Down on the Farm

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott



A recent trip to West Virginia from Illinois, took me through the heartland of Ohio. As I left the interstate system and drove on local highways, I enjoyed seeing the farms. Many of them still have vintage barns standing that harken back to an earlier era in American agriculture. These farms, in many ways represent a simpler time, yet the hard work from farming in those days was often back breaking.

Mile upon mile passed by when I came upon Rio Grande, Ohio and saw a sign that said Bob Evans Farm. I always enjoy seeing historic sites, so I made the turn and headed to the Bob Evans Farm. You likely know the name Bob Evans for both the restaurant chain and sausage that both bare that name. The Bob Evans restaurants are now a national chain, I always enjoy stopping at them. When I arrived at the Bob Evans farm, I immediately recognized the famous barns sitting eloquently in the pasture. I had seen these barns many times in pictures in Bob Evans restaurants. I was curious to learn more about the story of Bob Evans.

Bob Evans bought this farm in 1953 and it soon became the center for the Bob Evans sausage business. The Bob Evans slogan was “made by a farmer on the farm”. He began advertising on local television and invited people to “come down and visit us”. There were so many visitors to the farm, that Bob Evans soon opened a small restaurant on site, so visitors could sample the sausage and other farm products. This was beginning of the restaurant business for Bob Evans. During my visit, I had dinner at the Bob Evans Restaurant on the farm. The wait staff did a great job of providing service and the food was excellent as always.

Who was Bob Evans? He was born May 30, 1918 in Sugar Ridge, Ohio. He married to Jewell Waters in 1940 and together they had six children. He later served in the US Army during WW II. He was a farmer who had a passion for selling the quality sausage that bared his name. With the support of his family and business partners, the company grew rapidly and expanded throughout the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions. He was also well known for his support of the local community.

Bob Evans, retired from his company in 1986 and remained very active in the community. He was honored by the National Wildlife Federation, was involved with supporting FFA and 4-H and served as member of the Ohio Board of Regents, which governs higher education institutions in the state of Ohio. He passed away on June 21, 2007 at the age of 89.

Bob Evans was a member of Morning Dawn Lodge No. 7 in Gallipolis, Ohio.

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

Where Did the Magick Go?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners




Like many of you, when I joined Freemasonry, I was told that Freemasonry was a “System of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated with symbols.” I expected to learn life-altering secrets, but discovered none. Nobody gave me any information other than what I was told in degrees. So I started to read everything I could about Freemasonry. I read about its history, symbols, ideas, and esoteric components. However, when I wanted to discuss these ideas, I found only a few brothers willing to discuss them, and never in open lodge. Later, when I became a District Education Officer, I saw first-hand the negative reactions of some older lodge members when a lodge education officer brought up discussing the Kabbala. Let me just say that the Hindenburg and Titanic were lesser disasters than his attempt. In that moment, it dawned on me. The fact of the matter is that instead of embracing the esoteric side of Freemasonry, the majority of Freemasons eschew it. 

Before I get any further, I want to make it completely clear that I’m not wanting to perform Crowley’s magick. I have no desire to perform the Babalon Working. If I wanted such things, I’d go and join the Golden Dawn or OTO. What I want is to make the average exoteric Freemason understand that whether they like it or not, we perform ritual magick in every degree. I want them to talk about it. Most importantly, I want them to be able to acknowledge that it’s okay to be talked about.

Don’t believe me? Magick (in the western esoteric tradition) is the use of ritual and symbolism to change your perception of reality. What happened to you in your degrees? Think about it. Ultimately, there is a “spell” being cast on the candidate. The members of the lodge performing the degree are performing ritual magic. They following a specific pattern of floorwork and they say specific words. If you don’t think that your perception of reality wasn’t changed after your three degrees, then I think you’ve missed the point. You enter into the lodge room for the first time as a Mister, and you leave the same lodge room as a Brother. If that’s not magick, or alchemy for that matter, then I don’t what is. All of ritual and symbols are based upon more ancient ritual and symbols. Our rituals and symbols do have an esoteric meaning.

Unfortunately, we have placed a stigma on this idea. Some of it has been placed upon us by public perception. I’m sure that someone will read this article, see the word Magick and immediately claim devil worship. Magick is a tricky word. However, it is present in our ritual and especially during our degree work. There are a growing number of Freemasons like myself that are tired of having the stigma placed upon ideas like this. We want to explore these ideas.

Ultimately, we’re going to lose a lot of Freemasons, and potential members because of our inability to hold a dialogue about Esoteric education. The Exoteric centered members of Freemasonry will continue to perform Magick in every degree, without even knowing they’re performing it. Then they’ll go across the street from the lodge to have a beer after the degree, and not understand what really just took place during the degree--that makes me incredibly sad.

I’m not asking for esoteric education at every meeting, (unless you have a lodge full of guys who want to discuss esoteric ideas at every meeting, which is a dream I hope someday to achieve), but I am asking for it to have seat at the table. For every educational lecture we have on character development, we want to be able to present one about Kabbala, the Astrological Aspects of our ritual, or the Hermetic Arts & Sciences. Getting them to understand that there’s magick happening in every degree, opening and closing of a lodge, due to our ritual is key to getting this dialogue started.

Those of us who want more esoteric education want to be able to discuss esoteric ideas and concepts with our brethren without ridicule or judgement before the discussion occurs. We want our brethren to have open minds. We want them to be able to discuss the ideas and if they disagree with them, be able to have a civil discourse about why. We want to be able to reintroduce the idea of a chamber of reflection without it being looked down upon like its Satanism by my fellow brethren. We want to talk about Freemasonry in terms of it being a mystery school, not a social service organization.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to be a part of a lodge like Vitruvian in Indianapolis, or Spes Novum in Chicago, where I feel esoteric (and non-esoteric) ideas are able to flow freely and without judgement. I’m looking for 20 like-minded guys in my area that are willing to take on forming a lodge with me. It might take years, but it’s a goal. I’m always telling other brethren in my articles to find a lodge or make one if what they’re experiencing isn’t what they want. Time to put my money where my mouth is.

~DAL

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










A Mason Walkin' In Memphis

 by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

Marlowe's Restaurant sends a pink Cadillac limo to pick you up at your hotel when you're hungry. We couldn't seem to get enough of the wonderful local cuisine in Memphis, Tennessee. If you couldn't tell by our clothes, this was July 4th.  Left to right: Valerie, Katie, & Todd Creason
We'd never been to Memphis before, so this year we decided to take our annual 4th of July trip to Tennessee.  And since we were driving this time instead of flying, I decided to try and little experiment--I wore my Mason cap the whole week just to see how many comments I got as we traveled through Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and into Memphis, Tennessee.  Of course we did all the tourist stuff so we were enjoying these sites with other tourists: Graceland, Memphis Zoo, Beale Street, Redbird Stadium, Bass Pro Shoppe at the Pyramid,

We hadn't even gotten out of Illinois when I got the first remark.  We stopped for breakfast in Salem, Illinois at a Denny's when the waitress filled my coffee and said, "my dad's a Mason."

A couple hours later we bought gas at a truck-stop in Arkansas.  I went in to get coffee and when I went to pay for it, the cashier waved me by.  I looked at him questioningly, and he pointed to his ring and smiled.

At the Graceland Guesthouse when I checked in, the guy at the check-in desk asked me if Elvis was a Freemason.  I told him he wasn't.  "Well that kind of surprises me," he remarked.  "You guys have some nice looking jewelry, and he sure liked jewelry."

When we called Marlowe's for the pink Cadillac limo to take us to dinner (Marlowe's has some fantastic food and we ate there a couple times) the driver shook my hand in a very familiar way when we got out of the car.  Never said anything, and wasn't wearing a ring, but it was pretty clear he was a Mason.

At the Bass Pro Shop at the iconic pyramid downtown (only Bass Pro Shop I've ever been to that had valet parking), one of the security guards was a Mason, and during our discussion we learned he was a very smart man--from Illinois and a huge Chicago Cubs fan!

At a Mexican Restaurant we dined at, I got the question, "Isn't your name Hiram?"

There were a couple others--one at this huge fireworks store in Arkansas on the way home called "Boomtown" and one at the Memphis Redbirds Stadium.  I was a little surprised at how many times I was approached.  I think we've all had that experience of somebody seeing our ring, or a hat, or emblems on our car and walking up to us.  But it never ceases to amaze me how many times this happens considering just how small in numbers our Fraternity is compared to the population.

And maybe it's just that Masons are friendly people and are always anxious to meet another Brother.  I have very seldom ever passed up an opportunity to meet a Brother when I've seen a ring, a hat, or a Masonic license plate.  My youngest daughter is 12, and she picks out those Masonic symbols as quickly as I do . . . Dad!  Look!  That guy's got a Masonic tattoo!  Go find out where he's from!

And I almost always do.

Next time you go on a trip or on a vacation, try it.  It's pretty amazing the diversity of people you'll meet, and the stories you'll hear just because of this one common Brotherhood we all share.  In the end we're just all one big happy family!

So please, feel free to share your favorite "Masonic Encounter" in the comments!

~TEC

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: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The Need For More Apprentices To Carry Masonic Knowledge

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

We are letting our history pass without hearing it



In February I was invited to speak at Schenectady Lodge #1174 in Schenectady, New York. Afterward, I was approached by Bro. James (Jim) Simpson, who shared his interest on the topic of my presentation: The Point Within A Circle. Jim caught my attention in that he's an older member, the kind of Brother who leaves you with the impression that he has in-depth knowledge of the craft, its symbols, and history. We exchanged contact information. It was early March when I opened the package of his first paper, "The Thirty Three Degrees of Freemasonry."

What first caught my eye was that all 12 pages, including the title page and bibliography, were handwritten. For a kid who grew up in the 1980s who wrote to pen-pals, I can't remember the last time I opened a piece of mail in the past five years that was handwritten. I read on.
"There are 33 such degrees in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. Is 33 a mystic number some inherent numerical meaning?"
I was hooked. I read the entire paper that afternoon when I came home after work. Bro. Jim also included photocopies of his supporting documentation to source his research. As a graduate studies student, I felt like I was reading college-level work.

In April, two more handwritten papers arrived in the mail.

At the end of June, I received another familiar package which included the note, "Bro. Michael, attached is my latest presentation. I know you will find this interesting, Bro. Jim." He had sent me the "Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark." I read it before dinner. I pictured every Sunday school lesson from my childhood while reading his work. That night before bed, I put a reminder in my phone to call Bro. Jim the next morning, I wanted to know his story.

The morning I called Bro. Jim at home, I had two questions for him. The first, I wanted to seek his permission to share the text of his work on The Midnight Freemasons site. He gave me an enthusiastic "YES!" I intended to do just that today, but his answer to my second question made it difficult to summarize the one-hour discussion we shared in one paragraph. My second question was, "Why did you join Masonry so late in life?"

Bro. James Simpson is "almost" 80-years old. When he took my call just before the Independence Day weekend, he shared that he's "taking a hiatus this summer because my mind is getting tired." Due to the detail of his papers, I imagine that he must be one of those Brothers that has a personal Masonic library that has taken over a room of his house. "I even have my photocopy machine," he included after laughing at my suggestion. He's retired and lives with his wife, who he lovingly cares for. He had to cut our first call a little short that morning because he heard that his wife was awake, he wanted to check on her and needed to go take care of errands that morning.

Meanwhile, I went back to re-reading the papers that he sent me. I started highlighting parts that perhaps I could inquire about in our follow up call. The detail of his work, it was impressive. I was also amazed by his writing style or voice -- he wrote like how he spoke, clear and plain. He was able to take ancient biblical history or the esoteric ideas of chakras and explain them to the uninformed. I was surprised to learn that Bro. Jim barely made it out of high school. Our second call that afternoon, picked up with his answer to my question on why he joined the Fraternity later in life.

"I'm originally from Boston, knew nothing about Masonry. I grew up in a poor family. Everywhere I went I saw Masonic rings. I was 21 the day I saw the temple in Boston, It fascinated me. I asked a guy wearing a Masonic ring who was drinking a cup of coffee about the building. I wanted to know about the Masons. He walked away and said, "Its a secret." I started tending bar professionally a few months later, and the years passed. Years later, I met a Mason when I was working for the State of New York, and that's how I joined. I wish I would have joined earlier," Bro. Jim explained. He was raised in 2007. Masonically, he was only a handful of years older than me. That got another laugh.

What surprised me was that he started writing about five years ago. After he was raised, he started reading and didn't stop. He had so many ideas that he wanted to share his knowledge. This started with "scribbled paragraphs that I would read in my Blue Lodge," he said. And how were his ideas received? He was thanked with not much discussion. "That was pretty much the end of it. There's no discussion because the speaker is the only one who has done the reading on the subject. But, others will come to you and thank you for sharing the matter. (Just as he did with me) Don't be discouraged! All of the Brothers I have known are interested in becoming more adept in the craft as it relates to their position in the Lodge." He wasn't the first, nor sadly the last, to learn that some of Freemasonry's esoteric thoughts and ancient history some times fail to connect with the Brothers.

In my case, learning ritual is what caused me to seek that additional Light that was promised to me. My moment came when I was reading the Historical Lecture in the first degree, and wanted to learn more about The Point Within A Circle. Little did I know, I had just landed one of the many Masonic Jackpots of knowledge. I spent lunch breaks watching YouTube videos, started looking for texts on the subject, and began asking other Brothers for their ideas. Now I have a shelf on my bookcase filled with resources on the topic. "I wish I were a lot younger. I would have read up on the ritual," Bro. Jim said. There was also a tone of regret in his voice. "I wish I spent more focus on learning ritual. I'm almost 80 years old, so I had to divide my time on learning from books."

I will be converting Bro. Simpson's papers to text, my hope is to share them with you as I receive them. He is one of many of our craft's hidden gems. It is important to me that the library of history in his mind, the handwritten papers that he freely shares with any interested Brother, that knowledge continues to be accessed. I understand, not all Masons seek the additional Light that was promised to us in the degree ritual --- but we should. We all began as Entered Apprentices with a desire to know and learn. We need to secure for future generations those "scribbles" that can spark great ideas or thoughts for an entire Craft.

~ M

Brother Michael Arce is 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

Joining the Shrine

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Michael Hambrecht


Any who know me, know that I wasn't really interested in bodies like the Shrine, Grotto, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, or even the High Twelve Clubs. It’s not that I had anything against these other Masonic bodies, it’s that I wanted to spend my time working in the York Rite bodies and some in the Scottish Rite first. That part hasn’t changed. What has happened is a different story.

I became a Master Mason back in April 2016. Sometime after that my Mom started asking me if I was ever going to be a Shriner. I remember telling her, “I don’t have any desire to be a clown or drive around in little cars, so probably not. But maybe someday.” She said, “ok”, but she never stopped asking. She even began to tell me why she wanted me to join, because of their Children’s Hospitals. My response was, “Yes they do that but I can just donate to that. I don’t have to join.” Finally in late 2017, she said, “If you join, I’ll pay your dues for it as long as I live.” I said, “Okay, if it’s that important to you. Let me think about it but I think I will. For you.

Well, as usually happens life and other things got in the way of doing anything about it. In February 2018, my Father, a new Mason, her husband of 53 years passed away. This was pretty devastating to the whole family and had a profound effect on us. I now had other things, including my Freemasonry to think about and work on. As with all things like the loss of a spouse, it had an extra profound effect on my Mom. She actually never let it show. So I had no idea how much until she passed in December 2018, only a mere 10 months almost to the day that my Dad did. To say this shattered me would be an understatement, but I have persevered with the help of my Brothers.

Now when she passed, it turned out that she and my Dad left my sister and I some money. Enough to make some long term decisions. One that still took me some time to make-- Should I join the Shrine? I spent quite a bit of time going back and forth about it. I still really hadn’t decided on her offer. I spoke to quite a few Brothers about this. Some Shriners and others not.

I had decided that I would do it one day soon, maybe next year. A Brother of mine told me that they were planning a ceremonial, the initiation, on June 8th (last passed), if I was really interested. I immediately asked for a petition, for two reasons, 1st my birthday is June 7 and 2nd, June 9th was my Mom’s Birthday. It seemed like a sign. As soon as I turned in the petition, I began to get excited for it. After I was informed that my petition had been voted on and accepted, I was really excited. Not just because I was joining something new but because I was doing this for Mom.

On June 8th, I went through the ceremonial and got my Fez. I owe this to my Mom for giving me a reason to consider joining this, but honestly, I am now a member not just for her but for all of the Children we help every year at the Shriner’s Hospitals. I listened to many stories about what's been done and what Brothers do every day for these children and their families. I have finally learned a little more about the charitable side of Freemasonry. I can’t explain the feeling but I want you to know it’s not the financial side of charity I am talking about. It is the dressing as clowns to make children smile. It is driving little cars, motorcycles or trucks to let people see us. It is talking to a burn victim’s family and offering them hope. It is talking to the family of a child with bone issues or the child with cleft lip and or pallet issues and offering them hope. I realize I am mentioning hope but the charity of caring enough to speak with these families, caring enough to volunteer to get them to and from the hospitals and caring enough to do this, without asking anything from those families, just so they can hope and their child can be healed. I am glad I did this but I am sorry I didn’t do it when my Mom was alive to see me do it. She knew how right this was to do.

~MH

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.

A Three Day Long Meeting with No Minutes

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


July 11th, I pulled into my driveway at 10:30 P.M. I’d been at a Lodge meeting that was meeting for the last time before they merged into another. I was relieved knowing I wouldn’t have to make the 60+ mile drive again. No sooner had I walked in my house, did I have to start packing.

All the necessities packed away neatly, bags set by the front door. “Alexa, set an alarm for 5:10 A.M.” Lights out. The next thing you know I’m at 29K feet on my way to Burbank airport and from there, to South Pasadena Masonic Lodges MasonicCon (SPML). I know you all likely read reviews of the MasonicCon event which has occurred every year at (the only US based lodge I’m a member of that has a charter currently), Ezekiel Bates, in Attleboro, MA.

Two years ago, Dago Rodriguez came out to be a vendor. He was representing the Southern California Research Lodge’s magazine, The Fraternal Review. One of the best out there. Dago went home after that weekend, two years ago and started planning his own MasonicCon. And by God, SPML with Dago as Worshipful Master knocked it out of the park.

I could give you a full rundown of events as I’ve done before, but this time I’ll be brief. We started with a seven course festive board with multiple toasts celebrating pop-culture icons within the craft. That was Friday night. The festive board included our ladies and many guests of honor. It went till midnight and was amazing.

Day two began the speakers. We heard from Angel Millar first, who spoke about art in Freemasonry and pop culture iconography. I personally enjoyed this presentation the most over the weekend. Nothing against my other friends, you know...we just have favorites sometimes 😀

The other speakers included Charlie Fisher, Bryan Simmons, Mike Jarzabek, Adam Kendall, Joseph Wäges and Art de Hoyos. By the way, Art de Hoyos was amazing--speaking on esoteric Masonry. (Not his typical thing, and it was so perfect. Thank you, Art!)

There were screenings as well. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about these MasonicCons, is that each one carries a regional flavor. In Attleboro, it’s the original recipe. It’s Coca-Cola. Refreshing, original and feels like tradition. SPML was distinctly “Hollywood”.

We watched the finale of Sacred Steel Bikes, with Brother Jason Wilson, the star of the show. After was a Q&A with Brother Adrian Fulle of Variety Content Studio. A unique part of the day was a screening of the movie, Fight Club. It’s been 20 years since the movie came out, and it has a distinctly philosophical flavor. Bro. Fulle grilled Dago Rodriguez, myself and Mike Jarzabek in a panel Q&A about the movie and topic of the Duality of Man. I think we did the movie justice, but I may be biased 😉

At 6:00 P.M. we broke for dinner. I took off to King Taco with my Brothers from EB for some amazing Mexican food. After dinner we talked about the benefit of these conferences. Not only to support the research we’re doing, not only to have fun, but to come together and share. To see what works and what doesn’t and to go back home with those nuggets of success. We implement those things, and slowly and incrementally change the fraternity--across the nation, for the better.

Next up? 8:00 P.M. we watched High and Outside: a baseball noir, directed by Bro. Evald Johnson and starring Bro. Phil Donlon. This movie was fantastic. Dark and reflective. Afterward, I conducted the Q&A / Interview with these two Brothers. They shared their personal experiences on the movie, life, struggles and everything else that goes into making a movie of this caliber.

10:00 P.M. we were able to see for the first time, Illuminated, the true story of the Bavarian Illuminati. An incredible documentary written, directed and narrated by Bro. Johnny Royal, whose previous major project was 33 & Beyond: The Royal Art of Freemasonry. Since the movie isn’t out yet, and I think I am among the lucky few to have seen it, all I will say is that it is a must see. After the film, I again interviewed and conducted Q&A with the director, Johnny Royal. He was very candid about the issues he faced while making the documentary but also shared personal thoughts on why it was important to tell the story of Adam Weishaupt. When we asked Johnny what the goal of all this is, he gave an eloquent answer,
“Uplifting consciousness, and making this realm a better place is what we’re trying to do.”
Was that it? No. We made our way back to the hotel and got some rest. Sunday began at 10:30 A.M. with a screening of some “sizzle” reels from Tim Hogan on a couple of new projects he has coming up. I can’t say much about them, but rest assured they look fascinating. Also, I feel compelled to tell you that Tim Hogan bought me a coffee. That, ladies and gentlemen is how you know you made it to the big time. 😎 Thanks Tim!

After this, Bryan Simmons, the architect of the original MasonicCon in Attleboro, MA gave a talk on “Hope”. It was a perfect way to end the day. A talk that told us to get off our butts and do the work instead of hoping for it to transpire. Thank you Bryan.

I could go on about the amazing weekend, I could regale you with the intellectual musings of Joe Wäges and Adam Kendall, I could tell you that Art de Hoyos is an undercover spicy meme lord, I could tell you that I met with the Grand Master of the Women's Masonic Lodge of California, I could tell you that Dago Rodriguez lost it at the end of the weekend with tears of thanks. But some things you just have to experience. This weekend was certainly that. A real experience.

In life we go through the motions, the ordinary. If we’re lucky we have occasions that stand out. The birth of children, graduating, marriage, becoming a Master Mason or adept in your own practice, landing your dream job, parachuting, climbing a trail, and sometimes it’s a weekend with 150 best friends--Thank you all for these memories. I will treasure them always. As for the next iteration? Well, I think I'm just going to plan a Masonic Con for Chicago--2020. Look out, it's gonna be rad.



~RHJ

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

Contemplative Cornerstones: A Point Within An Ever-Expanding Circle

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Erik Marks


Returning to center, to the beginning, to here and now is a vital practice; it is necessary more than ever in our remotely connected and e-laboring lives. It is the basis for our invocation of deity before beginning any important task: we return to the point of origin. From there, we grow, move, expand, reach out. It is a skill we hope to impart to our children: remain grounded and go out into the world. As we circumambulate the sun through the cycles of our lives, we expand to come in contact with others and our disposition matters. To these ends, I offer a lesson I return to at intervals. It has many forms and found in a broad range of traditions. It utilizes the powerful human capacity for visual imagination. This skill is treasured, practiced, and utilized by many. You can search for and find many personal accounts of how visualization makes a difference in people’s lives. It is a skill most of us can learn. We can use it in every aspect of our work. Here is my evolution of the first version I learned:

Sit still and comfortably. As this is a mental/energetic visualization, please practice in a place where you feel comfortable keeping your eyes closed. Avoid allowing your back to rest against a chair or other object if possible. Sit with your body erect, spine naturally upright. Place the palms of your hands on your thighs, fingertips close to your knees and elbows close to body. Imagine an invisible thread attached at your sternum lifting your torso effortlessly towards the stratosphere. Take three long, slow, deep, breaths. Next, imagine a point either just below your navel or in your heart, equidistant from front and back, from both sides, in the center of your torso. Focus on that point. As you breathe, notice how the point changes color to a sunny, yellow, golden, dot. Sense the unwavering goodness of the color, how it relieves all distress, all confusion, and contains complete peace. Stay with the calm and peacefulness of the golden dot within you for a few minutes.

As you focus on the dot, you will find you can slowly and intentionally cause it to expand. It becomes a sphere of light instead of a single point. Ever growing, you see it enveloping your organs, your chest and lower body. Continues its growth to surround every part of your body. You are held in a sphere of light. Pause there for a few minutes, noting how the experience works on you.

Expanding the circle further, you remain the point at its center. The Sphere may be expanded to encompass the whole room, all its contents, other beings or people. You can intentionally expand the circle to contain the entire structure within which you are located; if you are outside, this would constitute all you saw immediately surrounding you before sitting down.
Slowly, use your minds ability to visualize an ever-expanding sphere encompassing the block, area of town, the city, region, state, country, continent, globe. Take your time, include details, visualize the person who fixed your car, who bagged your groceries, the guy who gave you that look walking down the street last week, lodge, the powerplant, beach, expand, include. When you notice something that causes you distress, frustration, annoyance, anger, recall the clam and peace of you, in the light. Breathe slowly and don’t expand the circle further until you feel cam, grounded, peacefulness has returned to every part of you. If you wish, expand to include our solar system and all of the universe (or multiverse if you have time) that you can visualize. See the totality of creation contained in a circle of light. The light isn’t yours alone, but your intention moves it outward.

Why this? As I said above, we have an amazing ability to visualize or “model” with imagination things in our lives. Due to this ability, we can become angered by visualizing a challenging interaction. Our body responds very similarly to the situation happening in real life. Our heart rate quickens, sympathetic nervous systems mobilizes for conflict—we become physically taxed, stressed. Using the same biologic system, we can do the opposite: we can calm and heal. We can practice remaining calm and present. This does not mean being emotionless. To the contrary, it means feeling everything and practicing remaining calm and relaxed, soothing the stress internally. By remaining grounded, peaceful, and fully aware of all aspects of a situation, we build towards ever increasing personal efficacy. Using this training tool regularly, we strengthen our mind and body’s ability be ever more present and productive. There are many levels of metaphor and esoteric experience to explore. You might only want to practice for stress reduction, you may want to see what else is possible. More important than external evidence with regard to this exercise is your experience. When you practice, what changes? How does it relate to Freemasonry for you?

~EAM

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

Where Do You See Beauty?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert E. Jackson


Over the years, I've been involved in several conversations about the physical attributes of others. Beautiful, handsome, hot, sexy, ugly, homely, but it all comes back to 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

As a society, we seem to be infatuated with beauty. Fancy material items, medical procedures, expensive clothing, extensive workout regiments, all things we do to make ourselves appear to be more beautiful. It is a common joke, that some people are just “too ugly for TV”, or that performers have a “face for radio”. We have television shows that never, never, never die that are completely focused on outward appearance…that which society thinks is “beautiful”. And yet, starting at a young age, we are taught that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Why as a society, do we seem to lose sight of that simple and common phrase?

The origination of the term is actually a paraphrase from Plato’s Symposium:
"Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may."
This phrase was later simplified by Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 book, Molly Bawn. This is where we get “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but like many things in our life, in order to truly understand the meaning, we need to dig for the foundation.

Thinking about Plato’s original statement, through our human eyes, we may perceive beauty. However, beauty is subjective, qualitative, and there is no Truth in perception. It is important here to distinguish between a Truth, and an agreement. Truth is a quantifiable measure. A divine attribute that can not be argued. There is a Truth in mathematics, a Truth in geometry, a measurable Truth in astronomy. And although there may be a Truth in nature (golden ratio), there is no truth in a persons physical attributes. After all, when discerning the beauty (or lack thereof) of a human, isn’t that where we often apply this common phrase?

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, in reference to anything but physical beauty. And not just physical beauty, but physical beauty of a human. We see a couple, and we aren’t physically attracted to either party, it doesn’t bother us. It doesn’t cause us to emotionally erupt in a storm of verbal artillery. Why not? We remember the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we move on.

So now I must ask, why do we only seem to apply this philosophy to physical beauty? Why is it so easy to accept that physically, our attraction (or lack thereof) to another can vary so greatly, but when we have discussions about food, music, politics, religion, we suddenly become more polarized? Yes these are topics we can feel very passionate about, but just because I find the music of Iron Maiden to be beautiful, that doesn’t make it Truth. One may be incredibly dedicated and passionate about a political or religious belief, but that doesn’t make that belief Truth (isn’t that why we call it a belief)?

Now, I’m not suggesting that anybody abandon their personal beliefs. I would simply like to posit that the term "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" does and should apply to far much more than our physical attributes of the meat suit. I can’t believe that Plato was merely thinking about the figure of a woman (or man) when he wrote his Symposium, but without summoning him, we’ll never know. 

However, if you were able to apply this phrase more universally, think of how it would help you. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Shallow Hal,’ think about how happy Hal’s character was. His friend couldn’t accept it, and was nearly driven mad! Instead of an elevated heart rate driven by anger and confusion, accept that our perceptions and beliefs are different. If you’re ambitious, try to understand that beauty that another might see. And the next time you see a post, or hear a discussion, that you don’t agree with…simply remember, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

~REJ

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

Why Are We Always Talking About What We Can't Do?

by Midnight Freemason’s Founder 
Todd E. Creason, 33° 

The devastating fire in April 2019 was not the end of Notre Dame Cathedral, but the Cathedral will not rebuild itself.
“If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing—you’re right.” 

~Henry Ford 

I just read another article about the impending death of Freemasonry. We’ve got to start closing our Lodges and pooling our resources because membership is falling and nobody wants to join us anymore. Sometimes I think when I read these articles that there are too many Freemasons out there rooting against their Fraternity instead of working to turn the ship.

Like Henry Ford suggested, it’s all about what you believe and what you actually do. One of the things that impressed me the most about Freemasonry was the big impact such a small group of men could have on their community. In my little lodge in the Midwest we started a Masonic Charity Trail Run, and we did it for several years. There were literally four of five members of my Lodge that did 90% of the work, and we raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities, and most of that money was raised through private donations not through the entry fees. That money went a long way in helping those local charities, and providing services for those desperately in need in our own communities.

While several lodges around us failed, closed, and merged, a few of my Brothers and I formed a new chapter of the High Twelve several years ago—I was the charter President. We’ve used that club to introduce new Masons to the wider world of Freemasonry. We’ve encouraged our members to bring their Entered Apprentices and Fellow Crafts so they can get used to the idea that Freemasonry is bigger than just that Lodge up over the hardware store in their town. We’ve had many, many speakers over the years, including the President of the University of Illinois.

While other groups were busy dying, we’ve been building.

During this same period of time we managed to save one of the oldest Lodges in our area. We did so by improving the meetings and turning it into Lodge that was more education based. We have great meetings, we get guests from other Lodges that come for our programs, and a Lodge that was facing closure at least for the time being has come back alive in our community.

While other groups were busy dying, we’ve been building.

And in that same lodge building, we formed a brand new chapter of the Royal Arch—Admiration Chapter! I’ve talked about this group many times before. Again, it has a focus on education, and we get guests coming from all over the state. We’ve grown quickly, and in our last meeting we had guest from Bloomington (1 hour away) and Pekin (2 hours away) and elsewhere along with several members of the Grand Chapter . . . on a Thursday Night.

While other groups were busying dying, we’ve been building.  My first-hand experience is very different than what the conventional wisdom is on this subject.  We're too focused on the problems rather than the possibilities, and we give up far too easily.  And I'll be the first to admit that this is hard work.

Let’s look at the positives we could (and should) be building on. Self-Improvement has not gone out of style—it’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry. There are seminars and retreats and apps, etc. Look at the number of self-improvement books published every year on subjects that Freemasonry has historically done a much better job with teaching men for generations. Population is increasing so there’s plenty of men out there to recruit. There are fewer and fewer institutions teaching those values that men today are wanting to learn from all those books and seminars that are available . . . topics like leadership, and character, and integrity, etc. Freemasonry has been teaching men these fundamental principles for three centuries. We’ve just gotten away from doing that, and we’ve forgotten how. So that’s where you start.

But rather than going to work to build another generation of Freemasons, we sit on our thumbs in boring meetings and wonder why nobody joins our Fraternity anymore, and while the world around us expands, we shrink. Masons complain to me about these problems all the time, and when I ask what they're doing about it, I get these blank looks.  Instead of figuring out how they can save their lodge, they sit around waiting for the doors to close.

It’s been said that great nations die when they get away from the things that made them great to begin with. Fraternities work the same way. And that’s the real problem we’re facing today.  We can blame it on the changing world around us that lacks values and a desire to grow, but if you know your history, you'll know that this is the exact kind of environment in which Freemasonry was born.  And they thrived because they offered an alternative to the world around them.  There's no reason we can't do the same thing today.  

~TEC

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: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Its Not About the Food

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks


At breakfast of my first day in the Scottish Rite, a Brother welcomed me and said: “don’t you worry, you’ll make back your dues in the meals…the food is great.” I thought to myself: “I didn’t come here for the meal.” Later the same evening in recounting an amazing day of deep insights and new friends to my partner and sons. I explained with slight dismay of my newfound Brother’s welcome serving. It was disappointing the first fare of the day was the extent of his and my conversational fodder. My spouse exhorted: “Erik. You know this: it is notabout the food!” Light. In her inimitable way, Corinna conducted me with laser precision to the heart of what is my problem, not his: our breakfast banter is my bread and butter.

Food is the metaphor for the nurturing, Love, we never received in our families or denied in our co-construction of society. In every culture, we have traditions, ceremony, and rituals around or about food. The Seder plate has foods with metaphoric meanings. We eat specific foods on designated days to remember aspects of divinity, honor ancestors, and celebrate the ample freedoms we enjoy. We break fasts with specific foods. Certain foods are used as medicines. In traditional Chinese Medicine, Vedic and Tibetan medicinal systems, foods are prescribed for myriad ailments. A doctor with an integrated approach prescribed warmed garlic oil for an ear infection I kept having, along with the standard amoxicillin in case the natural method didn’t work. I never had to fill the penicillin prescription…

Foods are sometimes misused as a substance for emotional management or control. People restrict intake to feel a sense of control over their body. Some over indulge regularly or at intervals in order to generate strong bodily sensation to mask emotion, divert attention from emotion, and create an emotion to manage another. Often, anxiety creates an empty sensation people try to fill or blunt with food. When sad, lonely, or depressed, we use foods that boost positive feelings: chocolate, carbs, fats, and sugars. We use food to fill emptiness and its encouraged through marketing. “I’m an emotional eater…” is a common phrase I hear. This can be a difficult pattern, habit, or symptoms to change since we can’t simply encourage abstinence as we can with alcohol or drugs/substances used recreationally or to self-medicate. Food is essential for life, so other approaches to change problematic eating are needed.

Food has always been a part of Freemasonry—as it has in every tradition. It is both material relief and metaphor. In our second degree, part of our traditional wages. Lodges set aside days of the year or month to serve those less fortunate. We provide meals to brethren with thought and care. Men, cooking or providing for, and nurturing, one another…and cherishing every moment. To be clear, at the core of every meal is not always about the food. The primary ingredient is quite often, Love. I can’t blame lack of coffee the morning of my initiation for the fact I wasn’t ready to ascertain the meaning in my newfound Brother’s gift to me: “Welcome. You will not be taxed or punished for getting what you need here. I’ve felt welcomed and cared for by the fraternity. Don’t worry Brother, it can happen for you, too.” He is getting what he needs for his development through the way he serves and is served-literally-in the Scottish Rite. Who am I to disrupt or disparage his path? 

 I may not see what he gains through the degrees or deserts. I may not need what he needs to be nourished towards perfection. Labor, physical, psychological, or spiritual can be draining and requires sustenance. Just because he doesn’t reflect his experience back to me in an esoteric or philosophic frame does not mean he isn’t affected in the ways I may want for me and would like to discuss. Growth can take time and our path cannot be everything to all men at the pace wethink they need. Nor should we try to be so for everyone. It seems we offer a tremendous amount to some; for others our overtly esoteric and philosophic explorations may go unnoticed, for now and we remain persistent. So, the problem is my own. He welcomed me in his way and I missed the chance to engage him: due to my insistence on a particular mode of communication, we both lost out…or maybe it was only my loss. Thank you, Brother. I hope to see you at the next reunion’s wonderful breakfast.

~EM

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

OMG! I'm not old enough to be this OLD!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Michael Arce

Staying connected with your Brothers during the dark season

I'm finally at the age where I look forward to summer again. As a kid, it was like counting down the days until Christmas. "No more teachers, no more books. No more teachers dirty looks." I still remember those final days spent helping the teacher clean the classroom, watching movies, and enjoying the free air conditioning. Now that I'm firmly planted in my 40's, my body enjoys these warm summer days a little more each year. Winter with her ice and snow does a good job of getting my mind past the memories of bugs that sting, sunburns, and humidity that makes the boards on my deck bend.

As a Master Mason, summer means no more Lodge meetings. In exchange, I would get back two weeknights for a few months. While I look forward to enjoying Monday night dinners with my lady on our deck this time of the year, it's a bittersweet feeling knowing that I also won't be enjoying fellowship after meetings with my Brothers. No more ritual, no more meetings... but also no more of those random conversations on history, the meaning of life, or just the craziness of our daily lives. This year, I found with each passing meeting I was dreading having to say, "see you in September," to the most important guys in my life.

The promise of "this summer being different" started when I picked up a copy of "Born in Blood" for $5. Can you believe it?!?! I would have done a cartwheel if I knew how! I'm sure that one of the best rummage sale book finds was freshly donated from someone's basement. When I got to the halfway point in John J. Robinson's book where he begins to tease his belief in a connection with The Templars and Freemasonry, I found myself snapping photos of the pages to share in a text message with a fellow Brother. That's when it happened.

"Wow! I always wanted to read that book too.
I know. This is amazing! I love authors who write research books like this; it gives me something to do with my free time."

"You know, we should start a book club or something. It would be a cool way for us to get together still and talk about things this summer.
Really? A book club? Aren't we a little too young for that?
Yeah. We should call it a "summer reading group" or something! Hahahahahaha!"

Within an hour I had texted my other chat groups. "Hit me up with a private message if you want details. We're starting this week." There are three Brothers from my Lodge and one from another - that makes four. I started another Summer Masonic Reading group chat. "We'll meet on Wednesday night at my place. I'll make dinner - you guys bring over whatever you like. Here's the link to buy the first book. See you in two weeks." Before the end of the day, all three Brothers had ordered the title from Amazon; I suspect we'll all have the book read the day it arrives. The other cool thing, our group chat started flowing that night with those discussions on morality, symbolism, and the deeper meanings of our ritual that I have me crossing off the days on the calendar until our next Lodge meeting.

Stay cool and enjoy your summer. See you in September.

~MA

Bro. Michael Arce is 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

A Poem: White Gloves


by Midnight Freemasons Guest Contributor
Robert Wesley Hawkins

WHITE GLOVES

At the time I take my final breath,
I hope all others know,
I tried to give my best in life,
on a path where Brothers go.

I hope to be in heaven,
when those white gloves are at my side. 
I hope to be in the hearts of Brothers,
when I take my final ride.

I hope some good fine words are said,
about some good deeds that I’ve done. 
I hope there are jokes and smiles,
I hope my funeral’s fun. 

I hope when I take my final step,
I’ve become master of my mind. 
I hope I leave a better man,
no unlearned lesson left behind. 

I hope there is a knock on the wood,
as they lower me down with care. 
I hope all my brothers laugh,
remembering the times a rod hit my chair. 

I hope to be in heaven,
when those white gloves form a line. 
I hope to be in the hearts of Brothers,
as they are now with mine. 

~Robert Wesley Hawkins 2019



Robert Wesley Hawkins is a member of Olive Branch #38 in Danville, Illinois and a 32* Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Danville Valley.  Bro. Hawkins enjoys contributing to the arts through writing and is on the Board of Directors with Rebelsfare Arts & Music Foundation based in Oakwood, Illinois. He is a husband, father, and has a career in education.