A Masonic Revolution - Education and the Front Lines of a War to Save Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


There I was, leveling out at 30 thousand and snapping into Biscoff cookies. Why? Because It was happening again—Masonic Con. This marks the fourth year in a row that the event has been going on. Put on by an extraordinary group of Masons in Attleboro Massachusetts, this year was another home-run. Three years ago, I first went to this conference. I delivered a talk on Colonial America and Freemasonry to a packed room of Masons, their ladies and the profane. It was unreal. The technology was worked out, the schedule of speakers was amazing, and the venders… let's just say I spent a lot of money.

Last year was even bigger. It felt like San Diego Comic-Con but you know, for Freemasons. I hosted a discussion on Star Wars and Freemasonry with my good friend and occasional guest contributor here, RW:. Michael Jarzebek. Again, what an incredible time. Both years we marked with special tours of historical sites in and around the New England area by the mastermind of Masonic Con, Bryan Simmons, a Masonic titan in his own right. I spent time with men who inspire me, who I love and who bring out the best of me. Of course, there are Brothers that I know that couldn’t make the conferences, and I missed them.

Arriving at Logan Intl. Airport in Boston an hour late due to weather, I met up with Bro. Joe Martinez and we drove into Attleboro together. We caught up on news of our families, our jobs, our gripes and our joys. You know how it goes with a Brother in the car, the radio never comes on. Once in town, we met up with Mike Hambrecht and drove to a great restaurant and pub for some long-awaited beer and food. Yeah, we ate too much. Well, I did anyway.

This year was marked with some differences. Notably, I missed my good friend and Brother Alex Powers. You might know him from his podcast called “Historical Light”. Or maybe you’re just a participant in the Facebook group of the same name. Alex couldn’t be with us for personal reasons this year and that’s all I’ll say. But he was missed. I also missed one of my muses, Dago Rodriguez of Fraternal Review
 
That aside, this weekend was AMAZING...yet again. A full lineup of speakers which you can check out by clicking HERE. One of the presentations I was extremely excited about was on Tombstone Lodge. You might remember something I did about a fictitious lodge of gold on an old radio program called Masonic Radio Theatre. Chris Douglas did a great job on this presentation. I learned a lot. I also learned that Chris is an astounding creator as well. Check out these cuff links and this pin I acquired from him. “You're wearing real history.”, he tells me, as I put the pin on my lapel. He was right. I really was, and damn, it looked nice too.

I met Travis Simpkins, another contributor to our blog, for the very first time in person. He was as I imagined, a perfect gentleman, a model Mason. He brought along his wife, who also is a very talented artist. I had waited a long time to meet them and I finally had. Along with meeting them, I was able to really connect with several readers of this blog and listeners to the podcasts (WCY and TMR). To connect with the listeners is…”an opportunity I have long sought.” Alright, I admit that was a bad joke.

But seriously, it means so much to talk, to share and to listen to what you all think, not just about what I produce, but the things that are happening in the lodges around the country. It’s crucial to understanding and perpetuating Masonic Education—the reason for the Craft.

Speaking of education, I finally sat in the same room as Nicholas Laine of Castle Island Virtual Lodge out of Manitoba. Yep— he’s a real guy. Not just a computer simulation as I had once suspected. The Brothers from Canada were so gracious, and I’ve learned so much from attending the lodge they maintain. In fact, look for some exciting news coming very soon related to…well, you’ll just have to wait. 

Masonic Con at Ezekiel Bates somewhat kicks off the “season” for Masonic education conferences. Next weekend is the Mid-West conference on Masonic Education. After this, in June is the Inaugural Mid-Atlantic Esotericon, followed by the first ever South Pasadena Masonic Con on the West Coast which is then followed up by Camp Masonry! Can you believe all these opportunities for education and fellowship?

I won’t be missing any of it. I’ll be at all of them. Why? Because like all of you, I love Masonic Education. This year was the first time I attended Masonic Con in Attleboro and wasn’t a speaker. This made it a much different experience. As I stated, I was able to really connect with my Brothers. I spent the majority of my days with the lads from the Masonic Roundtable and the architect of Esotericon, Joe Martinez.

So many people made this weekend special. Talking with friends I’ve not seen in a year. Literally. Ryan Flynn, Mike Jarzabek, Nicholas Harvey, Aaron Chauncey, Chris Hodapp and more. Chris Hodapp actually wasn’t scheduled to speak but pinched hit due to a speaker not being present. He had a key gem that I took away from his talk and I want to share it with you. Paraphrasing, he said, “…Stop telling men that they will get out of Freemasonry what they put into it!” He then flipped the script as JFK once did. Chris continued, “…You will get out of your members what you invest in them.” I saw pencils taken to paper, scribbling this down, trying not to miss the next thing he’d say. It was so simple, yet…this was maybe…kind of new.

The weekend really culminated for me, and I’m sure many others at the Festive Board. The MC, Brian Simmons kicked it off with a toast and then asked the ladies present to talk about Freemasonry. Those ladies…I can’t tell you how amazing they were. It made me think about my own wife, who many of you know and how supportive she is with everything in my life. I wished she had been there. There’s no way she’s getting out of it next year.

When I began this write this up, my goal was to give a review of Masonic Con 2019. That’s probably not what we have here though. More of my reminiscing of the days I was there. There were many things I witnessed and heard this past weekend that I will inevitably write about. Here in this article though are a few I wanted to mention up front.

At the end of the day, I asked Brother Carlos Hernandez of Ascended Masters if he needed any help with packing up. While we chatted, a Brother approached and was buying a ring from him. This Brother was looking at the same ring I was looking at. He asked Carlos if he had the ring in a size 10, which coincidentally, was the same size ring I wore. When Carlos said he did have one, I asked him to get one out for me too. I’d like to buy one. At this, the brother who had approached to buy the ring expressed to me his gratitude for the WCY Podcast and that although he’d not been able to contribute to producing the show or donate, he wanted to buy this ring for me. I was completely taken aback. I didn’t know what to say. It was a moment in which I felt this overwhelming gratitude and I tried to explain that this wasn’t necessary. This brother would have none of it. He paid for the rings. We bot put them on and shook hands. It’s kind of a thing now. The ring is more than a neat design, it means something else. For me it’s representative of this Brother, and the mutual gratitude we felt. It’s apropos that the ring itself is the Ouroboros. I will say it again. Brother, you know who you are. Thank you!

Next was when the adept, Ben Wallace told us about the importance of two grown-ass men being able to say, “I love you.” to one another. It was a powerful moment that everyone in that room felt. And he was right. It’s something that is important. So do that. Next time you’re at lodge, tell a Brother, “I love you.”

Next was a moment in which Brother David Riley talked about what Freemasonry had done for him— accepted who he was and all that came with that. It was so powerful and so important, I asked that Brother to do his best in retelling it on the WCY Podcast.

Finally as the night wrapped up, the Festive Board was over and the lodge was nearly empty. I got to connect with Carlos Hernandez a little more. And I have to say, I found a man so dedicated to the Craft and to his art that it inspired me.

To all my Brothers of Ezekiel Bates, I want to thank you for putting this on again. It is the Granddaddy of Masonic Conferences. Yes, there are conferences put on by Grand Jurisdictions and all that, but those are full of pomp. Endless introductions. And so many backscratching lackeys…well, you get it. This was a local lodge, without Grand Lodge support, putting on an event that dwarfed anything that had been done before in their area. I believe in the mission so much, I “pluralled” up there. While I can’t attend but one meeting a year, the dues I pay is a small way I can vote with my dollars. It’s what I feel is important. But also, many men have also done the same. Ezekiel Bates boasts a membership of several out-of-state members for this very reason.

While at the airport reminiscing about the past few days, the emotions riding high and trying to make sense of the reality that we’d all have to go back home, to our own lodges. Our stale meetings of no education, no real brotherhood and sad Past Master luncheons that always have “endless soda, tea and coffee.” I received a text from Nicholas Harvey. He mentioned something similar. How do we bring this home? How can we do it? Perhaps this is one small way—to write about it. To tell others, to evangelize it.

While walking across the street in Cambridge, MA. On the way to see North Bridge, there is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson etched into the walkway.

“The thunderbolt fell on an inch of ground, but the light of it fills the horizon.” 

I think that quote is one to contemplate, it’s so very relevant in our situation. It just might be…a revolution.

This year's Masonic Con was a success.

~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.

A Remarkable Evening At Lodge Vitruvian

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33° 

Broad Ripple Lodge, Indianapolis, IN
There have only been a few times in the years I’ve been a Freemason when the experience actually met my expectation of what Freemasonry would be like before I joined. My visit to Lodge Vitruvian in Indianapolis this week was one of those times.

I was invited to speak at Lodge Vitruvian, and I thought it would be a very good opportunity to talk about some of the topics I plan to cover in a book I’ve been researching. As a writer, I’ve learned things that can fascinate me for months on end aren’t always as interesting to other people. Of course it’s a long drive, so I invited Midnight Freemasons Contributors Greg Knott and Darin Lahners along for the ride.

Vitruvian meets at Broad Ripple Lodge—I was a little disappointed when we arrived. It’s a very ordinary looking commercial building.  It could have been an attorney office, or an accounting firm, or a dentist’s office.

(left to right) Greg Knott, Darin Lahners, and Todd E. Creason deal with conflicting device navigation advice in regards to the best route to Vitruvian Lodge.  How did we ever manage to find anything before cell phones?
But as they say, don’t judge a book by the cover. As soon as we walked into the Lodge room all three of us were absolutely stunned. The Lodge is elegantly furnished, and meticulously decorated from floors, to walls, to the ceiling. The ambient lighting in the Lodge room was unlike anything I’ve seen in a Lodge. There were richly detailed murals painted on all the walls. And there was classic music playing low in the background. It was a lot to take in. It was a regularly stated meeting, but the officers arrived in tuxedos and white gloves. Conversations in the Lodge room prior to the meeting were quiet and subdued. It was a very different atmosphere than what the three of us were accustomed to.

Lodge Vitruvian is a European Concept Lodge. I couldn’t have been more impressed with their ritual, their tightly run and well organized meeting, and the formality of the Lodge members before, during and after the meeting. It was amazing to see, because Vitruvian Lodge is actually doing what I’ve been writing about for more than a decade. The Lodge’s focus is on Masonry—the application of Freemasonry, the member experience, personal growth of each member, and Masonic education. They are a lot further down the road towards that goal that we are in my part of the world, and they’re doing a lot of very smart things.

Todd E. Creason's talk to the members and spouses at the Festive Board
They intentionally keep their membership small (less than fifty, but they consider about 36 the perfect number of members). If they were ever to grow beyond that size, their plan is to split the Lodge. And those members pay a good chunk more in annual dues than most Masons in the U.S. And the reason they’re willing to do that? They get their money’s worth! They know that because they communicate with their members. They discussed a survey they recently did with their members. They ask their members if they were happy in their membership. They asked them what kinds of things they’d like to see the Lodge do. They asked them all kinds of questions on that survey. It tells the leadership how they can best serve their membership.

There have been a number of us on the Midnight Freemasons that have said many times before that Freemasonry is being made too easy, and is being sold too cheap. I absolutely believe that. It’s a very reasonable belief to hold that we appreciate things much more when we have to work hard for them. It is also reasonable to believe that if your dues are high, those that seek to join your ranks really want to be involved in what you’re doing, and are much more likely to participate in what you’re trying to build. Well, Vitruvian certainly seems to have proven the point so many of us have been trying to make for so long. If they were closer, they’d have my petition in a minute, and I’d gladly pay those dues. The difference between my experience there, and my normal Lodge meeting night is the difference between night and day.

After the meeting, we adjourned to the Festive Board at a local restaurant—the setting the Lodge has chosen was just as impressive as the Lodge they meet in. It was elegantly old world from its dark wood paneling to its d├ęcor.  I don’t think Freemasons themselves could have designed a more perfect space for a Masonic Festive Board--it's the kind of place where you wouldn't be surprised to see Sir Arthur Conan Doyle smoking a pipe in a corner chair while perusing the newspaper.  There were appetizers, cocktails, and amazing conversations. I gave my presentation on character in the social media age, and we enjoyed a fabulous dinner.

You can read more about Lodge Vitruvian on their website.  They also do a much better job than I have at describing what it means to be a "European Concept Lodge." 

We certainly enjoyed our visit, and we made many new friends. Freemasonry as it was meant to be is alive and well at Vitruvian. The Midnight Freemasons were invited back—and I would be very surprised if we didn’t take them up on that invitation. It was wonderful to see that there are still Freemasons that understand that Freemasonry isn’t just a social group—it’s a way of life. It’s a set of moral tenets that are to be applied rather than given lip-service. It's a lifelong pursuit of personal growth, character development, and knowledge.  And it was nice to see that the direction we’ve been heading in our neck of the woods is the correct path for our Fraternity.

Without question, Freemasonry has helped to shape our country in the past. The world today has never been more in need of men of character—like Freemasons. But if we’re going to provide the world with the caliber of men it needs as we have in the past, we’re going to have to start building them again from the foundation up. Freemasonry is meant to be so much more than a social club and a philanthropy—its purpose first and foremost is as a moral and ethical improvement center. We need to start seeing it that way again.

~TEC
  
Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the 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 a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR).  He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Freemasonry and the Game of Thrones Pt. 2

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 3 Here

There are spoilers!

What fantasy show would be complete without Dragons? A Dragon for those of you have spent your life underneath a rock, is a mythical monster like a giant reptile or huge serpent. In European tradition the dragon is typically fire-breathing and tends to symbolize chaos or evil, whereas in East Asia it is usually a beneficent symbol of fertility, associated with water and the heavens. In the books and the show, A three headed red Dragon on a black background makes up the sigil of House Targaryen, and the character, Daenerys Targaryen, has 3 dragons named: Drogon, after Khal Drogo, Daenerys’s deceased Husband; Rhaegal, named after her eldest brother, Rhaegar; and Viserion, named after her other brother, Viserys.

Although a serpent or snake plays no role in the teachings of regular Freemasonry, that didn’t stop Brother Rev. George Oliver from stating in “Historical Landmarks of Freemasonry and other evidences of Freemasonry”, that the Serpent is
...a significant symbol in Freemasonry : Moses' rod changed into a serpent, "The serpentine emblem of Masonry... is a bright symbol of Hope; for the promised Deliverer will open the gates of Heaven to his faithful followers by bruising its head, and they shall enter triumphantly, trampling on its prostrate body.
Mackey states in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences (1914):

 “In Freemasonry, the Templar and in the Philosophic Degrees — such as the Knight of the Brazen Serpent, where the serpent is combined with the cross — it is evidently a symbol of Christ and thus the symbolism of these Degrees is closely connected with that of the Rose Croix.”

A dragon has deep ties with American Freemasonry. Taken from http://greendragonfreemasons.org/history-of-the-green-dragon/: -- 

The Green Dragon Tavern was a public house used as a tavern and meeting place located on Union Street in Boston’s North End. In 1764, under the organization of Dr. Joseph Warren, Paul Revere and others who were opposed to the more “establishment oriented.” St. John’s Lodge. The tavern was purchased by St. Andrew’s Lodge to be use as a meeting place for their lodge. Naturally, the Freemasons kept the Green Dragon Tavern running as a tavern and bar. The Freemasons used the first floor for their meeting rooms. The basement tavern was used by several secret groups and became known by historians as the "Headquarters of the Revolution". The Sons of Liberty, Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Boston Caucus each met there. The Boston Tea Party was said to have been planned there and Paul Revere was sent from the Tavern to Lexington on his famous ride. In January 1788, a meeting of the Mechanics and Artisans of Boston passed a series of resolutions urging the importance of adopting the Federal Constitution pending at the time before a convention of delegates from around Massachusetts.
Masonic tradition informs us that the lamb skin apron which we are presented with in our Entered Apprentice Degree is “...more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle, and more honorable than the Star and Garter.” In Greek Mythology, the Golden Fleece was guarded by a Dragon with teeth which could become warriors when planted in the Ground. Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences (1914), says of the Fleece that it is “…evidently not to the Argonautic expedition in search of the golden fleece, nor to the deluge…but to certain decorations of honor with which the apron is compared”, suggesting instead that the “…Order of the Golden Fleece was of high repute as an Order of Knighthood. It was established in Flanders, in 1429, by the Duke of Burgundy, who selected the fleece for its badge because wool was the staple production of the country. It has ever been considered…one of the most illustrious Orders in Europe”, making it the “the highest decoration that can be bestowed upon a subject by a sovereign of Great Britain. But the Masons may have been also influenced in their selection of a reference to the Golden Fleece, by the fact that in the Middle Ages it was one of the most important symbols of the Hermetic philosophers.”

The herald of House Lannister is a golden lion on a field of crimson. Brother Frank C. Higgins was the founder of the Magian Society in the September 1913 for the study of Masonic Symbolism. While the direct reference to the Lion should be understood by anyone who has gone through the Third Degree, Bro. Higgins has this to say about the Lion in his book, “The Beginning of Masonry” on page 114: 
“The several allusions to the “king of beasts” that we encounter in our Masonic ritual are generally accepted as exclusively biblical. This is not, however, the fact. The great significance of the Lion in all manner of symbolic associations dates from the first inception of the zodiacal system of measuring the heavens and timing the great astronomical cycles, which appointed the sign of a Lion, the fiercest and most redoubtable of beasts, as that of the summer solstice, the moment of the year’s most ardent solar vigor. Speaking as astrologers are wont to express these things, the sign of the Lion is the “House of the Sun,” and the terms have thus come to be practically synonymous. It is interesting to Masons who carry the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” as one of the armorial quartering of their Royal Arch banner and on the seals of many Grand Lodges to know that the current Masonic date is arrived at by adding the number of years BCE (approximately, the true number being 399.5) at which the summer solstice entered the sign of the Lion to the year AD in which we happen to be.”
On page 115 he continues: 
The Hebrew name of the Lion especially relates to this periodical change; for it is ARIH or 1+200+10+5, equaling 216, the digits of 2160, which added together, make 9 or 3 times 3. The God of Israel was the mathematical center of the universe, the point within the circle of the ecliptic, which was supposed to be its outer edge, and His symbolism resided in the “four beasts,” which still constitute the arms of the fraternity,-the Lion, Eagle, Bull, and Man, referred to in the first chapter of Ezekiel. These are the second, fifth, eighth, and eleventh signs, their numbers adding to 26, that of the “Great and Sacred Name” JHVH (Jehovah).”
Further down on page 115 into 116, he writes: 
“The name of King Solomon, whose throne was approached through an avenue of 12 lions, was composed of the letters S-L-M-N, which as 60-30-10-50 represented the lion cube 2160. All of these things are parts of a huge puzzle which tended to show that no matter in what direction man went or under what aspect man studied the universe, the Great Architect, Jehovah, was always at the center of every situation. Therefore the “Lion of Judah” is neither more nor less than the “Lion of JHVH;” for one has only to exchange one of the H’s, which is a 5, for DA or 4+1 to see that the word is the same. In the great cosmic year drama of which we have been talking the fruitful principle of nature, slain by the vicissitudes of winter, must be raised to restored vigor and vitality, which is not attained until the young spring sun has attained the sign of the summer solstice. 
From BCE 1835 Aries the lamb was the sign of the vernal equinox; while Cancer the crab was that of the summer solstice. The Egyptians made much of this symbolism, because the rise of the Nile and the consequent fertility of their land occurred at the latter period. Now on the circle of the ecliptic the spring equinox and the summer solstice are just 90 degrees apart. The Egyptians reckoned the speed of the sun at a degree a day; although they lost five days and six hours thereby, which was overtaken at the end of the year. Just two weeks after the summer solstice the wonderful dog star Sirius, or Anubis as the Egyptians called it, first rose with the sun and at the same time the floodgates of the Nile were loosened. Adding 14 days to 90 gives 104. Anyone who will take the trouble to examine a map of the heavens will see that the sign of the Crab lies just under the outstretched paw of Leo the lion, while the number 104 is four times 26, one of the most sacred of the old cabalistic formulas. Expressed in Jod’s, Ha’s, and V’s, the name of the power that gives new life to nature is JHVH HIH HVVH VI= . “Jehovah, who Overt, who art, and who ever shall be.””
The sigil of House Stark is a gray direwolf on a white background, over a green escutcheon. I know many of you will be surprised to find out that the wolf has some Masonic symbolism. According to the MSANA’s Short Talk Bulletin of February 1935, “Old English tracing boards for the Entered Apprentice degree, show the Lewis, which was a peculiar tool of operative masons. The instrument is made of a pair of dovetail wedges, provided with a hook or ring. Inserted in a hole in a large stone, pulling on the hook or ring spreads and locks the wedges securely in the stone, so that it may be raised by derrick or other lifting force, without putting a rope or chain about it. The greater the pull, the heavier the stone, the more securely is the Lewis locked in the hole. From this the Lewis easily became a symbol of strength, and is so denominated in certain old English rituals.” It continues further stating:”The son of an English Mason is called a Lewis, for a reason which is set forth in Browne’s “Master Key,” which purports to be a verbatim account of a part of the original Prestonian lecture. It reads: 
"What do we call the son of a Freemason?
A Lewis.
What does it denote?
Strength.
How is a Lewis depicted in Mason’s Lodge?
As cramp (clamp) of metal, by which, when fixed into a stone, great and ponderous weights are raised to a certain height, and fixed upon their p[roper basis, without which Operative Masons could not so conveniently do.
What is the duty of a Lewis, the Son of a Mason, to his aged parents? To bear the heavy burden in the heat of the day and help them in time of need, which, by reason of their great age, they ought to be exempted from, so as to render the close of their days happy and comfortable.
His privilege for so doing?
To be made a Mason before any other person, however dignified by birth, rank or riches, unless he, through complaisance, waives this privilege."
In France the son of a Freemason is called a Louveteau (daughter Louvetine) which may have been derived from “louffton” a word occasionally used in place of Lewis in the seventeenth century; the French word for the operative instrument is “Louve.” Here a curious verbal bypath invites the student; Louveteau also means a young wolf. In the Egyptian Mysteries, the candidate, wearing a mask or covering simulating a wolf’s head, was often called “wolf.” Apparently the reason for the masking of a candidate as a wolf is found in the tenuous connection between the sun, which scatters the flocks of stars from the sky, and the wolf, which scatters the flocks of sheep and cattle. The sun was the central symbol of many ancient mystery religions. Similarly, the Greek “Lukos” is both the sun and a wolf.”

In the next installment, we’ll discuss some of the Masonic Symbolism as related to some of the characters in Game of Thrones.

~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.

In My Room

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM


“There's a world where I can go and tell my secrets to
In my room, in my room
In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears
In my room, in my room”
The lyrics above are from the song “In My Room”, written by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher. The song was released by the group the Beach boys in 1963 and was the “B” side to their hit entitled “Be True to Your School.” Wilson said the song was inspired by his bedroom growing up in California in the 50’s. He claimed his bedroom was, “his kingdom”, a place of solitude away from the prying eyes of the outside world. Or as the lyrics say “...a place to tell my secrets to.”

I could totally identify with this song as a young tween through my teenage years. There was nothing like the privacy of my room. The space had once been an open porch on the back of the house in which my father enclosed and converted into a laundry room for my mother. As we grew, the room was converted into a bedroom, I was the oldest child so it was offered to me. Since it had once been a porch there was no heating in the space, so it was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It was just a ten foot by ten foot room with unfinished sheetrock for walls and a linoleum floor but to me it was my sanctuary.

My room was a place where I could escape from my younger siblings and be who I wanted to be. A no judgment zone. I remember lying in my bed, dreaming of my future far away from the small Indiana town I grew up in. I dreamed of traveling the world, finding my place where I was meant to be. It was a place I could contemplate my life, where I nurtured my hopes and dreams and sometimes, consoled myself after a defeat, which at the time seemed devastating. To me it was a place where I learned to think critically and where to study; not only what I learned from books, but what I learned from life and about myself.

My room was also the place I could invite my friends and we could talk about anything inside those four walls, and not worry about someone hearing our secrets and telling others. From our fears to confessing to the undying love we had for our latest crush to well, just about anything else. We were safe to express our feelings and be who we were and who we wanted to be. It was one of my first steps in creating trust and friendships that last a lifetime. I learned how important it was to keep my word and the secrets of someone else and how important it was to me that my secrets be kept and the importance of judging in whom you put your trust. I think I am safe in saying my room was the place my heart was first prepared to become a Mason.

As you grow older chances are you will lose this private space. If you go to college, you will share a dorm room with another person. If you skip college unless, you are very lucky, you will have to share a space with a roommate, because entry level pay rarely allows a young person the luxury of renting a home or apartment by yourself. As you continue down life’s road you will meet someone you want to share the rest of your life with. This means you will share a bedroom with your mate and all the rest of your dwelling will be shared spaces with your spouse or your children or both.

The men I know handle this issue in several different ways. Some men build themselves a shop where they can do woodworking or work on cars in their garages. Others create a den or a study where they will retreat for solitude. I believe whether they realize it or not I think this recent trend for men to want to build “Man caves” is a way to cure this unspoken need most men have in their lives for a place, away from the family. A place they love for a little while just to sit and reflect on their lives and perhaps recharge themselves. (All of these are much better than my father’s method, which was locking himself in the family bathroom for a long period with the newspaper for a prolonged period.)

It’s just my option but I think, unconsciously, we're looking for this refuge when they look at joining a Masonic lodge. These men who are searching for spirituality are looking for a place of self-reflection and a place where they will find likeminded men who won’t judge them, who will listen to their hopes and fears and help them on their journey for self-reflection.

It has been said in the past that Masonic lodges were the choice place for men returning from fighting World War II. These servicemen were looking for a type of brotherhood that they experienced while they were in the service. Men who understand them and what they went through. I think this may be why the group Tom Brokaw dubbed, “The greatest generation” became known as a group of “Joiners."  They were all looking for someone or something to help them find their place in life or help them endure the memories they were trying to suppress.

As the years have progressed, so have several generations of men. While I believe the men of today still want friendship, like their grandfathers did, they are also looking for a way to “connect” with other men--in a real time, person to person. These young men are looking to fill a void in themselves. Many are looking for a spiritual and an intellectual path to guide themselves through their lives. In a world where friendships and all the information of a millennium can be accessed with the stroke of a computer key or the touch of a tiny screen on a mobile device, they want a place where they can go and become a better man and at the same time build lifelong friendships, and a way to define who they are through self-reflection, education and genuine human interactions.

I know everyone didn’t grow up with a room to themselves like I did and sadly many people didn’t have a great childhood. There is no way I can change those experiences, but I feel like I can be a small part of the change for their experience in the lodge room. Just like those who grew up in a less than ideal atmosphere, many brethren leave our lodges behind because their experiences inside the lodge room weren’t as fulfilling as they had envisioned.

Many younger men aren’t finding the experience they were looking for inside our rooms. They come to us seeking education, not only about how the world works and history, but they hope to discover something within themselves which will make them better husbands, fathers and all-around better men. The experience of listening to minutes and the desperation of the treasurer and the pleas of members for help with degree work or to flip pancakes isn’t what they expected, so they leave us behind. Many of them do find that peace and knowledge within a traditional observance lodge but not every brother is lucky enough to have a lodge like that in his area. I believe this is a real shame. Not only are we missing the opportunity to ensure the future of the Craft but also we miss the opportunity to fulfill our purpose.

As we tell the world, “We make good men better.”, we have an opportunity to give these young men the quiet refuge of a safe, and contemplative space for themselves. We are also missing the opportunity to help these men walk down that level of life, giving them the good and wholesome instruction we received through our own lives--our fortunes and mistakes. A chance to share what we have learned from each other. 

I wish I could wave a magic wand and create a lodge experience I had in my mother lodge. Sadly, most of those Brethren have slipped away to the celestial lodge above. There isn’t a day that goes by that my mind doesn’t drift back to the fun I had with those guys, inside that sixty foot by forty-foot room. It was the room in which I was raised, received my Past Master’s degree and served in the oriental chair. Those memories, they always bring a smile to my face.

I know this song is not in any way related to Masonry, but while listening to the song I can’t help but find things in the lyrics which remind me of my Masonic journey.

"Now it's dark and I'm alone
But I won't be afraid
In my room
In my room"

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Masonry & The Martial Arts



by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor

Brother David Pugh


Freemasonry and traditional Martial Arts are two of my passions and favorite subjects to practice and study. On the surface they may appear to be completely different. Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols, while the martial arts are a system of deadly self-defense techniques.  However, it is this author’s position that they are very similar in structure, philosophy, and goals for their students. The aim of this humble paper is to present their benefits and similarities to my fellow Freemasons, with the hope of inspiring new and continued interest, study, and participation in both disciplines. Please note that for the scope of this work when the term Martial Arts is used, it is referring to traditional martial art styles like Taekwondo,Shotokan Karate, or Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Let us first examine the structure of both entities. Historically both Freemasonry and the martial arts required a screening process before letting people join their ranks and obtain their “secrets”. General Hong Hi Choi the founder of Taekwondo states “A close scrutiny is made on the mental make up as well as the background of any applicant prior to his or her admission to the gymnasium. While Freemasonry still has this practice, most modern martial arts schools especially in America will allow anyone with the financial means to join their “Dojo” and start training. Historically however, this was not the case as the martial arts were passed down within a specific family line or clan and if someone outside of that group wanted to learn they had to be “vouched for”.  

Both of these systems were also practiced in secret. "Training in karate was always conducted with the utmost secrecy in Okinawa, with no one teaching or training openly in the arts as done today. The reason for this secrecy was a matter of life and death for both the Freemason and the Martial Artist. During the time of operative masonry, the knowledge the Freemasons possessed was their trade and subsequently, how they fed their families. If cowans and eavesdroppers were allowed to gain their secret information, they could take work away from those who were duly and truly prepared. In a very real way this was a matter of life and death for the Mason and his family. In the same way, if the martial artist’s techniques or “secrets” were revealed to a hostile person, tribe, or village, they could use that information to defeat them in combat and once again, meeting the Angel of Death becomes a real possibility.

Both disciplines have a Master and Grand Master that sets the adherents to work and gives them good and wholesome instruction for their labors. They both are a progressive science with grades or degrees and in order for a student to advance they must show suitable proficiency in the proceeding level’s material. In addition part of that material involves memorizing  physical movements in a certain order which Freemasonry calls due guards & signs, and the Martial Arts call forms, kata, or poomse.

Finally  both present their information in a exoteric and esoteric format. For example the public can see a martial artist demonstrating a form or kata that may have movements that look like dancing (exoteric) but they are really deadly fighting techniques (esoteric). The true meaning is only taught to the initiated which is the esoteric knowledge. As a martial arts instructor I still teach by this traditional formula.

Freemasonry aims  to make good men better, and it’s design is to make its votaries wiser, better, and consequently happier! Our ritual teaches us that Masonry is concerned with developing the internal qualities of Man. The martial arts also have the same goal as stated in the following quote from Master Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate and often referred to as the father of modern Karate.

“Those who follow Karate-do will develop courage and fortitude. These qualities do not have to do with strong actions or with the development of strong techniques as such. Emphasis is placed on the development of the mind rather than on techniques. In a time of grave public crisis , one must have the courage, if required for the sake of justice, to face a million and one opponents.”

In addition Taekwondo has the five tenets of Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit, which each student is charged to inculcate.  These are very similar to the four cardinal virtues of Freemasonry which are  Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice. They do not correlate directly but there is significant overlap. For example Integrity relates to Justice, as Perseverance & Indomitable Spirit correspond with Fortitude, and Self Control with Temperance. In addition to internal development, improving one’s community is also something that both systems encourage.

As Masons we learn the following from the Volume of Sacred Law, And now abideth faith,hope, and charity,these three: but the greatest of these is charity. Grand Master Hong Hi Choi in his Taekwondo Master text stated the following regarding community service: “...by rendering their labour to the public work and to the poor villages during their leisure hours so that they may teach themselves the spirit of the public service and mutual help. Both Masons and Martial Artists as they labor to subdue their passions and improve themselves in either respective systems, should also help to  transform and build their communities. For those of us who labor in both quarries we have a double responsibility to extend our cable tow in service to others. The best example of this and the harmony between  Masonry and the Martial Arts is Shotokan Karate Lodge 9752 UGLE.
In conclusion, both Masonry and the Martial Arts are progressive sciences with similar structure and goals to develop the moral character of their votaries. As the student cultivates the internal attributes of brotherly love, relief, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, justice etc., it is hoped that these will be extended to his fellow man and the community at large. It is my hope that after reading this brief comparison, my Brothers who are not martial artist may consider taking that first step and begin training in a style of their choice. For my Brothers, who travel on both paths, may this discussion increase your interest, focus, and passion to study and train harder-- to become the best Mason and Martial Artist that you can be!

References: 
Choi,Hong HI(1965) Taekwondo The Art Of Self Defence,Los Angeles California: Masters Publication
Gichin Funakoshi(1973) Karate-Do Kyohan The Master Text, New York New York: Kodansha America
Tedeschi,Marc(2003) Taekwondo The Essential Introduction, Trumbull, CT: Weatherhill Inc
Holy Bible 1st Corinthians 13:13 KJV

Yours in Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth

Brother David Pugh SW
Plumbline Lodge#116
Subordinate to the
Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois and Its Jurisdiction

Master Instructor
Warriors Martial Arts
5th Degree Black Belt- Taekwondo (WTF)
Black Sash- Ip Man Wing Chun( under Master Sam Chan)
Certified Instructor- Jeet Kun Do Concepts (Harris International JKD Federation)  


Brother David Pugh serves as the Senior Warden of Plumbine Lodge No. 116 in Chicago,IL subordinate to the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois. He is also a member of Eureka Chapter #3, Holy Royal Arch Masons, a subordinate Chapter of the Most Excellent Prince Hall Grand Chapter, Holy Royal Arch Masons. In addition Brother Pugh is a member of the Phylaxis Society and currently serves as the appointed Director of the Commission on Bogus Masonic Practices. He can be contacted at warriorstkd@gmail.com



Freemasonry and the Game of Thrones Pt. 1

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

I am, as well as many of you, very excited to see the how Game of Thrones ends on HBO. The television series is based upon the Fantasy book series called “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. The show currently has surpassed from a plot standpoint where the last book which was published in the series, “A Dance with Dragons”, had left off. For those of you who haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? For those of you who have, I see a lot of parallels between Freemasonry and themes within the show and the books. I will attempt to break some of these down over in this series of articles. For those of you who haven’t seen the show or read the books, be warned that there are spoilers below.

First and foremost, the show features prominently an organization called “The Night’s Watch”. They are a military order dedicated to holding the Wall, which is an immense fortification along the Northern Border of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros which has 19 castles. They are tasked with defending the realm of men from the threats from beyond the wall, which historically has been a people called “Wildlings” by the people of the seven kingdoms.

However, there is something more sinister that lives beyond the wall as well. Creatures known as the "Others" in the books, and "White Walkers" on the show, who are described in the books as tall and gaunt, with flesh as pale as milk. They have cold blue eyes that have been described as burning like ice or being as bright as blue stars. In the show the “White Walkers” are depicted as emaciated and zombie like with the blue eyes as described above, many of them are dressed in black. They are led in the show by a White Walker called the “Night King”. What makes the White Walkers or Others so dangerous is that they have the ability to resurrect the dead through a form of necromancy which occurs when they touch the corpse. The newly raised undead are called Wights.

The "Others" have not been seen for eight thousand years, when they came from the Land of Always Winter (the area which the wall separates from the kingdoms of Westeros). At this time, the others brought with them cold and darkness which lasted a generation, and this time is known as the Long Night. They were defeated by the first men of the Night’s Watch and the children of the forest, at a battle called the Battle for the Dawn where the forces of men were led by someone called the Last Hero.

The Night’s Watch wear only black and they are known as black brothers. Those who join the Night’s Watch are said to take the black. The Watch consists of three orders, rangers, builders and stewards. They all report to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and each of the orders are led by its own officer, known as the First Ranger, the First Builder and the Lord Steward. The Lord Commander is responsible for appointing the above officers. While taking the black was once thought of as being an honorable thing to do, and you would see knights, honorable men and nobles taking the black, it has now become a way for some to avoid punishment or death, and you see only disgraced nobles, bastards and criminals taking the black.

The Night’s Watch recruits take vow either in a "Sept" (church for the seven gods of Westeros) or before a heart tree (which is a holy place for the Old Gods). The vows are as taken from A Game of Thrones, Chapter 48, Jon VI.: “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” They have their own funeral rights as well, as it is customary to say “And now his watch is ended.” at the end of the deceased black brother’s eulogy.

The similarities between the Night’s Watch and Freemasonry should be pretty clear at this point. Both organizations have vows which are taken before God (or Gods). Both organizations were formed to help keep the darkness of the world at bay. In our case, our allegories revolve around the builders of King Solomon’s Temple, while the builders of the Night’s Watch are responsible for maintaining the Wall. Both organizations have seen declining membership, whereas the Night’s Watch was once able to staff 17 of the 19 castles; it now can only staff 3. Both organizations have left their West Gate unguarded, so that less than honorable men are now members of both organizations. The Night’s Watch has Stewards, and we have Stewards. The Night’s Watch seems to be based upon the Templars, and depending on which Masonic history you subscribe to, there’s a good possibility that some of our ritual comes from the Templars. In fact, you can be a member of the Knight’s Templar body within the York Rite if you desire.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss some of the Masonic Symbolism hidden within the Heraldry of some of the Major Houses. Be sure to check back Next Wednesday!

~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.

Setting the Bar Low

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


"Congratulations on your first degree!", we tell the candidate. A round of hearty handshakes ensues. By the end of the meeting, the Worshipful Master delivers the line we know he'll give, "Well, Brother...You've just heard us talk for two hours. The floor is yours if you have any thoughts or observations on what you've just experienced." The funny guy sitting in the North yells out, "Keep it under an hour, okay?!"

Alright, wipe all that away...that's just me griping on the same old same old. I was chatting with my Sr. Warden, Spencer the other day and it came up again--setting the bar low from the get go. What does that top paragraph have to do with this short essay? Well, it's what leads up to the next part of the story. The Worshipful Master assigns the new candidate an Intender or a coach to learn his catechism. Let me stop here for a quick moment and address the readers. I know there are jurisdictions that do not have catechisms. The candidate simply waits a month in between degrees. You guys...you're all nuts, and this piece isn't for you. (I would insert an emoji of a face sticking his tongue out here if I could.)

So here we are, the coach comes to the new Entered Apprentice and says, "Here is what you need to memorize. I will work with you, don't worry." Awesome right? Then, in the same breath says, "But if you can't, there's a short form. And if you can't do that, I just need to make sure you understand it."

Whoa, buddy! Put on the breaks. Are we just assuming out of the gate our candidate isn't adept enough to memorize this thing? Isn't this the candidate that ran through the entire dialogue of the latest Marvel installment? Yes there are men who have legitimate issues. Let's not get hung up here.

Something else Spencer and I talked about was when before the man ever even petitions, we say things like, "Yeah, the meetings are once a month, but don't worry if you can't make it." Or one of Spencer's favorites, "Oh, the dues? Yeah don't worry, they're cheap."

Spencer told me, "We want good men right? You might just characterize a “good” man as someone engaged, bright, curious, dependable, and eager to work. In short, someone who values and understands hard work and investment leading to achievement and satisfaction. So why then do we make it a point to tell our new “good” men that in this Masonry thing, there’s really no challenge, no personal investment, and actually we’ll go out of our way to make it as simple and non-committal as possible?"

Spencer continued, "That will really have them knocking down our door, bic pen-filled glossy petition barely dry. If we’re actually honest with ourselves, we know what the proverbial membership riddle is and how to crack it, but we're either too proud to admit we jumped the shark from the initial candidate investigation, or too lethargic to change our practices and attitudes."

What in the world are we doing? Why are we always looking to cut the obligation of being a Freemason to the lowest possible difficulty?

This is my question. Let's start a dialogue. What have you witnessed? Why do we do this? Comment below!

In my opinion, this is done to ensure we don't lose a man. But honestly, when someone tells me how cool something is and then immediately follows it all up with how unimportant showing up is, how cheap it is and how easy it will be...I'm left asking myself, "Who the hell wants that?"

"What we attain too cheap, we esteem too lightly." - Thomas Paine


~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.

A Sunday School Lesson For Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

A year ago, I never thought I'd be sitting here--I thought piano playing was in my distant past.
I recently joined a church for the first time in more than 20 years. I started attending this church back in August. I liked the people I met there. I liked the Pastor. I enjoyed the service. And I particularly enjoyed the weekly message. It’s a small church with a very traditional service in an even smaller town—there’s no concert every Sunday morning with flashing lights and drum solos. It’s what I’ve been looking for. A place to worship. A place to serve. A place to be involved.

As I said, I started attending in August. I’ve not been the member of a church in over twenty years, but I have attended on a regular basis. My wife has belonged to a local church since she was a little girl—sometimes we go there. And there are a few other churches I attended regularly. But none of them offered what I was looking for. So I never joined my wife’s church, or any of the others.  I'd go for the service, and the sermon.

The first time I attended the church I recently joined, I realized immediately that it was different. And I knew a few members there also. . . in fact I knew a couple of them really well. My old Boy Scout leader is a member there. So is my 4th grade teacher. So is one of my oldest friends—we met the first day of kindergarten (I won't say what year out of respect for her). I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to attend that church previously. It’s ten minutes from my house, and it's not as if I didn't know it was there. I went to Cub Scout meetings there as a boy. I’d been to a number of weddings at that church. I’d been to funerals there also.  I even attended a service when I was in about third grade.  I spent the night with a friend whose family attended there, and wore my purple corduroy pants and matching vest that next morning!

I was pretty surprised when a couple weeks after I first attended, I got the church newsletter in my mailbox (they’d quickly figured out who I was and where I lived). A couple months after I’d been attending each week, there was a knock on my door one Wednesday afternoon. The Pastor. We had a long conversation at my kitchen table over coffee. A couple weeks after that, the Pastor pulled me off to the side after the service and told me the church pianist was going on a cruise for two weeks. I had certainly never mentioned it, but I think my old friend from kindergarten told him I used to play the piano (tattled on me). I hadn’t played much in decades—music took the backseat when I started writing. It took a tremendous effort and a lot of practice, but I managed two Sunday morning services a couple weeks later (including a communion Sunday which is a lot of piano playing in my church). I joined the week after the church pianist got back from her cruise. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about that church. I’m involved in the Good Friday program coming up. I played an offertory piano piece last Sunday. I’ve enjoyed the weekly Bible studies. My wife and daughter even enjoy attending. It’s what I’ve been looking for. I’ve found a church home, and a church family.

That’s a great story, right? But what’s this got to do with Freemasonry?

This has everything to do with Freemasonry!

Let me tell you about one of the other churches I’ve attended over the last twenty years. I’ve probably averaged twice a month attending their early service—so I’d say I’ve attended roughly 500 services going back to the late 90s. It’s a very large modern church, and it’s really nice. They have an early traditional service, and a later contemporary service—so I go early. The members of the church are always friendly to me. But in all those years, not once did anyone try to involve me. I’ve put checks in the offering plate every time I’ve gone—my phone number is on them. Not one call. No newsletters in my mailbox. No invitation to a picnic or a Bible study. You know what that church’s biggest problem is? Attendance. Membership. Money. They have a huge sanctuary that they can’t fill, and they don’t know why.

Freemasonry has the same issues this church does. We don’t serve the membership. We get somebody at the door, but we don’t involve them. We don’t show up at their house and have coffee with them and find out why they were interested to begin with, what they’re looking for, what they’re good at, how they’d like to contribute. We focus so much on the social aspects of the Fraternity that we fail to realize it’s what Freemasonry teaches that attract new members. How many times have we seen a new Master Mason attend a few meetings and then vanish? Often? I’ve seen it over and over myself.

It’s because we haven’t delivered on that promise of making good men better—the reality didn’t live up to the expectation. We don’t teach enough. We don’t mentor enough. It would be like a church that is so focused on Sunday morning concerts and potluck dinners that once you’re baptized they no longer teach you anything about the Bible—if you want to learn more about that church stuff, you can study it on your own. That may sound silly. A church like that would without question fail, but isn’t that how many Freemasons learn about Freemasonry? That’s exactly how I learned it--on my own. Here’s the basics in three degrees, congratulations you’re a Master Mason—there’s the library. There’s books and such in there.  Knock yourself out!

I’ve learned a lot watching the Pastor of my church over the short amount of time I’ve known him.  My experience in that church didn't happen by accident.  He’s been a Pastor for fifty years, and he is a master at knowing his congregation. He knows every member well from the oldest member, to the newest visitor who walks in the door. He learns about them. He knows their skills. He knows how they like to participate, and what they enjoy doing. He even knows when a member needs a shove to the next level (like me back behind the piano again). And above all, he never losses sight of the mission of the church--everything is purpose driven. So much of what I’ve learned from this little church and its Pastor I realize can be applied to Freemasonry as well.

Think about it.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series.  He is the author of the 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 a a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR).  He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP.  He is also a member of Tuscola Odd Fellows Lodge No. 316.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

What is Leadership?

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


What is leadership? I’ve been asking myself that repeatedly over the last couple of years. I hear the phrase uttered everyday in the workplace, on social media, in the masonic lodge, in Scouting and numerous other places and groups that I am associated with.

In 2018, I was fortunate to attend the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. We wasted no time in getting right into the definition of what leadership is. We talked about the great social changes that are sweeping across the nation that are impacting all of us and how we can be prepared to lead into the future.

We were provided a book to read in advance, Reframing Academic Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Joan V. Gallos. While focused on an academic setting, the authors laid out an excellent case about what it means to reframe things in the context of leadership. Specifically, they put forth four leadership frames that we spent the course developing an in-depth understanding of; structural, human resources (people), political and symbolic.

We used each of these four frames to analyze case studies, develop a broad understanding of how they influence the organization and how using different perspectives can further our own leadership abilities within the organization. In other words, by reframing situations or experiences, we can exert our leadership in more effective ways that benefit both you as an individual and others around you.

I want to explore these four frames (over a series of articles) in the context of the masonic fraternity and how we can use reframing as a concept to grow as leaders, as an opportunity to open your mind to new ideas, developing strategies for personal growth and ultimately putting these ideas into action.

Before diving into the framework discussion, let me touch briefly on some leadership concepts. So back to the basic question, what is leadership? Here are a few notes and thoughts I jotted down to get us started:

  • Influence towards action
  • Ability to know thyself
  • Modeling appropriate behavior
  • Leveraging your self and others for an objective
  • Sense making – the big picture
  • Determining the direction
  • Flexibility – adaptability – sense of plans
  • Ability to bring people together
  • Motivating people

Let me expound on a few of these.

Influence towards action. I have always been an individual who is action oriented. I’ve not been one to just talk about things but want to see something get done. But I have also learned the hard way that I cannot do everything myself. Without the help from others, nothing I have achieved in life would have been possible. Influence towards action tells me that you can develop relationships with others, can present ideas that they can buy into and ultimately see these ideas come to fruition and implementation.

Modeling appropriate behavior. How can we expect to exert influence on others without modeling proper behavior? Have you ever known someone and thought or said I wish I was more like them? Was this because of something they did or perhaps just how they lead their life? There have been numerous men I have met in this fraternity that I always see modeling appropriate behavior. They are a positive influence on me and others. The behavior your modeling may impact people you’re not even aware of.

Sense making – the big picture. My definition of the big picture in Freemasonry is simple, the improvement of the individual man who then goes into society and makes a positive impact on his family and community. I find that very often we forget the big picture and get so lost in the details of business meetings, grand lodge debates, etc. that we need to step back and make sense of what is happening around us. Ask yourself at the next lodge meeting, is what your doing helping grow the individual member of the lodge, if not it’s time to step back and look at the big picture.

Ability to bring people together. I consider leadership a game of addition, not subtraction. Bringing people together around a unified goal is as much an art as a science. Can you articulate a clear vision of what you or your lodge is hoping to accomplish that will help inspire others to want to be part of it? When you approach your brothers for assistance, are they willing to jump in and help? While Freemasonry can help the individual man grow, I am of the firm belief that the strength of our fraternity is the collective influence we have on each other in achieving this growth.

Motivating people. This one goes hand in hand with the ability to bring people together. Are you and/or your lodge providing a positive experience that motivates people to want to attend. Is your lodge providing the members with opportunities to grow or are you barely making a quorum? As a leader when you make that phone call or send that email asking people to take part in a degree, attend a work day at the lodge or help with the scholastic bowl event effective in getting people there? Where can you strengthen your ability to motivate others?

These ideas barely scratch the surface regarding leadership. In future articles I will discuss in depth the four framework ideas (structural, human resources (people), political and symbolic). I will pull in what I learned in my Harvard program, but more importantly the experiences I have learned from both in the masonic lodge and life in general.

I would like to hear your thoughts on leadership. How can the masonic fraternity help grow our leaders of not only today, but the future? Let me be very clear from the start, simply going through the chairs in the yearly progression is not leadership. What can you learn for your personal growth and leadership abilities from being in a chair? How can you apply this not only in lodge but in your life?

Leadership is not a destination but a journey. I invite you to come along.

~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.

Memento Mori

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Erik Antony Marks 


The Library was not the place I expected to be reminded of the certainty of my death. Yet, greeting me as I entered this wondrous place was an 8.5” x 11” notice for a public conversation about death. At the top of the page were the Skull and Crossbones with the phrase surrounding them. And why not? Stacks and stacks of truths, what a great place to discuss our musings about one of the book-ends of our existence. The Latin Phrase is a helpful refrain if we contemplate it regularly: Remember you are going to die so that you may choose to be fully present and live consciously while alive—take stock, and make the most, of life.

In Tibetan Buddhism, training in the four preliminaries are the basis for all that follows in working with the mind:

1. Remember your precious human life and the good fortune of your human birth which provides ability to come in contact with and take in truth
2. The reality of the certainty of death that can come at any moment
3. Being stuck in Karma: that no matter what you do, good or ill, furthers your entrapment in the cycle
4. The inevitability and severity of suffering for all sentient beings.
When I think of Memento Mori, I am drawn back to these preliminaries. The following day another Memento Mori message arrived again, prompting me to write this. I met with a man who recently lost a dear family member to protracted illness. He said, “Is it strange to say I feel like thought of his death is a gift? I’m sad he’s gone. I feel like the hurt reminds me to live my life.” It made me think of a colleague and former group consultant who said “loss is the gift that keeps on giving.” The words stung at first. It seemed antithetical in that moment to place the two ideas of “loss” and “gift” together. As the concept worked in me over time, I began to realize how much of my adaptations to life were from finding the “silver linings” in the losses I had accumulated. This message is clearly present in every step of our Masonic journey: In the regularity of day and night. In the stages of life and degrees, especially the Third. For me, the message echoes through our mythos and allegories to break off the superfluous in our day to day and bring into brilliant relief that which is most important to each of us.

Hasten not the day of your demise
Nor shun it like an evil specter.
Honor its effort to ring in the reality
That your life’s abode is this moment:
Memento Mori.

~EAM

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