The Empty Chair

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

The Empty Chair degree at Montgomery Lodge, this past Memorial Day, in Milford, MA was more moving and meaningful than I had anticipated. Brethren from Montgomery, visiting brethren, veteran and non-veteran alike, family and friends gathered in the lodge room following the Memorial Day Parade and a light lunch. For me it was a beautiful way to pay respect to those who did not return from service alongside brethren that did.

As Master Mason's entered, we were asked to bring a piece of Thuja Occidentalis, Northern white cedar, representing the Sprig of Acacia, from a wooden box in which they were provided. The current secretary and past master of Montgomery Lodge, our own R. E. Jackson, handpicked cedar for the occasion. The Sprig of Acacia is one of my favorite Masonic symbols. I agree it was fitting to have Cedar as the representative evergreen. It is referred to repeatedly in the Torah or the Bible as the wood of choice for the construction of King Solomon's Temple. Practically, it is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, insect repellent, and strong. In ancient Egyptian culture it was resin was used for embalming and burned in Tibetan Monasteries as incense. Many of us find its scent pleasing. Spiritually or energetically it and its resin are burned or used for cleansing and purification, protection and consecration; it is calming, grounding, and amplifies spiritual and ritualistic intent.

This is the third year Worshipful Brother Jackson has organized and officiated the Empty or Vacant as it is sometimes called, degree at Montgomery Lodge on Memorial Day. Though I've not attended a Masonic funeral service, I'm told the two are similar. The degree was open to the public, which I appreciated. For me the openness served the dual purposes of education about some of what we do and how we conduct ourselves, and for people to have an experience with us that is positive and dignified. I won't recount the specifics of the degree here as I feel I would not adequately convey what I experienced. It's worth making the trek to be present for it in person when you are able, at Montgomery or Lodge nearer you.


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:

The International Language

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson, PM

As Masons, we strive to improve upon the three moral virtues, Faith in a higher power, Hope in immortality, and Charity with all mankind. We reference the phrase from the book of first Corinthians, 13:13, which states "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." The King James version of the Bible uses the term "Charity," however, many other versions use the term "Love." Now think of that first line again…Love with all mankind. As men, for years it seems we have been taught to suppress our expression of Love. We need to be strong, brave, and courageous. Men don't cry, or talk about their feelings. Although I agree that there are times we do need to step up our strength and bravery, there are many more times when we need to honestly Love and care for one another. The way in which that Love is expressed, however, varies greatly across humanity.

I've recently learned of the five categories in which love can be given, or received. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Dr. Gary Chapman documented "The 5 Love Languages" to help people understand their own, for lack of a better term, currency. The currency stipulates what you can offer another in the form of Love, but also what you appreciate most. According to Dr. Chapman, the five core languages of Love are (in no particular order):

· Physical Touch

· Receiving Gifts

· Words of Affirmation

· Quality Time

· Acts of Service

In other words, some humans appreciate simply hearing 'I Love You,' or another complement to audibly receive Love and gratification. For others, the words have little meaning next to a hug, or simply spending time together. The way that you express and show your Love for your spouse, family member, or Brother, may not be what they need in order to feel Loved. This isn't an unsurmountable challenge, however, and can be easily resolved through communication and understanding.

For starters, it's helpful to understand how you prefer to receive Love. Take some time to internalize and meditate on the actions of others that have truly made you happy. Not a simple laugh, but an action that can lasts for days. Many months ago, I received a hand written letter from a dear Brother. Something so simple, but that Act of Service, still means so much to me. I still have that letter on my desk, and when I become frustrated, that letter helps restore my faith in goodness and Brotherly Love. You may be surprised how easy it is to realize what your Love Language is.

Finding the Language of your partner, friend, Brother, or family member may be more challenging. Try discussing your Love Language with the other person (and no I'm not talking about Ricky and Mrs. Smith's International language from Better Off Dead). Share what you have learned, and start that conversation about what makes them happy, what gestures or events in their lives really made them feel loved. Once they start talking, let it be about them…you're there to listen and learn. Once you can understand how they feel loved, your relationship can only grow stronger with compassion and understanding.
If you have any interest in improving your relationships with either your spouse or friends and family, I would strongly encourage you to do some reflection and discover more about how you Love! More information about "The 5 Love Languages" can be found on Dr. Chapman's website,, including quizzes that can help you, or your partner, identify your Love Language. "The greatest of these, is LOVE!"


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

Basic Keys To Civility

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Over the last six months or more, I’ve been doing a lot of research into character development with the idea that eventually this is going to turn into a book. I think historically, one of the most important roles that Freemasonry has served in the lives of its members is in the area of personal growth. It teaches a moral code, it provides us with tools to apply to our daily lives, and through our interactions with other like-minded men also striving to improve themselves, we find mentors and examples of many of these principles that we can emulate.

Brian Pettice mentioned in his piece Character & Making Good Men Better earlier this week, a discussion I lead at Admiration Chapter on the topic of character. I won’t rehash his piece but to say I too got a lot out of the discussion, and I was surprised at some of the insights our members shared. One topic that comes up over and over is this topic of civility. Brian has lead a discussion on this topic, too. I think the reason our members are so interested in this topic is because there is so little of it being shown in our world today. We don’t see good examples of civility, and often we don’t display good examples of civility.

I believe there are certain prerequisite skills in character development. I've been asked many times where you should start when it comes to improving yourself.  Well, I'm going to tell you.  I'd start right here with these three traits.  There are many more, but I see these as fundamental character traits.  They are necessary for true growth because just about every other positive character trait you may wish to work on in your life links back in one way or another to these three foundational elements.  And when it comes to basic civility, you'll find much of the conflict in your life will evaporate if you begin improving yourself in these three areas first.


One of those basics is self-discipline. Without the ability to control ourselves and our behavior, there is no possibility of improvement. Freeemasonry has always understand that . . . it goes back to that “learn to subdue my passions and improve myself” line we all know so well. When it comes to civility, self-discipline is probably the most important skill—so much of incivility is careless speech and actions--and in recent years this has clearly been exacerbated by social media. We get caught up in the moment, and something comes out that shouldn't have.  When we learn to think before we speak, act, or post something we will prevent a lot of conflict that leads to incivility.


C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Humility is not a weakness—it is a strength. It is also one of the most difficult traits to develop, because it requires us to take ourselves out of the equation. We don’t put ourselves and our own needs first, we work to do what is best for all. It requires us to be more concerned with doing what is right rather than being right. Humility is the acceptance of the reality of who we are—and without question we are all fallible human beings and should conduct ourselves as such.


Empathy is the ability to understand and concern ourselves with other people—understand how they think, how they feel, what they believe, and why they believe it. It requires us to listen rather than speak. It requires us to open our minds and really try to understand the minds of others. We too often fall into this mindset that there is only one way to think about a subject, or one way to feel about a topic, and anyone who disagrees with us is just wrong.  That's a big cause of incivility.  Lack of understanding.  Everyone talks but nobody listens--and we miss out on a great many benefits.  When we become attuned to the way others think it helps us in our own lives, and our own development—it helps us understand how the things we may say and do may be received. When we’re paying attention to other people and their reactions, it might also help us to see how we come off to other people and give us an opportunity to improve in our deportment and our communication.  We don't have to agree, but what we should always be looking to achieve is understanding and respect even when we don't.

Oddly enough all three of these traits are also import skills to develop for leadership. Self-discipline is necessary if you want to be an example. Humility is putting the needs of the many before the needs of the one. And empathy is that most sought after ability to connect and understand other people. Can you imagine what kind of world we could build if we’d only work to improve ourselves in just these three areas?

Next time you see an example of incivility, think of these three things. I’d be willing to bet you’ll find at least one, possibly two, or maybe even all three of the characteristics involved. Conflict often begins because somebody said something he should have known better than to say. It started because somebody is being selfish and putting their own needs first.  It started because somebody is set in their own mind and isn’t willing to try and understand another point of view.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. Todd started the Midnight Freemason blog in 2006, and in 2012 he opened it up as a contributor blog The Midnight Freemasons (plural). Todd has written more than 1,000 pieces for the blog since it began. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR). He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP. You can contact him at:

Character & Making Good Men Better

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚

At a recent meeting of Admiration Chapter RAM in Homer Illinois, Midnight Freemasons founder and EHP at Admiration, Todd Creason, led a conversation about character and character building. It was a lively discussion with many ideas exchanged. One of the ideas mentioned was the notion that Freemasonry was once largely concerned with building positive character among its members and that it should be again—that it should, “make good men better.” The question becomes, how do we do that? How do we make good men better? At the meeting, ideas like holding conversations at lodges just as we were that night; building relationships, especially mentoring relationships, among individual brethren; presenting educational activities; and striving to set a good example were some of the answers brought forth. Towards the end of the discussion, Companion Creason asked what virtues constitute good character. The companions present offered such virtues as honesty, civility, and toleration among others. As I sat there listening, I began to think of some of the virtues mentioned in some of the lectures of the blue lodge degrees. Words from the ritual like patience, perseverance, silence, and circumspection came to me. The conversation went on for a little better than an hour, but could have went on for much longer.

I have an almost hour drive home from Homer and, as often happens after meetings such as this, I thought about what was discussed during most of my drive. I thought about the words from our ritual that had entered my thoughts and again the question, how do we make good men better. I started to specifically think about the Emblems lecture of the Master Mason degree and an idea came to me. In that lecture nine classes of emblems or symbols are introduced. There are twelve emblems in total and their symbolism is rich and its interpretations limitless, but some of the words used to describe the symbols suggested a method for a Mason to begin to improve himself on a simpler basis. If a man was to ask himself questions suggested by these descriptions it would start him on the road to self-examination and knowledge which is essential if a man is going to improve his character. I am not going to go through all of the symbols here, but I will share a list of questions, a man might ask himself or his brother, suggested by this lecture.

1. What does it mean to have a pure heart and is my heart pure?

2. Does my heart glow with gratitude?

3. Am I industrious and concerned for my fellow man?

4. Am I silent and circumspect?

5. Do my hidden thoughts, words, and actions, match those that I present to the world?

6. Am I living my life as one who has hope?

7. Am I a lover of the arts and a sciences?

8. Am I using my time on earth wisely or am I squandering it?

This is not an a complete list of questions you could derive from this ritual but if a brother asks himself these questions and honestly reflects on them, he will surely find work he needs to do to begin to build better character. So, ask yourself these questions or better yet bring this up at your lodge. See if your brethren want to join you in asking themselves these questions. If you honestly reflect on them and study them, your answers will suggest what work you need to try to do. You can then begin to work to improve yourselves and your character. If you do that, Freemasonry will begin again to, “make good men better.”


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

The Mid-Atlantic Esotericon

Should I have gone, and what did I miss?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson 

A year ago, some brothers decided to plan a masonic conference, not unlike the MasonicCon that has happened at Ezekiel Bates in Massachusetts, but with a strict observance on Esoterica. No history—no debate on origins of ritual. Just an exploration of the spiritual aspects of the craft, of philosophy and of the teachings that have been written about for thousands of years.

First thing’s first, lets just set this out there. This event sold 147 tickets, (which was the limit for the occupancy of where the event was held.)  and pulled in attendees from as far as Canada and Washington state. The Mid-Atlantic Esotericon also partnered with the largest Rainbow Girls Assembly in the state, 20+ girls served food, drinks and cleaned. They [the Rainbow] took in a staggering amount of donations. Conversely, The Mid-West Conference of Grand Lodge Education had a whole 20 dudes present. Let that sink in--a moment of thought. Alright, ready for more? I thought so.

Brother Joe Martinez and Kevin Homan were the architects of the event and had wanted to do something like this for a long time. It just took the balls to do it. And you know what? They did it.


Should you have gone? That depends. Do you feel like their is more to Freemasonry than ritual? More to Freemasonry than fellowship? More than almoners funds and paying bills? Do you enjoy reading and researching the mystical? How about questioning the literal translations of our religious texts? What about the teachings of a medieval genius? The psychotropic substances and references to the plants mentioned within our ritual? The axial procession of planets and their relation to Freemasonry? If you answered yes to any of those, than you definitely should have come. If you didn’ should have come anyway.

The night before, my wife Cori and I took an Uber with Joe Martinez and his wife Barb to a brewery where we were meeting everyone who was coming to Esotericon. We packed the place. I have to say that I was so overwhelmed with those Brothers who went out of their way to say hello to my wife. She had a wonderful time!

A quick run down of presentations:

  • Pierce Vaughan talked about John Dee and his philosophy. 
  • Jon Ruark talked about the many pieces of symbolism contained within Freemasonry that have an archetypal value to other systems. 
  • P.D. Newman gave us information on the Acacia and opened our eyes to the ancient references to the plant in the early rituals which clearly alluded to its use as a psychoactive compound used to open the mind for ritual. 
  • Jamie Lamb talked about the Anno Lucious dating system and how the procession of stars gave us clues to ritual origins and even magick. 
  • Don McAndrews spoke to us about a great book which told of Jewish Patriarchs moving into Europe, who were actually Pharos from Egypt. 
  • Greg Kaminsky gave an amazing talk on the medieval thinker, philosopher and genius, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. He also offered insights into ritual prayer. 
  • Frater O, spoke about the hidden symbolism within the temple of Solomon and how it aligned with chakras and other systems. 
  • And Yes, I presented as well. I spoke on the topic of immortality and manifesting your destiny. 
The documentary crew from Roadmap to Freemasonry was also present, getting interviews and filming some amazing things.

I was impressed with the questions that were asked after the presentations. We were truly surrounded by men and women who understood the deep concepts to which we were all speaking . I took copious notes on topics that I was unfamiliar with. I looked around the room, no sleepers, no one snoring, all awake, all mentally present.

I looked around and I thought about how everyone who was present and how together, we’re making a difference in how we teach Freemasonry, how we can get our members to think more deeply about what we espouse in the ritual.

I can’t say much more, other than THANK YOU! Thanks to the attendees, the speakers, the organizers. It went from the Mid-Atlantic Esotericon, to the First Inaugural Mid-Atlantic Esotericon. That’s right, it’s coming back next year. I'll end on a quote from a newer Masonic Blog that recently posted about the event - From Darkness to Light

"This is what Freemasonry should be, and this is what Freemasonry needs to become again."

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 Unfinished Mark

After receiving the Honorary Degree of Mark Master Mason, it is expected that a Mason will create his mark and submit before he continues on to receive the Royal Arch Degree. This mark is unalterable as it is meant to identify all of your work. What about those of us who don’t finish our mark before laying down our working tools?  What about that unfinished mark?

My father, John Hambrecht, was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on March 25, 2017.  This was only 11 months after I was raised. He the received the honorary degree of Mark Master Mason, in August 2017.  He began working on his Mark. 

He was to receive the rest of his Royal Arch Degrees in, I believe, late October as part of a Royal Arch Class. By then he was feeling well enough to go to the class. You see, my father had heart problems and numerous levels of nerve damage, in his legs and hands, from diabetes as well as the years of work he had done in manufacturing. He was in pain every day.  

By Thanksgiving he was in the hospital, again, from heart related issues.  After Christmas, he had decided he’d had enough and went into hospice at the end of January.  On February 16, 2018, he laid down his working tools and never finished his mark. Or had he?

Certainly my father never completed the mark for the Mark Book but had he finished his mark?  Since before I was born, my father worked for the company from which he would retire. They actually had a policy of putting your stamp, mark, on everything you produced.  My father was a very hard working quality oriented man and he did this well for them.  He did it so well that, after getting his Bachelor’s Degree and then later a Master’s Degree, he ended up working in the HR Department as a Training Manager.

I was born in 1968.  Over the next 49 years my father did much.  Working as many as 6 days a week and, when times were hard, as little as 3 days a week on a 3 shift rotation.  Still he found time to teach me to play baseball, to change the oil in the car, how to work with tools to build things, how to shoot, how to hunt, and all through that time he taught me things that I didn’t even know I was learning.  As is the case with fathers and sons, we would be close then grow apart only to return to the closeness again. It’s kind of a never ending roller coaster ride but it’s just how men are with each other.  In the end I believe that I was his mark.  He left me unfinished, as all fathers must leave their sons, because we are there to finish the work ourselves and begin a new mark to leave behind.



Bro. Mike Hambrecht was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on April 20, 2016 in Village Lodge #274 F & AM in Burton, Ohio. Currently he is a member of Triandria Lodge #780, where he is Junior Deacon and Lodge Education Officer, and a member Lake Shore Lodge #307. He is also a member  Willoughby Royal Arch Chapter #231, where he is Scribe, Ohio Royal Arch Chapter of Research, where he is Secretary, Windermere Council of Royal & Select Masters #113, Eagle Commandery #29, where he is Standard Bearer, Scottish Rite Valley of Cleveland, and more recently a Noble of the Al Koran Shrine. He also serves on the Grand Lodge of Ohio’s Education Committee. He works in the IT field and has a wife, daughter, two dogs, and two cats.

Benjamin Franklin: America's First Self-Improvement Guru?

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Benjamin Franklin had a particular practice that he established in his 20s and continued to practice throughout the course of his lifetime. He made a list of 13 virtues, printed them on little cards that he kept in his pocket, and each week he focused his efforts on improving himself in one virtue. Each day he kept track of how he did on that week’s virtue on his scorecards, and after he’d cycled through his list he started all over again. Franklin’s 13 “virtues” were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.

These are frequently hailed as “Franklin’s 13 Virtues” . . . but that’s not exactly what they represent. It’s true that all thirteen of these traits are virtues, however, if you read about Benjamin Franklin, you’ll quickly come to realize that these aren’t Franklin’s virtues—this list represents his vices! After a long look in the mirror, Franklin realized at some point in his youth that his character was in bad need of improvement. He didn’t make a list of virtues he possessed, he made a list of virtues that he needed to work on. And that’s what he did. What’s most remarkable is that he continued working on these for the rest of his life.

Change is hard, and personal improvement and character development is even harder. As we learn from Franklin’s example, it’s a lifelong pursuit with a goal we never reach. It’s hard because it requires us to look in that mirror and be honest with ourselves. We have to be able to see ourselves as we really are, and recognize where we need work. And there are no shortcuts to building character. It’s very hard work. It requires dedication. It requires sustained determination. It requires self-discipline and self-control.

But as Masons, that’s what we signed on for—to learn subdue our passions and improve ourselves in Masonry. In other words, to learn self-control and self-discipline and begin down the path of becoming a true and upright Mason. To begin seriously working on that ashlar, knocking off all those rough and superfluous parts of our character.

I challenge you to do as Franklin did . . . reflect honestly on yourself, make a list of areas that need improvement, and start down that path to a better you.

A version of this article was originally published by the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL) Valley Echoes Newsletter.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. Todd started the Midnight Freemason blog in 2006, and in 2012 he opened it up as a contributor blog The Midnight Freemasons (plural). Todd has written more than 1,000 pieces for the blog since it began. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR). He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP. You can contact him at:

Masonic Haikus

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A Lahners

Recently, Midnight Freemasons founder Todd E. Creason challenged many of us who write for the Midnight Freemasons to provide broader content for the blog. As a lifelong fan of the Haiku, I was surprised to find that there were few examples of them with Masonic themes. Here's my attempt to start to rectify that. If they are well received, I may do more. 

Blindfolded barefoot 
Point of a sharp instrument
Against Naked Breast

Guards the inner door
Cowans and eavesdroppers near
Tyle accordingly

Faced the east kneeling
Brought to light within the Lodge
Transformed forever

Level Plumb Square tools
Pillars on the temples porch
Three Five Seven Stairs

Grumpy Past Masters
Argues about the meal bills
Never Coming Back

West Gate Unguarded
Quantity beats Quality
The Craft is ruined

Educating Men
Hidden meanings are revealed
Teach the mysteries

Bearer of Burden
Entered Apprentice Mason
Bib turned up

Earn Masters wages
Aid worthy distressed brothers
Travel foreign lands


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

Contemplative Cornerstones

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

When I was thirteen, my mother gave me a book containing Eugene Herrigel's works Zen and the art of Archery and The Method of Zen. The price on the back was $3.95, what a bargain. That was the start. I don't know her intentions, we never discussed them; and if she gave any reason, I don't recall. It was a formative move on her part. Since then, to varying degree, meditation has been part of my life.  A day doesn't go by when I sit a little, encourage someone else to sit still, or incorporate mindfulness into what I experience. 

A foundational idea for me is training the mind to return to neutral. Having experience to come back to the moment can be a reset or relief. Like in Masonry, we can and do get caught up in accomplishments and accolades with meditative exploits. It misses the point. I whole heartedly encourage building up to longer and more complex meditative practices, esoteric meditative or trance states, get a teacher or several. I think longer and more complex practice has many benefits. We get more comfortable with our inner workings and ultimately become less flustered by them as well. And, we have to start at the beginning. Mostly, I encourage you to add to your daily routine, if it is not already there, some form of mindful grounding technique or meditative practice(s). Every now and again I'll return to the cornerstone and offer an idea for practice:

Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragm controls our breathing. It is fully automated as evidenced by the fact that you have been breathing the entire time you were reading this. You didn't have to tell your brainstem: "Hey you, keep that diaphragm moving so the brain and cells get air." However, a unique property of the diaphragm is that it allows for conscious control. When you intentionally take a deep breath, you take control and tell the diaphragm to pull down more and get more air. With this idea, now try to breath into your intestines. Yes, it is a metaphor. You can't actually do it, but by telling your mind to breathe as far into your intestines as possible you tell the diaphragm to push down really hard and obtain as much air as possible.

Now, to make things a little more complicated and fun: back breathing. First sit or stand and place a hand on each part of your back where your kidneys reside. Next, tighten your abdominal muscles as hard as you can and then"breathe into" your kidneys. You'll feel the space where the kidneys are push out slightly. There, air to the kidneys...well, not really, but you did give them a little internal massage.

Longest Breath
When meditating and feeling like you need to escape the practice or just hanging around with too much on the mind, try this. Exhale fully, totally empty. Then take the slowest, longest, deepest, breath possible. Breathe in for as long and as slowly as you can--count. Hold that breath for as long as you possibly can stand it. Then, breathe out as slowly and for as long as you can. If you are using this exercise as a countermeasure to a sudden stop to meditation, you just reprogrammed your amygdala a little bit.

Why do these? Well, what were you thinking about while trying to do these experiments? Oh, only the experiment? (Or maybe "where the heavens is he going with this?..."just as good).Bingo. You brought your mind to the here and now and that reduced your stress just a little bit; plus, getting more air is good too. If these ideas do something positive for you then we've both benefitted from that early gift. "Tak Mor", (that's “thanks Mom,” in Danish.


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:

Bro. Leonard “Bud” Lomell and the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins

June 6, 1944. D-Day. Leonard G. "Bud" Lomell was a 24-year-old sergeant in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, who were tasked with destroying a battery of German 155mm guns mounted atop Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France. Although he was shot through the side immediately upon landing, Lomell scaled the 100 foot high cliffs hand over hand on a rope while being fired upon from mortars on the beach. When he reached the top, he discovered that the “guns” they saw is aeral photos were decoys and that the real weapons had been moved inland by the Germans. After searching for and locating the weapons, which had been hidden in a nearby orchard, he used thermite grenades to disable all five guns. Historian Stephen Ambrose credited Bud Lomell as “the single individual – other than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower – most responsible for the success of D-Day.” Bud Lomell went on to fight in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, where he earned a Silver Star for heroism and leadership with his actions in capturing and holding Hill 400. He was wounded again in the Battle of the Bulge before being honorably discharged in December of 1945.

After the war, Bud Lomell returned home to New Jersey. He settled down in Tom's River, where he became an attorney and started a family. He also became a Freemason, joining Durand Lodge No. 179 in Point Pleasant (Raised on March 25, 1946) and the Scottish Rite Valley of Central Jersey. Brother Leonard G. “Bud” Lomell died on March 1, 2011 at the age of 91. In 2013, the Scottish Rite, NMJ posthumously awarded him the Daniel D. Tompkins Award for Distinguished Service.

Back in April of this year, I was having lunch in Atlantic City with some of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey officers. R.W. Robert V. Monacelli, Deputy Grand Master, mentioned that they were planning to dedicate a memorial to Bud Lomell for the 75thAnniversary of D-Day at Fellowship Hall in Burlington, NJ. He asked if I would create a charcoal portrait of Lomell to accompany the memorial and be put on permanent display in the building. I made the portrait pictured above shortly thereafter.

For those in the vicinity of New Jersey, a dedication ceremony will be held this Saturday, June 8th, at 2:00pm. Masonic Fellowship Center – 1114 Oxmead Rd, Burlington, NJ 08016


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

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

A Light In The Darkness

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

I remember many years ago taking a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta—it was a six or seven hour flight in the middle of the night. It was the first time I’d flown at night, and I slept through most of the flight. Every once in awhile, I’d wake up and look out the window. I thought it was odd that every time I woke up and looked out the window we were flying over a large city. The city lights were beautiful across the landscape below. The last time I woke up, I glanced out the window and saw that once again we were flying over a large city. I suddenly realized that wasn’t a city beneath me! We were flying over vast rural areas, and those lights below were barnyard lights from all the small farms spaced out over the miles below. We were flying so far up, those small lights looked very close together, but in reality could have been a mile or more apart from each other.

I was thinking about this again back in November, when President George H. W. Bush passed away. He made a remark in his nomination speech in 1988 about a thousand points of light that baffled many people. Nobody seemed to really get what he was talking about. He repeated that concept of a thousand points of light at his inaugural address in 1989. What’s been forgotten is that he was talking about community organizations like ours. Small points of light in a sea of darkness doing our good works—building men, building stronger communities, serving as pillars of the community, helping those who are less fortunate. I knew what the President was talking about, because I remembered that flight and how all those small lights below looked from far above.

It’s very easy for us to become discouraged at times as Freemasons. We aspire to live by a very different set of rules than other men do, and that can make us feel very much alone at times. We can feel as if we’re living our life by standards that seem outdated to many people in our modern society. We look at the problems of the modern world, and we wonder if all our efforts to improve ourselves, and to make this world a better place aren’t a giant waste of time.

I’ve felt that way from time to time, and when I start thinking like that, I just look at my map. I have a map on my wall at home of the Eastern Masonic Area of Illinois. I have all one hundred Lodges in that area marked on my map with a pin—from above my map looks a lot like that view out of the airplane window so many years ago—that map is covered in pins. And if I were to mark the homes of all the Masons that belonged to all those Lodges? Add all the churches, temples, and synagogues and the homes of all their members.  Add the Odd Fellows Lodges and their members.  The Lions Club.  Rotary Club.  American Legion.  Boy and Girl Scouts.  And there are many more such groups and individuals among us, aren't there?  Why feel discouraged?  I doubt if we marked all those groups and those individuals on our map, we'd even be able to see it for all the pins!

We are not alone in this effort of making the world a better place—each of us carries a light, and  as Masons our Lodges help us focus that light. We’re scattered out all over the state of Illinois, the country, and the world.  But we're hardly alone in this effort.  Millions are with us, and we have a tremendous advantage as lights in the world--even a very small light in the darkness can be seen for many, many miles.

President George H. W. Bush made another comment in his 1989 inaugural speech that I think applies to Freemasons in particular. He said, “The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless . . .”

A version of this article was originally written for and published by The Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL) Valley Echos Newsletter


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

Reflections On the Greatest Generation

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚

About six years ago I wrote the bulk of this piece for an article in the summer issue of the Valley of Danville Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite’s newsletter. Our reunion that fall was to be named in honor of the “Greatest Generation”, that generation that had won World War II and helped bring greater prosperity to our country and the developed world. We felt at the time that it was appropriate to honor that generation before any more of them left us. The reunion itself would fall a few days before Veterans’ Day and I offered the article as my reflection on my personal connection to a member of that generation and the part it played in my becoming a Mason.

As I thought about how we might honor the Greatest Generation and what meaning might be had for the surviving members of that generation, as well as the generations that succeeded them, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you the story of one of my links to the Greatest Generation--my grandfather. I think a lot of you might have a similar story about your father or grandfather. My grandfather was born July 14, 1908. He was born into a large relatively poor family, as was common at the time. He left home in his late teens to make his own way as a laborer. He was in his early twenties when the Depression hit. As a laborer and small farmer, hard times got even harder. In those hard times, my grandmother and he would raise four daughters and one son- my father Carl L. Pettice, who was born July 8, 1942, just months after the United States entered World War II.

In 1943 at the age of 35 with five children at home, my grandfather was drafted into the Navy. He served in the Pacific theater aboard LST’s that delivered Marines and their fighting materiel to the beach heads during the island hopping campaign that would help turn the tide in the war with Japan. He was at Iwo Jima when five Marines and a Navy corpsman placed Old Glory atop Mount Suribachi. After the war he returned home to his family and continued his life as a laborer and father of his family. I wish I could tell you that I remember hearing this story from my grandfather, but I can’t. My grandfather died when I was two years old on July 7, 1970 a few days before his sixty-second birthday. This story was related to me by my father. I think my father was proud of his Dad’s service to his country. I think he was because when he reached the age he could do so, he followed his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy. From different conversations I had with my father over the years, I know that the relationship he had with his father was complex, as are most relationships between fathers and sons. I know my grandfather had a hard life and most of his time was taken trying to earn a living for himself and his family. For these and other reasons, a distance developed between my father and his father. I know my grandfather loved his family because he made so many sacrifices for them, but I don’t think my father perceived that love growing up. My father joined the Navy at age seventeen. His father passed away the day before his twenty-eighth birthday and my father had been away for most of the preceding eleven years. My father never really got the opportunity to build a relationship with his father as a man.

One thing I remember my father saying about his father, though, was that he told him on several occasions, “If you ever get the chance to join the Masons, you should take it.” My grandfather was not a Mason, but apparently held them in high esteem. My father eventually did become a Mason and that is a story for another time, but the fact that he did is relevant to this story. You see like my father and his father, my father and I too had a complex relationship. My father was away much of the time I was growing up with his Navy duties and later as a truck driver after he retired from the Navy. When he was around I did not always perceive his love for me. Like his father though, he encouraged me to join the Masons. I did join a few weeks before my twenty-eighth birthday. I continued to attend lodge with my father and we both became active in the Scottish Rite. It was through these shared experiences in Masonry that we began to respect each other and enjoy each other’s company. It was through these experiences that my father and I built what he and his father did not get the opportunity to build, a relationship as men and brothers. My father died February 9, 2004. I will be forever thankful for the relationship we built. I will be forever thankful for my Grandfather’s suggestion. I am thankful I got to know and love my father on the level. I know I am a better man for it and I owe it, at least indirectly, to one member of the Greatest Generation.


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

Missing Rings Pt. 2

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners

A few months ago, fellow Midnight Freemason contributor, Michael Arce, and I were discussing the idea of missing rings. This is the idea in sports, that there were some teams that should have won a championship, but for one reason or another did not. Teams like the Buffalo Bills who reached the Super Bowl four years in a row and did not walk away with a win in any of them, or the New York Knicks who were in the playoffs for 13 years straight from 1988 to 2001. The thought Michael had was that there were individuals throughout history who should have been a Freemason, but for whatever reason did not become one. They were therefore missing their Masonic Ring, like these teams were missing their Championship Rings.

As I thought about this, I thought about the idea of making a Mason at sight. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, it is the Eighth Landmark in the Landmarks of Freemasonry by Albert Mackey. Mackey published his landmarks in 1858. It reads as below:

LANDMARK EIGHTH The prerogative of the Grand Master to make masons masons at sight, is a Landmark which is closely connected with the preceding one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this Landmark, which misapprehension has sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was perhaps at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition. [It is not to be supposed that the Grand Master can retire with a profane into a private room, and there, without assistance, confer the degrees of Freemasonry upon him. No such prerogative exists, and yet many believe that this is the so much talked of right of "making Masons at sight". The real mode and the only mode of exercising the prerogative is this: The Grand Master summons to his assistance not less than six other masons, convenes a Lodge, and without any previous probation, but in sight of the candidate, confers the degrees upon him, after which he dissolves the Lodge and dismisses the brethren. Lodges thus convened for special purposes are called occasional lodges. This is the only way in which any Grand Master within the records of the institution has ever been known to "make a Mason at sight". The prerogative is dependent upon that of granting dispensations to open and hold Lodges. If the Grand Master has the power of granting to any other Mason the privilege of presiding over Lodges working by his dispensation, he may assume this privilege of presiding to himself; and as no one can deny his right to revoke his dispensation granted to a number of brethren at a distance, and to dissolve the Lodge at his pleasure, it will scarcely be contended that he may not revoke his dispensation for a Lodge over which he himself has been presiding, within a day, and dissolve the Lodge as soon as the business for which he had assembled it is accomplished. The making of Masons at sight is only the conferring of the degrees by the Grand Master, at once, in an occasional Lodge, constituted by his dispensing power for the purpose, and over which he presides in person.

I started to think about individuals from History who exemplified the ideals of our Fraternity. Considering they would most likely have to be made a “Mason at Sight” due to their popularity, I then began to whittle down my list to individuals who were alive during or after the time when Mackey published his landmarks. After much thought, I made a decision. Since I’m from the State of Illinois, my choice maybe considered biased. My choice is Abraham Lincoln. Granted, Lincoln was not without flaws. W.E.B. DuBois famously stated in 1922 the following about Lincoln: “I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.

Lincoln had applied for membership with Tyrian Lodge #333 AF & AM in Springfield, Illinois in 1860, shortly after his nomination for the presidency. He withdrew the application because he felt that his applying for membership at the time might be viewed as a political move to win votes. He advised the lodge that he would resubmit his application again after he had returned from the presidency. Of course, he never got that chance. Upon his assassination, Tyrian Lodge adopted on April 17, 1865 a resolution saying: “...that the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honours of Freemasonry, lest his motives be misconstrued, is the highest degree honorable to his memory."

What would have made Lincoln an ideal Freemason? Although his religious affiliation remains a matter of debate, Lincoln did believe in God. Secondly, he was a man of extremely good character. The Abraham Lincoln Center for Character Development at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois lists the below nine qualities of his character. Specific examples from each quality is able to be accessed by the hyperlinks below. 

  • Honesty – Striving for dealing with individuals and situations fairly and with truth.
  • Empathy – Showing concern and attempting to understand the feelings of others.
  • Humility – Working for the betterment of others, and in the interest of others over self.
  • Perseverance – Showing hope and determination in the face of defeats and loss.
  • Courage – Bravely standing for what is right in the face of opposition and personal fears.
  • Intellect – Continually learning all one can about the world around us.
  • Vision – Being governed by a firm set of principles & attainable ideas about the future.
  • Responsibility – Willingness to work hard and to do one’s duty as a citizen.
  • Leadership – Showing an ability to lead others in service and with justice & fairness.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know what Lincoln could have done for Freemasonry in Illinois, or even on a national level. I do feel however that he would have been an excellent Freemason. He seemed to embody all of the things that Freemasonry represents. What do you think? If you had to make a choice, who would you chose? I’d be interested in the feedback of our readers.


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