Giving Thanks

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

Every November we Americans (and for my Brethren in Canada October) do the same thing. We gather together and enjoy a feast with our family and friends for a feast, fellowship, and football. It can warm the heart of even the most sarcastic, bitter old Past Master. (Yes, I’m talking about myself.) 

At some point between the ”pass the stuffing” and Grandpa falling asleep in front of the television after ingesting too much turkey someone will suggest (At least on TV and in the movies. I’ve never seen it done in person) for everyone to tell the group assembled something they are thankful for. 

Normally, I’m not one for doing something so corny, but in this year of one devastating body blow after another, I feel like I need to express my gratitude to all those who helped me and their fellow man survive this span of three hundred sixty five days.

First off, I want to thank my Creator, family, and friends. The last few years have been difficult for me healthwise and personally but thanks to all the prayers and emotional support we all have made it through and we will all be will be stronger when the pandemic is finally over. 

Of course, I am going to thank all the front line workers (Hospital personnel, ambulance drivers, restaurant workers, and grocers, and everyone else who kept the country together while the rest of us hunkered down in our respective homes). 

Since I live with an ”essential worker” and hear about not only the hardships the patients and families have to endure but also the struggles the workers are dealing with. Exhaustion, isolation from their families, the lack of necessary materials..etc. It makes you proud that these people give so much of themselves to care for their fellow man.

Masonically, I also want to thank all the Brethren across the globe who helped the Craft rediscover Masonic relief. Without all the pressure to continually bring in new numbers the members of our Fraternity rolled up their sleeves and once again began t practice Freemasonry once again.

Masons checking on their elderly Brethren and the widows of the lodge and making sure they have the necessities of life like food, their medications, ensuring their homes are comfortable and well maintained. It was also great to be able to gather “virtually” with lodge members that I haven’t been able to see for a long time due to their distance away from me.

I am also grateful to all of those who have taken the time to better themselves and others by reading, writing, and help to spread Masonic education.

It has been amazing to see how many of us, many of who never embraced technology before the pandemic, participate in Zoom meetings learning about their Fraternity. I know myself personally I was able to attend several lectures I would never have had the opportunity to participate in during a typical Masonic year. Talking with many of my friends they had to turn down multiple invitations to speak because they had already been booked by Masonic organizations from across the globe to spread light. (Surprisingly, with all this Freemasonry being discussed by members all through cyberspace secrets of Masonry haven’t been stolen by some virtual clean. I’ll pause right here for a moment to allow you to compose yourself after this shocking revelation )

I would also like to thank my fellow Midnight Freemasons. Until I met Robert Johnson and the rest of the group, I had never thought about trying to write anything. With their encouragement and guidance, they have opened up an entirely new world for me I never would have dreamed existed. It has allowed me to serve the Craft in a way I never would have imagined and given me opportunities to do things I never realized I was capable of doing.

Lastly, on behalf of myself and my fellow Midnight Freemasons, I want to thank you, the person who is reading this. Without you reading, commenting, and sharing our works this website wouldn’t be as popular as it has become.

I know I can speak on their behalf by saying none of us have ever dreamed this blog would have become as popular or as well known without your patronage and sharing what we write with your friends and the Brethren of your lodge.

I hope you will indulge in my sappiness just this one time. But honestly, I think this plague has opened my eyes to what is important in life. I think maybe a lot of us have also discovered or rediscovered what was important to us; Our family our friends and our Craft. 
 

~BH

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





 




Ketchup on a Saltine

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners


Before I begin, I want to make sure that I disclose that this is my own personal opinion and does not reflect any official opinion of any Masonic Body that I am affiliated with.   I know a lot of Freemasons that take offense when some of our brethren publish something that says Freemasonry is dying. We are seeing more attrition than we are seeing replenishment of members.  That is a fact.  If that means we’re dying, then we’re dying.  I’m not sold on that as being our fate.  However, I will say that we have a lot of hard decisions to make about our future.  That being said, Freemasonry is local.  The decisions you make can only impact your local lodge or as I am going to suggest in this article local lodges. 

To begin, what I see as a major issue in Freemasonry is an existential struggle within Freemasonry borne out of an identity crisis.   We have a distinct subset of members that want Freemasonry to be a social organization, we have others that want it to be a mystery school, others that want it to be a philanthropic organization, and others that probably have another idea entirely of what it should be. In fact, I would be willing to bet that if you sat your own lodge membership down and asked them what they wanted Freemasonry’s identity to be; you’d receive a different answer from each member.   Some of the members will most likely regurgitate the tried and true: “Freemasonry takes good men and makes them better.”, while others might actually come up with something original.  Freemasonry has a rich history, but our members can’t even agree on our origins.  Some of us think we came from the guilds of the middle ages, or from the Knights Templar, or from the mystery schools.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that our membership can’t agree on what we are as an organization.  My point is: as members, we don’t know what we want to be. Ultimately, what Freemasonry was up to this point shouldn’t matter.  We need to start focusing on what we want to be.  My caveat is, you can only do this at your local lodge level.

If you’re anything like me, I know you’re thinking that your local lodge is part of the problem.  In my case, we’ve got a bunch of older members that don’t want to change anything.  We literally take six months to decide to change a light bulb.  Masonic Education?  When it does happen, I’m usually the one giving it, and I feel rushed through it.  The members don’t want to do anything outside of the lodge.  In my case, I had a plural membership in two other lodges within 10 miles of my home lodge.  I have just withdrawn my membership from one of the lodges, so I have a plural membership in one of those two.  In total, I was paying 145 dollars a year for my dues.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with paying that amount of money for dues if I’m getting something from the meetings.  Personally, it’s hard for me to justify paying money for something that is advertising something it’s not delivering.  Let’s take a real-world example:  If you’re hungry for pizza, and you order a pizza, but what you receive is ketchup on a saltine cracker, are you going to pay for the pizza?  Any sane person is going to demand a refund or a new pizza.  

Freemasonry for many of us has become just this…Ketchup on a saltine.  Maybe when you first joined you didn’t know any better.  You kept going to the meetings because you felt like you were missing something.  Then, you kept going because you felt a sense of duty to do so.  Suddenly, you’re one of the officers, because let’s face it, you’re a warm body and the chairs need to be filled.  Then you’re a Warden, and before you know it, you’re Worshipful Master.  All of the time, you’re eating ketchup on a saltine.

Then something happens.  In my case, it was a visit to Lodge Vitruvian No. 767 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I’ll call it the Morpheus moment, as it’s analogous to the scene in The Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the Red Pill or the Blue Pill.   As described by Morpheus: "You take the blue pill...the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill...you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”  For Neo, the red pill represents an awakening to what reality is, and the blue pill represents the status quo.  The same happened to me after that visit.  It gave me a glimpse of what Freemasonry could be.  This vision was: Quarterly stated meetings, a traditional Observance/European Concept Lodge, formal dress for all lodge functions, an education program given at a Festive Board after every meeting, and the belief that dues should be paid to provide for and maintain the quality of the lodge and its programs. After visiting there, I realized that I had been eating ketchup on a saltine all of this time.  I have been taking the blue pill when I should have been demanding the red one.

Many lodges don’t know how to serve up anything other than ketchup on a saltine for its membership, and unfortunately, as nasty as it is, it is some nourishment for its membership.  It keeps the lodge alive, barely, but it’s not really attracting new membership nor is it retaining it on the off chance the lodge does get new membership.  Most of the members don’t know any better, so they keep eating it.  So many members are so used to it, that any suggestion of changing the menu is met with resistance.  In order to keep the harmony of the lodge intact, the menu remains ketchup on a saltine. 

Now imagine my current scenario, in the three lodges that I belong(ed) to, we are barely making quorum to open a meeting, the older membership is dying off or getting to the point where you can’t climb those stairs to the second floor, there isn’t a lot of new members and on the off chance that there is new membership, it is driven off by the lack of substance of the experience (ketchup on a saltine).  One of the lodges is providing an educational program every meeting, while the others are not.  The writing is on the wall.  These three lodges will eventually become one lodge.  So I dare ask the question, why should we wait to consolidate?  If I had my way, I’d start my own lodge, like Vitruvian.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure that I could find 19 other Freemasons in my area that would be willing to join me. If you’re reading this, know me personally, live in my general area and you’re willing to take such a chance, drop me an email or text.  That being said, if I have to eat ketchup on a saltine, isn’t it better to eat it once a month instead of three?

In my mind, the answer is yes.  I’d rather not eat it at all, but if I have to, the less that I can eat it the better.  But more importantly, maybe having to force your membership to confront a decision to consolidate, you might be able to do something that you hadn’t been able to do prior to now.  You might be able to get them to agree to look at changing the menu.  Maybe you’ll get them to agree that what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working and that it is time for a change.  Let’s hope that’s the outcome.  Maybe your members will agree to clear the trestle board and you can design a lodge that will appeal to everyone.  However, for the purposes of the article, let’s say that doesn’t occur, and you decide to consolidate with the other two lodges.

The major benefit that I see from consolidation is the growth in active membership.  Say for example each lodge averaged about 10 members per meeting.  Imagine what you could do with 30 active members. The first thing to do would be to get those 30 active members to agree on the mission of the lodge.  There would be a new trestle board that needs designs.  In the post covid world, you might actually be able to engage your communities again, and have programs that help the community, like hosting reading programs at the library, sponsoring AED/CPR classes, and supporting local charities by volunteering time instead of just money to name a few ideas. You could suggest having a festive board with an educational program just to try it out to see what the reception is.  Or at the very least, you might be able to get enough members to be interested in having an educational program that took place outside of the stated meeting.  That way, if your members weren’t interested in attending, they didn’t have to, but you still have a good percentage of the membership that might show up.  You’d be setting the menu, so hopefully, you can all agree that if ketchup on a saltine is what caused your lodges to merge, it probably might be a good idea to avoid serving it in the future.  The most important thing is that you’d have enough membership to support the programs above.  

In my scenario, two of the three buildings have renters and make income.  I would immediately put the one that does not up for sale. I would then look at converting one of the other lodges into a space that could generate more income, in this case, there’s enough room to make a nice loft apartment out of the space with minimal investment. The other lodge building would be held onto as the primary meeting spot for the new lodge.   With the income from the sale of the other building as well as the rental income, along with a discussion on how raising dues to make programs like the above possible would be beneficial, you might be able to get them all to agree that the lodge can afford more than ketchup on a saltine.    

I truly believe that a lot of Freemasons don’t know what Freemasonry can be because they’ve never been offered a choice.  If all you ever knew of was ketchup on a saltine, and someone offered you pizza; would you accept it?  You’d be wary of taking a bite.  But guess what, once you were convinced to take that bite, do you think you would go back to eating ketchup on a saltine willingly?  I know that I haven’t.  I’ve been fighting for change.  Unfortunately, change does not happen overnight and it only happens at the local lodge level.  It also happens incrementally.  One member at a time.  That’s what I think often gets lost in the shuffle, in order for change to happen, you need to be willing to be the one to offer it.  You need to start offering pizza to the other members.  If that means traveling to a lodge locally or not so locally that seems to be offering pizza, then do that.  My eyes were opened when I saw a lodge offering something different.  That’s ultimately the choice for the future of your lodge.  You continue to serve ketchup on a saltine, take the blue pill and see what status quo brings your lodge, or you can serve pizza, take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. I hope you choose the red pill. 

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of 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). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com 


Precendents

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christopher Hathaway




Ask just about anyone who the most famous Freemason is, and you will probably get the answer of George Washington. As the 1st President of the United States, it is an obvious answer. Most Masonic Lodges will have a portrait of Brother George somewhere in their lodge. He set many Presidential precedents that are still followed to this day, most notably only serving two four-year terms. The 20th Degree in the Scottish Rite is called Master Ad Vitam or what we like to call in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ), the George Washington Degree. The only thing that is the same in the 20th Degree between the NMJ and the Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) is the name of the degree. Master Ad Vitam means Master For Life. George Washington could have been ‘Master For Life’ for the United States if he wanted to be, but he chose a different path. He did what he thought was in the best interest of the country. Can you say the same thing about the precedents you are setting in your lodge? 

Officers in a Masonic Lodge set precedents every year whether you know it or not. The precedents you set will either be for the better or for the worse for your lodge. For the purpose of this article, we will use Marriam-Webster’s definition as defined here: 2asomething done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind. 

As Master of the lodge, are you shifting responsibilities and powers to the secretary? As Senior Warden, are you preparing for the new year or waiting until you are installed as Master? As Junior Warden, are you making meals members want to come to or are you throwing something together that is quick and easy? As an outgoing Master, are you disappearing, never to be seen again? Every action sets a new precedent for your successor in line. A Grand Lecturer was just explaining to the lodge last meeting that if you learn the ritual wrong initially, it's very hard to re-learn the ritual correctly. This is the same with precedents. When bad precedents get set, they are very hard to overturn, and it leads to the one phrase we all love to complain about ‘that’s not how we did it in my year.’ Precedents are set at every level starting at what we expect out of our candidates all the way up to the Grand Master and his edicts. 

We should always be looking at successful lodges and organizations to borrow their ideas, traditions, and precedents. Be such a leader that when you are done with your term, it sets a new standard for your lodge to follow for many years to come. Other times, the best way to lead is to step aside and let the new leaders take reign just as Brother George did. If you have not had the chance to see the George Washington Degree, please do so, it is one of the favorites in the NMJ. 

~CJH

WB Christopher J. Hathaway was raised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is the current Worshipful Master of Bloomington Masonic Lodge #43. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto, Mohammed Shriners, and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys spending time with his wife Taylor and cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs. 


Reflections of a Tiler

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Bill Milnor


Being a relatively new Mason, I took places in the officer line when asked. Like many Lodges, filling the line can be challenging. As many of you may relate, I said yes, desiring to help without really fully understanding the duties and expectations. Nearing the end of my year in the Junior Deacon’s place, I was approached by the Senior Warden--he was planning his year and line. His question was, “Are you planning to remain in the line all the way to the East?” This was a bit of a conflict as my father and his father had both been Past Masters of their Lakewood Lodge #174 F&AM (NJ). I did feel a pull to fulfill that lineage and honor to them and still do. After momentary reflection, I responded that I did not yet feel called to do that. He said, in that case, I should not progress to the Senior Deacon’s place. He then asked if I would be interested in being the Tiler. Again, wishing to be of service and value to the Lodge, I said yes.

A new door had opened symbolically and literally to the Tiler’s closet. I knew a little about Tiling the Lodge, little being a most operative description. I was used to seeing a Tiler at the door, one being appointed by the Master or a substitute. Our appointed Tiler at the time was not a regular attendee, so early arriving members would be sure the Lodge was set up. I was typically early and helped in that duty and learned the arrangement of the furniture. Our Temple has several appendant bodies, so our Lodge room is shared, necessitating our putting much furniture away after each meeting. The Tiler’s closet was not very organized. After meetings, members were ready to leave the Lodge room, so furniture was quickly stored, haphazardly. Okay, stating it less PC--it was a mess.

It is a decade later, and I am continuing as Tiler. What beauty I have found in this place in the officer line. I experience it as a great privilege and honor. I believe I am honoring our Lodge by the quality of my commitment to it. I am clear I serve in this appointment at the pleasure of the Master and strive to be worthy of that each year. I have installed over my place outside the door the Tilers Charge as a constant reminder to me and any who read it, my office's obligation, and the importance of this position. I am fortunate that our practice is to Tile within, leaving me to miss only the opening and closing.

Before each meeting, my greeting, welcoming, and checking dues cards are most meaningful in not only guarding the West Gate but significant in recognizing and ‘seeing’ each brother warmly and embodying our fraternal nature. Additionally, the Tiler is observed being properly clothed. Along with that, I perceive my duty to present myself upright and appropriately attired: black jacket, pants, white shirt, and black tie.

The acts of preparing the Lodge room and subsequently retiring the furniture after is ritual. Each piece speaks to its place in the Lodge and the symbol or symbols it represents. Each must be touched and placed, presenting the opportunity to be felt and known. The Lodge room is quiet and still, other than my movement, which invokes a reverence to the process. It is akin to awakening the Lodge room from darkness or rest to light and creativity and returning it, fulfilling a cycle. Within this hallowed space, I commune with my father and grandfather, neither knowing in their time that I would become a Mason, but I knowingly associate my experience with theirs.

Being the Tiler is a personally rewarding and enriching experience. There is depth to be explored as part of one’s Masonic journey. I am sure every station or place offers this if one embraces the possibility. This is the value--to peel away the layers, to absorb the deeper meaning that can contribute to our improvement of being. And, to be a light to those we meet and who follow.

Oh, and, did I mention how cool it is to have a sword?

~Bill

Bill Milnor is the Tiler at South Denver Lodge #93 in Denver, Colorado. He is a member of the Valley of Denver Orient Scottish Rite and currently the Sojourner of Royal Arch Triad Chapter #42. He is also a member of National Sojourners Denver-Fitzsimons Chapter #37.



Gratitude

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners



"Good times gone, and you missed them
What's gone wrong in your system?
Things they bounce like a Spaulding
What'd you think, did you miss your calling?
It's so free, this kind of feeling
It's like life, it's so appealing
When you've got so much to say it's called gratitude
And that's right

Good times gone but you feed it
Hate's grown strong, you feel you need it
Just one thing, do you know you?
What you think, that the world owes you?
What's gonna set you free?
Look inside and you'll see
When you've got so much to say it's called gratitude
And that's right" 

Written by: ADAM HOROVITZ, ADAM NATHANIEL YAUCH, MICHAEL LOUIS DIAMOND, TOM CUSHMAN

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group - 

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

As of tomorrow, we are a week away from our Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States, and I'm sure many of you feel like there's not much to be thankful for. 2020 has impacted all of us, many of us for the worst. When I communicate with Emeritus Midnight Freemason contributor Erik Marks, often over text, but sometimes over the phone, he often uses a word to describe how he is feeling that probably hasn't crossed many of our lips this year, Gratitude.

There is a saying attributed to Bro. George Washington that states: "Freemasonry is kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy in society, fairness in work, pity and concern for the unfortunate, resistance toward the wicked, help for the weak, trust in the strong, forgiveness for the penitent, love for one another, and above all, reverence and love for God." Whether or not George said this is up for debate, but I think that Freemasonry is more than just kindness in the home. I think Freemasonry is the practice of Gratitude. Gratitude is not only the quality of being thankful, but it's also a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

The Three principle tenets of Freemasonry are: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
To practice Brotherly Love, we need to show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, and behave with kindness and empathy towards our fellow creatures. To practice Relief, we need to practice charity and care not only for our own family, but for our community as a whole not only through charitable giving, but also through our own individual voluntary efforts. To practice Truth, we need to be true in our actions as well as our word. We need to promote each other's welfare, and rejoice in each others prosperity.

In order to exercise Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, Freemasons need to practice Gratitude. Anyone can be kind. It's easy to hold a door open for a stranger. But is holding a door open for a stranger really practicing Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth? What makes our actions impactful as Freemasons is our Gratitude. In order to practice Gratitude, we need to be Thankful. Can you really love someone without being thankful for them? I don't think so, as a huge part of love is appreciation of that person. Can you really show compassion in your relief without being thankful for your own blessings? Compassion is love in action. Can you be truthful without being thankful for the one truth we all know as Freemasons, which is the Great Architect of the Universe? Truth is a divine attribute.

So as we approach Thanksgiving, I ask each of you to not only practice Gratitude on that day, but to practice it everyday. To use it as another working tool, to help us as we work in our quarries to transform ourselves from the rough ashlar to the perfect one. Let us reflect upon the indented tessel, which represents the manifold blessings and comforts we have in our life, and practice gratitude. Let us apply gratitude to practicing our tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. But most importantly, let us practice Gratitude for every day that the sun rises in the East to open and govern the day, and for the Great Architect by whose providence this occurs.

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of 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). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com 

Be a Unifier

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
WB Christopher Hathaway



A Scottish Rite Mason ought to be a unifier. Any 32nd Degree Mason that truly follows our order understands this. The core values of the Scottish Rite, NMJ are Reverence for God, Integrity, Justice, Toleration, Devotion to Country, and Service to Humanity. These are all unifying qualities that can help bridge the gap we see amongst our friends and family. I will explain these values in terms of unity. 

Reverence for God: We need to understand we are all children of the same Heavenly Father. How can we revere God if we hate his children? Let us stop putting each other into camps and start humanizing each other. Conversations will be gentler, kinder, and more productive. 

Integrity: To be in unity with someone, you must trust them. Being a person of integrity will allow others to be open to you, listen to your ideas, and share their most vulnerable thoughts. A person without integrity cannot lead people who agree with them, let alone trying to unify people of differing opinions. 

Justice: Scottish Rite Freemasons must always seek justice. To find justice, we must rely on a core principle of a Freemason, truth. Truth and justice can be slow, deliberate, and boring. As a unifier, we need to be slow to pass judgment but quick to call for truth and justice even if it's painful and time-consuming. 

Toleration: To tolerate the opposition, we must listen to understand and not just to reply. We must respect their perspective and only argue their idea, not attack their character. Tolerating someone is more than just getting along. It is about finding common ground and presenting the best ideas from all sides. 

Devotion to County: You cannot be devoted to this country if you are okay with a division that is so deep that neither side can come to the table to achieve anything. We cannot continue to speak in echo chambers and dismiss anyone who disagrees with us. Diversity of thought is a strength. It will take unifiers working together to ensure we do not shut out the opposing side. 

Service to Humanity:  Are you more of service to humanity volunteering at the local food pantry or arguing politics on Facebook? How much time do we waste trying to prove we are right instead of helping the needy? How many networking opportunities are lost because we delete each other or because we refuse to associate with the other side? 

Freemasonry is local. This is where we need to start. We start with our Facebook friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, our lodges, and our city councils. The next time you are about to write a divisive comment to prove your point, ask yourself if there is a more productive way to discuss your thoughts through the lens of a Scottish Rite Mason. 

To quote the Scottish Rite Creed of the Southern Jurisdiction:

“Human progress is our cause,
liberty of thought our supreme wish,
freedom of conscience our mission,
and the guarantee of equal rights to all people everywhere our ultimate goal.”

~CJH


WB Christopher J. Hathaway was r
aised in Catlin Masonic Lodge #285 and is the current Worshipful Master of Bloomington Masonic Lodge #43. He belongs to the Valley of Danville, AASR where he is the Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix and Membership Chairman. Other appendant bodies include the Gao Grotto, Mohammed Shriners, and the Illinois Lodge of Research. Outside of the lodge, he enjoys spending time with his wife Taylor and cheering on the Fighting Illini and Chicago Cubs. 

Masonic Intuition

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW:. Bro.James C. "Chris" Williams IV



I was thinking about what I usually think about ...and that is Masonic Education.  I had been thinking as I drove to work about all the men that I have heard over the years tell me that they had no idea what Freemasonry was when they decided to submit a petition. I have always believed this was true, even for myself. However, I now know that not only was it not true for me, it is probably not true for other men.   

The most common definition of Intuition is: “A thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning.“ I seriously doubt that any man would pay money and go through an investigation of his character without some kind of idea of what he is joining.  I am not talking about what he has been told or has read, because there are many who would happily tell a man all the evils of Freemasonry, and of course a multitude of publications that will try to tell him that Freemasonry is the antithesis of moral and religious living. I am convinced that men intuitively reason that Freemasonry is good and may hold answers to questions to which he has no answer, nor the courage to ask.

That is not where Masonic Intuition stops. As a man goes through his degrees he is developing intuitive thinking. Intuitive thinking is the kind of thinking that helps you understand reality in the moment, without logic or analysis. There's no language involved in it. It's entirely about signs and sensations. 

Doesn’t this sound like something that happens to a man in Lodge during a degree or even just driving down the road? Things just appear in your conscious mind that speak to something specific your subconscious has been trying to work out, and you didn’t even know it. This happens to everyone at some point. When it does, many will be shocked by those thoughts and bury them immediately without letting them breathe and flow and find meaning. Others though, will let those “wow” moments in and let them grow and gain clarity. From those moments will come the glimmer of an understanding of what Masonic “Secrets” really are….and what they mean, for him.

This means that you know more about Freemasonry and its hidden meanings than you think you do. You now find that you do have the second common definition of intuition which is: “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” It is there in your subconscious, waiting for you to ask for it or to just give it permission to appear. Don’t be afraid to embrace what you discover because what you find will be your personal, custom interpretation as it should be. It will be life-changing.  The answers you seek, are seeking you. All you have to do is ask for them.

~JCWIV

RW Bro. James C. "Chris" Williams IV is a Past Master of Davy Crockett Lodge No. 1225 in San Antonio, TX. He is a plural member of The Texas Lodge of Research, Tranquility Lodge No. 2000, and Merit Lodge No. 727.  He has served on the Grand Lodge Education and Service Committee for the last 9 years for the Grand Lodge of Texas. He is a 32nd Degree KCCH member of the Scottish Rite Valley of San Antonio, where he also edits the Valley Newsletter.  You can reach Chris at cwilliamsddgm@gmail.com.

 

Obligation or Affirmation?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners



When you joined Freemasonry, did you take an obligation or an affirmation?  

According to Mackey's entry in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences for Obligation, it is: "The solemn promise made by a Freemason on his admission into any Degree is technically called his obligation. In a legal sense, obligation is synonymous with duty. Its derivation shows its true meaning, for the Latin word obligatio literally signifies a tying or binding. The obligation is that which binds a man to do some act, the doing of which thus becomes his duty. By his obligation, a Freemason is bound or tied to his Order. Hence the Romans called the military oath which was taken by the soldier his obligation, and, too, it is said that it is the obligation that makes the Freemason.

Before that ceremony, there is no tie that binds the candidate to the Order so as to make him a part of it; after the ceremony, the tie has been completed, and the candidate becomes at once a Freemason, entitled to all the rights and privileges and subject to all the duties and responsibilities that enure in that character. The jurists have divided obligations into imperfect and perfect, or natural and civil. In Freemasonry there is no such distinction.

The Masonic obligation is that moral one which, although it cannot be enforced by the courts of law, is binding on the party who makes it, in conscience and according to moral justice. It varies in each Degree, but in each is perfect. Its various clauses, in which different duties are prescribed, are called its points, which are either affirmative or negative, a division like that of the precepts of the Jewish law. The affirmative points are those which require certain acts to be performed; the negative points are those which forbid certain other acts to be done. The whole of them is preceded by a general point of secrecy, common to all the Degrees, and this point is called the tie.

Under his entry for Affirmation, Mackey writes: "The question has been mooted whether a Quaker, or other person having peculiar religious scruples in reference to taking oaths, can receive the degrees of Freemasonry by taking an affirmation. Now, as the obligations of Freemasonry are symbolic in their character, and the forms in which they are administered constitute the essence of the symbolism, there cannot be a doubt that the prescribed mode is the only one that ought to be used, and that affirmations are entirely inadmissible.

The London Freemason's Quarterly (1828, page 28G) says that "a Quaker's affirmation is binding." This is not denied. The only question is whether it is admissible. Can the obligations be assumed in any but one way, unless the ritual be entirely changed?

Can any "man or body of men" at this time make such a change without affecting the universality of Freemasonry? Brother Chase (Masonic Digest, page 448) says that "Conferring the degrees on affirmation is no violation of the spirit of Freemasonry, and neither overthrows nor affects a landmark." In this, he is sustained by the Grand Lodge of Maine (1823).

On the report of a Committee, concurred in by the Grand Lodge of Washington in 1883 and duly incorporated in the Masonic Code of that State (see the 1913 edition, page130), the following was adopted: "The solemn obligation required from all persons receiving the degrees may be made equally binding by either an oath or an affirmation without any change in the time-honored Landmarks. " A decision of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island on November 13, 1867 (see also the1918 edition of the Constitution, General Regulations, etc., of that State, page 34) was to the effect that "An affirmation can be administered instead of an oath to any person who refuses, on conscientious grounds, to take the latter." But the other Grand Lodges which expressed an opinion on this subject-namely, those of Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Delaware, Virginia, and Pennsylvania made an opposite decision.

During the latest revision of this work the Masonic authorities in each of these States were invited to give the latest practice in their respective Jurisdictions. Their replies are given substantially as below, and in the main the early custom has been continued.

Missouri has not recognized the word affirmation in the work, and unless the candidate is willing to conform to the wording of the obligation the instructions have been to not accept him and this has been the rule of successive Grand Masters in that State.

Tennessee has not made any change in the law, and in 1919 the Grand Lodge held that the Grand Master had no right to allow the Ritual to be changed in order to suit the religious views of a profane.

There has been no change in the attitude of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky in the matter of affirmation. That State has required the candidate to take the obligation in the usual manner. Delaware reported that there had been no change in the approved decision adopted by the Grand Lodge in 1890 which is as follows: "An applicant who desires to affirm instead of swear to the obligation cannot be received." The Grand Lodge of Virginia allows the use of an affirmation, not by the written law, but by the decision of a Grand Master of that State.

In Pennsylvania a petitioner becomes a member of the Lodge by initiation and dues begin from that time. He may, if he desires, remain an Entered Apprentice Freemason, a member of the Lodge, or he may resign as such. There is only one way of making an Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, or Master Freemason, in this Jurisdiction, which is by use of the greater lights, without any equivocation, deviation, or substitution.

One decision of Grand Master Africa of Pennsylvania, on October 24, 1892, does not state precisely at what point the candidate for initiation refused to obey, and even the original letter written by Grand Master Africa does not show it.

Presumably the reference was in regard to the candidate's belief in a supreme Being, yet it covers other points as follows:

"After having been duly prepared to receive the First Degree in Freemasonry, a candidate refused to conform with and obey certain landmarks of the craft. This refusal disqualifies him from initiation in any Lodge in this jurisdiction, and you will direct your Secretary to make proper record thereof, and , to make report to the Grand Secretary accordingly.

Freemasonry does not proselyte. Those who desire its privileges must seek them of their own free will, and must accept and obey, without condition or reservation, all of its ancient usages, customs, and landmarks."

The general practice of Lodges in America is also against the use of an affirmation. But in England Quakers have been initiated after affirmation, the principle being that a form of obligation which the candidate accepts as binding will suffice."

I can safely state that I took an obligation, as in our degrees, when I was released from the cable-tow I was told that I was bound by "an obligation, a tie stronger than human hands can impose."  However, did I also take an affirmation?  According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary: the definition of an affirmation is:

1 a: the act of affirming, he nodded his head in affirmation
   b: something affirmed : a positive assertion. His memoir is a reflective affirmation of family love.

2 law : a solemn declaration made under the penalties of perjury by a person who conscientiously declines taking an oath.

I think after reading this, I can state that I personally did not take an affirmation. If I had refused to take the oath, without claiming a religious reason for not being able to take one prior to the degree, I would have been led from the lodge room by my cable-tow.  I actually know of one instance where this occurred.  The candidate refused to take the obligation, and he was removed from the lodge room.  

This being said, does the obligation change if we substitute the word "Swear" for that of "Affirm"?  There are some men that due to religious reasons (such as the Quakers mentioned above), that cannot swear an oath, but are allowed to affirm it.  Going back to Webster's Dictionary, we find the definition of swear to be:


1: to utter or take solemnly (an oath)

2a: to assert as true or promise under oath sworn, ie: affidavit swore to uphold the Constitution
  b: to assert or promise emphatically or earnestly, ie: swore he'd study harder next time

3a: to put to an oath: administer an oath to
  b: to bind by an oath swore them to secrecy

4 obsolete: to invoke the name of (a sacred being) in an oath

5: to bring into a specified state by swearing, he swore his life away


Intransitive Verb:

1: to take an oath

2: to use profane or obscene language : CURSE

Based upon the above definition, I don't think that affirming one's oath is the same as swearing.  I say this for one reason, and it's given in the obsolete definition of the word (#4 above), to invoke the name of (a sacred being) in an oath.  In Illinois, we finish the oath with "So Help me, God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same."  Although a man can believe in God, if he is unable to swear upon his name, then he might as well be an atheist.  So we are in a dilemma, as one of the arguments against allowing Atheists into Freemasonry is often based upon them not being able to promise and swear on a book of holy scripture, because they have nothing binding them to their obligation short of their promise to God in the obligation.  I would argue that any man that cannot swear an oath should also be excluded from Freemasonry for the same reason.  

~DAL

WB Darin A. Lahners is our co-managing Editor.  He is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of 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). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com 

Yggdrasil: Another Archetype for the Tree of Life

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



When I became a Master Mason, I received a booklet that outlined elements of the degree and it also suggested certain paths of study. Those paths of study were recommended so that I could understand the full import of the Masonic philosophy contained within my degrees. One of those concepts was Kabbalah. 

One of the first concepts you learn about in a basic book on Kabbalah (if you can consider any part of Kabbalah to be basic) is the Tree of Life. This concept in Kabbalah was interesting to me. The way it separated virtues and archetypes for me was not unlike Platonic and Neo-Platonic ideas. 

We often look at symbols in religious rites, mythologies, and degrees as archetypes--that is, a thing which appears in another story, culture, or tale but that has the same attributes. E.g. Thoth and Hermes. The Tree of Life is one of those symbols. It's all over the place in the world's religions, and I find it fascinating. 

One such version (if you want to call it that) is Yggdrasil, the Norse version. See the Mackeys Masonic Encyclopedia entry below. 
Yggdrasil. The name given in Scandinavian mythology to the greatest and most sacred of all trees, which Was conceived as binding together heaven, earth, and hell. It is an ash, whose branches spread over all the world, and reach above the heavens. It sends out three roots in as many different directions: one to the gods in heaven, another to the Frost-giants, the third to the under-world. Under each root springs a wonderful fountain, endowed with marvelous virtues. From the tree, itself springs a honey-dew. The serpent, NithhOggr, lies at the under-world fountain and gnaws the root of Yggdrasil; the squirrel, Ratatoskr, runs up and down and tries to breed strife between the serpent and the eagle, which sits aloft. Dr. Oliver (Signs and Symbols, p. 155) considers it to have been the Theological Ladder of the Gothic mysteries.

Other versions of the Tree of Life exist in; Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Iran, within the Baháʼí Faith, Buddhism, Chinese Mythology, Christianity, Manichaeism, Meso-America, Turkik, Hinduism, and more. Could so many traditions get it wrong? Was there a literal tree? In any case, I hope you find this interesting and that it sparks an interest in you to go digging. 


~RHJ

RWB Johnson is a Co-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 focuses 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.




Are You The Next Midnight Freemason?

by Midnight Freemason Founder 
Todd E. Creason, 33°
 
Midnight Freemasons Founder Todd E. Creason writing after midnight from his bunker (cell) in an undisclosed location.








One of the things that makes the Midnight Freemasons so unique are our contributors, and those particular perspectives they share with our readers. Each of us here at the Midnight Freemasons have our own particular (or peculiar in my case) style and point of view. But almost without exception we write about Freemasonry not just from an academic perspective, but from a personal one. We write about the things we enjoy about the Fraternity. We write about those aspects of the Fraternity that fascinate us.  We talk about the ways we participate in our Lodges. We talk about the impact that Freemasonry has had on our lives—because as I’ve said before, Freemasonry isn't a monthly meeting, it’s a way of life.

But this dynamic we enjoy here certainly wasn’t something we planned back in 2012 when we launched as a contributor blog—it’s something that evolved over time. The strength and the success of our blog has always been dependent on our contributors and the words they’ve shared with us over the years. So I’ll get to the point. 

Do you have something you’ve written that you’d like to share with us? Do you write after midnight from a bunker in an undisclosed location?  That's all you need to be a guest contributor! Send us your piece and we'll look at it! If we like it, we’ll share it with our readers along with your photo and your by-line. 

Who knows, you may very well be invited to become the next Mason to join our family here at the Midnight Freemasons as a Regular Contributor. We’re always looking for new voices. We look forward to hearing from you! 

You can contact our editors at wcypodcast@gmail.com or darin.lahners@gmail.com

~TEC 

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor. He is the award-winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he 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 Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is a Past EHP.  He serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A.F. & A.M. as the Chairman of the Masonic Education Committee and State Education Officer.