by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

For many years now I think: “This year I will study and observe Ramadan.” Then, I don’t. But I do learn a little more and my respect increases. I have celebrated holidays of the religions of my ancestors, Pesach (Passover) and Lent, along with others, and keep seeking to understand the ways billions of people around the world live their devotion. One year, Ramadan was explained to me as the most important Islamic holidays asking of its observant members to fast and to better understand what it means to go without—like so many do every day. It was said to me to be a celebration of charity, hope, and reaching out to humanity. Sounds familiar.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, which are: Declaration of faith, Prayer five times per day, Fasting during Ramadan, Tithing or alms-giving, (or service if one doesn’t have a lot of money), and if possible, once a ones lifetime making the Hajj:Pilgrimage to Mecca. As I understand, Ramadan begins at the sight of the crescent following the new moon. Being a lunar calendar, the start of Ramadan changes by about eleven days every year. If the moon is obscured due to clouds, there is a prescribed waiting period and then Ramadan begins regardless of sight of the moon and continues for about 29-30 days. One must fast from sun up to sundown. In most countries that is about sixteen hours. In Senegal, the fasting time is capped at fourteen. In some parts of the world, where the days are the longest, a fatwa(ruling on Islamic law) is issued to shorten the length of fasting so the faithful may observe dutifully and in a humane way. Towards the end of Ramadan, usually in the last ten days though no date is specified, is Lailat al-Qadr, which could be translated as “Night of the decree” or “Night of Power,” when the Word of God was said to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon Him) in 610 CE. It is a time when one asks for forgiveness, mercy, and prayers for salvation. If one lives in a predominantly Muslim country—there is significant familial and cultural support. If one lives in an area where there is little support outside the household and not in the community, I imagine this practice is much more difficult.

So why write about Ramadan in a Masonic forum? Some of our Brother’s and their families are Muslim, as well as Prince Hall Masons, both stateside and abroad. Muslims make up just over 1% of Americans at about 3.5 million. Globally Muslims make up a quarter of the world population and is currently the fastest growing religion. As Masons, we honor religion and divinity as a central part of our work. In a time of Islamophobia, it seems important to me to understand as much as possible about this important holiday. Like the practices of my ancestors, religious holidays ask us to alter our daily lives in the service of something greater than ourselves. Within this sacred space, we have the opportunity to experience our usual mindset in a less commonly held context—where spirit and divinity are placed at the center of our thoughts. Whether during Ramadan or not, what would it mean to your religious or spiritual practice to observe obligatory prayer five times per day? How would it change the way we approach life? The holiday asks Muslims to give up all food and drink every day to know what it feels like and know viscerally, hunger and thirst. It could be usefully humbling and instructive to consider, even if not a practitioner. As with giving up something for Lent, considering the ideals of Islam and Ramadan could enrich one’s own practices and lead to greater gratitude for the abundance the vast majority of us enjoy daily, often without notice.

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

If You Say Their Name, They Are Not Forgotten

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Civil War Veteran John P. Leedy 1844-1887 
For many years I have coordinated with the local American Legion Post and the Boy Scouts to place flags on the graves of veterans in our local cemeteries.  We are a small town, but now have over 700 veterans on our lists. These veterans served in conflicts ranging from the War of 1812 to more recent conflicts.
One cemetery I save to do by myself.  Located in the rural part of our county, Stanton Friends Cemetery, was founded by the Society of Friends or the Quakers.  There was a Friends Church that met on the site from approximately 1870 – 1915. As this part of the state of Illinois was opening to settlement, those of the Quaker faith were migrating to this area to take advantage of the productive farmland.
The Quaker Church building is gone and those of the who practiced the Quaker religion also have no local presence.  My research shows that the church was dwindling in numbers, and the membership decided to close. I have numerous ancestors buried in this cemetery, including two sets of great-g-g Grandparents.  This part of my family were Quakers and were very influential in the Society of Friends in this part of the US.  
There are 35 Veterans currently buried in Stanton.  They served in the Civil War, WW I, WW II, Korea and Vietnam. Some of the older stones are becoming harder to read, so I have a list with a map to ensure that I can find them each year. Because of my family connection, I make sure that each Memorial Day weekend, the graves of the veterans in this cemetery have a flag placed by their marker, to ensure they are not forgotten.   
As I place each flag, I say the name of the veteran.  Having done this for several years, these seem like old friends that I become re-acquainted with each spring.  By saying the name of veteran, they, for a moment are still alive.  Their service and sacrifice are not forgotten.   It is an easy way for those of us in the present to connect with and be grateful for those of the past.  
This Memorial Day take a moment and say the name of a Veteran who is not longer with us, perhaps they paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  By saying their name, they are not forgotten.
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.

Bucking The Trend

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

The Missouri Lodge of Research evolved from a research council formed in 1927 by a group of Masons which included famed Masonic author Ray Denslow and an obscure county judge named Harry Truman. The idea to turn the Missouri Masonic Research Council into an actual Lodge came along in 1938, and was summarily voted down at Grand Lodge because, "We've never done that before."

Two years later, with that obscure judge Truman, now a US Senator, serving as Grand Master, the proposal went through and the Missouri Lodge of Research was born. It bears the distinction of being the only Masonic Lodge, research or otherwise, to having the sitting President of the United States as its Master.

The Lodge flourished over the years, providing members an outlet to meet and discuss topics of interest as well as publishing Masonic papers, articles and books. Early on, it became a mainstay of the Missouri Lodge of Research to provide its members with a book each year, usually one that the Lodge published itself. Many of those books were the products of the Denslows, Ray and his son William, who wrote the epic series 10,000 Famous Freemasons. Those books attracted members not just from Missouri, but from all over the country and even outside the US. 

In time, the Missouri Lodge of Research became the largest US research Lodge and was probably second in prestige only to England's famous Quatour Coronati. As Masonic membership began to decline after the postwar boom years, the Missouri LOR's membership also started to decline but it "held its own" in comparison to other Masonic institutions, thanks mostly to the quality of the books it was distributing.

Then, in 2001, it began distributing a series of books, Lodges of Missouri. This consisted of five volumes which detailed the history of each Masonic Lodge in the jurisdiction. The Lodge distributed one of the five volumes as its annual book for five consecutive years. 

The Lodges of Missouri series was a valuable addition to the history of Missouri Masonry. It was probably unique to the Grand Lodge of Missouri for a Grand Lodge to have such a detailed history of each of its individual Lodges.  Unfortunately issuing the series proved to be a major tactical error. Members outside Missouri had little interest in the series. Even within the jurisdiction, members tired of seeing the books come year-after-year, especially for the volumes that didn't contain their own lodges. 

Membership plummeted. Over that period, the Missouri Lodge of Research lost about half its membership. Not only was it not "holding its own" it was actually losing membership at a faster rate than Masonry in general.

Facing this crisis, the Missouri LOR officers met to come up with a plan to reverse the trend.  Immediately, of course, it began releasing books of more general and popular Masonic interest.  In addition to that the officers took the following measures:

…Established the Truman Lecture Series, bringing in world-class Masonic speakers twice a year to speak at its semi-annual meetings. This series has featured such speakers as Clifton Truman Daniel, Josef Wรคges, Alton Roundtree, Arturo de Hoyos, Trevor Stewart, Robert Cooper, Brent Morris, Chris Hodapp and more. 

…Took responsibility for the management of the Missouri Masonic Museum in Columbia.  The museum details the Masonic history of Missouri and elsewhere, and contains unique memorabilia such as Harry Truman's cane and glasses, the Masonic apron of Meriwether Lewis and Wild Bill Hickock's alleged Lodge chair.

…Built a comprehensive Masonic library at its Masonic Complex. The library now contains many priceless artifacts as well as thousands of books, many rare or one-of-a-kind. It also provides an on-line electronic catalog and is working to digitize many of its volumes.

…Enhanced its newsletter, which now contains articles of esoteric and historical Masonic interest as well as being a vehicle to communicate regularly with its membership.

…Sponsors a Lodge of Research Breakfast on the final day of the Grand Lodge session, at which the Fall Truman Lecturer speaks. Arguably, this is the most popular event at Grand Lodge. 

…Established the Pickard Society named after John Pickard, first president of the original Missouri Masonic Research Council. Members may join the Pickard Society by giving small donations. Those donations do not necessarily need to be monetary; they can also come in the form of book donations or even time and effort given to the Library.

…Established the Denslow Society named for the iconic Masonic authors Ray and William Denslow. The Denslow Society's $1,000 membership fee helps insure the future of the Library and LOR programs.

These steps have helped the Missouri Lodge of Research to gain back about half the members it lost over the five-years it published the Lodges of Missouri Series

So, in an era when many institutions, not just Masonic, are losing members, the Missouri Lodge of Research is bucking the trend with membership numbers on the rise again. The point is, it can be done but it takes effort, cooperation and resources. To be sure, the Missouri Lodge of Research is unique and the way it turned things around wouldn't apply to most other Masonic bodies. However, the reversal of the decline started when the Lodge of research figured out a way to give its members what they wanted. That's the key and that's what all our Masonic organizations need to do… figure out what the members want and give it to them… easier said than done.

Membership in the Missouri Lodge of Research is $25/year. An application can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/moresearch The books for 2019 and 2020 are the two-volume set Ray V. Denslow's Masonic Journey, the never-before published memoirs of a 20thcentury Masonic giant.


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

Stop Reacting To The Problem, Respond To It

"Do we value anything as much as our time?"
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

The best conversations on Freemasonry always happen with Brothers from "good" Lodges. Those talks are noticeably different, for starters, they are positive. They begin with "what we are doing," ideas instead of problem-solving. These talks are what make a three-hour train ride home from Grand Lodge (the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York) seem shorter than the chat you had with another Brother over a drink. These moments were the best part of my visit to Grand Lodge in New York City this year.

Reaction vs. Response

Two weeks before I traveled to Grand Lodge, I was talking with a friend about the difference between a reaction and a response. I like the way Quora compares the two. "Reaction is quick. Response takes time. Reaction is emotion-filled. Response removes all emotion. Reaction is often aggressive. Response allows for assertiveness without aggression. Reaction snowballs into unnecessary and prolonged periods of discontent and disagreement. Response resolves conflict quickly." I thought of that conversation when our Grand Master, MW William M. Sardone, proudly announced during his address, that New York State is launching an awareness campaign to address sagging membership numbers. He played two commercial videos while he laid out the distribution details; we were going to reach new men interested in Freemasonry online and in-person. As he said, "New York is going to do something." You can image the sideline conversations that came after that announcement! Soon there will be Facebook ads, billboards in high traffic areas, and operators standing by to take the calls of prospective gentlemen interested in visiting a Lodge. This was not a reaction - this was a response!

The lunch break conversation at my table that afternoon was focused on the Grand Master's announcement. We concluded that MW Sardone was right; Freemasonry was not passed from the greatest generation (who never talked about Lodge), to baby boomers (who didn't know about Masonry), to millennials (who can't find a Lodge). The Brothers I shared lunch with that afternoon were from a Lodge that owns its building and is now struggling to afford the up-keep that has been passed to the incoming Masters for years. I asked the Master, "How would your Lodge be different if you had 300 members back on your rolls?" "We wouldn't have to worry about how we were going to pay for our roof repairs," he instantly replied. "But would your meetings be different," I probed. "I don't know," he said.

"What Night Do You Guys Meet?"

Back to those "good" talks. At Penn Station, our growing party of 12 Brothers heading home from Grand Lodge took in three more traveling men. These three were fresh from Midtown still in their black suits and ties. They didn't have luggage. They didn't stay in a hotel. No, these Brothers took the morning train down from Albany to attend the second-day session, hopped back on the train to make it home for their Lodge meeting that night. The same meeting, come to find out, that was also their election night. I was the fourth in our seating group that included their Master, Senior Warden, and Secretary. We had the best conversation on "culture" that I have shared in a long time. This was the kind of talk that made a two-hour ride home seem like 20 minutes.

How much do you value your time? The first thing I hear when I ask a friend how are things? "I'm busy." Too busy to return calls, answer emails, even come over for dinner with the guys. I get it; we're all busy, that is part of the problem. The other half is we see our time; I'm talking about the "not at work, few hours you get with your family and loved ones on Saturday" time - as that sacred space that would take an act of God to upset. We value OUR time more than anything else. There's a reason why you can order the same thing on your phone and get it to your house tomorrow. Time has value.

What is worth your time to see LIVE? Better yet, what must be done in person? That is where the real value is: the experience. We'll watch the game at home but go to see a three-hour movie in a packed theater because seeing it --- feeling it with everyone else --- makes it better. Does anyone else say, "Monday night is my Lodge night." Followed by, "Well, every 1st and 3rd Monday of the week from September to May." Brothers who value their Lodge time do. And when you meet them, you ask, "what nights do you guys meet again?"

Our conversation eventually evolved into Masonry, as these three couldn't wait to tell me what works in their Lodge. They shared how they onboard new members, how the guys all share in the pre and post-meeting roles (setup and tear down) to close their meetings by 9 PM, and that when a candidate takes his 1st Degree, he feels like he's already a member of that Lodge. That last one was my favorite point. What they were saying wasn't anything new --- it wasn't a directive from Grand Lodge --- they had a culture that was leading from the ground up. The Brothers held each other accountable if you brought a guy in to petition a Lodge, you were expected to be at his degrees and help him with the degree work. Brick by brick. They were raising this Lodge together, building it from individual stones into one common mass. You join a conversation like this, and you can't help but soak up the positive energy.

I asked the Master, how would things be different if instead of three or four candidates a year, they had 15, say from the new Grand Lodge awareness campaign. The Secretary said, "We'd be a little overwhelmed at first..." his voice trailed but before he could finish, "but we'd be able to change our system to adapt," the Master finished. "Yeah, nothing would change why we do it because all of the guys in our Lodge get it, this is what they want," the Senior Warden said. Perhaps that is the larger question we should be asking. If three interested gentlemen showed up at our next meeting, walked in right off the street, would we be ready to greet them? Better yet, would we be a good fit for them? We talked about culture, that shared attitude which drives everything and separates winning teams from the rest of the pack. Good or bad, your Lodge has a culture right now. Here's a quick test you can do to assess your culture. If your Lodge was a store, based on your level of customer service, which one would you be? It's also fair to ask, would you choose to shop there?

Ironically, MW Sardone revealed his updated "Building the Future" Grand Master's pin, on the final day of Grand Lodge, with the additional line "Share the Experience." As we neared the train station in Albany, I needed confirmation from my travel companions as we gathered our luggage to disembark. "You guys meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, right?" I cannot wait to visit their Lodge in September.


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

Taking the Oath

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott 
University of Illinois ROTC graduates take the Oath of Office

Recently I attended an officer commissioning of new 2nd Lieutenants and Ensigns from the University of Illinois ROTC program. These young officers were graduating from the University of Illinois and officially receiving their commission to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Part of the ceremony was the officers taking the Military Oath of Office. The Military Oath of Office is, “I, (state full name), having been appointed a 2nd Lieutenant or Ensign, in the United States (Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take the obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.”

The ceremony program noted that this Oath of Office was essentially the same as that taken by American officers since George Washington. Now over 240 years later this oath is still being administered in the United States.

I couldn’t help but think of the similarities to the oaths taken by Freemasons, whether during a degree or upon being installed as an officer of the lodge. These oaths emphasize that you will fulfill your obligation or duty freely. They state the seriousness of the work you about to undertake and that you are committed to doing that work to the best of your ability.

Oaths in and of themselves are just words and are meaningless without actions behind them. They do not guarantee success and do not discourage failure. What an oath does is set forth an obligation and set of duties for you to strive for. They can serve as a reminder as they why you are doing what you do. They are a common bond that tie those together that have taken the same oath.

Are you upholding your oath?


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.

Metaphors to Mortar 1: Begin Anew

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

An integral aspect of Masonry is applying the metaphors with which we work to our daily lives—to operationalize the speculative in every moment. Whether or not there is proof the metaphors are real or possible, treating them as such has powerful implications on the psyche. To experiment and build with them is to see how they affect the way one interacts with the world; living the metaphor in action changes how one conducts the self.

Mortar is the glue that holds the blocks of the building together. When the individual relates to the everyday world through the medium of our metaphor and lessons therein, contemplation of aspects of self through the speculative becomes the Mortar for the construction of the individual’s temple.

Raising and resurrection:
The metaphor of the candidate embodying the Grand Master being Raised is for many a high point in the process. I'm using the ideas, as does the craft, of death, raising or resurrection for the basis for a psychological, cognitive, and spiritual process to inspire and create change in the here and now within the individual man. The ritual implies one can be "reborn" at any, every, moment, we always have another chance to do the right thing, get it right. It teaches it is possible to be “reborn” into higher states of consciousness and spiritual awakening(s). Through the metaphor in action, we receive instruction the work of change takes preparation, effort, and practice—and isn’t without barriers and challenges. Within the frame of the ritual, it is with the aid of the Worshipful Master. We could take his representation to imply with the aid of Brothers, Friends, Family, or as a representation of our higher or ideal self, maybe the Grand Architect. Elaborating the interpretation: the metaphoric death might be a mis- or missed- step, an error or failing in everyday life. When we keep the Oath and practice close in the moment, the sprig is always nearby. Staying grounded, contemplative, we have the opportunity to search ourselves and find the way to save the moment—even if we return to the scene some measure of time after the incident. We have the opportunity to act with integrity and justice. Through practice and repetition, we can make real-life changes in how we respond next time around.

While considering ways to operationalize the changes to a recently Raised self, I was reminded of two ideas: "if [people] pray for courage, does God give them courage? Or [are they given] opportunities to be courageous?" and "There is no way to Love, Love is the way." The former is a quote by Morgan Freeman in the movie Evan Almighty. The latter is by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. For the words courage and love, one could replace with: Peace, Kindness, Charity, Justice, Integrity, etc. Taken together, all challenging situations are opportunities and underscore intentional practice. Words are the currency of our lives and our minds. Words are the medium of our ideas, exchanges, vows, oaths, what soothes and enrages us. So, changing a word in how we talk with ourselves and others creates change within our metaphoric operating system code—changing the words has power. Which is why we don’t often change the words in the ritual, because then we change the meaning and effect.

If you choose to conduct these experiments, it is possible for them to remain fully hidden, secret, from the world around you unless you choose to disclose to an other. Keeping the "secret," of this opportunity reframe, strengthens its function on the self. If it is assumed the past me acted a certain way and cannot change because of the historical fact, then present me is more likely to also be stuck and cannot change. However, if reality is accepted along with the idea that rebirth (forgiveness? Self-compassion?) is possible, then hope returns, work on ashlar resumes, and growth and change may occur; The search may commence along with the opportunity to be raised towards an intended, ideal, obligated, self, and be born into a newer version or world.


Though this concept is not overtly embedded in our ritual, taken as an extension of the above, it can be a potent metaphor and speculative tool through which to embody our Masonic obligations. The concept of reincarnation leads me to wonder how I would change my behavior if I treated everyone around me as living represntations of spirits or souls with whom I've interacted in other lifetimes and in other stations in life. Further, I could consider this an iterative process that goes on and on until we find "liberation" from the cycle of death and rebirth, in which my station in the next is mediated by my action in the present. So, I end up with a world populated by people who have always been here with me, but our relationships are changed in each "birth." Now things get interesting, speculatively speaking. Each person could be experienced as a former or future Brother, family member, a parent or child from another, or future, life. I might change how I react to someone who presents to me in a manner I dislike. I could be kinder, more charitable if I assume a greater obligation to the person with whom I’m confronted. Or I might find a way to help them stay engaged—assuming I wanted to live my Masonic obligation in that moment (though aren't we really always on duty (another post perhaps)). Mortar is never off duty—it is always there, holding the building together

Presentation of the hand:
When the Worshipful Master of the lodge greets us, a newly made Mason, a fellowcraft, a master, he offers us his hand. He reaches out to express his love and affection on his own behalf and the brethren of the lodge. It is welcoming. It is accepting. It is an offering. It is a metaphor. Regardless of country of birth or station in life, there are repeated offerings of connection, openness, and affirming equity. The Master of the Lodge shows he is willing to welcome and meet the brethren, whom he serves on the checkered floor of life with an open hand. For the year (or years as the case may sometimes be) in the East, he sets forth the plan on the trestle board and offers it to the brethren. The hand as trowel, the master models the application of mortar between brethren in plain sight and good faith. Despite what is to come in life, the temple will continue to be built.

In one form of dream interpretation, all content of the dream may be seen as representations of the dreamer. We could take the above literal welcoming as a metaphor in like manner: the wiser, stronger, more beautiful representation of self, welcomes the rough to be worked into its own image. Through the hope of raising and resurrection, the aspects of ourselves we seek to perfect are always welcomed to the work. We do not disavow, deny, reject them. Otherwise, they become split off and neglected, undeveloped and wasted. Even worse, the despised or disavowed part(s) becomes an anti-masonic detractor seeking to tear down the temple in self-sabotage! Therefore the Master of his own temple greets the rough aspects of himself openly, lovingly, with curiosity and care, to treat charitably as he would a brother in need of relief. This can be hard work, by the way. When he accepts the stone as it is, he begins the work of shaping (behavior, habit, etc.), fitting it into place anew, and applying the mortar so the temple may be built toward perfection.


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

Honor the Service

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson

There is a phrase - all gave some, but some gave all. I was thinking about this as I researched the history of Lieutenant Frederick John Holt Beever, the British Freemason killed in the Dakota War of 1862. While the Nation was ripped apart in Civil War, there were wars on the frontier that were also destroying lives. The Minnesota Regiments were on the border of the Dakota Territory, and were heavily involved in the battle. General Henry H. Sibley of the United States Army was leading the effort to drive back the Dakota Tribes. Among his infantry was Lieutenant Frederick John Holt Beever.

Lieutenant Beever was killed on July 29, 1863, while on assignment from General Sibley. In an effort to memorialize the loss of all Brothers on the Frontier from 1860-1890, the Frontier Army Lodge of Masonic Research included Lieutenant Beever's name in the ritual of the Empty Chair Degree. This ritual was adopted in 2001 by the Grand Lodge of Iowa, and has been used to honor Brothers in the military who never came home.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of the Dakota Uprising, as I believe in nearly every battle, you have supporters and those that disagree. There are certainly portions of our American History that I'm not proud of, but I believe every nation has gone through such dark periods. Regardless, over the years, men and women step forward in an effort to service their Country. Some step forward out of family tradition. Some because they see it as a way to support their family. But I believe that all step forward knowing that they might not return. In a matter of speaking, these men and women gave up their freedoms to be a resource for the country.

My own Lodge, Montgomery Lodge in Milford, MA, includes members that have fought in numerous wars, and was chartered by the Most Worshipful Paul Revere. We are named in memory of Major General Richard Montgomery, a Revolutionary War soldier killed in combat in Quebec, so although we are not a "Military Lodge", we do have strong military ties. As an aside, Major General Henry Knox Lodge would be a good reference for those seeking a Military Lodge. I know there are men in my Lodge that fought in the Vietnam War, and I'm quite sure there are men in my Lodge that protested that very same war. They are still Brothers, however, and treat each other with the respect due.

On Memorial Day for the last couple of years, after marching in the local parade, Montgomery Lodge opens its doors to the public and performs the Empty Chair Degree in memory of Major General Richard Montgomery. This has become a tradition that I hope will continue. Instead of focusing on the battles during this time, I prefer to focus on the men and women that gave their lives in service to their country. They had the bravery and courage to step forward, and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice. Remember them. Honor them. And the next time you have the opportunity to stretch forth a hand to assist, channel their courage, and make a positive impact in somebody's life.


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

Reframing Masonic Leadership

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

In my last article, “What is Leadership”, I touched on the subject of reframing leadership based on the book, Reframing Academic Leadershipby Lee G. Bolman and Joan V. Gallos that I read last summer as part of a program at Harvard University. My goal is to take the four leadership frames outlined in this book; structural, human resources (people), political and symbolic and see how they might be used within the context of the Masonic fraternity.

Before we begin a discussion of reframing, what is framing itself? Framing is how information is presented by an individual, group or organization to make an argument, persuade action or influence, or help direct a desired outcome. Politicians use framing constantly to take a select set of information or data and present this in a format (story, social media post, etc.) to persuade public opinion or voters in their favor.

Some examples of framing within the Masonic fraternity might be; “We make good men better”, “2 Be 1 Ask 1” or “You get out of it, what you put in it”. We have all heard these at some point in time in our Blue Lodges. This framing of the fraternity influences how we do our work, present ourselves to the outside world and operate administratively.

The one thing you have read over and over and this blog and numerous other masonic social media sites is our fraternities’ seemingly endless struggle with change or innovations. The charge to the Worshipful Masters in some jurisdictions says “You admit that it is not in the power of any man or any body of men, to make Innovations in the body of Masonry”.

My belief is that reframing, and the four leadership frames, can give leaders within the fraternity the tools to help shape our fraternity in the years ahead. Reframing is the ability to look beyond the current situation or framework. Bolman says of leaders the “ability to reframe sets them free”.

Reframing gives a leader the opportunity to view the same thing through more than one perspective. But why reframe? Processes that are automatic can be slowed down to give time for perspective and consideration for improvement. Reframing will allow you to expand what you see and improve the quality of your sense making.

What you see, determines what you do, by expanding what you see allows you to understand there is often more than what meets the eye. Leaders can run into trouble when they see too little, see it wrong or get so hooked in doing things your own view of the truth. In other words you need to reframe how you are seeing things as an opportunity to help lead change within an organization.

In my next installment we will examine structural reframing and the three P’s of Change: Patience, Persistence and Process.


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.

Masters of the Universe and Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Just a day ago, Darin Lahners ended a piece he wrote on this blog with the words, "We have to try." It was in relation to attempting to change Freemasonry for the better. A few sentences earlier, he said change happens from the ground up in Freemasonry, and he's absolutely, 100% correct.

Before proceeding, I want to make myself absolutely transparent here. I am not advocating or even suggesting an "Us and Them" relationship when it comes to Freemasonry and her "camps"--The member at Lodge and the Grand Lodge. Quite the contrary--there is only us.

Grand Lodges exist today to assist in the administration of the Fraternity. The Education and experience you provide is up to the lodges. Grass-roots solutions and practices filter their way up and become either the scourge of a Grand Lodge Jurisdiction or common practice based on the determination of those who evaluate the preservation of the work. Chamber of Reflection? Pits in the West? Actual accosting? Requiring more than memorization to advance through degrees or none at all? Background checks on candidates? Credit checks? Whatever the case may be, the lodges are in control of this.

Whether you agree or disagree on elements I've stated above or any others you may find yourself pondering, we can all agree on one thing. We are the unified front that controls the Fraternity. The Grand Lodge is YOU! Want something changed? Submit the resolution. Get the signatures. Want to adopt something? Do the work to make it happen. Follow the protocols set forth to make it happen. I make an emphasis here because nothing good ever comes from coups, slamming GLs online, or anything else abrasive. It's about doing it, and doing it the right way. It CAN be done.

I guess my main point in this short blurb today, is that Freemasonry is NOT passive. You're not just a Freemason 30 minutes before the meeting. You don't cram everything you were supposed to accomplish over the last 30 days in the 30 minutes before the next meeting. Your meeting minutes shouldn't come out the day before the next meeting. (Pet peeve).

We must work--firing on all cylinders all the time. And there are those of us who do this. We try and make up for the 90% who don't. Even if you want to fight against a change, do it. Get active. The Grand Master of your jurisdiction was a regular dues paying member, just like you. He worked hard, had a vision and got involved. Look at the image below.

That's right. All that "I didn't vote." is very representative to the passiveness that the majority of Masons see around them. The inactive, dues paying, complaining with no action kind of paradigm. "I didn't vote." represents all the apathy we have. It's proportionally the same within any organization. The majority are along for the ride. Don't be along for the ride. Drive. Stay thirsty. Fight for it. Believe. If you build it they will come. Be the change. Just do it. Need any more adverts to get you motivated?

Look at North Carolina and their EDU platform. Look at Ohio and theirs. Grand Lodges are beginning to adopt rigorous and intense candidate education programs. Why? Because someone decided it was time. They did the work. They spoke to the right people. They became Atlas, holding it all and being that guy for a while. But they can't be there forever. Someone needs to step up. Be that person. This is you...a Master of the Universe--a He-Man.

Get to work--the future of everything is at stake.


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.

The Blame Game

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


Almost every masonic writer, podcast, or pundit seems to be obsessed with fixing Freemasonry. I include myself in this group. It seems like there’s always a reason that we’re blaming for our decline in membership, or the state of the Craft. I’ve read that we’ve become too bloated after the membership surge of the post-World War 2 years, and the “Greatest Generation” is the cause of our downfall, that we’ve invested heavily in a crumbling infrastructure, that we’re letting the wrong men in, that we’re not doing enough to appeal to millennials, that we’re not doing enough to educate or improve men, that we’re an archaic social club or that we’re a continuation of the mystery schools, that we need to have all lodges become Traditional Observance lodges, that we need to raise dues and per capita, that we need to stop supporting concordant bodies, it’s societies fault or that Grand Lodge isn’t doing enough to address X, Y or Z...

While I agree with some of the above points, I don’t necessarily think that it’s any one particular thing. It’s a combination of a factors. The reality is that there’s not a simple solution to a complex problem...or is there?

After reading a bunch of articles regarding the declining membership in Churches, Youth Organizations and Fraternal Organizations, the below themes kept reappearing as reasons to why they’re not able to get new members, or retain the ones that they have. I took some of the major themes and broke them out below as they apply to Freemasonry. I also broke out what many of these articles had as potential solutions and applied them to Freemasonry as well.

-Nobody’s Listening to me
People value their voice and the ability to be heard during a discussion. If we’re not getting the input of all of our members, because they’re either not being challenged to give an opinion, or there are members that are dominating the discussion, they might be feeling like their opinions don’t matter. If my opinion doesn’t matter, then why should I keep coming to lodge?
Make sure that if you notice this pattern occurring, that you address it with the Worshipful Master. Encourage him to let those that hardly discuss items to be allowed the floor when they do want to voice their opinion over those who voice theirs all the time. Also engage them in the conversation. Ask their opinion if they are not normally giving theirs. Ask them to serve on committees in order to engage them, so they can feel like they are making a difference.

-We’re sick of hearing about values or mission statements
Actions speak louder than words. We know that we are supposed to be taking good men and making them better. We understand that we need to live according to the tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
We’re not here to listen to you arguing about bills, pancake breakfasts, or other banal items during a stated meeting. We’re impressed with actions and service. If we’re not going to actually work on making ourselves better through education then why am I sticking around? If we discuss Brotherhood, but nobody wants to enjoy fellowship outside of a lodge room, then I feel like I’ve been lied to.
-Charity and community service isn’t a priority
Freemasonry has become self-centered and typically American. We spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings, doing degree work, and practicing ritual. We don’t spend enough time to help our community or charity.
Ask your members what you can do to improve your community. Create service dates once a month or more where members can do community service. Use fundraisers to raise money for Charity, not for lodge repairs or improvements. (If you need money, you need to think about raising dues).
-Stop the blame game
As I mentioned above, everyone has a different reason as to why we’re “declining”. I’ve listed multiple reasons above. However, it’s easier to blame something else than to take a hard look in the mirror and focus on issues within our organization.
Stop blaming everything or everyone else. Examine what’s going on in your lodge. Focus on solving those issues and making a real impact in your community. Use the lessons of Freemasonry to teach members why Freemasonry is still relevant and can be beneficial in today’s world.
-Stop the cliques and check your ego at the door
One of the highlights of being a District Education Officer is that I was able to visit every lodge in my district along with my District Deputy Grand Master on his official visits. It also gave me some insight. I visited some lodges that were getting a lot of new membership, and some that hadn’t had any degree work in a few years. The difference between the lodges was that the ones that were having growth didn’t take themselves too seriously. There wasn’t any ego, and it wasn’t just a group of old men sitting around complaining about the state of the world. There weren’t any cliques. I didn’t get the feeling that I was missing some private jokes, or that I was on the outside looking in. They enjoyed each other’s fellowship and planned social events outside of lodge that included everyone. It wasn’t just a few members going to get a beer after a meeting.
Challenge your membership to engage each other on a personal level. Make sure that if you see brothers egos ruling their passions that you inform them that they are out of line. Take the opportunity to start activities to engage fellowship. For example, if you’re not having a meal before lodge, start having one. Discuss events with the membership and get their feedback on what things would get them to come out outside of stated meetings. Make a goal of having one event outside of meetings a month to bring together the membership and their families.
-Misallocation of Resources
Your lodge has several types of resources that it can tap into. There is the physical such as the lodge building, there is the membership, and there is the financial. I get really angry when I hear older members complain about the price of internet because it’s not being used except for meetings and degree work, yet they don’t bat an eye at the Power, Water or Sewage bills. I consider the internet a utility, like power or water, whereas they think of it as a luxury. To them it’s a misallocation of lodge funds, when in mind it’s not. They probably get angry at me when I dare question giving Job’s Daughters, DeMolay, Rainbow Girls or other organizations that aren’t even active in our area a hundred dollars for a full page ad in a program because “that’s what we’ve always given them.” Really? The 100 dollars you’re basically throwing away to an organization that isn’t in our area is okay? How much food could that money buy for our local foodbank? If you want to be frugal, that’s fine, but don’t cry about how much money the internet is costing and then turn around and spend 500 dollars a year on buying ads for every other body that asks for money. This is just one example. Aside from how we use our financial resources, are we tapping into the talents of our membership? I belong to a lodge where we have a graduate of a culinary school, and one who is attending one currently. When they make meals for degrees, it is amazing. We’re not using their talents enough. In the same lodge, we have a former police officer. For education at an upcoming meeting, I’d love for him to give some self-defense lessons or tips. Lastly, if we’re only using our wonderful building for degrees and meetings, then we’re not really using the building. It goes back to no one wanting to enjoy fellowship outside of the normal meetings.
If you want to be frugal, then create an environment of frugality. Otherwise, stop complaining about how money is being spent. Challenge the membership to think about how the money is being spent. Couldn’t the money spent on an ad help the community instead? Couldn’t the individual talents of the membership be used to help improve the lodge experience itself? Lastly, let’s make our lodge rooms an environment where we can spend time in fellowship outside of meetings. If some of the money that you’re spending badly could be spent to buy something that might help this cause, like a billiards table, discuss the benefits of doing so.
-We want to be educated and mentored, not scolded.
Remember that first time you were put into a chair in lodge because you barely made quorum? For many of us, this was our first meeting. Then remember how you felt when after the meeting the Past Master that came up to you to tell you everything you did wrong? Remember how that made you feel? I remember seriously debating not coming back to a meeting. Remember all of the meetings that you sat through where you debated repairs for the lodge building for 90 minutes, and by the time education came about, it was tabled because the meeting was running too long?
Encourage your older members to mentor the newer members. They don’t need to be scolded. Don’t tell them what we’re doing wrong. Mentor them. Teach them how to do it by showing them, and be patient with them when they don’t immediately learn. You’ve had years of experience at perfecting a toe to toe turn. They’ve just tried it for the first time a minute ago. Pair up with them one on one. Also, Make Education a priority at your meetings. Remember that education doesn’t necessarily need to be Masonic. Anything that improves you as a man is education. If you’re waiting until the end of a meeting and it’s being skipped, try to make it the first order of business.
-We need to value all of our members
This goes back to some things I’ve already addressed. Just because I’m shy doesn’t mean that I don’t have a voice. Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I’m entitled. Every member has a particular skill set that can be used to improve the experience of other members and the lodge in particular. Don’t stereotype other members because of their age. This goes both ways. Older members can still contribute in meaningful ways even if they are not as mobile as they once were. There are dozens of untapped stories that these members can tell, if you only engaged them and ask them.
We need to give every member a job to do. Whether this means sitting in an officer’s chair, serving on a committee or letting them talk about their life experiences as the lodge education for an evening. We need to remember that every member is an untapped resource that can help your lodge. Let’s start using them.
-Get out into the Public
Freemasonry is already fighting an uphill battle. The internet has enabled a way to spread information (or disinformation) instantaneously. This applies to Freemasonry like it applies to any other topic. The fact of the matter is that the public perception of Freemasonry is probably not as favorable as we’d like. We need to focus on changing this.
We need to be working with the schools, local government and engaging the public to see how we can contribute to making our communities better. If there is a public event, we should have a major presence at it.
We’re failing to adapt
The data shows that we’re doing something wrong in regards to membership. We’re not doing enough to attract the millennials that everyone seems to see as the elixir of life for the craft. We’re not doing a good job attracting any other generation either it seems. We need to start to examine the “landmarks”, and see if the rules written centuries ago are still applicable in today’s day and age. Many of them are causing us to be complacent as a fraternity, and increasingly irrelevant and that is why we are approaching extinction. The majority of our membership is aging and dying off. We need to stem the tide before it’s too late.
Look at the data and take a risk. Albert Einstein said that: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We can’t keep doing what we’re doing and expecting members to start pouring through the doors. This might mean that we need to start examining the “landmarks” and starting the discussion surrounding admitting women or atheists * ๐Ÿ˜ฑ* and if that is something that we need to start to seriously consider. We need to start using programs like the invitation to petition program (something that I’m not sure exists in other jurisdictions but exists in Illinois) to reach out to potential members in your community that you know and think would be good and active Masons. The idea of 2B1ASK1 is absurd. We need to start targeting individuals and inviting them to join us.

I hope that I’ve at least gotten your attention, even if you don’t necessarily agree with me. At the very least, starting a dialogue between the members of your lodge and yourself is essential to making changes. I talked about fixing Freemasonry at the beginning of this article. What I didn’t say is that you can’t fix Freemasonry from the Top down. You can only control what is happening in your own lodge or lodges. Once you fix those problems, then you can slowly start looking at how to apply your successful ideas (and what you learned from your unsuccessful ones) to the other lodges in your district. Then maybe neighboring districts, then maybe your area. By this time, your Grand Lodge should be taking notice, and maybe your ideas can be applied state wide. You’ll never know unless you try. We have to try.


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.

Brother George Costanza and Breakfast at Tiffany’s Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
WB Bill Hosler

I want to head a couple of things off at the pass. First, I know the character from the longtime running television show “Seinfeld” wasn’t a Freemason. As far as I know, none of the characters in the show were ever portrayed as members. (Although the actor who portrayed Kramer, Michael Richards is a Freemason). Stating this in the beginning will be illustrated as we go through this piece.

The title of this piece comes from the Seinfeld episode entitled, “The Couch”, which was released in 1994 during the series' sixth season. Among the many moving parts of the episode, George joins a book club for the purpose of impressing a girl he likes. The club is reading the book “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, written by Truman Capote. George attempts to read the book many times but puts the book down in frustration. He exclaims "If it's not about sports, I find it very hard to concentrate!" So instead of doing the right thing, George tries to take a shortcut and watch a video of the movie version of the book, which proves to be his undoing in front of the target of his affections when he talks about “the book” which has a totally different ending from the movie the book was adapted from.

Chances are after reading the last few paragraphs you are scratching your head wondering what in the world George, Jerry and Kramer have to do with Freemasonry. Take a deep breath Brother, you haven’t missed any symbolism…yet.

Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I get frustrated when something I have written or something I have read about is posted on social media, and I begin to read the comments from the audience. Of course there are ones from readers who give praise and encouragements, (I like those, keep those coming--just saying.) The ones I am talking about are comments from people you can tell have not read the piece but don’t have a problem giving their opinion about the work the author has researched and written, again,  without reading a single one word of it. They just look at the title and the photo that accompanies the post, and form an opinion on the authors work and drop an opinion. I’m guessing once they hit the post button they continue to scroll down and look for cat videos or whatever else they find interest in.

This may be just a pet peeve I alone hold. But if I'm honest, and when I think about it, this small thing is just a symptom of a larger problem I witness with some of the members of the Fraternity. Let me elaborate. I believe when lodges dropped Masonic Education from their meetings and didn’t replace it with anything, we left a large void in the Masonic experience.

Without education, our meetings are just a drone of minutes being read in a monotone voice by a bored and overworked lodge secretary, and sadly, sometimes arguments about other mundane subjects occur. We have forgotten how to discuss and debate important matters before the lodge, in other words, we have forgotten what we were taught as Masons. “...that noble contention, or rather an emulation, of who best can work and best agree.” Our uninformed comments on Masonic social posts  illustrate this.

Many of our members look at a post on social media, and instead of educating themselves by clicking the link, reading the article, and forming an opinion to provide meaningful dialogue, they give a knee-jerk reaction to the photo the post displays or by the title of the article and post an illiterate opinion based on reaction. Again, not with what the author has written (many times in these cases the comment sounds to the other readers to be quite caustic) and an argument begins. Just like the lodge meeting I discussed above. I believe these remarks could possibly come from the same Brother in the lodge who will fight against every dues increase or adding any form of Masonic Education to lodge nights or at the Grand Lodge level. They will cry at the top of their lungs, without any proof or evidence, that such innovations as one day classes or (wait for the gasp) alcoholic beverages inside a lodge building are detrimental to Masonic experience. Those same Brothers will be the first to beg for “harmony” in a lodge meeting when other members have a different opinion than he possesses. I will say this, in my opinion, the term "harmony" in a lodge has been hijacked and is used to stop dissenting opinion and keep the status quo of a dying lodge.

Not only is this behavior detrimental to the “harmony” of the Fraternity but it also puts our dysfunction front and center for all the public to see. Personally I am not as worried about recruitment as many of our Brethren are, but if I were, I would point out that if a potential member reads an article and then reads comments which have to do very little with what he just read, and might sound a little negative or caustic, he might question our ability to fulfill our promise to make him a better man and decide on a different path in his direction.

Much like a Brother who doesn’t display good judgment or conduct himself in an honorable matter while wearing a piece of Masonic jewelry or clothing in public, that one man may tarnish that public image, we have spent centuries trying to build.

Brethren, I’m not asking for everyone to agree with what I or other authors write. Although if you COULD agree with everything I write that would be great. Once again, just saying ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seriously though,  READ the article before you make a comment on the piece, or if you don’t choose to read what has been written, please just scroll by.

Now that you have read the entire article you are in on the secret of the title I gave this piece. With that knowledge, you can sit back and read the comments of the posters on this piece with a smile on your face and a chuckle on your lips. ( I just wish you could see the evil grin I have at this moment.)๐Ÿ˜Ž


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.

The Outliers of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

Discovering the hidden logic in the blueprint for our potential
"Success" is divisive. We all have different meanings of the word. Wealth, power and position are the traditional definitions portrayed by public figures, world leaders, and in the media. Although 90% of Americans defined success as "attaining personal goals and having good relationships with family and friends" in a poll conducted by Strayer University's Success Project in 2014. It's interesting that publicly success is seen as a beholder of some lever of power, while privately, personal goals and families are of the highest value. Google uses Accomplishment, Attainment, and Achievement as the three words associated with success. In Freemasonry, success begins when we have presented our Masonic apron, its history is explained, we are told of its symbolism, and encouraged to take further steps in finding light.

When I began my Masonic career, I wanted to know what the connection is between successful men and Masonry. I tried to sort out my place in our fraternity's legendary figures. From Washington to 13 other US Presidents, the first American to orbit the Earth, a magician known for his great escapes and illusions, an actor who became 'the Duke' and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient --- all of these men were Freemasons. Did Freemasonry make men successful or did successful men make Masonry?

My search for the meaning of success deepened when I read Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers: The Story of Success" before a trip to New York City for our Grand Lodge two years ago. Gladwell says he wrote this book out of “a frustration I found myself having with the way we explain the careers of really successful people.” Gladwell is an investigative author/reporter, and this book was exactly what I needed to better sharpen my view on Freemasonry's greatness. He started by examining the question we always ask about successful people. "We want to know what they're like — what kind of personalities they have, or how intelligent they are, or what kind of lifestyles they have, or what special talents they might have been born with. And we assume that it is those personal qualities that explain how that individual reached the top.

Gladwell concludes that Outliers benefit from hidden opportunities that fall outside of the normal experience that we confuse for “lucky breaks.” His idea is, “to understand how some people thrive, we should spend more time looking around them-at such things as their family, their birthplace, or even their birth date.”
What is an Outlier?

There are two definitions of an Outlier. The first is "something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body." The second, "a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample." From those points, one can conclude that not all men are Masons as Freemasonry is not right for every man. It could be argued that the necessary qualifications to be a Mason also present a connection to the hidden opportunities Caldwell illudes to, for members.

In the second chapter of his book, Gladwell lists of the 75 richest people in history as an example of “wealth” as a measure of achievement. Here's what’s interesting about that list; of the 75 names, only TWO are women who were monarchs. Historians start with Cleopatra and the Pharaohs and comb through every year in human history ever since, looking in every corner of the world for evidence of extraordinary wealth, and almost 20 percent of the names they end up with come from a single generation in a single country. What is also astonishing is that 14 of the richest people in history are American men born within nine years of each other in the mid 19th century. These men were the original titans of industry. One of them just so happened to be a Mason: George Pullman, member of Renovation Lodge No. 97, Albion, New York.

Brother Pullman was born at the right time and in the right place. He lived when the railways were built, when Wall Street emerged, during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. During the height of Pullman cars, all of the rules by which the traditional economy functioned were broken and remade. Pullman was also a man which gave him the distinct privilege to petition a Masonic lodge.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

When the recorded history of the Grand Lodge of England began in 1717, the term freeborn had two meanings: one was being literally “born free” and the other as in “freeborn rights,” the idea of John Lilburne --- not a Mason but his words inspired generations that followed. John Lilburne was born in 17th century England when King James was re-writing the Bible. During this time there is a push for the King to give the people more freedom. John Lilburne described himself as “a lover of his country and sufferer for the common liberty." Lilburne argued for “free-born rights,” rights that we are all born with, not given to us from a King or from the Government.

Lilburne's lifetime overlapped another great English philosopher, John Locke, who coined the phrase 'pursuit of happiness,' in his book An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke's concept of "pursuit of happiness" was not merely the pursuit of pleasure, property, or self-interest (although it does include all of these). It is also the freedom to be able to make decisions that result in the best life possible for a human being, which includes intellectual and moral effort. Lilburne lived before the Age of Reason; Locke was a prominent figure during the Age of Enlightenment. Both were non-Masons (although there is a debate on whether Locke was, he said he was in a letter. He died in 1704 with no recorded proof.) who had ideas that challenged the monarchy and were proponents of what revolutionists would call, “Liberty.” Like you and me, these were men, freeborn. As Masons, we embrace the idea that the Supreme Architect of the Universe has instilled in us the right to be free. To meet freely and share our ideas and opinions. We speak of The Light, which is knowledge. We share collective learning that enriches us with Masonic principles that guide us on everything from dividing our time to improving our character.

Canadian hockey players
"The Matthew Effect" is one of my favorite chapters in The Outliers because it plays to my love of data and logic. It comes from Matthew 25:29 which reads, "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have an abundance. But from him, that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. In this chapter, Caldwell examines the hugely disproportionate number of Canada’s professional hockey players who are born in January, February, and March. Why? In Canada, the eligibility cutoff for youth hockey teams is January 1st. For these players, their birthdate provides an opportunity to get more "ice time" than those who are younger, that, and they are bigger, faster, and stronger than those born after the winter ice melts.

Bro. Miles Gilbert (Tim) Horton, Kroy Lodge No. 676, Toronto, Ontario, was signed by the Maple Leafs when he was 18-years-old, ironically, the lawful age to petition a Lodge in the Great State of New York. Bro. Horton scored over 500 goals in his career that spanned almost 25 years! He was also one of the first professional athletes to think of a revenue source after his playing days, while he was still active. He lent his name to start Tim Hortons Drive-In and later, Tim Horton Do-Nut in 1963 after he won his second out of four Stanley Cups with Toronto. A year later, Tim Hortons had its first franchisee. When Bro. Horton dies from a car accident in 1974, there were 35 Tim Hortons locations. Today, there are close to 3,500 restaurants with his name on the sign.

Bro. Horton's age put him at a competitive advantage early in life on the ice. He also had the foresight to prepare for life after his hockey career. While he didn't petition a Lodge until his early 30's, there is a legal age to a petition that varies by jurisdiction. The reason why there is a lawful age is that it is the age of criminal responsibility. You are considered legitimate, competent, aware of your actions. As a Craft, we have established an age you must be to come to our altar and take your obligation. Before you can be a Mason, you must be mature enough to understand that your action, your words, make you accountable.

The Duke
The phrase “well-recommended” has Medieval Latin origins. It translates to: highly praised or commended. Master Masons are tasked with the role of voting on a candidate’s petition to join our Lodge. We must ask ourselves, “is this man ready to do the work?” In The Outlier’s, Gladwell explains the 10,000 Hour Rule: invest 10,000 into learning a skill, and you will master in it. One Brother's story demonstrates this rule.

Marion Morrison was born in Iowa in 1907, came West with his family in 1914, and picked up the nickname "Duke" from firefighters in Glendale, California who called him that because of his dog, Duke. He played Football at USC, but a bodysurfing accident ended his football dreams and led him to look for work in local movie studios during the Great Depression. He was part of the "swing gang," a prop man for films. He got to stand in as an extra, playing a football player in "Brown of Harvard" in 1926. That lead to his friendship with director John Ford.

Marion wanted to learn as much as he could about filmmaking from Ford who eventually introduced him to the director who gave Marion his first starring role in the 1930 film, "The Big Trail." The studio game Marion the name, "John Wayne" and throughout the 30's, John diligently and strategically honed his craft while starring in a series of less well-known Western features and serials, preferring to spend most of his time with stuntmen and real-life cowboys so that they could teach him the skills necessary to play a realistic cowboy on screen. He developed over this period his signature walk, a fist-fighting style, wardrobe preferences, and performed many of his own stunts. Then, in 1939, John Ford gave him his big break as the Ringo Kid in the classic film, "Stagecoach."

It was after winning an Oscar for Best Actor for his role as Marshall Rooster Cogburn in the movie “True Grit,” that John petitioned Marion McDaniel Lodge 56 in Tucson, Arizona to become a Mason.

Well recommended. The one part of Brother Morrison’s story that I found so intriguing during my research directly relates to being “high praised” or “commended.” Sure, we know John Wayne as one of the most iconic figures in American Pop Culture. John Wayne’s greatest legacy was his dying wish, which was that his family and supporters use his name and likeness to help the doctors fight cancer—a wish that led to the creation of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF) in 1985. Over the years, JWCF has supported research by funding the creation of the Cancer Institute that bears his name, education programs, awareness programs, and support groups.

When a man petitions our Lodge, we want his character to be one that is well recommended. This is where many of our stories on how we became a Mason is similar: we show an interest, we ask, we join. But it’s much deeper than that. You come to dinners, you meet with Brothers, and eventually, you ask for a petition. On that document, you list the names of personal references and a Brother of the Lodge who will sign for you - recommending you for membership.

We are Outliers
Being a Mason is our hidden opportunity. Why? Because we are a member of a worldwide organization of like-minded men who all have access to the collective knowledge handed down from the Ancients to the Revolutionists, to the Moderns. We are Outliers BY CHOICE. What makes us Outliers is the fact that not every man is a Mason, just as Freemasonry is not right for every man. We are the men who seize the opportunity to ask for Light. By coming to the door of Freemasonry, we knock, seeking the Light inside the Lodge. It is up to us, individually, to take that knowledge, those ancient teachings, and principles, and using the Working Tools, incorporate Masonry into our everyday lives.

As a Mason, we appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are. We are a group of distinct individuals who each have a unique story of success. Let me share the rest of that passage from the Book of Matthew... "For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”


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