Are You Truly and Duly Prepared?

By Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott


Are you truly and duly prepared? The night you took your degrees, you had a brother that vouched for you that you were duly and truly prepared. But this question was in reference to your progress thus far in your journey through the degrees. What about after you became a Master Mason? Do you feel you were duly and truly prepared for the day after becoming a Master Mason?

I recall thinking the night I completed the third degree, that I didn’t have a full comprehension of what I had just experienced. There was so much information and activities that were coming my way that night, it was hard to take them all in. Numerous brothers congratulated me for finishing my degree work, yet somehow, I felt that I didn’t know everything that I should.

The Masonic Service Association Short Talk Bulletin from May 1926 spoke about what a Mason should know after being raised:
“Having received the Degrees of Masonry, an initiate needs to know something of the regulations of the Craft, its constitution, its Landmarks; and the nature and authority of the Grand Lodge under whose obedience he lives. It is only fair to tell him the relation of the Blue Lodge to other Masonic Bodies, both York Rite and Scottish Rite; and in a way to emphasize the supremacy of Craft Masonry. It will be useful for him to know that the Shrine, the Grotto and other such organizations, while made up of Masons, are not Masonic any more than any club made up of Masons is Masonic. More important still is the etiquette of the Craft, in the Lodge and outside, and the discretion necessary in making himself known as a Mason, or in responding to the advances of others.”
While this is good advice, it seems to barely scratch the surface of what a Master Mason needs to know to proceed and succeed on the journey ahead. So, what should a Mason due to ensure they are duly and truly prepared?

Here is some advice as to what I have found has worked for me:

  • Study the ritual and gain an understanding of what the degrees are teaching you.
  • Begin committing a passage or two that interests you to memory so that it gives you something to focus on.
  • Research what this passage means, the internet makes it easy to do research.
  • Talk with other brothers about what they might know or understand about the passage.
  • If you have an opportunity, put together a small lodge education presentation and share what you have learned with others.
  • Work towards applying what you have learned in your daily life, perhaps at work or with your family.
These small steps have helped me towards my goal of becoming duly and truly prepared in not only becoming a more proficient Master Mason, but more importantly a better father, husband and community member.

~GJK

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

Occult Profiles: Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



Samuel Lidell McGregor Mathers was born in January of 1854. There is some confusion of whether it was on the 8th or the 11th. He is most well known for having been one of the original founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. 

In his “real life”, he was a simple clerk with a simple education. His school was the all boys Bedford School, which was founded in 1552. In Samuel’s day to day he was a speaker of several languages. He had mastered of course English but was also fluent in French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and even Gaelic. There are reports of him even being able to speak in the late stage Egyptian language known as Coptic. He also had two more interesting traits not usually attributed to anyone in those days, he was an avid non-smoker and a vegetarian. 

He was made a Freemason in Hengist Lodge No.195 on the 4th of October, 1877 and was made a Master Mason on January 30th, 1878--  all under the provision of the United Grand Lodge of England. Many of the influencers of Occultism came from this mid to late 19th Century and it stretched into the 20th. We see the rise of Spiritualism as a religion, not merely an interest. Later this religion, which still exists today, branched out. I might suggest but also with air of caution that this evolved into the New Age views. Again, with caution. 

Samuel, living in this evolving spiritual and metaphysical world naturally made use of his talents. Because he was a speaker of multiple languages, he was able to make translations of books not ever read before by English speakers. Books like, The Book of Abramelin, The Key of Solomon, The Grimoire of Armadel, and the Lesser Key of Solomon. He also was involved in writings that compiled the work of John Dee and Edward Kelley, the two famous occultists responsible for Enochian Magic, and the Emerald Tablets of Thoth

The later work mentioned above is a wonderful amalgamation.The roots of the works, are however, dubious. In a small tangent, it is important to note that while the works of John Dee are as reputable as any in the field of the occult, those of Edward Kelly, are not. This becomes a problem later when we trace the lineage of what was taught in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the later Alpha et Omega and other bodies which branched off from here or hold a relation to; e.g. Ordo Templi Orientis, A:.A:.,  A:.O:. etc. I mean no disrespect in pointing this out, merely stating the obvious. I will be blunt and as factual as possible while writing these “profiles”.

While involved in Masonry, Samuel joins the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, or SRIA (Origin 1865). This ‘Masonic’ body is a sanctioned version of Rosicrucianism which does predicate membership on being a Master Mason. It was men only. While involved with this, evidence shows that Samuel was also involved in receiving degrees in many other bodies, which one might consider any number of classifications i.e Irregular, Clandestine, or just plain spurious. Again, it was the late 19th Century, and spiritualism was the hot ticket. Offering someone “light” or a new philosophy was very enticing, and let us not forget--lucrative. 

While being heavily involved with the Rosicrucian order, many members began to wonder about practical application of these esoteric concepts contained within the system. The system relied heavily on the once again dubious texts, revered by the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Origin 1750). This order and others similar in nature have for their legends and texts those known as Cipher Manuscripts and the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (1459) among others. These texts, also have questionable origins, which of course calls into question the validity of anything later which uses them. A firm foundation these texts are not.

For a while, members of the SRIA were satisfied with their memberships,but this question of ‘practicality’ loomed. Meanwhile, Samuel receives some prestigious rewards in the SRIA. Conversation began between three of the members of that SRIA chapter, Samuel, William Wynn Westcott (a physician and Worshipful Master of Quatuor Coronati research lodge 1893–1894), and Robert Woodman and this resulted in the formation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1887. Westcott was the prime mover in the creation of this order. Relationships bloomed between these three fellows. In fact a bridge was formed in 1891, when Samuel was requested to give a lecture to the Theosophical Society, an organization whose founders (Blavatsky, Olcott and Judge) we will cover individually in further installments of this series. A prominent member in Theosophy was William Wynn Westcott.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was starting to take off.  Woodman would become the leader of the Golden dawn but died before the organization was expanded to create an insiders group within called,  ‘the Second Order’. Mathers becomes the new leader. The Golden Dawn was one of the first esoteric societies which allowed for co-ed meetings and in many ways, venerated the status of women. As spiritualism wasn’t just a religion for men, women also had an avid interest and the new Hermetic Order was a place that allowed their ideas to flourish. The Golden dawn relies on an interesting system of grades which were very well put together by Brother Clint Lewy in his piece, read it HERE. Upon Westcott’s death, Samuel became the Golden Dawn’s new leader. 

During Samuel’s time in the Golden Dawn he took on many students, one famed student was Aliester Crowley. Later the two would find themselves to be at odds. Part of the Golden Dawn system involved a concept and legend of the “Secret Chiefs”, not unlike the idea of Unknown Superiors (not to be confused with the title of Unknown Superiors in the OM Martinism) or even the Hidden Masters e.g. “Master R” or “St. Germain”.

Samuel at a point in 1900, was expelled from the Golden Dawn. There was some controversy over what we could call a scam by a couple of mediums and also a power move by Samuel to demand loyalty from everyone else. At this same time, he and Aliester Crowley attacked each other “psychically” and it led to a rift. Crowley was expelled at the same time as Mathers.  Samuel had essentially said that he was equal to the ‘Secret Masters’. Samuel and his wife Moina (Mina) moved to Paris, where they performed interpreted Egyptian rituals for theaters and the like to make money. While in Paris, Mathers starts an offshoot organization called Alpha et Omega, a Rosicrucian / Golden Dawn type organization with himself at the head. This organization eventually made it to the United States, in fact another couple of people we will cover in this series (Paul Foster Case is one) was a member of Alpha et Omega. Paul Foster Case was subsequently expelled by Moina Mathers for informing the members that the ritual and lectures were verbatim copies from two books available in the New York Library. Those works will be disclosed in another piece in the series. 

The life of a clerk didn’t always pay the bills. As a married man, Samuel had responsibilities. Some say hardships and others say a disinterest in the Craft, lead Samuel to become delinquent in his payments to the organizations from which he had borrowed. This led to his expulsion in 1903 from most of recognized Freemasonry. 

Samuel, as I have referred to him in this piece, was an interesting man. The name he is usually cited as, is McGregor Mathers, and yet this is a name he added for himself to emphasize his Scottish heritage, of which there is also little support for. Likely he took this additional name, to bolster claims that his contemporaries and followers believed--that he was the reincarnated King James VI, the “WIZARD king” of Scotland. In his early 20s, Samuel joined a volunteer military service, and although he never went further than the rank of Private, he did have portraits made of himself in uniform to display, which added to his influence and ego. 

He died somewhere between November 5th and 20th in 1920. The mode of death? Questionable. There are some wild assertions here. One is that he blew himself up, of which there is zero evidence. One from his own wife, Moina who believed Samuel died, the result of a psychic vampire attack from Aliester Crowley and finally, the most likely scenario, that he died of the spanish flu. 

In conclusion, Samuel Lidell Mathers was an influential and esteemed occultist who was a regular member of our Craft, an inspirational leader (although egotistical) and really, a genius. Whether or not the systems he promoted, the teachings he gave, or the rituals he performed were based on fact, or hokey spiritualism, there is something of value in giving people a means to aspire to greatness, to altruism, a return to the oneness with God. 

Samue Mathers, like so many of his day made a living as a sort of spiritual tramp. Who through his conviviality and charming nature was able to become somebody. A man who offered solace and hope to a Victorian world rife with mind blowing sexual revolutions, emerging ideas of equality for women and death at every turn from consumption. He made a lasting mark on the occult world and we should all agree that Samuel Mathers did in fact die, a somebody.

~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.


_________________
Sources:

Nevill Drury, The Dictionary of the Esoteric, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2004, p. 208.

S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Practical Instruction in Infantry Campaigning Exercise, Translated from the French ( London: City of London Publishing Co., 1884); cited in Christopher McIntosh, The Rosicrucians: The History, Mythology and Rituals of an Occult Order, page 111 (second revised edition, Crucible, 1987). ISBN 978-1852740252

William Butler Yeats, The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume III: Autobiographies, pages 452–453 (edited by William O'Donnell and Douglas N. Archibald, New York: Scribner, 1999 edition). ISBN 0-684-80728-9
History of the SRIA, T M Greenshill, MBE, published 2003

"Samuel Liddel MacGregor-Mathers", accessed 17 February 2007.

John Michael Greer, The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Hidden History, page 28 (HarperElement, 2006). ISBN 978-0-00-722068-7

Crowley, Aleister. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. p. 194.



Freemasonry and "Just Enough"

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Randy Sanders




In Kabbalah we find the Pillar of Beauty balancing the extremes with “just enough” of each to bring harmony and balance. This balance is explained by Eastern martial artists, especially internal kung fu practitioners as the harmonious interplay of opposites. And in Freemasonry we describe Wisdom and Strength coming into balance by way of Beauty. But why "just enough"?

I believe this remains a lesson for me and many of us finding ourselves taking on offices, tasks, and responsibilities within Freemasonry. We need to focus on “just enough” in balancing our 24-inch gauge, in keeping circumscribed in our passions, and especially in remaining square and level. I sometimes find it difficult to remember the Masonic Lost Word of, “no” when asked by respected Brothers to step up and take on additional responsibilities. Personal growth means opening ourselves to the new, to the stretch goals of finding a way to do more in our lives. But how do we push that goal to be better every day, to expand our minds, and to take on these additional challenges? I want to succeed in my every task. I want to exceed all expectations. I competitively want to be the best Grand High Exalted PooBah Commander Emperor that the Masonic world ever saw. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Freemasonry is showing us a lesson in ego into which too many become trapped along an extreme of one side or the other.

The Pillar of Too Little is the other extreme, as "Idle hands are the Devil's work" reminds us. We find ourselves passively sitting on the sidelines, or declining invitations. We take on a responsibility then push away others making excuses like lack of time. This important down time, or time for recreating yourself, refreshes, heals, and refocuses. Finding a means to structure our down time is maybe, more important than how we focus on our projects or responsibilities. We balance away from, "too little" not by simply taking on more responsibility, but by actively pursuing recreational options. A walk in a park, a nap while watching NASCAR, and creating play time with children or family members, all makes for refreshing options to give us a reprieve from the, "Pillar of Too Much."

The lesson of balance becomes just enough in a world of declining membership and consolidation. When we take on responsibilities, it feels difficult to keep our heads above the water at times. An officer in this line, a secretary of this other body, committee memberships, Grand Lodge responsibilities, taking on other Masonic responsibilities…, and suddenly all the meetings pile up like a bad multi-car collision. The difference is, we can do “just enough” and be completely successful. We should do “just enough” to be completely successful. Does that mean dues cards come out late again this year? Of course. Does that mean minutes get posted a few days after the meeting and not directly afterward? Sure. But they get posted. Dues cards are sent. I'm not saying ignore deadlines and due dates, quite the opposite. Be responsible to those expectations. The business of the Craft gets completed, ritual learned and delivered maybe imperfectly but better than last time, and we do just enough to get the job done. That’s how we keep this fraternity moving forward. That’s how we bring more good men into the fraternity. With a stretch, If we all do just enough by keeping our lives and Freemasonry in balance, we will continue to be successful.

~RS

Brother Randy Sanders is a lodge education officer in two Missouri blue lodges, co-librarian of the Valley of St. Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Reflection, and active in York/AMD. He lives in the suburbs of St. Louis, enjoys Chinese martial arts/chi kung, reading, Western esoterics, and cooking.

The Effects of Masonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚


I don’t know if it is the depressing weather and darkness of a long winter or what, but lately it seems I have experienced a lot of negativity regarding the fraternity, society, and people in general coming from some of my brethren. This time of year people are hard on others in person and, especially, on-line in social media. I confess I have had a hard time staying positive about people and the fraternity myself for the last few weeks.

This has gotten me to thinking about a piece of the ritual I’ve heard scores of times in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite where a statement similar to this is made, “In the world men know Masonry only through the lives of individual Masons.”

What does this statement mean? Do I feel a sense of responsibility from it? What does the world know of Masonry through my life?

Does the world know a man who controls his passions or one who is controlled by them?

Does the world know a man who is hopeful or one who is down on Society and his fellow man?

Does the world know a humble man or a braggart?

Does the world know one who conciliates or one who divides?

Does the world know a peacemaker or a troublemaker?

Does the world know one who builds up his brother or one who tears him down?

Does the world know one who forgives or one who holds a grudge?

Does the world know one who loves or one who hates?

The answers to these questions show the effects of Masonry, the evidence of the place it holds in my life.

If Freemasonry is the journey towards becoming a better man-- if it is the seeking after that state of Perfection at which I will never fully arrive in this life-- what do the answer to these questions say about the progress I am making?

I can know all of the ritual. I can study all of the esoteric secrets. I can have years of experience. I can be a leader. I can be confident I am one of the “good” Masons. If my life, though, doesn’t display this evidence or show these effects, to what end do I do this?

To what end do you do it?

As I look in the proverbial mirror, I realize I have, as always, work to do. What about you? How are you doing? What do you see in the mirror?

As another piece of ritual I’ve heard scores of times says, “The honor of Freemasonry is in your keeping.”

~BLP

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

Occult Profiles: Henry C. Clausen

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson



*Editors Note* In this series, I will be profiling some of the names you may or may not have heard of within the Masonic landscape. Some may have been members of 'regular' lodges, some of 'unrecognized' lodges, and some may never have been Freemasons, yet were influential in the Esoteric traditions from which Freemasonry has either borrowed from, or has influenced. I hope you will enjoy!

Henry C. Clausen was born June 30th, 1905 and passed away on December 4th, 1992. In the "real world", Henry was a REALLY BIG DEAL. He was made the Special Investigator for the Secretary of War and was the author of the famed, Clausen Report, which was an 800 page report on the Pearl Harbor attacks. The report set out to answer four questions:
  • What had Pearl Harbor 'known' about Japanese intentions before the attack?
  • What had Pearl Harbor 'done' with this information before the attack?
  • What had Washington 'known' about Japanese intentions before the attack?
  • What had Washington 'done' with this information before the attack?
What he finally came to was that, 
"...being caught unprepared during the Pearl Harbor attack, was due both to having two separate commands at Pearl Harbor (Navy & Army), and to having two separate Intelligence organizations in Washington and elsewhere (Navy and Army)."
 Further, that Clausen "...welcomed the combination of the Navy and Army [security] efforts by Truman (eventually this came to be called NSA)."

Within the Fraternity, Clausen was prolific. His writings spanned volumes. One of his most famed books, and one this author wishes he could get his hands on, Your Amazing Mystic Powers (1985) is said to be among his best works. He was an avowed occultist and made no attempts to hide it either. He became the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in 1970. Henry C. Clausen was also the man responsible for making Manly P. Hall a 33rd Degree Brother. He saw great power and truths contained within Hall's writings, and much like what happened to Paul Foster Case, Clausen did to Hall. He immediately absorbed Hall into the Craft.

This of course gave a sense of further validity for Hall in the Masonic world, it reaffirmed what Clausen had believed of the Craft, but not only for himself, but likely thousands more. Clausen often referenced Hall's works, notably The Secret Teachings of All Ages. Clausen essentially drew a line in the sand. In one of his most famous videos, none other than Ernest Borgnine, introduces Brother Clausen as he explains exactly what the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite and Freemasonry for that matter, really is.

Henry C. Clausen by Travis Simpkins
Clausen makes the assertion that the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite [Southern Jurisdiction] is the modern home of The Mysteries. From Ancient Egypt, to Greece, to Rome, to the Renaissance and Enlightenment, to Kabbalistic Schools and then into Freemasonry. He doesn't assert that this is literal as some do, but rather through the means of war, appropriation and study. I did an episode dedicated to Illustrious Brother Clausen on the 'Whence Came You? Podcast', where I let loose Clausen's entire speech uncut for the listeners pleasure. 

Much controversy surrounded Clausen because of his beliefs and stances he took about the Craft. Rumor has it that all of Clausen's materials, books and videos were swept away, into the archives, basements and even the trash when he died. Whenever I've asked about these claims, I'm met with a change of subject. If anyone cares to refute this, be my guest.

Clausen was in my opinion a legend. He was an icon of Freemasonry. A man dedicated to his country, finding the truth in this realm-- and others. He is for me and countless others, due to his stature and station in the Craft, The Light House at Alexandria. You can find his videos on YouTube by simply searching. Below is the episode I did on Bro. Clausen. The artwork, is by Bro. Travis Simpkins.




Next week, I'll have another Occult Profile for you. Until then, keep your lantern lit.

~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.





Arlington National Cemetery and Freemasonry : Revisited

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Greg Knott

There is no more solemn place in our nation than Arlington National Cemetery.  Thousands upon thousands of white granite stones in symmetrical rows mark the final resting place for the heroes of America. 

Here lie those who have protected our freedom through some of the darkest moments in our nation’s history.  Yet their service and sacrifice have provided the opportunity of freedom for countless future generations.  Theirs is legacy of commitment and honor that a grateful nation shall never forget.

Among those laid to rest in Arlington are many members of the Masonic Fraternity.  There are numerous headstones with the square and compass or other Masonic insignia.  This will be the first in an occasional series where we look at the Masonic brethren whose final resting place is at Arlington National Cemetery.

Dr. John Mills Browne, who was Surgeon General of the Navy, was born May 10, 1831 in Hinsdale, New Hampshire.  Dr. Brown was made a Mason on June 3, 1852, in Philesian Lodge No. 40 at Winchester, New Hampshire, where he received all 3 degrees in one day under dispensation from the Grand Master, because he was ordered to sea.  He later affiliated with Naval Lodge No. 87 at Vallejo, California and was Master in 1870.  Dr. Brown served as Grand Master of California Masons from 1875-1879. 

He was exalted in Benicia Chapter No. 7 at Benicia, CA on November 25, 1866 and was Grand High Priest of California Royal Arch Masons in 1878.  He was Knighted in California Commandery No. 1 at San Francisco on December 27, 1867 and received the Cryptic Degrees in California Council No. 2 on September 2, 1871.

Dr. Brown was very active in Scottish Rite as well, the Fourth through the Thirty-Second on February 1, 1870.  He later was Venerable Master of Naval Lodge of Perfection at Vellejo from 1870-1877 and Commander-in-Chief of the California Grand Consistory from 1874-1876 and was coroneted a 33° in 1876. 

He had an impressive naval career, entering the service in 1853 as Assistant Surgeon, having graduated from Harvard University.  He served on several naval ships, including the Kearsarge for 3 years, including when the Alabama was destroyed off Cherbourg in June 1864. 

Brother Brown died in Washington DC December 7, 1894, the funeral serviced being held in St. John’s Episcopal Church, which is near the White House and was interred in Arlington.  His tombstone is marked with the Scottish Rite emblem of a 33° Mason.

~GK

Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL). He's a member of both the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite, and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club in Champaign-Urbana. He's also a member of the Ansar Shrine (IL). Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts--an Eagle Scout himself, he serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. as their representative to the National Association of Masonic Scouters.


Sources:



The Perils of the Perfect Ashlar

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Robert E. Jackson


Several months ago, I started a journey. I was on a path to research the mysteries of Masonry and life in general, meditating daily, studying the blogs and making sure that I read something every day. I was in search of the Perfect Ashlar, and I was determined to get there. It wasn't for notoriety, or fame, or to be some master guru, it was just to be better. I needed to be better. My friends and Brothers deserved a better me. My wife and kids, my family, deserved a better me. The problem was, it wasn't me.

I was convinced that every mistake I made, every wrong turn, was another part of the rough ashlar that needed to be processed. The path became a series of checklists, and each task marked complete meant being closer to that perfect ashlar. Each task not complete, drove me deep into the recesses of that rough ashlar into both a figurative and literal, depression. That mental state was viewed as yet another imperfection of the ashlar, driving me further down into a horrible cycle. It was as if I was following a map, a path to enlightenment. Every wrong term, every missed step, needed to result in punishment, or I would be doomed to make the mistake again. It all simply told me that I just wasn't working hard enough.

This impacted every aspect of my life…as a Brother, as a Scoutmaster, husband, father, friend, etc. Every interaction was an apology, another area where I fell short of what my false self was telling me to be. I very quickly found out that one of the driving factors behind this obsession, was a massive fear of rejection. Friends, colleagues, family, will see me as less than what I am…God forbid they would see me for who I really am. And my kids…my kids deserve so much better. They deserve a better Father, the best that anybody could be. However, that strive to be the best ends up as unrealistic expectations placed upon their souls. By demonstrating this urge for perfection, my fear of negatively impacting them was coming to fruition. The very thing I was afraid of was happening.

So, I turned to therapy. I took a break from all education that wasn't related to figuring out what was going on…anything Masonic, work, or Scouting related that wasn’t urgent, had to be put on hold. After years of telling people that our brains are our own worst enemies, I had no choice but to see this in myself. One of the first books I read, Whole Again by Jackson MacKenzie, revealed quite a bit. This can be dangerous, however, because there is always the possibility of contracting "Medical Students' Disease." For those not familiar, this is the phenomenon, often seen in medical students, where they are immediately inflicted with every disease and issue they read about. There was one particular section, however, related to perfectionism, where it felt like I was reading a story about my self. 
 
The perfectionist struggles daily with expecting things to be the way they are "supposed to be." There is some obsessive compulsive tendency here (like wanting dishes to be organized in a specific way). However, the majority of the feelings are around self loathing, and resentment. I can certainly see how the resentment can ruin relationships for those that are vocal about their needs and desires. Projects and tasks should be performed in a certain way. Any tasks I complete, must be maintained exactly as how I've done it (again, reference dishes). When combined with the self loathing, however, every time a task wasn't done as I felt it should be done, it became my personal problem. Either I would recognize that the inability to accept other implementations was another fracture in my rough ashlar. Or in some cases, I would blame myself for not communicating my intentions well enough. Certainly there were successes and great accomplishments, but those all belonged to my team members or partners. I was not permitted to enjoy the success…as it wasn't mine.

Another battle of the perfectionist is the take on as many new projects as possible. This was completely obvious in my life, and I can't remember a time where I didn't take on whatever was thrown at me. Looking back, in college, this actually resulted in a physical battle with mononucleosis that lasted over a month. I couldn't give up though. I couldn't stop, no matter how much I was hurt…just like an addiction. Something inside my mind kept pushing me for the next project, the next contribution, for if I was able to do more, I would be more indispensable. I could become not just the perfect ashlar, but the corner stone! That same corner stone that was rejected so many times.

At this point, I feel it necessary to explain that there is a significant difference between seeking sympathy, wanting the 'pity party', and self loathing. The former seeks the attention, the assistance, while the latter hides behind the smiles and laughter. Self loathing often results in seclusion, and withdrawal from society, even though the camaraderie might be what we need most. Thinking about the law of attraction, and the impacts our feelings have on others, there is a fear (yup, another fear) that by introducing ourselves into a concert or meeting when we aren't in the "right mind" may end up negatively impacting others. At one point, I almost skipped our Lodge of Instruction (a monthly district gathering we have in Massachusetts). My good friend, Brother, and Midnight Freemason contributor Erik Marks was speaking. I was so looking forward to this lecture, but I didn't want to poison the room, so I was going to stay home. I forced myself to go, and I left that meeting a different person. Not just his presentation about meditation and contemplative thought, but simply being there with my Brothers made such an impact. I was also able to speak with some of my Brothers about my struggles, trying to understand the difference between Self Compassion, and Self Centeredness. This distinction continues to be a struggle.

We often talk about the Ego - the inner mind. For most of my life. I was convinced that our Ego was merely the inner self that was the antithesis to Charity. From the King James Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:5 states that,
 "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;"
 Our Ego is self promotional, overbearing, pushing down others to make us feel better. I was so convinced that this was the only possible existence of Ego, my way of battling the Ego was to attempt to eliminate any aspect of selfishness. Ultimately this led the path to Echoism, and I was convinced that this was my way. This was how I was to serve mankind, and if I screwed up, it became a personal failure. Eventually the depression of not letting go of the past, transformed into an anxiety of making the wrong decisions in the future. At some points, the anxiety became debilitating, and once again, the fear became reality.

Eventually, with help, I realized that this was exactly what my Ego was doing. What makes me so special? I truly believe that there is a sense of divinity in us all. An unfettering compassion and love that is to be shared with others, and that's what makes us beautiful. I couldn't believe that I had it, because I'm fundamentally flawed. But what makes me so special to be imperfect and not worthy of this love, when so many others, even people I just met, are deserving of the love and compassion that I can offer?

Ryan Flynn has some amazing presentations…one of my favorite's is the Divine Master. 

Brother Flynn was talking about Michelangelo's early life, some of the people he kept company with, and learned from, and of course some of his greatest works of art. This is such a thought provoking presentation, and really enforces the idea of 'hidden in plain sight.' I truly love some of the linkages between our lessons of today, and those of the very distant past. At one point, Brother Flynn discussed the rough and perfect ashlars, and alchemy, and transformation, and simply making yourself better. Sometimes that ashlar appears to be so rough, it's hard to imagine that ever becoming even close to something beautiful. And yet, the amazing marble that was used to carve Michelangelo's David, possibly one of his most famous works, was discarded, judged by other artists to be useless. I’m certainly not comparing myself to the amazing artists of the renaissance, but at that point in time, I realized that I dismissed my own ashlar. Brother Flynn mentioned a very inspiring quote from Michelangelo…
"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
I couldn't believe that there was such beauty inside of me. There I was, surrounded by my Brothers, and one of my favorite speakers, and I was drifting off, because the Ego was once again taking control. On my way home, I continued to think about this quote. There is a beauty within us all-- including me. I started again down that dangerous path, though. "If I get to this point, I'll be better. Once I perfect this lecture, I'll be a better Mason. Once I attain enlightenment, I'll be healthier. Once I read this book, I'll be smarter."

Another book I was introduced to along the path, was Eckhart Tolle's, The Power of Now. This book had a great impact with a very dear friend of mine (not a Mason), but after reading I learned that several Masons that I admire have incorporated many of the concepts of this book. Tolle speaks of time as a fabrication of man. Within the animal kingdom, we are the only beings (that we know of) that ruminate over the past, and fear the future. The only point in time that matters to any of us, is right now, this very moment, this very breath. Once we can let go of "when I can…I'll be happy," only then can we truly be happy. I could understand the concept, but again, application of that tool eluded me. It was as if I was in the LEGO movie, looking for the instructional books as I was not yet a 'master builder'. If only I could attain enlightenment. That simple statement, that goal, was putting me back into mind, time, and removed me from the Now. One of my favorite lines from this book, so far, is,
"The past is the past, and there isn't anything that can be done to change that. The future is the future, and whatever happens, will happen."
I still struggle, every day. Even writing this paper caused me to reflect greatly on past behavior. Additionally, there remains a part of me that believes that by overcoming this obsessive quest for the Perfect Ashlar, I can be a better Brother, Scoutmaster, Father, Husband, Friend. I am learning, though, that the kindness and Love that you give to others will never last, if you don't have kindness and Love for yourself.

~REJ

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

The Masonic Jig

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


I stand in the back of the Lodge room, acting as Marshal in this Entered Apprentice initiation. The Worshipful Master turns and walks back into the arch formed by the Stewards' staffs. He stops and stands still. I wait for my signal. After about two seconds – TWO SECONDS – the signal doesn't come. And about five guys start doing the Masonic Jig.

The Masonic Jig goes something like this: the performer raises his hands in the air and then brings them down, almost violently, while flexing his knees downward. At the same time he whisper-shouts "Lights down! Lights down." The dancer performs the motion over and over until the room becomes dark. The astute reader will actually recognize this as a form of K-Pop. Who says Freemasons aren't hip?

The Master, as it turns out, was waiting for his signal to turn which he thought was the room going dark. I was waiting for my signal to darken the room which I knew to be the Master turning. A two second deadlock developed, which was other Brothers' signal to flail like monkeys on a hot griddle, at least momentarily damaging the dignity of the occasion.

I promise, in a couple more seconds I'd have figured it out and turned down the lights. Failing that, instead of the simian boogaloo I would much have preferred a single proctor saying, "lights down, please." Properly delivered the candidate might have thought that was part of the ceremony.

Ahhh… the Peanut Gallery. That ever-present bevy of Brothers ready to spring into action with corrections the instant a speaker says "your" instead of "thy" or "blessings and mercies" instead of "mercies and blessings." This affliction is a corollary to the Masonic Jig known as Masonic Tourette Syndrome.

These disorders are so prevalent in Missouri we must read a statement before each Master Mason degree prompting the Brothers to cool it. Paraphrasing here, the document reminds Brothers the Third Degree is a solemn and meaningful experience, not an opportunity to audition to become a Shrine clown.

When I was Master (Translation: "Back in my day, sonny"), I sometimes appointed a proctor and requested the other Brothers let him prompt for corrections in a more controlled and orderly fashion. This was somewhat effective although I have to admit I always appointed the most offending and disruptive Brother to that position knowing he wouldn't play second fiddle to anyone else, and would jump in anyway. It was cheating but the end justifies the means, right?

So, let's say it's a First Degree and the Chaplain offers this prayer, "Vouchsafe thine aid, Great Architect of the Universe, to this our present convention…" OMG! If that doesn't call for a nuclear Tourette blast I don't know what does. But here's the thing… neither the candidate receiving the degree nor any non-Mason reading this has a clue as to why. Let it ride, people! The words may have been changed but the meaning wasn't. The candidate will walk away thinking, "that was a beautiful prayer," instead of, "I wonder if God was able to hear the prayer over all that shouting from the sidelines."

Y'know, a letter-perfect ritual is great, but if I go to a meeting in Kansas, just 20 miles west of my house, I don't even recognize half the ritual. Again, the meaning is far more important than getting the exact words, in order, letter perfect. Heck, nobody can do that anyway.

I guess each one of us just needs to make sure we're not disruptive and maybe gently remind the Peanut Gallery to dial it down in the ceremonies. A little decorum does not go a long way. These ceremonies require large doses of it, especially when candidates are involved. I think the next time I'm Master (yeah, that's likely) I'll just hang a banner in the east that says, "Masonic ceremonies are not study clubs."

~SLH

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

Divested of All Metal

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Darin A. Lahners, PM



In the Entered Apprentice degree, we are told that we are divested of all metal when we are prepared to be a Mason for two reasons. The first being that the candidate bring nothing into the lodge that could be used for offensive or defensive purposes. The second being that at the building of King Solomon’s Temple there was not heard the sound of axe, hammer or any tool of iron. This comes directly from 1 Kings 6:7 in the Old Testament which in the King James Version states:
“And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”
How was the Temple built then? One easy explanation is that the quarries where the stones were prepared were far enough away from the Temple so that the noise of the workmen in the quarries would not reach the Temple. However, according to the Talmud, this isn’t correct. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki; (1040-1105; (foremost commentator on the Torah and Talmud; leader of the Jewish community in Alsace-Lorraine)says, the building of the Temple was to promote peace, YHWH found it inappropriate to use iron which was the material of weapons that could also be used in war and cause bloodshed. This seems to come from Exodus 20:25 where it states,
“ ....if you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you lift up your tool upon it, you have polluted it."
Instead, King Solomon is said to have used a Shamir. According to the Gemara, which is the component of the Talmud containing rabbinical analysis and commentary on the Mishnah, the Shamir is a worm or substance that had the power to cut through or disintegrate stone, iron and diamond. According to the Talmud, the Shamir said to have been created as one of the 10 wonders at the twilight of the Sabbath eve just before YHWH finished creation. The Talmud also states that the Shamir was first used at the time of the construction of the Tabernacle, to engrave the names of the tribes on the precious jewels of the High Priest’s breastplate. (Those of you that are in the York Rite should know what the breastplate looks like.) The Jewish Encyclopedia states of the Shamir:
“Its size was that of a grain of barley; it was created after the six days of creation. Nothing was sufficiently hard to withstand it; when it was placed on stones they split in the manner in which the leaves of a book open; and iron was broken by its mere presence. The shamir was wrapped for preservation in spongy balls of wool and laid in a leaden box filled with barley bran.”
The Jewish Encyclopedia states the Solomon came into possession of the Shamir by one of two ways. The first states that an eagle brought Solomon a Shamir from paradise at his command. The second states that when Solomon asked the Rabbis how he could build the Temple without using tools of iron, they called his attention to the Shamir and advised him to command the demons using his ring. As an aside, the Ring or Seal of Solomon supposedly gave Solomon the power to command demons, jinn (genies) and to speak with animals. Solomon supposedly used the ring to command Asmodeus, the prince of the demons to ask about the Shamir’s whereabouts. Asmodeus informed him that he was not the caretaker of the Shamir, but that the Prince of the Sea had entrusted its care to the wood-grouse who swore an oath to the Prince of the Sea. The wood-grouse used the Shamir to cleave bare rocks so that he might plant seeds of trees in them and cause new vegetation to grow, so the bird was called the rock – splitter.

The wood-grouse was tricked by an emissary of Solomon, Benaiah. Benaiah found the nest of the wood-grouse and covered it in glass. The bird landed on the glass, at which point Benaiah frightened the bird, causing it to drop the Shamir which then broke the glass. Benaiah was then able to secure the Shamir, and the wood – grouse killed itself because it had violated its oath. Continuing with the legend, The Shamir was used in the construction of King Solomon’s Temple, and the material to be worked was cut by being shown to the Shamir.

In Arabic tradition, Solomon under instructions from Gabriel uses the Shamir when he desires to bore through a pearl and thread the Oynx. The Holy Quran seems to reference the Shamir in Sura 34 ayat 14, where it points out the ignorance of the Jinn who worked with Solomon and emphasizes that all knowledge only rests with Allah, by stating that a creeping creature of the earth gnawed away at the staff of Solomon who according to tradition remained leaning on his staff when he died. The Jinn still thinking that Solomon was alive supervising them, continued its work for him until the Shamir gnawed through his staff, and Solomon’s body fell to the ground. In not knowing that Solomon was dead, the Jinn realized that it did not have all the knowledge it thought it possessed.

There remains a debate to whether the Shamir was a living creature or something else. It is the opinion of Jewish Tradition and early Talmudic scholars that the Shamir was a living being. However, other scholars have argued that the Shamir was a green stone, or a powder of corundum which was an abrasive substance. I personally would submit that as a supernatural creation of YHWH, made on the eve of the first Sabbath during the week of creation, the Shamir would appear to be whatever form YHWH would have it take. As all signs point to it being a “real” worm like creature; then it most likely was such. In any case, the Shamir was said to have been lost by the time of the first destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

At this point, maybe you’re expecting Giorgio Tsoukalos to say something about 'Ancient Aliens' giving Solomon the technology to hew the stones for the Temple. (If you don’t know who that is, google him.) However, there are only a couple of things which could scientifically explain how the glance of the Shamir could cut through stone, iron and diamond. These could include: The production of high or low frequency waves (electromagnetic radiation) which could resonate the molecular structure of materials, or a high powered laser beam. Many modern scholars have speculated that the Shamir was radioactive due to it being wrapped in wool and stored in a container made of lead. However, none of the above are able to explain the descriptions of the stone being cut instantaneously, as the most highly powered lasers of today would require multiple passes to cut through stone, and radiation takes some time to work.

However, on a more esoteric level; if the building of King Solomon’s Temple represents one’s body (http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2019/11/the-secret-teachings-in-temple-of.html), then the Shamir might represent the Kundalini, or form of divine energy which is depicted as a serpent which resides at the base of one’s spine. As I depicted in the article linked above, the idea of the man as Temple comes from Hinduism. Therefore, the Kundalini when cultivated and awakened through Tantric practice goes up the spine through the Chakras to lead to spiritual liberation. Since each Chakra has a Metal and Jewel Essence associated with it, then the Shamir could represent the Kundalini energy passing through each Chakra (metal or jewel essence) to achieve spiritual awakening. Much like the Shamir was the tool which allowed the construction of King Solomon’s Temple exoterically, so too it exists esoterically in the form of what the Hindu’s call Kundalini to allow one to construct his inner Temple esoterically.

Only a few things regarding the Shamir can be agreed upon. The Shamir, if it existed, was a mysterious if not wholly supernatural creature. We’ll never know the true nature or source of its power. Lastly, it’s possibly just an allegory for a process that one must undergo to transform themselves, much like all of our other lessons in Freemasonry.

~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.