources on the internet about how to practice mindfulness, meditation, contemplative practices. Brother Chuck Dunning has an excellent book about the subject in relationship to Freemasonry, which I refer to often and recommend highly. You may ask why, then, would I write this? I do better when I find the authors like Dunning, Chödrön, Trungpa, Merton, which speak to me, with whom I feel a more personal connection. The author’s voice gets my attention or a detail they attend to, matches what I need. So, with the hope this will speak to you in a new way, here is my just-past-midnight version of encouragement to use the focus on the breath in mindfulness meditation as a tool.

In my usual vocation, I sit with people to talk about what either matters to, or troubles them most. More than half the time, this involves some form of nervousness, worry, anxiety, or panic. Daily, I return to the practice of sitting still with the mind, my own--theirs. Mindfulness meditation has been such a gift in my own life that from the moment I started working in human services, I’ve tried to incorporate it. There are lots of ways to incorporate the practice. It may mean teaching them to use this technique, or incorporating a practice they already have for a therapeutic purpose. It may come only in the form of practicing on my own time so I may be more present for them. There are times I ask them to stay with something difficult or complicated...don’t move on too quickly, let’s see where this thought/feeling takes us, you. Together, we delineate, circumscribe, an area of mind to attend to and stay within those bounds, intentionally. When we draw the lines, we know when we are outside, when our desires or passions have pulled us from our intended place or course of action.

Many people find they get stuck in thought loops, ruminate, worry: “I’ve always been a worrier” I hear multiple times a month. When in those states, it can feel challenging to get some distance on the mental process. It can even be difficult to remember to stop to practice or work with the mind in some moments: we are caught in a passion about reality, or concerned about a potential scenario. We may experience a fear of our own creation and then blow it out of proportion in our thoughts. We may churn about the future, or running over the same ground of a past experience or exchange that bothers us or how we may have hurt someone we care about. All of these are workable, with practice.

I like focusing on the breath since its with us wherever we go. In most situations, the people with whom I meet agree on this focal point and find it useful. I encourage them to focus on the rise and fall of their belly or the feel of the air moving in and out of their nostrils. Don’t try to change or control the breath, just try to notice it as it is happening. When your mind wanders to anything, say to yourself: “thinking,” and come back to the breath. This is akin to getting out the mental gavel and “knocking off” an idea. There is no judgement involved, the rough edge, thought, simply needs to be removed in that moment for the ashlar to become smoother. Over the course of a minute, that process of leaving with an idea and coming back can happen many times. Sometimes we “leave” with a thought and significant time goes by before we realize we’ve forgotten the intention to return. Its ok, its only thinking. Caveat: in some religions, denominations, or spiritual practices thoughts are not “just thoughts,” they are sin. The only claim I’m making is that for the purpose of dealing with the here and now psychology of human experience, thoughts are a cognitive process, contained in our minds, until we take action, which includes speaking. A longer conversation could occur about the use of mindfulness practice to enhance prayer and/or focus, generally, as well as the remedy for thoughts as sin.

Many people return to the next session and say “It didn’t work,” or “I failed,” or “I don’t think I did it right.” I know, it happens to me too, every week. If you sat down to have a practice, put in some intentional effort, you probably did it right. Having strong feelings, mind wandering, or getting angry with self for wandering are all part of the practice and evidence its proceeding correctly. Compassionately label it all as thinking and return to the focal point--subdue the criticism. We become more adept over time, and minds still wander. I once presented with a colleague at a college health conference in which he said: “The mind secretes thoughts like the pancreas secretes insulin.” It seemed apropos. We may not be able to stop thoughts or emotions from arriving, but we can work at what to do with them once they are here. Sometimes we don’t want to be as vigilant and we indulge a little. It's ok, you’re learning your own process and how passions pull at the mind. If you cut corners, you’ll know; there is no need to be harsh or mean with yourself, just try it differently next time. You’ll see, know, and feel it.

Sometimes sitting still in silence can cause us to worry more or feel increasingly anxious. It may be so intense you may want or need to “stop early.” You can and you may. I encourage taking the longest, slowest, deepest, and most quiet breath possible before stopping and then, stop: breathe in for as long as you can, hold it as long as you can, then exhale as long as you can stand it. Done. The meta-process of that self-intervention is that moment you subdued the need to escape your experience by superimposing another on top of it. You offered your conscious mind an idea and physical process to focus on instead of focusing on, and amplifying, the anxiety about the experience of the moment. Breath as tool; breath as compasses. In that moment you taught your amygdala that the fear of the moment gripping you was not, in fact, a saber-tooth tiger about to scramble your consciousness and wreak ruin in your life. You reprogrammed, rewired, your brain…just a little bit. In return, some part of the brain, and you, said: “huh, I didn’t lose it, I didn’t freak out…I’m ok...maybe I could have tolerated a little more.” Staying present at the boundary and observing allows an unique vantage point of our felt pain or discomfort in the moment; it allows us to recalibrate our gauge and then measure our emotional experience of time differently. Then next time that nervousness or anxiety happens, you may feel calmer, grounded, centered. You may be better prepared with the lesson from the previous experience and you may feel a little less worried: try two long breaths this time before stopping. Note: for the vast majority of people, these tools don’t work in the midst of full-on panic.

Last year, I attended a memorial service for a good friend, colleague, mentor, at a friend’s (Quaker) meetinghouse. My memory of the instruction was: sit in silence until you feel moved to speak. Though wait and see if you are moved to speak by divinity and not by some other purpose (ego, showing off, being heard). Many times through the service I felt a swell of emotion and memory, and wanted to say something. But I waited and in each instance, the something was about me, not about my friend, really. There was no sermon, not liturgical charge, no directive, no rapturous music, just silence and the words of others who felt moved to speak. It was one of the most powerful “services” I had attended. I believe it was one of the most powerful because the instruction was to fully attend to the moment and my use my working tools to shape the expression of my intentions: my work was to be fully present for, and honest with, myself in the service of the memory of my friend and those in the room.

Sitting still with one’s mind doesn’t change the present, or the problems. Jon Kabat-Zin (Full Catastrophe Living) and Saki Santorelli (Heal thy self) at UMass Medical Center have decades of data about how mindfulness meditation helps with pain management, increasing tolerance to stress, improving mental functioning, shortening recovery times from illness to name just a few. Mindfulness as a daily practice isn’t a panacea, but it does help us know ourselves better, and be more understanding of our process. It helps us be less reactive and more present. It causes us to deny nothing and feel ready for anything. Even thirty seconds a day can help the mind keep coming back to the present or keep the idea of not reacting on the menu card of the moment. The more we work with our tools, the more proficient we become. The more we practice, the greater the probability we will be able to subdue our passions in the moments they occur.

Brother Erik A. Marks, 32º, LICSW, is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since ’90. He was raised in ’17 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA.

At the Auction

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott



Todd Creason and I recently attended the auction of the contents of Martinsville Lodge No. 603 (IL). Martinsville lodge merged with another lodge and they decided to sell everything in the lodge building. You could literally have furnished your own lodge with everything that was there. The bidding was fast and furious as the chant of the auctioneer got both the locals and brethren actively bidding to buy some of the great masonic treasurers.

I hadn’t been to Martinsville before, but was looking at the downtown area. This town isn’t unlike hundreds of others in rural America. Older buildings on Main Street, several of them closed or in poor condition. The bank and post office were still open. There was a restaurant, hardware store and a couple of antique shops. But overall, the best of times were in the past for the business district.

One thing struck me was that on the same side of the street were three fraternal buildings, almost right next to each other. The Odd Fellows, The Order of Redman and the Martinsville Masonic Lodge. The Freemasons were the longest survivors of these fraternities. I don’t know when the others closed, but I assume they had suffered the same fate as the masonic lodge, declining interest and membership. These lodges had been a vital part of the social fabric of the Martinsville community and now they were dark.

Todd was able to purchase the masonic pillars from the lodge and I purchased all the officer jewels. Both of us would just have assumed to see the lodge stay open, but these will be great additions to our personal masonic collections.

Everything has a season.

~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.

Don't Like Your Lodge? Find Another

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson


"I've had it. I'm done. I can't believe they voted that way. I've worked so hard for this effort, but the Lodge doesn't seem to care. I feel so passionate about this subject, but the Lodge simply will not support it."

I've spoken with a Brother recently who had stated that at one point in time, he had considered demitting from the Craft. And here I thought I was the only one! It doesn't take much to want to throw away membership in something, especially when you don't have much ownership.

If you find yourself at odds with your Lodge, speak with the Master. Ensure they understand your concerns. Offer solutions, because believe me, when the Master hears problems, more often than not they will want to address it. Without approaching with a possible solution, though, the statements can be received as a simple complaint that is easily dismissed. A solution proposed, however, offers a starting point from which to build that structure.

If you feel as if the Master isn't listening to you, make sure they know. These are difficult conversations to have, but the fortitude is required for progress. If you still feel like you have nothing left with which to build your moral and Masonic edifice, then it's time to move on. But don't demit. Don't just stop paying dues. But also, don't continue to support a Lodge if you don't believe in their direction.

I'm lucky enough to reside in the state of Massachusetts. We certainly have our issues, but in my opinion (and statistics show) Freemasonry is strong within this state. If I grow frustrated with my Lodge, there are a dozen (or more) within an hours drive for me to visit and see if I feel at home.

Yes it's a Lodge and we are all Brothers, but some times siblings don't get along. Find a group where you feel welcome, appreciated, and loved. I may take flack about suggesting a Brother find another Lodge, but in all honesty, if a Brother doesn't feel welcome, appreciated, or loved in their Lodge, it doesn't help anybody to have them continue in that capacity. It doesn't mean they should stop building though. There are other resources that can be tapped to help.

~REJ

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



Masonic Publications to Look Into

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



Often times we find ourselves looking for something to read or maybe just wishing for it. If you're lucky enough to have free time that doesn't require also splitting it with paying attention to the little ones, congratulations...I digress.

As a podcaster I find myself constantly looking for material to either write about or read on the show, (if the publication is cool with it). The list of publications I'll give here are ones that I enjoy, even though some of them do not allow reprinting or readings ;) Take a look and if I can assist you in answering questions about them, please feel free to email me.

The Plumb Line - A publication of the AASR Research Society. You essentially join the Research Society. Cost is about $50 and you get a quarterly newsletter (usually with a great article in each one) and a hard cover book (usually by de Hoyos). Totally worth it.

The Fraternal Review - Probably the hippest and most relevant in terms of knowing what it's readers love, and is inexpensive for what you get. 11 issues for $37. In fact probably the coolest damn thing is that they do is a "Lodge Subscription" for $92. A lodge subscription gets you 3 physical print copies of each issue. They also offer a digital subscription for $27. It's printed on nice paper, is in color and usually comes in the usual length of a good magazine, sans all the advertisements. Just do it.

The Journal - A publication of the Masonic Society is  similar in nature to the Philalethes. Cost is $45 per year and is released quarterly. This magazine is also printed in a very nice way. Full color, good paper weight and consists of slightly more academic papers. They adhere to their quarry style guide as well, which is Like Chicago Style. Anyone in good standing can subscribe. Cost is $45.

The Philalethes - The oldest Masonic research publication in the United States, the Philalethes is Americas version of AQC, (at least that's how it feels to me.) In any case, this publication is also in color, published quarterly and has good paper weight. The cost is $50 for 4 issues.

The Rocky Mountain Mason - Another full color Masonic publication with great articles and who is more concerned with it's readership than the pomp and circumstance of other publications. That is not to say that those who are published in the magazine are not scholars, to the contrary they are. In fact many propose amazing and new research not examined before. Subscription to this publication will set you back a whopping $33 bucks for this quarterly masterpiece. ( I'm not being sarcastic. I legitimately enjoy the heck out of this one.)

The Working Tools by Cory Sigler was a wonderful magazine as well. Alas it's no longer in print. In addition, The Living Stones magazine which was published by Robert Herd was also just amazing. Although it too is out of print, Robert made all issues available for free in digital format. You can access them at the link below. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE LIVING STONES MAGAZINE.

Happy subscribing and happy reading everyone!

~RHJ

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.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone + The Royal Art of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners



FORWARD: RJ had been after me to give the readers a little taste of the “Harry Potter and Freemasonry” presentation that I’ve been giving to lodges in the 7th Eastern District in Illinois.  We were in a pinch for an article so I present part of my presentation below. I hope that it is well received.  - DL  

It may or may not come as a surprise to you that author JK Rowling has gone on record to say that the symbol of the deathly hallows from her Harry Potter series of books may have been subconsciously inspired by the Masonic Square and Compass.   In the below link, you can hear her in her own words discuss this.  (https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/jk-rowling-deathly-hallows-symbol-harry-potter-inspiration-mason-a8025626.html)  Although Harry Potter is filled with a plethora of interesting symbolism, I see a lot of other symbols used in Harry Potter which have connections with Freemasonry.  I will attempt cover one of these below.

First and foremost, the monomyth or hero’s journey is applied quite well to the journey that Harry Potter takes in each of his books, as well as the overall series.  Our own progress through the degrees also follows the monomyth.     

Step 1: The Ordinary World - This is where the hero exists before his adventure begins. The hero is oblivious to the adventure to come. In general, this part of the monomyth humanizes the hero so that we can identify better with them and empathize with them during their journey. This is Harry prior to getting his invitation to attend Hogwarts. Masonically, this would be a candidate prior to petitioning a lodge. 

Step 2: The Call to Adventure – This is where the hero receives the invitation for his adventure For Harry, this occurs when Hagrid shows up at the Dursley’s doorstep with his invitation to Hogwarts in his hand.   Masonically, this represents the candidate when he decides ultimately to petition a lodge, undergoes his investigation, and ultimately is accepted to receive his degrees in Freemasonry.  

Step 3: Cross the First Threshold – When the hero enters the world which is foreign to him.  This occurs when Hagrid brings Harry to Diagon alley and to Gringots, he introduces him to the wizarding world.  Masonically, this occurs when the candidate knocks 3 times on the door of the preparation room and enters the lodge for his first degree.   

Step 4: Trials, Friends, and Foes –  Just as it suggests, the hero has trials, meets allies and his foes.  In the Sorcerer’s Stone,  Harry meets Hermoine and Ron, they make it past Fluffy and enter the trap door in the forbidden corridor,  together overcome the obstacles in their path, allowing Harry to confront Voldemort for the 1st time, who has partially possessed Prof. Quirrell.  You continue to see Harry repeat this step in the subsequent novels where he overcomes obstacles with the aid of his allies.  Masonically, this represents the candidate who is received by the Senior Deacon, who leads them around the lodge, where they are challenged by the Junior Warden, Senior Warden and Worshipful Master. 

Step 5: Magical Mentor (or the Mentor with Supernatural Aid) – The hero meets an older and wise mentor, often with magical powers and/or possessing a magical object. In the Harry Potter novels, Dumbledore fills this archetype (giving Harry the Invisibility Cloak in the Sorcerer’s Stone), however Sirius Black (Gives Harry the Firebolt Broomstick) and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix, and Dobby (gives Harry the Gillyweed in the Goblet of Fire) also act as Mentors for Harry.  Masonically, the Senior Deacon would fulfil this role, as the Senior Deacon who escorts the candidate around the lodge, and assists the Worshipful Master with the candidate at the altar where they take their obligation, receive the due guard, sign, pass and token of each degree. 

Step 6: Dragon’s Lair – When the hero crosses a second threshold, he faces a significant physically and psychological risk.  This would be represented by Harry’s journey to his second confrontation with Voldemort at the end of the Goblet of Fire, where upon touching the triwizard’s trophy at the same time as Cedric Diggory, it reveals itself to be a portkey, bringing them both to a graveyard where his blood is used to reconstitute Voldemort.   Masonically, this would be when the candidate takes his steps toward the altar, to undertake his obligation.  

Step 7: Moment of Despair – The hero is close to defeat, and he has to dig deep inside himself to be able to escape the moment. In the Goblet of Fire, Harry uses knowledge he has been taught (the disarming spell) to counter Voldemort’s killing curse.  The wands are connected, and the spirits of Voldemort’s past victims emerge from his wand.   Once the connection is broken, the spirits remain, protecting Harry and allowing him time to grab Cedric’s body and escape by grabbing the trophy. Masonically, this can be thought of when the candidate takes his obligation.   He must honor the obligation every day for the rest of his life, or face the penalty of his obligation.    

Step 8: Ultimate Treasure – The hero receives a prize for successfully escaping from his moment of despair.  The reward can take on many forms, however it normally is secondary to the personal transformation the Hero undergoes.  For Harry, the second confrontation with Voldemort transforms him, helping instruct Defense Against the Dark Arts to Dumbledore’s army in the Order of the Phoenix, as well as giving him courage to face the obstacles ahead of destroying the horcruxes and defeating Voldemort .  Masonically speaking, the reward given to a candidate is the password, grip or token, due guard and sign, how to wear their apron and their working tools, as well as the explanatory lectures and charges for that degree, but also the transformation that takes place where the candidate becomes a brother.       
Step 9: Homeward Bound – This represents a retracing of the hero’s steps in reverse order.  This means that once again the hero must face challenges, resolve to defeat his enemy and return home. There might be a moment where the Hero is forced to choose between personal objectives, or to answering to a higher cause.  For Harry, this covers the events of The Deathly Hallows, where Harry and his allies hunt Horcruxes, they are captured, escape, and ultimately Harry faces Voldemort for the last time.  Masonically, this can be thought of as the beginning of the second section of the third degree, where the candidate represents Hiram Abiff, and the three ruffians attempt to pry the secrets of a Master Mason from him.     

Step 10: Rebirth & The Champion’s Return – This is the climax of the hero’s journey, where he faces his final and most difficult encounter with death and returns back to the Ordinary World changed.  For Harry, this occurs when he goes to the Forest encampment outside of Hogwarts and allows Voldemort to kill him.  He wakes up in a dreamlike version of Kings Cross Station, where he meets Dumbledore and learns that he hasn’t died.   He learns that the protective charm his mother Lily placed on Harry is kept alive inside of Voldemort, because Voldemort used Harry’s blood to reconstitute himself. Thus, Voldemort could not kill Harry, and Harry can now go back and finish him off.  In Masonic terms, I think this is pretty self-explanatory to those that have gone through the 3rd degree. There is a deeply moving and profound thing that happens which transforms the candidate.

It’s probably appropriate that Harry’s journey begins in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone.  It’s during this first book that Harry begins his adventures as a Wizard.  In the book, the philosopher’s stone is an artificial stone created by an alchemist named Nicolas Flamel.  The stone is used to create the Elixir of Life, which extends the drinker’s lifespan, as well as transmute any metal into Gold.  The main villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, wants the stone so that he can regenerate his body as he only exists in a non-corporeal form.  As a quick aside, Voldemort’s name roughly translated from French means “Theft (Flight) From Death”, which is an illusion to his obsession with conquering death.   He’s robbed death of taking him at Godric’s Hollow by his creation of the horcruxes.  He spends the first few books attempting to regain his corporeal form, only doing so in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  In legend, the stone was an alchemical substance with the powers as ascribed above.  

The perfect ashlar that all Freemasons aspire to transform themselves into is another representation of the Philosopher’s Stone.  By following the lessons of Freemasonry, we transform ourselves from imperfect material to a perfected one, much like the Philosopher’s stone would transmute imperfect metal (like lead) into Gold.   The elixir of life from the Philosopher’s stone that grants immortality parallels the idea that since we as Masons are humans in an imperfect state, we aspire to become a perfect one, so that we may obtain immortality in that lodge on high which was not built with Human Hands.  Manly P. Hall states in The Secret Teachings Of All Ages (https://archive.org/stream/The_Secret_Teachings_Of_All_Ages_-_Manly_P_Hall/The_Secret_Teachings_Of_All_Ages_-_Manly_P_Hall_djvu.txt)

“Albert Mackey sees a correspondence between the Philosophers Stone and the Masonic Temple, for both represent the realization and accomplishment of the ideal. In philosophy the Stone of the Wise Man is "supreme and unalterable Reason. To find the Absolute in the Infinite, in the Indefinite, and in the Finite, this is the Magnum Opus, the Great Work of the Sages, which Hermes called the Work of the Sun. He who possesses the Philosophers Stone possesses Truth, the greatest of all treasures, and is therefore rich beyond the calculation of man; he is immortal because Reason takes no account of death and he is healed of Ignorance --the most loathsome of all diseases. The Hermetic Stone is Divine Power, which all men seek but which is found only by such as exchange for it that temporal power which must pass away. To the mystic, the Philosophers Stone is perfect love, which transmutes all that is base and 'raises' all that is dead.”

In order to create a perfect ashlar, we are instructed as an Entered Apprentice Mason to use the common gavel.  In using the common gavel, you will begin to remove these rough edges and shape your character so as to "divest your heart and conscience of all the vices and superfluities (excesses) of life".  In order to first do this, the Entered Apprentice must look deep into himself and examine his own soul.  We see a parallel with Harry looking into the Mirror of Erised.  Harry discovers the “Mirror of Erised,” a mystical mirror that shows us the “deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts.” The mirror shows Harry images of himself surrounded by a loving family, and he becomes entranced by the images he sees, wanting to return to the mirror again and again to stare into it. The school’s headmaster, Dumbledore, warns him, “The mirror will give us neither knowledge nor truth,” and that “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Later Harry is able to retrieve the Philosopher’s stone from the mirror because as Dumbledore puts it:”Ah, now, I’m glad you asked me that. It was one of my more brilliant ideas, and between you and me, that’s saying something. You see, only one who wanted to find the Stone – find it, but not use it – would be able to get it, otherwise they’d just see themselves making gold or drinking Elixir of Life.”

A man can only become a Freemason if he is uninfluenced by Mercenary motives, as affirmed by his answer to the secretary during the 1st degree interrogatories.  If he enters the lodge due to someone else’s desire or due to his own desire to use Freemasonry for personal gain, then he is not able to form himself into the perfect ashlar, ie: Posses the philosopher’s stone.  The freemason that aspires to become the perfect ashlar does so only out of the pureness of his own heart and spirit, and without any thought of selfishness or material gain.

~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

The Masonic Education Paradox - Rewind

Editors Note* When Steve first wrote this piece, I read it and thought, "Wow...are we just apathetic?" And today, I still wonder. You see, there does seem to be a general problem and when solved, no one cares and they go on complaining. What's the answer? I'm not sure. But read this piece and by all means, give us some ideas of why programs like this aren't appreciated or utilized. Give us some examples of how you’ve changed the education of your lodge. What have you taken it into your own hands?~RHJ

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



The Grand Lodge of Missouri has on occasion conducted surveys asking the Brothers, among other things, what they want from Masonry. It probably won't shock you to discover the number one thing on the list is "Masonic education."

So, hats off to the Grand Lodge of Missouri — it listened to the Brothers, went to work and came up with a Masonic education program. It works this way: On a regular basis the Grand Lodge sends an information packet to each Lodge Secretary. Included within that packet is a document containing a piece on Freemasonry. Then, at a stated meeting, the Secretary, Lodge Education Officer or any Brother can read the piece and perhaps conduct a discussion afterward. Note that the program also has the added advantage that Lodges across the state are all working on the same subject simultaneously.

There you go… Masonic education handed to you on a silver platter.

What more could you ask for?

I'll tell you exactly what: you could ask for the Lodges to make use of it. I attend my share of Lodge meetings. While "reliable sources" tell me there are some Lodges that do, I have never sat in a Lodge that uses the material.

So let's recap. The number one thing Brothers want is Masonic education; the Grand Lodge provides it; and (generalizing) the Brothers don't use it. It's a bit of a paradox, isn't it? Maybe the next survey should ask, "What do you really want?"

So, I have a suggestion. If you want Masonic education more than anything, appoint yourself your own personal education officer. Read, research, write, learn everything you can; but don't stop there. Make a commitment to take it to Lodge. It doesn't take much. Maybe start by reading an article from the Midnight Freemasons Blog, or maybe an excerpt from MNF founder Todd Creason's Famous American Freemasons book. (Modesty… ahem… prevents me from mentioning you could read something from one of my books). Likely as not, just a few minutes on a subject will spark a discussion. If my experience is any indication, your Brothers will thank you for doing it. Try it: just a few minutes of Masonic education can turn a mundane meeting into a memorable meeting.

If that works, take it a step further. Ask your Brothers to do the same. Maybe think about "upping your game" and turning it into a presentation. Take it to other lodges. Ask those Brothers to do the same.

In the words of that great litterbug Arlo Guthrie, "Let's start a movement." Before you know it, we might be swimming in Masonic education.

~SLH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and 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. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

The Image

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Brother Paul Nevins


I’m not going to say what I do for work. It would take too long and, to be honest, there are plenty of days I’m not even exactly sure what my job is technically. Let me just say it has a lot of downtime where I’m sitting in my truck overseeing a jobsite, taking notes and trying to stay awake.

One day last fall was just one of those slow days spent watching and waiting for the time to pass. I was in Cambridge for the day and dreading the traffic on the way home later.

Most people who know me can testify I’m not a social person. Especially when it comes to strangers. And even more so when I’m outside on a dreary and rainy Tuesday morning compounded by the fact that I didn’t get my coffee yet. I’ll be blunt, most days I generally want to be left alone until noon. I’m just not a morning person.

Anyways, this older gentleman whom I’ve seen a couple times in the area came up to my truck and asked what was going on with the project. I really didn’t want to talk but mustered up all the politeness I could and explained what I could. He somehow shifted the conversation to the weather, and I realized to my hidden dismay that this conversation wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. Nonetheless I kept smiling and talking to the old man who quickly introduced himself as John.

A couple days later, I was back at the same site. Again, John made an appearance when I’d rather spend my morning quietly alone. Same thing the next day. In fact, each morning that I was there, I swear he was watching out his window waiting for me to arrive. It wasn’t that he was a nuisance or a terrible person. In fact, it as quite the opposite. He was a great guy. I, on the other hand, just preferred to wait further into the day before any social interaction. I quickly picked up on that he was just an old guy who just seemed to want someone to listen to him. Topics ranged from sports to history to current events. Luckily politics was left out.

The last day I was there on that site, he asked about how long I was involved in the Masons. I was taken back a bit as my involvement in the fraternity hadn’t been mentioned to that point. I was pretty sure I wasn’t wearing anything with a Masonic emblem or symbol. I rarely wear my ring to work especially on cold days. How did he know? I’m sure my confusion was obvious to him when I politely asked with a smile. John laughed and pointed out the square compass on the tailgate which has been there so long I never think about it anymore. He said that was what made him approach me that first day.

John then told me his father and uncle were both Masons. He knew nothing about the Fraternity other than growing up just assuming it was some sort of bowling club. They didn’t really share much with him about it. He even said, that for a couple of his teen years, he was a bit hurt that they never invited him or showed any interest in having him join.

He told me that he really didn’t know much about Freemasonry other than the occasional news article or tv show. He wasn’t much into, as he called it, “…watching things on the computer web” which probably was good considering the conspiracy theories on the Internet easily eclipse the truth about Freemasonry. So, he spent the next hour or so asking questions about the Fraternity. I answered the best that I could. I suggested to him that he stop by the Cambridge Masonic Temple on Mass Ave when the next Open House came around. While I know a few Brothers from there, I’ve never had the chance to visit. However, from pictures, it really is a beautiful building. He promised me he would check it out and somehow, I could tell that he would.

Its about this point in my story where the purpose of sharing all that becomes evident. I was driving home that day when I first saw the bigger picture of my encounters and talks with John. I was a Freemason. Whether I accepted it or not, I now represented not just my Lodge but the principles of Freemasonry as a whole as I go through life. Not just with John but with everyone I meet each and every day. It was a sobering thought that, even now, I have trouble putting into words. Not only was I a Freemason, I was a Freemason even when I had no idea that people saw me as a Freemason yet they really did know. Hopefully that makes sense.

Being my usual grumpy self in the morning, I could have at anytime been inadvertently rude or dismissive to John. I could have just asked him to leave me alone. Luckily, I never did.

It was all a quick reminder that, after I took upon myself my Obligation years ago, how I conduct myself every single day is now reflective of not just my values but also the values and ideals of my Brothers, my Lodge and my Fraternity as a whole. I embody them all. Every Brother does. Sometimes we lose sight of that.

I believe it was C. S. Lewis who once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Now I see that, like it or not and whether you realize it or not, people are watching. Represent the Craft well.

~PN

Looking for A Speaker?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



Greetings fellow Masonic readers! Over the past few weeks I have been at work contacting Masonic scholars and presenters in the hopes that they would "bite". I had a vision, likely you've all had it to--a website where you could go to check out Masonic speaker, read about them and their prepared talks, then book them.

So I made it. We're off to a wonderful start, with 14 speakers listed. I must say, that I do not manage them, I claim nothing, I don't charge them anything, and this is not a co-op or a group of branded anything. This is simply a way to arrange men willing to travel and bring Masonic Education to our lodges. A one stop shop for you and an easy way to contact them.

My thanks goes out to all those who've accepted the invite. I only wish I'd had something like this when I was planing my year in the East, a few years back.

So, if you're a Masonic Speaker, and you want to be listed, contact me by clicking HERE. If you know someone who should be on this listing, let them know. But most importantly, visit the site, read through the amazing prepared lectures these fine scholars have, and perhaps...email them. Bring some education back to your lodge!


~RHJ

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 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.