The Sacred Number Nine

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Christopher Tilley, 33°
(Posthumously)


*Editors Note* Chris Tilley was an amazing man and Freemason. He was active, he was passionate and he was a researcher. Chris graduated last year and when he left us it was surreal. The outpouring for him was astounding. All who knew him, miss him. I was scrolling through some old emails and I cam upon an email from Chris. In it, he said, "Hey Robert, let me know what you think. You don't need to publish this, in fact it's probably silly. But let me know." I read it. I really liked it. But I never published it. I don't think he wanted the attention. Before deciding to publish this posthumous article, I reached out to some of my Brothers at the Valley of St. Louis for a blessing. They felt it would be a fitting tribute to Chris. So below is Chris' piece. This is dedicated to Chris and his family, friends and Brothers.
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Most Freemasons are familiar with the numbers 3, 5, and 7, but those are just a few that have symbolic meaning. As an active Cryptic Mason, I have heard the number nine used in the Select Master degree. I would like to share what I have found about the number nine with you. In Freemasonry, Rosicrusianism, and in the Holy Bible, there are many important numbers that are repeated. I believe the number nine to be one of the most symbolic numbers. As we study Geometry, Pythagoras, and the Ancient Mysteries, numbers will become more relevant. This paper will be very repetitive with -you guessed it- the number nine.

Jesus was about 33 years old when he died 3x3=9. Jesus expired at the ninth hour. Jesus appeared nine times to his disciples and apostles after his resurrection. King David ruled for 33 years 3x3=9. The number nine is used 50 times in the Bible. St. Paul enumerates nine fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatian’s 5:22) and 5+2+2=9. The Nine spiritual gifts of God enumerated by St. Paul are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12, 4-11) and 12+4+11=27, 2+7=9.
” Now Peter and John went up together into the Temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour” (Acts 3:1).
 “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, behold a Man stood before me in bright clothing” (Acts 10:30). 

According to Revelation 144,000 are to be saved. This number 1+4+4 added up also equals nine. These are just some examples of the importance of the number nine in the Holy Bible.

There are also a few subtle Blue Lodge hints of the number nine. At the close of Lodge of Master Masons, the Master, Senior and Junior Wardens gavel 3 times each to equal nine. In the second section of the Master Mason degree the main characters include 3 Kings, 3 Craftsman, and the 3 Ruffians, which adding up to nine. The size of the Masonic apron should be 144 square inches and exclusive of the flap. The numbers added means 1+4+4 makes our beloved lambskin nine. Our Jurisdictions (MO) Grand Honors are made by a 3 step movement repeated 3 times to equal nine.

In a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons (MO), the opening consists of the Companions forming a chain and balancing three time three and 3x3=9. Next, three Companions form a three triangles together which three triangles is nine. The number nine plays a huge part in the way the Companions deliver the password. When the password is given, it is split into three parts and delivered three time to equal nine.

The Royal Master and Select Master degrees of the Cryptic Council also have many appearances by the number nine. In the Royal Master degree a certain character with the initials “H.A.” conducts a Companion around three times and knocking three times each time and this also equals nine. Later in the degree, nine Cherubim are needed. The number of the Select Master degree is actually nine. The original name of the Select Master degree was “Select Masons of Twenty Seven” and 2+7=9. The Secret vault that contained the Ninth Arch kept the Sacred Treasure. The hours of labor started at nine at night. Select Masons cannot open a Council without having nine Select Masters present. The top three officers gavel nine times each to open Council. Nine claps are given in the York Rite Grand Honors.

In the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, the highest degree is the 33rd degree which is 3x3=9. The symbol for the 32nd degree is three triangles that form a nine pointed star. The 18th degree that is full of symbolic and religious symbolism has 1+8=9. The Royal Order of Scotland’s symbol is a nine pointed star. The Rosy Cross degree is about the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 which is 1+3+1+4=9. In this battle 63 Knights Templar assist King Robert the Bruce in battle 6+3=9. Allied Masonic Degrees is limited to 27 members 2+7=9.

The SRICF is limited to 72 members and 7+2=9. Up till 1908 each college was limited to 36 members and 3+6=9. There are 9 grades in the SRICF college system. An early document numbers the grades in reverse order with the Grade 9 Magus actually being grade 1 this would mean 1=9 or 9=1. This is very interesting considering the number one is divisible in any number and can be added to any odd number to make it even and can make any odd number even.

I will now give more examples of the number nines symbolic meanings. The number nine was the symbol of Man and nine is an imperfect number. The number ten is a perfect number and is the symbol for God. The number nine was the first square of an odd number (3x3). It meant failure and was imperfect because it was short of the perfect number ten. On the Great Seal, the pyramid has 72 stones 7+2=9 with the top stone missing. 

The Quabbalistic tree of the Jews consist of the nine branches or worlds. The alchemists symbol is 3x3=9. The nine is the esoteric number of Man. Mystery groups all included the nine. An example would be “The Nine Worlds of the Odinic Mysteries. There are thirty three segments in the human spinal column, which is 3x3=9. This could have symbolism if we consider our spine as the Ninth arch and the Word being in our heart.

I came to my own conclusion after finding so many examples of the number nine throughout Masonry and the Bible. The number nine represents Man in his imperfect state who holds the sacred treasure within him. The outside of Man is the Temple. Inside Man, under the last Arch is his heart and the True word of God, which is safely deposited therein. This word that we have searched for is inside us if we believe and ask forgiveness for our Sins. The Atheist or irreligious libertine who does not repent the “Word” will always be Secret or hidden away. As H.A. says in the Royal Master degree “but if I die the Word will be buried there.”, which I believe means the word is in him and will die with him. Since the word is within us and we are the number nine then the Sacred number 9=The Word.

~CT


Stop Wasting Your Time with Freemasonry and Do Something Worthwhile with Your Free Time!

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners


If you recall when the working tools of an Entered Apprentice Mason were being explained, you were told that we are to make use of the twenty four inch gauge for the noble and glorious purpose of dividing our time. As it is divided into twenty four equal parts, it is emblematical of the twenty four hours of the day. You were taught to divide the twenty four hours into three equal parts. You were told to devote eight hours for the service of God and a worthy distressed brother, eight for our usual vocation and eight for refreshment and sleep. Nowhere did you hear anything about time being used for the purposes of pursuing the activities of Freemasonry.

Do you consider Freemasonry service to God? According to the Masonic Service Association of North America (https://www.msana.com/religion.asp) : 
“Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It requires of its members a belief in God as part of the obligation of every responsible adult, but advocates no sectarian faith or practice. Masonic ceremonies include prayers, both traditional and extempore, to reaffirm each individual's dependence on God and to seek divine guidance. Freemasonry is open to men of any faith, but religion may not be discussed at Masonic meetings.”
 However, under this section, it reiterates that each member place his duty to God above all other duties: 
Freemasonry Supports Religion. Freemasonry is far from indifferent toward religion. Without interfering in religious practice, it expects each member to follow his own faith and to place his Duty to God above all other duties. Its moral teachings are acceptable to all religions.” 
So, it seems that service to God would fall under one’s religious activities, and not within the scope of Freemasonry.

Do you consider service to a worthy distressed brother part of Freemasonry? Yes, of course it’s a large part of Freemasonry. However, in the Entered Apprentice Charge, you were taught about the duties that we owe to God, our neighbors and ourselves. The charge reminds you to act upon the square with your neighbor, rendering him every kind office that justice or mercy may require, relieving his distresses and soothing his afflictions, and by following the Golden Rule, doing to him as you would want him to do to you in a similar case. Therefore, your duty is not only to a worthy distressed brother, but rather to all of humanity. It’s obvious that serving all of humanity will take up a large part of the eight hours given for service to God and worthy distressed brothers. It’s pretty obvious that all of your Brothers that aren’t showing up for Masonic activities are busy performing that task.

Unless your vocation is Freemasonry, then you’re not going to be able to pursue Freemasonry during those eight hours you are at work. That then leaves the eight hours for refreshment and sleep. Are you able to attend lodge while you’re asleep? I mean I know a few grumpy Past Masters that I’ve seen doze off during meetings, but I don’t think that is what the explanation had in mind. What about during refreshment? If a lodge is at refreshment, then they are not performing Masonic labor, so one can only think that if you are refreshing yourself, that you are not performing it either.

You might remember that you were told in your Entered Apprentice degree that it was hoped and expected that you would apply yourself to the study of Masonry. You will recall from your Fellowcraft Charge, that the impressive ceremonies of that degree were calculated to inculcate in the mind of the novitiate the importance of the study of the liberal arts and sciences, especially of the noble science of Geometry, which forms the basis of Freemasonry. It is clear that while you’re wasting your time in lodge; your missing Brethren are hard at work learning this useful knowledge.

Stop wasting your time with Freemasonry and do something worthwhile with your free time! I’m serious. Yes, you read that correctly. You didn’t pay attention during your degrees! All of the brothers that aren’t showing up for stated meetings, degree work, and Lodge social events; they obviously are not showing up for the reasons given above. They’re managing their time according to the 24 inch gauge! They’re pursuing the study of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, especially Geometry! Why aren’t you? Why are you continuing to attend paralyzing business meetings? Why do you subject yourself to the same mundane experience meeting after meeting? 

There is a line within the Fellowcraft obligation regarding answering and obeying all due signs and summons if within the length of your cable tow. What is the length of your cable tow? Is it long enough to allow you to continue to prop up lodges and appendant bodies that aren’t giving you any meaningful experience?

I hope by this point in the article, my attempt at satire isn’t lost on you. Maybe it is, and you’ve only read the title and not the article and you’re flaming me on social media. Let’s do some basic math. In most cases, out of the dues paying membership of your lodge, you have 90% - 95% that are not participating actively. Out of that percentage, there is maybe 5%-10% that might participate. Maybe they’ve not attended in a long time, and they’re embarrassed about forgetting the passwords. Maybe they’ve been ill, and no one from the lodge has checked in on them. Or maybe they just got tired of attending a two hour long business meeting without getting anything that improves them as men out of it?

If you’re not getting new members, or you’re failing to get members to show up, then our lodges leadership needs to take a good look in the mirror. There’s obviously something wrong with what some of us are currently doing. We're not going to figure it out by talking to the guys that still show up for lodge meetings, degree work, social events and the like. We need to engage those that are not showing up. We need to reach out to those members. Ask them what’s keeping them from attending, and work to correct that. Ask them to help turn things around. Engage them! Give them a role, and support them in it. Or stop wasting your time with Freemasonry and do something worthwhile with your free time. The choice is yours.

~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.

No 13th Floor? It Must Be A Masonic Conspiracy! - It's not a Re-Post if it's New to You

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason, 33°


*Editors Note* It's been about five years since this piece was originally posted by the founder, Todd E. Creason. Does your building have a thirteenth floor? 

I'm sure everyone has noticed that in many hotels and skyscrapers, builders have left off the 13th floor.  It's due to a condition known as triskaidekaphobia--yes, that's right, fear of the number 13!  Otis Elevators estimates that about 85% of tall buildings do not have a 13th floor.  Some buildings skip it altogether.  Some might refer to the 13th floor as 12B, or use it as a mechanical floor.

Thirteen is just considered an unlucky number.  According to superstitious folks, it's unlucky for a number of reasons.  There were 13 people at the last Supper.  Also a year with 13 moons was unlucky for church monks in charge of keeping track of the calendar.  It caused confusion, rescheduling of religious festivals, etc.  There are traditionally 13 in a witches coven.  Of course then there's also Apollo 13--the only unsuccessful moon mission.  It's a common fear and it has nothing to do with Freemasonry what-so-ever. 

Brother Scott Wolter

But Why Is Friday The Thirteenth Considered Particularly Unlucky?
Well that's not exactly a Masonic conspiracy either--unless you believe there is a link between the ancient Knights Templar and modern Freemasonry (which a few researchers believe does exist).  On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip had Knights Templar from all over France rounded up by his agents, tortured and once confessions of heresy were extracted from them, finally executed.  This brought an end to the order of warrior monks that had protected the Holy Land for more than 200 years.  Pope Clement later issued a papal bull ordering all the Templars arrested and their assets seized everywhere.  Every indication is that the Knights Templars were not actually destroyed for heresy, but because of the tremendous wealth, property and power they had attained--all things that King Philip wanted.  Others believe that the Knights Templar may have been in possession of certain truths that the Roman Catholic Church didn't want known.  Speculation about what that might be runs wild and provides fodder for conspiracy theorists and fiction authors like Dan Brown alike--was it the Holy Grail?  The Ark of the Covenant?  Evidence Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married?  A bloodline of Jesus Christ? That's a very short version of a very long story.  WB Adam Thayer wrote a much better piece about the Knights Templar here if you want to read a more detailed account.

What ever the reason for the the destruction of the Knights Templar, it is one of the possible reasons why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky (although there will be a few that disagree with that assertion), and why that date on our calendar give some a sense of dread.

And by the way--Happy Friday the 13th!

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is also the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog, where he posts on a regular schedule on topics relating to Freemasonry.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Despite Bandits The Masonic Treasure Remains Safe


by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason 33°

World reknown detective Sherlock "Ray" Cummings investigating robbery. He thinks the bandits may have entered through this door perhaps... or it could be termites.  The real mystery is why Ray travels around with a deerstalker cap and pipe in his car???
The morning after Christmas, Greg Knott and I got a call from a member of our Lodge—Greg is the Master, and I’m the Secretary.  This member had gone up to the Lodge and discovered that somebody had broken in.  As I was talking to him, I was remembering some of those pictures I’ve seen of Lodges that have been broken into and then are maliciously vandalized.  It sickened me to think about what I might find when I got up there.  When we got there, we found that our exterior door had been badly damaged when the door was forced open.  And the internal door was even worse—that door was basically destroyed.  There was some minor damage to the door that leads into the Lodge room.  The Lodge room and the kitchen had been ransacked.  The fireproof safe by my desk (Secretary) had been destroyed.  They’d ripped it apart but failed to get the door open.  The foamed concrete fireproofing material and the masonry dust from the interior walls of the safe was broadcast over a wide area.  Nothing stolen that we've found but some change from the kids charity jar.

A County Sheriff and his K-9 Tanto arrived along with a pair of crime scene investigators.  They photographed.  They dusted.  The took a few things of interest with them (including our last bag of Doritos that those criminals had helped themselves to).  All in all, things could have been much worse. 

I put out a call, and the next morning about ten Masons showed up from a few different Lodges, and within an hour we had it all cleaned up.  The safe was so badly torn up we couldn’t get the door open.  One of the Masons was a locksmith, and using the tire iron from his Jeep within a few seconds he accomplished what the bandits had not—he had the door of the safe open.  And the treasure we keep locked inside was perfectly fine and undamaged.  
The "treasure."  Hope the bandits don't have allergies--they're kind of dusty.
Obviously, the majority of the effort applied by the thieves was on that fireproof safe.  They had to have spent considerable time trying to pry that door open without success judging from the damage.  They must have believed there was some great Masonic treasure inside.  Perhaps cash or jewels.  Or maybe bars of solid gold.  Or maybe the Holy Grail or a map to the Oak Island Treasure.  Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the “Wizard of Oz” maybe?  Who knows what they thought was in there.  But the reality is that’s where we keep our original membership records going back about 140 years, including our log book that every member of our Lodge has signed upon being raised a Master Mason.  That’s all you’re going to find in most Lodge safes anywhere—old dusty records.  I really wish after all that work they spent on that safe they’d gotten it open—I’d have liked to have seen their faces when they saw all those old ledger books.  The safes in Masonic Lodges are meant to protect records in the event of a fire, not valuables from theft. 

Freemasons don’t keep their treasures in a safe.

There’s only one way to get at the treasure guarded for generations by Freemasons.  You have to join.  Our treasures are contained within our ritual traditions.  Our asset is the knowledge we pass on to our members.  The great wealth and power of our Fraternity is in the great benefit of these principles we learn when they are applied in our lives.  Freemasons are not collectors of wealth, they are investors in men. 

They haven’t caught these bandits yet.  I think they will.  Obviously, these criminals are not geniuses—do you know they left three autographed copies of my first book sitting right there on the corner of my file cabinet? 

~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

Trauma, PTSD, and Veterans

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks


I recently made the acquaintance of brother Dave Pechey who introduced me to the pin pictured above and its creator, Brother John Trikouros, who owns and operates The Traveling Ambassador. I immediately purchased two pins for myself and learned that brother Trikouros donates 20% of pin sales to PTSD Foundation of America/PTSDUSA . I found the website very informative, offering significant resources and will include it in the list of resources below as well. I’ve abbreviated some of my comments about the disorder here and encourage readers to scroll down their home page to read an extensive explanation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Reflecting on these interactions about the pin and the numerous men who live with PTSD I’ve had the privilege of serving, it became necessary for me to present some material to you.

Veterans are vital in our fraternity. Many of whom live with PTSD in addition to other conditions due to, or in addition to, military service. Our fraternity is also home to many men and their spouses or family members who live with the same or similar disorders, whether or not they served in the military or experienced combat. As masons, with these people in our ranks or related to us, I believe we have an obligation to consider how we choose to serve them. It is essential for us as speculative masons to understand conditions which exist, but are not visible to the physical presentation. We need to be conscious and intentional about our offer relief, charity, and hope—and if we choose to do so, to discuss openly how we go about offering aid.

Trauma reactions, not just disorders such as PTSD, are part of the human condition. Though people have trauma reactions to natural disasters, in those situations it happens less frequently. Stress disorders of the kind I write are almost always related to man-made atrocities and cruelties. In a natural disaster, it is a shared experience and no malice is ascribed to the weather or earth for what happened. “Acts of nature,” are generally not experienced as targeting a particular person or group so the prevalence of trauma disorders is generally lower. With human created destruction, our psyches attempt to make meaning of what happened.

Humans make meaning of everything. Meaning making is one of the capacities upon which freemasonry is predicated. We have the innate ability to “model” situations in our minds, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to create and use symbols through abstraction. We are capable of ascribing and understanding symbolic or conceptual meanings of things, communication, actions. Language and money are the most obvious examples of this type of symbolic representation in the world. You are reading little marking on a virtual page and through our shared symbolic understanding of these can receive my thoughts and then you begin to figure out what you think about my ideas. We become stressed by actual activities; however, as human’s we can become stressed, anxious, simply by thinking, modeling, the activities in our minds. We have a stress response, just to the idea. People can and do experience stress, anxiety, and/or panic by considering a future interaction. This example is still minimal compared to the potential psychological damage incurred in the face of combat.

A more recent body of knowledge, observation, and study, pertains to Moral-injuries, which can precipitate conditions such as and related to PTSD. In work with veterans, I’ve been introduced to research published in the American Psychological Association’s journal regarding Moral injury, PTSD, suicidal ideation, that are aided by social connectedness and self-compassion training.

Most people have some kind of a stress response to a terrifying and/or life-threatening situation. When people are involved in the creation of the threat, the humans placed in danger or threatened have a stress response that is mediated by the meaning they make of the situation. Important to note is that not all people who experience or witness a traumatic event will have reactions that develop into a disorder. Most are fortunate enough not to experience what I describe below.

Field physicians began documenting “shell shock” in soldiers in and after the first world war. I’m sure it happened earlier, but maybe to a lesser extent. It may have increased with our technological capacity to inflict greater, faster, and remotely ordered damage. Further, as the meaning made of armed conflicts became more ambiguous in the last century, it became more difficult for many to psychologically “get behind,” or make positive meaning of, the conflicts, wars, in which they were ordered to engage. Starting in Vietnam, public treatment of returning veterans exacerbated the problem. Brother Robert G. Davis’ excellent work Understanding Manhood in America, accurately and clearly explains these cultural developments. Simultaneously, in the field of psychology, clinicians began to notice similar findings in combat veterans and people who have suffered abuses at the hands of others in non-combat and domestic settings.

For there to be a trauma reaction, there has to be a traumatic event. The reactions to the event, or events, are fairly well understood and predictable. I’ll list some of the symptoms of PTSD below, but will also add in other things people sometimes experience. Though they come from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, version 5, I’ll paraphrase a little and augment with signs and symptoms from my practice and experience (this is a partial list):

  • Always being on guard
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Easily startled 
  • Nightmares 
  • Intrusive memories 
  • No energy/motivation
  • Hopelessness 
  • Memory problems 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Inability to focus
  • Difficulty reading 
  • Isolating 
  • Thoughts of suicide 
  • Substance use
  • Anger expression issues 
  • Emotion regulation 
  • Unpredictable mood 
  • Feeling worthless
It is important to note that these do not constitute all the possible reaction. Only those that have a long enough duration and cause “clinical levels of distress” comprise a disorder as indicated by this diagnostic rubric. Whether diagnosed or not, the experience is still real, and often disruptive or debilitating. Unlike high cholesterol or diabetes, the criteria in the DSM are subject to change based on a variety of factors. So whatever we decide to offer in terms of relief, charity, compassion, is never based on these criteria, rather on how the person tells us they are doing. Let’s not make them prove they need help. Let’s trust they are asking because its needed. It is common for family members or friends forget about the internal experience since they can’t see it; frustration with lack of progress or healing can lead to the person affected to stop asking for help.

I explain trauma reactions, and especially those for service people this: most people have a range of stress they know they can tolerate and usually live and operate within those limits. We take care of ourselves by avoiding situations that are overwhelming for the most part. Sometimes we work in a very stressful environment and more stress reduction is needed. Our military service people undergo training, basic and advanced, that simulates and stresses them in ways that approximate battle. These practices are designed to condition body and mind to work in the most extreme and life-threatening conditions; “war is hell.” And I know I have no idea what that is like. Elite personnel and units are pushed beyond beyond to be able to think clearly in the taxing contexts which they operate. As an analogy, I was once told that most people, even most athletes begin to feel failure mode at about forty percent depletion. That means sixty percent still remains. Navy Seals, Green Berets, and other elite forces, it was said, are pushed—physically and psychologically—to ten percent remaining. That’s fifty percent beyond when most humans feel like they have nothing left. And that’s “just” training…

With this type of instruction and conditioning, most can operate and fare somewhat well. But the human psyche is only so adaptable. As I said earlier, humans are meaning making beings. The reason the human mind is so incredibly difficult to model using computers is that we have layers of consciousness and self-referential and internal meaning making dialog that is shaped by our past experiences and things sometimes we can’t remember, even when pushed. We analyze and label using real and modeled data sets, which lead to very complicated self-other-world understandings. So, under the extreme conditions of battle and / or multiple tours, sometimes the psyche is necessarily overwhelmed. Not all show symptoms of experiencing extreme stress and distress; others do. There may be warning signs, there may not—their expression could be subtle and slow or could be could be sudden. People who are good at compartmentalizing or dissociate easily, may continue working, not knowing the damage is done. Some ignore the warning signs due to stigma inside the services about PTSD and similar disorders.

One of the first things we can do is learn more about what people go through following trauma. This does not mean clinical training. It just means getting an overview of what the person is experiencing. For some of you, this article will be considered enough, I encourage you to find more. Rather than re-tell you specific stories I’ve heard over the last thirty years, I’ll point you to two web sites of veterans stories in their own words: Veterans Voices-Story Corps and Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast.

People can and do donate funds to help assist people with trauma reactions cope with the internal and external realities. Some of the funds go to service providers who are trained to help. Others go directly to pay for essentials when someone cannot work and/or doesn’t have others to help. It may help to pay a brother’s dues. There are times when even making the request to relieve their dues is challenging. What is easy and commonplace for most of us may become very difficult or impossible for someone living with PTSD and related issues. Sometimes the simple act of typing the letter while a brother dictates is what is needed because our brother can’t make it happen himself. A ride to lodge. Help with shopping. Hanging out or going for a hike with him and the kids.

We can give our time and attention. Sometimes all someone needs is to be heard, understood, and believed without judgment. It can be profoundly helpful to be witnessed and hold the the pain together. Knowing that someone else in the world holds the knowledge of our pain with us decreases its weight, the burden on our soul. A complicating factor may be that some have had traumatic experiences prior to military service. Because of our male culture, we don’t talk much about these experiences. And yet, one of the effects of returning to lodge monthly or more is we build stronger bonds and greater trust. As we grow closer as brothers and better friends, it’s possible we will have the honor to be trusted with this information. Our obligation reminds us we keep each other’s personal information without disclosing unless keeping it secret creates legal or bigger problems.

Sometimes our brothers need more. The need for more could be for an indefinite amount of time. This is a topic my brother and I return to often: what does relief and charity look like when it isn’t simply about money; when charity is needed for years or decades? How do we organize? Our injured brother already doesn’t want to “be a burden.” I hear the phrase every week at least once. This is a conversation I hope all lodges will take up and contend with. If it hasn’t occurred already in your community, eventually, it will. I often have more questions than answers, I know we do the best we can. And if things go well, we ask ourselves and each other what more we can do or organize and share the relief effort(s). I learned recently that due to stigma in and out of the military, many veterans don’t seek services, may not realize services are available, or aren’t able to access services due to distance or capacity to get there. This is another way we are able to help: information and transportation.

Another way to help is to not diminish the pain or discredit the experience. As the pin says: “some wounds aren’t visible.” As men we have baked into our culture an abhorrence for “weakness.” The experience of a trauma reaction isn’t about weakness. It can befall any man, at any stage of life, even after a delay (i.e. PTSD following military combat, with delayed onset). If you hear others diminishing someone’s pain as being a personal weakness or some other such nonsense, I hope you will step in an clarify—especially if the person making the misinformed statement is a mason! Point them to this article or resources below. We inform ourselves to educate others and thereby reduce stigma. Taking action in these ways does so many a meaningful service, honoring their service, humanity, and our brotherhood.

Resources:

https://ptsdusa.org/

2020 GIIA Veterans Wellness Summit

VA or https://www.ptsd.va.gov/

VA treatment locator

NIMH

APA

Military Benefits

Relax Relax

Psych Today trauma treatment finder

The Traveling Ambassador


~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

Jacob's Ladder - You Don't Know, What You Don't Know

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


There are a number of symbols within Freemasonry, and there are no shortage of explanations and attributions for them. No doubt some are ancient and thus indisputable in their meaning e.g. The Circumpunct, meaning Deity, Self, and even a modern attribution in the ages of science as the pictograph for Gold (AU). Others, like the explanations of how to wear your apron, have assigned value that was done much later. Examples being the spiritual (triangle) over the square (physical). These and others are romantic, and yet are an invention of "modern" times. How do we know this? Because the shapes of aprons are of modern design, themselves attributed to the ease of manufacturing. This has been talked and written about ad nauseam. 

Another great example is the placement of the "G" within the Square and Compasses. This too is a "modern" and geographical adaptation. It's distinctly American and the items for which it is supposed to be representative of, only begins with the letter "G" in a few languages, thus rendering it "un-universal". This of course doesn't mean it shouldn't be used or that just because we thought it was cool and invented some concept to attribute to the symbol, even after the fact, and much later, we should drop it. To the contrary, if the assigned value assists you in determining a symbols personal value, than go nuts. But, we should always be honest about our symbols and understand our historical roots. 

We should in fact be arming our new Masons with the ritual teachings, and also the historically and contextually accurate information as well. Yes, I just alluded to the fact that ritual is not factually or historically correct. It is a symbolic work. The writers of the ritual most certainly thought some elements were fact, as they were taken from the Tanach (Septuagint). They likely used these allegories to drive home points, and embellished where they needed to. That's okay, because it's symbolic. It's a vehicle to assist you from getting from point A to point B cognitively, and hopefully changing the way you think in order to change your outward and inward behaviors. 

The stance I take here in no way is meant to take away from the esoteric value of the aftermarket attributions we tend to place on the symbols. Again, if this assists you in manifesting your destiny, then this is the "flourish" that is right for you. And the flip side to this, is that when we dig deeper into the historical and contextual meanings of symbols, we often find something even more complex and deeper than anything we'd thought of before! It pays to research, both externally and internally. 

At this point in the blog post I thought I'd have wrapped it up, but in the interest of giving away something, I thought what the heck...So I decided to give a quick gloss over of something. 

I asked myself, "What is a symbol I don't know too much about, outside the ritual and it's immediate biblical associations?" I chose Jacob's Ladder. Here's a brief synopsis of what I knew and felt it meant symbolically, what I learned after brief research and my (possible) new symbolic outlook. 

What I knew Biblical - Genesis 28 - A guy named Jacob (son of Isaac) was traveling, he decided to sleep on the ground and place his head on a rock. While sleeping, he has a vision of a ladder which extends from the Earth to the heavens. Angels went up and down the ladder. When Jacob awoke, he thought it was a miraculous vision. The ladder is seen in the biblical context as the bridge from Earth to the heavens and the rungs and angels signify the many ways we may traverse to the heavens, through sacrifices, prayers and the giving of the Torah. It's a lesson in connection. 

What I knew Masonic - Jacob's ladder also symbolizes the ways in which we may reach a state of "redemption". It is said to have 3 principal rungs which are "Faith", "Hope", and "Charity" (Love). In Masonic teaching, we're told that of these attributes, Charity is the greatest because of its long lasting impact on successive generations of people. Further, in other esoteric circles the ladder may also represent the foundation cord or rope which one travels on their way to the higher realms. The angels representing the different attributes or even Sephiroth. It even has a relation to the Hindu Gunas (3 attributes which must be in balance to escape the Samsara). 

What I learned - The idea of the ladder, like much of the Tanach is taken from earlier texts from without the system. The ladder itself exists in other cultures and is used in their religious and initiatory rites. It is used as a way to symbolize the steps upward or progressive, through a set of degrees or rites of passages. While in Freemasonry we give the allegory of just three "principal" rounds, most traditions which are older give it seven steps. Perhaps the three principal rounds are evenly distributed (first, fourth, and seventh). The number seven has it's various attributions that we're all familiar with. One Mackey points out is that the seven rungs in Freemasonry are attributed toward the Earthly virtues ad te Divine Virtues, Namely, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, plus Faith, Hope and Charity. 

The Persians used a variation of the ladder and they used the number seven. It represented the soul's progression toward perfection. They referred to each round as a "gate". During the "Persian Mysteries", it was necessary for candidates to progress through winding cavernous spaces (7 in total). Each cavern representative of a world or more aptly some sort of representation for the state of humanity and or the mind. The last cavern or world being called "Truth", which is very interesting when we look at the Hindu philosophy of Absolute Truth and how even that relates to the preeminent Masonic virtue of Truth. 

Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia gives us this table explaining these rounds of the ladder. You move from the base (1) to the top (7).
7. Gold .............. Sun ............... Truth
6. Silver ............. Moon ........... Mansion of the Blessed
5. Iron ............... Mars ............ World of Births
4. Tin ................ Jupiter ......... Middle World
3. Copper .......... Venus .......... Heaven
2. Quicksilver ... Mercury ....... World of Pre-existence
1. Lead ............. Saturn .......... First World
Above I made a few cryptic references to Hinduism and it's teachings. There is an entire paper's worth of significance here that we could go into, and I will...for the Lodge of Research. 😁

For those that are intent on discovering even more about the historical and contextual meanings of Jacob's Ladder, I invite you to look in Mackey's Encyclopedia as a first step. Then I would recommend looking at concepts within Mackey's as referenced in other books of the same nature, before finally venturing out into the world of archaeological papers (non fraternal) for an un-Masonic and unbiased look as well. What truths you find in the non-masonic, which align with the Masonic, may very well be your best argument for what is true. Have fun!

We don't know, what we don't know!

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.


Contemplative Cornerstone: 1,3,5,7 (x2)

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks


Sometimes it's useful to meditate on something rather than using mindfulness meditation as a concentration and detachment exercise. Like the tree exercise this gives you specific focal points. Unlike trees, this is about the symbols and people within Freemasonry. The exercise is designed to be done once in the morning, immediately after waking and once at night, just before sleep.

1. For the first breath, take the longest, slowest, deepest breath you can: Breathe in for as long as possible. Hold your breath as long as you can.

2. Exhale as slowly and long as possible. While doing this, consider the Divine. Invite Divine guidance.

3. For the next three regular breaths consider the three Great Lights.

4. For the following five breaths, consider the top three officers, the deacons and the stewards.

5. The final seven breaths are to call to mind the brothers of your lodge and:
  • In the morning: think of how you will live freemasonry throughout your day on their behalf—as their representative to the mundane world
  • In the evening: contemplate how effectively or ineffectively you followed through on the morning’s intention.
The first few days of practice are just getting the hang of the format. By the end of a week, it’s quite natural and the structure doesn’t get in the way of the ideas. I’m interested in what results your practice generates.

~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

Life's Gonna Cash That Check, Now

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


Today's the day you've been dreading, or maybe it isn't. But all those promises you made about the new year? Well...life just cashed that check, so you better have the balance to cover it.

As Freemasons, we're told we should use the working tools of the Craft to better our psyche. That's literally what we do. That's what those tools tell us to do and it's how we're supposed to use them. So, why don't we?

It's hard, that's why. Thinking different to change our realities is harder than it looks. A lot harder. Nevertheless here we are, celebrating a cosmic event that is sure to happen, whether humans are here or not. This pile of rock, dirt, water and stardust is going to circle the sun, one way or another. I've seen a lot of posts over the last week, particularly on social meme-ia, err..media regarding new years resolutions. Some joking about our failures of last year and others dropping the truth, plain as day.

You didn't have to wait until the new year to start a change for the better. Hell, Erik Marks told us just last week, we get a fresh start every second we're here. But if the arbitrary cosmic marker of another year around the flaming fusion reactor is what it takes, then let's get on it.

Todd E. Creason said on a post just recently that he finished writing his resolutions for 2020. He said, "Same as last year, I just changed the date." People laughed, and I'm sure Todd laughed too. But the truth is, there's just nothing wrong with having those same resolutions.

You ever hear your coach, or your teacher say, "Yep! You got it. Now do it again, only better this time." Well, I have. Let's be Freemasons. Let's be smarter, be nicer, be more logical, more civil, and let's read more. Let's all pretend we're running for political office when we decide to post something on social media...you get my drift? Let's do one more trash clean up day, give one more dollar, do one more push up. Whatever it is, you can do it. We can do it together.

Happy New Year, everyone!

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. 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.